Philippe Block is Associate Professor of Architecture and Structure in the Institute for Technology in Architecture, Department of Architecture (D-ARCH) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland.
He is also a member of the Academic Committee (AC) of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.
Philippe Block specializes in equilibrium analysis of unreinforced masonry vaults, computational form finding and optimization of curved surface structures, and innovation in fabrication and construction of such structures. He combines civil engineering and architecture in a convincing, digitally supported interdisciplinary approach which blends the two areas of supporting structure and design. The multitude of requirements to which modern construction is subject can only be mastered by means of a multidisciplinary approach of this kind.
He trained in architecture and structural engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium (BSc 2001, MSc 2003) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA USA (SMArchS 2005, PhD 2009). He worked as a visiting researcher with the late Professor Ture Wester at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark (2007) and with Professor Werner Sobek at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) in Stuttgart, Germany (2008). In 2009, he founded the BLOCK Research Group at ETH Zurich, which he co-leads with Tom Van Mele.
As partner of Ochsendorf, DeJong & Block, he applies his research into practice for the analysis of vaulted historic masonry with complex geometries and the design and engineering of compression structures pushing innovation in unreinforced masonry with projects ranging from unique signature vaults in cut stone, such as the MLK Jr. Park Vault in Austin, TX, USA, to sustainable construction solutions for developing countries, such as 2009's “World Building of the Year”, the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in Limpopo, South Africa.
He won the Hangai Prize (2007) and the Tsuboi Award (2010) from the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) for innovative contributions to the field, as well as the Edoardo Benvenuto prize (2012) for “scientific research on the history of structural mechanics and art of building”.
Philippe Block has lectured worldwide at universities as well as leading engineering and architecture offices. He has collaborated with offices such as Zaha Hadid Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, SOM structures, Baumschlager Eberle and Studio Olafur Eliasson. His work has been exhibited at the Design Triennial 2009 in New York City and the Architecture Biennial 2012 in Venice. He is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Space Structures and Elsevier’s Computer-Aided Design. He is co-author of the book FAUSTFORMEL Tragwerksentwurf (2013) and co-editor of Shell Structures for Architecture: Form Finding and Optimization (2014).
He was a participant of the 1st Holcim Roundtable held at MIT Endicott House, Cambridge, MA, USA (2014) and the 2nd Holcim Roundtable held in Einsiedeln, Switzerland (2015).
Philippe Block was a member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Latin America in 2017.