Lagerhaus der Magazzini Generali
Over a career spanning 40 years, Robert Maillart (1872–1940) designed and collaborated nearly 300 different projects. These include around 50 well-known railway and road bridges; others are mainly structures for buildings. Among these, the Chiasso Shed is perhaps the most interesting and intriguing. Maillart designed the five-storey warehouse building with architect Brenni in early 1924, but he found a solution for the shed only 6 months later. Shortly after completion, the form of the shed was criticised for being forced and arbitrary.
Many authors have given their own justification to explain the shed form: an analogy with natural forms, stylistic references, an analogy of the flexural behaviour of a simply supported beam with cantilevers, reference to the Vierendeel truss etc. Despite Max Bill’s observation that “the form follows the flow of forces”, it seems that few would have considered the form as resulting from a simple vectorial equilibrium obtained by graphic statics in accordance with the contextual constraints imposed by the warehouse building. Vectorial equilibrium is particularly evident in the scheme of forces published by Bill. Furthermore, studying the Maillart archives leaves little doubt that he used graphic statics for designing the structures.