Philippe Block is Professor of Architecture & 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 co-directs the Block Research Group (BRG) with Tom Van Mele, is Director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Digital Fabrication, and is Founding Partner of Ochsendorf DeJong & Block (ODB Engineering).
Philippe Block is also a member of the Academic Committee (AC) of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.
He 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 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.
Philippe Block 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 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 & Conceptual Design (ILEK), University of Stuttgart, Germany (2008). In 2009, he founded the BLOCK Research Group at ETH Zurich, which he co-leads with Tom Van Mele.
His research seeks new structural forms and constructional systems that allow materials to be used more efficiently. 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.
Philippe Block was awarded the Rössler Prize (CHF 200,000), presented to a “rising star” in their area of research by the ETH Zurich Executive Board, where he was selected for his work as both an architect and an engineer. In his speech honoring the winner ETH Zurich President Lino Guzzella stated: “we see this clearly in his curved roofs, where he unites aesthetic expression with the perfect geometry – all while minimising the use of materials.”
He is also recipient of the Hangai Prize (2007), the Tsuboi Award (2010) from the International Association of Shell & Spatial Structures (IASS), the Edoardo Benvenuto prize (2012) for “scientific research on the history of structural mechanics and art of building”, and the Berlin Art Prize for Architecture (2018).
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 (Routledge, 2014), and co-author of Beyond Bending: Reimagining Compression Shells (Edition DETAIL, 2017).
He was a participant of all three LafargeHolcim Roundtables held at MIT Endicott House, Cambridge, MA, USA (2014), ETH Zurich, Werner Oechslin Library in Einsiedeln, Switzerland (2015), and the Institute for Lightweight Structures & Conceptual Design (ILEK), University of Stuttgart, Germany (2018).
Philippe Block was a member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Latin America in 2017. He was a workshop moderator for From manual to digital and vice versa: Digitalization, labor, and construction at the 6th International LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction held in Cairo, Egypt in April 2019.