The Italian engineer and architect Prof. Dr. Lucio Blandini took up the position of Head of the Institute of Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart in spring 2020. He is succeeding Prof. Werner Sobek, who established ILEK and made it an internationally renowned institute. Mr. Sobek will remain a research professor at the University of Stuttgart and, until the end of 2020, also the spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center “Adaptive skins and structures for the built environment of tomorrow” (SFB 1244).
Evidence of Lucio Blandini’s work can be found on the Vaihingen campus of the University of Stuttgart since the researcher, who was born in Catania, Sicily, in 1976, received his doctorate under Prof. Sobek in 2005: a spherically curved glass dome with a span of 8.50 meters, that was the first of its kind to be constructed entirely without metal joints thanks to an innovative glass bonding technique, and thinner than an eggshell in relation to its diameter. Blandini made a name for himself early on with his groundbreaking all-glass structure, and the lightweight construction principles implemented here still characterize his work today. They were reflected in innovative projects such as the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, the House of European History in Brussels, and the Kuwait International Airport. “What drives me is advanced lightweight construction that, in addition to the classic criterion of performance, also takes into account energy needs, all emissions caused over the life cycle, and the recyclability of a building,” says Blandini.
Carrying on the legacy
With this perspective, Blandini continues the outstanding lightweight construction research at ILEK, which has been shaped by names such as Frei Otto, Jörg Schlaich, and Werner Sobek, and intends to expand it into life cycle studies. One topic is adaptive facades and structures as well as concrete supporting structures, where the use of materials inside the component is adapted to the respective stresses thanks to sophisticated manufacturing techniques. “In this way, we can achieve larger spans with less material and show that lightweight construction is possible and sensible also with concrete.”
New focus on digitalization
Blandini would like to bring in new aspects by researching the capabilities of digital tools in the building industry - an area that also plays a central role in the Cluster of Excellence “Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture” (IntCDC) at the University of Stuttgart. This will certainly make further interesting synergies possible. Blandini was already fascinated by the topic during his master’s studies at the University of Pennsylvania/USA. Later, he further developed tools and methods of digitalization in 14 years of professional experience at Werner Sobek AG.
For example, the geometry of the free-floating aluminum roof of the Ferrari Museum was defined using parametric scripts (computer rules), making classic construction plans unnecessary. Blandini also developed the supporting structure for the Stuttgart 21 railway project as well as the associated complex reinforcement with the aid of scripts. “I would like to further develop these approaches at the University of Stuttgart.”
Werner Sobek continues to provide ideas to the University of Stuttgart
Prof. Werner Sobek, who, internationally, is considered a pioneer of lightweight construction and sustainability, will continue to provide ideas to ILEK and make a contribution to shaping the built environment of tomorrow. He will remain a research professor at the University of Stuttgart and, until the end of the year, the spokesperson of the SFB 1244 Collaborative Research Center. He is also Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Werner Sobek AG. Mr. Sobek has been awarded a number of national and international prizes and honors for his work, such as the Fritz Leonhardt Prize, the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and the Auguste Perret Prize of the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA). In addition, he obtained honorary doctorates from Graz University of Technology and Dresden University of Technology. His works have also been honored in many exhibitions worldwide.