Ramification of any main stem.

Branching structures are based on geometric systems that expand through bifurcation without returning to closed loops. In this sense, branching structures resemble the structure of trees that branch continually outward.


Frei Otto

Frei Otto developed many different branching structures in the early 1960’s. He developed systems of branched columns, which he managed to convert into a harmonious structure of the dome that became melded into a single structure (Windfried Nerdinger, 2005, p 28). He described this adaptable construction and buildings as “Natural Construction.”

Fig 1.0 Frei Otto’s hanging models of branching systems.


Trees and leafs have inspired structural forms in architecture. They are based on branching structures of internodes (branches) and nodes (bifurcations).

Figure 2.0 Tree branches.

Figure 2.1 Palm branches.


Branched structures are evident at all levels of organization in living organisms. Many organs, such as the vascular system, lung, kidney and mammary gland, are heavily branched. (Markus Affolter, 2009, p.831)

Figure 3.0 Circulatory System.


 Tote Restaurant, Mumbai, India. Serie Architects

The structural system adopted here is a tree-branch. The roof is supported on rows of tree-like columns running the length of the entire building. As the structure branches into finer structural members as it approaches the ceiling.

Fig 4.0 Branched structure in the interior of the building.

Fig 4.1 Branched structures support the roof.

The Barajas Airport. Richard Rogers

In the Barajas Airport, the support points for the roof consist in Y-shaped columns. The selection of this structural system was chosen to cause a minimum visual impact through the façades while contributing, at the same time, to the spatial definition and the structure itself.

Fig 5.0 Barajas Airport Y-shaped columns.

Beaverton Library, Oregon, USA. Thomas Hacker Architects Inc.

The structure of this building is based on the shape of the tree.

Fig 6.0 Interior of the Beaverton Library.

Stuttgart Airport, Germany. Gerkan, Mag, and Partners.

Stuttgart airport represents a unique design due to the integration of tree-like structure. The actual roof surface is divided into sections; each supported by a “steel tree” with passes the loads down through the branches to be collected in the tree trunk.

Fig 7.0 Stuttgart Airport “tree” structure.


 The natural form of a tree is an amazing inspiration for many designers, as can be seen in pictures below.

Fig 8.0 Shrubs Table by Zhili Liu.

Fig 8.1 Tree Table by Ilan Dei Studio.


Branching structures exhibit a particularly close relationship between the course of the forces and their shape, both in their overall appearance and in the nature of the structure itself.

Branching Diagrams

Branching Variations

Using a gridded box and rubber bands we started to emulate different variations of branching structure systems. Beginning first with a single level of branching and then moving to a second and a third level to understand how the systems are formed.

We started analyzing how branches are initiated and how the forces regulate the direction of the rubber bands. If the central rubber band forks into two branches of equal width they both make the same angle. In the other hand, when one branch is of lesser width they create different angles. As more levels are added the force and length of the initial branch decreases. As a result, the shape is dictated by the forces applied to the rubber bands.

Bifurcation Level 1

Trifurcation Level 1

Bifurcation Level 2


Bifurcation Level 2


Trifurcation with bifurcation

Quadfurcation with bifurcation

Bifurcation Level 3


Fig 1.0 Windfried Nerdinger, 2005, p 67

Fig 2.0

Fig 2.1

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Fig 4.0

Fig 4.1

Fig 5.0

Fig 6.0

Fig 7.0

Fig 8.0

Fig 8.1