The semantics of Felix Candela's thin shell structures: a case study of two churches

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Félix Candela’s contribution to modern architecture is internationally acknowledged. Regarded rather as structural art than architecture, his notable thin shell structures combine structural rationality, extraordinary form efficiency, and high aesthetic value. But his radical designs have so far been mainly studied from a constructive point of view. Scholars have focused on the spatial and formal characteristics of the hyperbolic paraboloids, the geometric form Candela worked most intensely with. The aesthetic beauty of these forms has also been considered only in its relation to the function, efficiency, and economy of these structures. In this article, I focus on the semantics of Candela’s structures and the meaning they convey. I use the methodology of semiotic analysis to study selected examples of churches designed by Candela in Mexico. I argue that understanding the inherent logic of the structure and reading the encoded symbolic meaning of the form leads to the intuitive perception of architectural space as a sacred place. The impact of these forms on the subconscious level is especially important in ecclesiastical architecture, which is both a community space for social gatherings and a very special personal space for contemplation and divine experi- ence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-646
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Architecture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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