John Ochsendorf

John Ochsendorf is an American structural engineer. He was educated at Cornell, Princeton and Cambridge University and is known for his creative research at the interface between civil engineering and architecture. Since 2002, he has been Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research interests include the safety of masonry vaults and domes, form-finding of efficient shell structures, and the design of more sustainable buildings and infrastructure. John has uniquely combined his interests in engineering, archeology and architectural history to become a leading authority on ancient building structures as well as sustainable design. He is a founding partner of Ochsendorf DeJong and Block LLC, a consulting firm specialising in historic structures. He is Founding Director of the newly established MIT Morningside Academy for Design and was Director of the American Academy in Rome from 2017 to 2020. Ochsendorf is the author of more than 100 technical papers and a book on the structural tile shells of the Guastavino family (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).

Projects and Recognitions

Recently, John Ochsendorf and former students from MIT collaborated with renowned artist Martin Puryear to build the Nubian vault for Puryear’s monumental sculpture “Lookout.” This technique was developed thousands of years ago in the Upper Nile Delta. John has collaborated with architects, engineers and artists on the design of numerous award-winning structures around the world. These include the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, named World Building of the Year at the 2009 World Architecture Festival, and the Collier Memorial on the MIT campus.  John Ochsendorf was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Spain (2000) where he studied at the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya and the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid. After being the first engineer to receive the Rome Prize (2007), he spent a year studying vault construction in Italy. That year he also received a MacArthur Fellowship (2008) for his pioneering work in restoring structures from the distant past and identifying traditional technologies for use in contemporary construction. At MIT, he was named a MacVicar Fellow for exceptional teaching in 2014, and in 2016 he received the Gordon Y. Billard Award for outstanding service.

Sculpture “Lookout” in New Windsor, NY. (USA, 2023), Martin Puryear. Structural engineering by John Ochsendorf. Photo by Amir Hamja/The New York Times.

Prof. John Ochsendorf

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