Mass to Membrane

FTL Design Engineering Studio


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SpecificationsSKU: 90739Binding: Quarter bound ISBN: 978-1-940743-89-9 Pages: 208pp Publication Date: Fall 2018 World Rights: Available Size: 9″ x 11″, portrait
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In Western culture, from an early age we are ingrained with the notion that weight in building construction equals strength as evinced even in children’s stories such as the “The Three Little Pigs.” This idea of the relative strength of mass pervades our culture as a fundamental truth, but heavy materials are not intrinsically stronger than lighter ones. While time will be needed to remove the biases that we carry in our cultural DNA, our perception of strength has begun to shift. If we look at the historical evolution of architecture—from the massive pyramids of Egypt to the framed structures of Greek and Roman construction, to the lighter Gothic vaulting and eventually modern architecture of the twentieth century—we see a continuous, almost linear progression from solid mass construction to diaphanous skins of glass and steel. This is our historic journey from mass to membrane.

In Mass to Membrane, Nic Goldsmith presents the continuing evolution of building materials, from heavy stone structures to luminous, lightweight, flexible, and environmentally responsible structures. Through nine narrative chapters and samples from Goldsmith’s own extensive portfolio of lightweight tensile structures, the book explores how we can use less material and be more sustainable through the use of new composite materials, computation analysis and digital patterning.


Nicholas Goldsmith, FAIA, is the founder and principal of FTL Design Engineering Studio in New York and a fellow of the AIA and former chair of the Lightweight Structures Association. Prior, he was a designer for the Pritzker Prize Winner Frei Otto in Germany. Nic has designed exhibitions including exhibitions on solar energy for the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and is featured in innumerable publications including FTL: Softness, Movement, Light (Academy Press, 1997).

Thomas Fisher is the director of the Metropolitan Design Center and Dayton Hudson Chair in Urban Design at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. A graduate of Cornell University in Architecture and Case Western Reserve University in Intellectual History, Fisher has served as editorial director of Progressive Architecture magazine. He has written nine books, over fifty book chapters or introductions, and over 400 articles in professional journals and major publications. His newest book, Designing our Way to a Better World (Minnesota) was published in 2016, and he is currently working on a book on “on-demand cities.”

Robert Kronenburg is an architect and holds the Roscoe Chair of Architecture, University of Liverpool, UK. His research and writing engages with innovative forms of architectural design and popular music. His books include Architecture in Motion, Flexible: Architecture that Responds to Change, and Live Architecture: Venues, Stages and Arenas for Popular Music. He is currently writing the Architectural History of Popular Music Performance for Bloomsbury, New York.

Julia van den Hout, Specializing in editorial, curatorial, and research projects within architecture, Original Copy aims to generate new productive content and open conversation, focusing on architectural discourse beyond the mere presentation of built work. Julia van den Hout founded Original Copy in 2014, after serving as director of press and marketing at Steven Holl Architects for over six years. In 2011, she co-founded CLOG, an international publication that critically explores one topic at a time from as many perspectives as possible.

Mass to Membrane on Architizer

Fabric Structures: Ancient Approach, Modern Aesthetics

The Butterfly has Shed Its Skin

The Architecture writer Anthony Tung on Mass to Membrane

Imagicasa Names Mass to Membrane One of the Best Coffee Table Books

Fabric Architecture interviews Nic Goldsmith for his new book: Mass to Membrane

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 10 × 2 × 11 in

Quarter bound





Publication date

Fall 2018

World rights


9" x 11", portrait