We came across this coupling of essential quotes when we were poking around John Zernings blog about Garden Trellises and Architectural Space Frames.

“Applied to architecture and structure, the former is primarily an aesthetic position; the latter is a principle of economy.” wrote Zerning. We find both immensely useful, and made a sign to remind us…”

You might wonder how we ever came across Zerning’s site in the first place, living in the city as we do, with no garden, or even a terrace. We were following the trail of some images that have been flying around the blogs, of a beautiful architecture of wires…

John Zerning

…that Zerning devised for a structure he created, using “the principle of the bicycle wheel applied to a spatial closed system”…

John Zerning

Its first iteration was made out of straws (reminding us how making models of what we want to create can help us figure things out)…

John Zerning

Zernings blog is really about structures and how to think about them. He loves thinking HARD about things from the inside out. No wonder: He’s studied architecture and has a Master of Philosophy Degree in civil engineering (??!!!). We especially LOVE his post  DIY Geodesic Dome that Packs Into a Suitcase with wondrous pictures and comments, like “Interior view of the parachute shelter. The principles of ancient kite technology applied to a contemporary tent”…Oh-h-h-h-h, we see…

….and his own d–i-y work-around for making the domes connectors…

John Zerning

We can’t help but think but seeing his thinking-in-action will help our own. It’s a lesson about how something seemingly off-the-subject, can be so on-target.

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10 replies on “thinking about structures from the inside out

  1. Sadly after a period of illness John Zerning died earlier this month.
    His works can still be seen in the private gardens of St George’ Fields London W2, his home for many years

  2. We are so sorry to hear that Zerning passed away. We hope that is beautiful works will be preserved and see them in person one day.

  3. My late husband, Gunther Aron went to the Institute of Design in Chicago and we knew John from there. We saw him often and I remember he returned to Germany and we lost track of him. I am sorry to learn of his death. Gunther died in 2014. I am sorry we didn’t think to try and connect when they were both alive as Gunther often spoke of John.

  4. We lose track, but don’t lose the connection somehow (my belief). You were lucky to have known him.

  5. I would like to have a biography of John as I am writing up brief bios of former Institute of Design students for a website for the BAUHAUS CHICAGO FOUNDATION, Inc. Please email [email protected] or [email protected] with any available information thank you!

  6. Sad to hear that John Zerning passed away. I have 6 architectural studies of roof forms that he drew (I believe) in the 60’s. They are stunning with much attention paid to the finer detail.

  7. April 15th 2018
    Reading Chris P’s comment, we decided to see if John Zerning’s “work” was still in the gardens of St George’s Field and low and behold it was – it was padlocked down and easily visible once in the gardens. We had to sneak as a car was driving out but took a photo which we have sent to Paul and Geri.
    If anyone else is interested, let us know and we will email across the photo.

  8. I had the pleasure of studying with John from 1964 until 1967 at the Space Structures Research Centre of Battersea College of Advanced Technology in London. Like many of you, I too am saddened and shocked to learn of his passing. It was a joy to spend many hours discussing space structures with him, especially his beautiful hyperbolic parabola roof designs, of which he produced many models at the lab. As a structural engineering student, working on my doctorate, I was always amazed that someone with such a limited knowledge of mathematics could have such an in-depth understanding of structural behaviour. I am so sorry to have lost touch with him over the years.
    Ron Gilkie, Ph.D., P. Eng., FCSCE, FEC, FCSSE, FCAE, FRSA

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