Félix Candela: Engineer, Builder, Structural Artist is a pioneering project produced through the collaboration of the Princeton University Art Museum and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. The exhibition, book and website portray for the first time the remarkable concrete buildings of Candela as pure engineering works of art of the same high quality as the structures illustrated in the 2003 project “The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy.” Both projects grew out of the introductory engineering course “Structures and the Urban Environment” taught jointly by Professors Maria M. Garlock and David P. Billington and which examines the engineering, art and social factors involved in planning, design and construction of large-scale buildings and bridges. This heavily enrolled course introduces students from all disciplines to those structures which demonstrate the potential for all types of built works to enrich the public life of modern industrial, urbanized society by showing how elegance and economy can go together with the minimal waste of materials.
The exhibition has also a major pedagogical objective which includes a substantial number of graduate and undergraduate students. In particular, graduate students Katie Kelly, Ashley Thrall, and Ted Segal each wrote a research paper on one major structure, rewrote it as the basis for a chapter in the book, and designed and built the corresponding model. Also graduate student Powell Draper wrote a research paper on another Candela structure and rewrote the paper as a basis for a book chapter. Noah Burger had written a senior thesis on a fifth structure, a part of which has recently been published in a refereed journal; this formed a basis for another book chapter. Sarah Halsey, another graduate student, completed a master's thesis which formed the basis for yet another chapter and she spent one summer building models. Noah, Powell, Sarah, and another undergraduate Christy Holzer each made separate trips to Mexico City to study the Candela works in place. An additional group of students also did excellent work designing and building models; all such work carried out under the splendid direction of lab manager, Joe Vocaturo along with the support of several university departments, faculty and staff.