TENSE is project that aims to create a new way to represent architecture in public space; more specifically, to use architecture to reinvent a site to create an immersive space that is informed by specific site characteristics. This creates a new and improved flow of circulation as well as a set of program acrivities. Students examined the structural properties of string in tension and developed a proposal for a plaza in Barcelona working simultaenously in ubran and 1:1 scale.

The material behaviour experiments were conducted within an apparatus designed by the students, in the form o f a wooden “cage” where two of the faces are left open. The objective was to understand the way string in tension work, in order to be able to reproduce any given shape within the apparatus. Initial experiments included 2D shapes (line, square, circle) and the final ones were compositions of intricate 3D wireframe geometries.


The final project is located in Plaza Commercial, one of the main plazas in El Born district in Barcelona. After a series of on-site and digital data collection processes, the participants were able to make maps for sun/shadow, circulation paths and on-site activities, overlap them, and locate the areas of opportunity. The proposal´s goal is to reinvent the Born Market, to create shading areas, a disrpuption of circulation, as well as create new program areas that allow for leisure, connection and street performances. The final structure, varies in density within, depending on the program it hosts underneath and the amount of hours each part is exposed to sunlight.

In parallel to the design, the students were able to test and develop 1:1 scale prototypes of the structure’s joinery, using digital fabrication techniques. The main principles were durability, flixibility, adaptability, compactability and multiple connections in multiple angles.

TENSE is a project by the Institute for advanced architecture of Catalonia, developed in the CIEE Global Architecture & Design Spring 2019 program by:

Students: Alexa Lehrer, Dominic Large, Devin Costello
Future Cities Design Studio Faculty: Rodrigo Aguirre
Science, Engineering and Techonology Workshop Faculty: Ricardo Mayor
Faculty Assistant: Nikoleta Mougkasi