Geoffrey von Oeyen Hosts Performative Composites: Sailing Architecture

School News

Geoffrey von Oeyen Hosts Performative Composites: Sailing Architecture

December 11, 2014

The USC School of Architecture hosted Performative Composites: Sailing Architecture on November 3-4, 2014. The two-day event, which included workshops, presentations, a panel discussion, and an exhibition, explored how new materials and techniques in sailing (particularly carbon fiber composites) allow designers to reconsider spatial, formal, and environmental forces in architecture in new ways.


USC Architecture faculty Geoffrey von Oeyen conceived and planned the event, bringing together renowned design and sailing professionals, including architect Greg Lynn, Bill Kreysler, Kurt Jordan (Oracle Team USA), Bill Pearson of North Sails, Fred Courable (Courable Design & Engineering), Lynn Bowser (Westerly Marine), Bruno Belmont of the Beneteau Group, Rick Pauer (CCP Composites), and Neil Smith (Composites One).


A highlight of the program was a session of presentations by invited guests, followed by a panel discussion. Greg Lynn, who recently designed a 42-foot trimaran, contrasted the use of digital tools in traditional architecture versus naval architecture, explaining that introducing a computer in architecture heightens the complexity of a design, while naval architecture focuses on reducing components and building multiple criteria into a single form. Kurt Jordan, responsible for the structural design and analysis of the Oracle Team USA AC 72 catamaran that won the 34th America’s cup in 2013, discussed the design process for the AC 72 and AC 45. Bill Pearson, technical director of North Sails, the world’s largest sailmaking firm, routinely operates between textiles and composites and posited that the space between textiles and composites is narrowing. Pearson spoke of a sailboat that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 3.5 days and around the world in 45 days, noting that in 15-18 years, “we have tripled the speed across the Atlantic due to materials and technology.”


The panel discussion was moderated by Geoffrey von Oeyen and addressed the ways in which sailboat design is a model for sustainability, as well as how to turn a slow-moving building industry towards composites.


Over the two days, USC students participated in workshops conducted by Bill Kreysler, Rick Pauer, and Neil Smith. The workshops focused on making composite structures, building with fiberglass and carbon fiber, and applying contemporary sailboat design and construction to buildings.


“Material and manufacturing technology advancements are at the forefront of design thinking,” said Associate Dean Gail Borden. “This event, bringing together architects, engineers, designers, manufacturers, faculty, and students as a community of makers, challenges the boundaries of our thinking about material and fabrication and provide new definitions of craft in the best traditions and ongoing engagement of the USC School of Architecture.”


The visual centerpiece of the program was an exhibition featuring an 800-pound hydrofoil from a 72-foot America’s Cup catamaran, on loan from Kreysler & Associates and installed gratis by American Riggers.


“This is a rare and exciting moment for USC to have Greg Lynn’s new trimaran construction documents displayed adjacent to the massive carbon fiber hydrofoil of an America’s Cup catamaran,” said von Oeyen. “I hope that students will imagine new ways to translate these ideas and techniques from sailing toward the design and construction of architecture.”