Flow simulation of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain
A complicated shape like the museum by Frank Gehry requires a non-standard wall structure. Hence, windloads become an important design factor for the static analysis of the building. There may occur vibrations or pressure loads that can damage the facade.
Image 1: Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, by architect Frank Gehry.
The shape of the building may also lead to aerodynamic effects which can create danger for the visitors or lead to other undesired situations (e.g. wind turbulence leading to a build up of extensive fog).
Clearly, these questions can not easily be answered by intuition or by tests with scale models. A simulation, however, can identify this and many other criteria as well. Furthermore, it is very easy to change the model of the building during simulations and try out different building shapes. Hence, it provides a very cost effective way to improve the building and its effects on the environment.

Image 2: Streamlines and pressure distribution around the facade (red is high pressure, blue low pressure, wind coming from the right/west).

For a detailed windload analysis, the whole facade was modeled accurately with spline surfaces. This helped to create a high quality mesh for subsequent simulations and to avoid problems of a non-smooth discretization. The mesh consists of approx. 360.000 elements and is a hybrid tetrahedra-hexahedra mesh, which is computationally very efficient. Near the surfaces, a special discretization takes care of boundary layer effects.

The simulations were carried out using a flow solver for the discrete Navier-Stokes equations using the k-ε-model for turbulence. Several different wind situations were studied (the pictures shown here only refer to wind from the west side).

The results show a high pressure (red) on the west facades. The cantilever canopy at the entrance has a tendency to lift off due to its aerofoil like shape (note the blue low pressure region at the top of the canopy in image 2).
Image 3: Turbulent dissipation of kinetic energy (red is high dissipation, blue is low).
The regions of high dissipation of kinetic energy (red regions in image 3) indicate areas where vortex streets appear. This can lead to vibration of facade components and to undesirable effects for visitors. A problematic region is again the top of the canopy (red area at the canopy in image 3), which is prone to vibrations. Furthermore, the entrance area (yellow area in the lower left part of image 3) is covered by a long vortex street, that may lead to undesirable situations for visitors in front of the museum entrance.
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