1959: Palmira Chapel – Cuernavaca, Mexico
Innovation: Palmira Chapel
Location: Cuernavaca, Mexico
By: Felix Candela
The chapel highlights Felix Candela’s astute understanding of structural design, geometric concepts, and clean architecture aesthetics. The chapel’s structure takes the form of a hyperbolic paraboloid which allows for compression and tension forces to act on particular areas of the structure . The surfaces are anticlastic, meaning that the principal curvatures of the form have opposite signs at any given point, which reduces shear forces and bending.  This reduction in bending allows for dramatically reduced materials, in this case, concrete. Thin shell concrete roofs can be as thin as 5/8 inches wide, and do not rely on interior columns or buttresses for support. In fact, thin shell concrete structures are very strong, and are particularly excellent at withstanding earthquakes.
Candela’s work with thin shell concrete paved the way for many famous structures such as the TWA Flight Center and the Sydney Opera House which blend architectural aesthetics with engineering innovation.