Department of
Architecture and Built Environment

Image of John Chilton

John Chilton

Emeritus Professor Architecture & Tectonics,



John Chilton is a Chartered Civil Engineer and Emeritus Professor of Architecture + Tectonics in the Department of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Nottingham. After obtaining his BSc (Hons) Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Leeds (1970), he worked in bridge, highway and structural design. In 1984 he commenced his PhD on the 'CUBIC' Space Frame, under the supervision of the system's inventor Leszek Kubik. On completion, he worked at Burks Green and Partners on the 'CUBIC' Space Frame-roofed FFV Aerotech aircraft hangar at Stansted Airport, which was Supreme Award winner of the British Construction Industry Awards (1989). Joining the, then, Department of Architecture at the University of Nottingham, in 1989, to teach structures and construction, John has also taught at Lincoln School of Architecture, where he was Head of School (2004-2006) and at Nottingham Trent University (2008-2012) before returning to the University of Nottingham in 2012.

Reflecting John's research interest in non-conventional structures, he has been an active member of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) since 1990. A member of the IASS Executive Council for 20 years, he was elected a member of the IASS Advisory Board in 2020 and awarded Honorary Distinguished membership in 2021. He is former Chair of IASS WG12 - Timber Spatial Structures and member of WG 5 - Shell Structures and WG15 - Structural Morphology. He has Chaired and Co-Chaired IASS Colloquia and was a member of the Organising and Scientific Committees for the joint IASS/IABSE/Space Structures conference held in London in September 2011.

From 2004-2017, John was Vice-Chair of the TensiNet Association, a multi-disciplinary association in the field of tensioned membrane and ETFE foil construction, which follows the initial objectives of the original EU-funded thematic network (2001-2004). He has contributed to the TensiNet publications European Design Guide for Tensile Surface Structures (2004) and Annex 5: Design Recommendations for ETFE Foil Structures (2013). He was also Scientific Committee Chair for the TensiNet - COST TU1303 Symposium 2016.

John has served as a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee (FAC) of Lincoln Cathedral since 2004 and the FAC at Sheffield Cathedral since 2017.

He is the author of three books, Space Grid Structures (2000); Heinz Isler (2000); and, with co-author Gabriel Tang, Timber Gridshells: Architecture, Structure & Craft (2016) and is currently finalising a book on the German architect Michael Balz - Shells and Visions.

Teaching Summary

John Chilton has over 30 years' experience in teaching structures and construction. As Emeritus Professor he contributes occasional lectures. He also continues to co-supervise one PhD student.

Research Summary

Candela-Isler-Müther International Seminars (CIMIS) 2018-2022: Participation in international research and seminars on the reinforced concrete shell structures of Félix Candela, Heinz Isler and… read more

Current Research

Candela-Isler-Müther International Seminars (CIMIS) 2018-2022: Participation in international research and seminars on the reinforced concrete shell structures of Félix Candela, Heinz Isler and Ulrich Müther, in collaboration with Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Facultad de Arquitectura; Hochschule Wismar, Fakultät Gestaltung; and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Departement Architektur, Institut für Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur (gta)

CIMIS-1: November 2018 - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), México City

CIMIS-2: May 2019 - Academie der Künste, Berlin

CIMIS-3: June 2022 - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich (postponed from 2020)

Output: book chapters:

Guilia Boller and John Chilton, Heinz Isler's Experimental Approach to Form Finding, in:


Positions on Shell Construction. Positionen zum Schalenbau. Posiciones sobre estructuras laminares

Edited by Matthias Beckh, Juan Ignacio del Cueto, Matthias Ludwig, Andreas Schätzke and Rainer Schützeichel (Published November 2020)

John Chilton, Stetten free-form shells complex (Theater unter den Kuppeln) and Einfamilienhaus Balz in:

HEINZ ISLER AND HIS CONTEMPORARY FIELD Matthias Beckh, Rainer Schützeichel, Laurent Stalder, Joseph Schwartz, and Giulia Boller (eds) (expected publication late 2023)


Michael Balz - Free Architect

Research into the career and architectural vision of German architect Michael Balz who has dedicated much of his career to the exploration of alternative architectural forms, as exemplified by his own house, an innovative reinforced concrete shell constructed in 1979-80.

In particular, the research appraises realised and unbuilt thin reinforced concrete shell projects, including competition entries, many of which were designed in collaboration with Swiss engineer, Heinz Isler (1926-2009), with whom Michael Balz had a long association.

Output: Monograph: Michael Balz: Shells and Visions (published by Springer Cham 3 June 2023) see:

For full publications see:

Past Research

Knowledge Transfer Partnership - KTP009912 (2015-2018): To develop novel tensile membrane structures and also adaptable textile-covered building facades integrating tensile photovoltaic membranes for energy harvesting and environmental control to assist Europe's renewable energy generation targets. Industrial partner: Inside2Outside, Fenstanton

EU COST Programme Project TU1303: oc-2012-2-13283 (2013-2017): "Novel structural skins: Improving sustainability and efficiency through new structural textile materials and design". Participation as Steering Committee member, Co-Chair of Working Group 3: "Building physics and energy performance of structural skins" and Scientific Committee Chair for the TENSINET - COST Action TU1303 SYMPOSIUM 2016. Full open access proceedings are available as Procedia Engineering, Vol. 155 at:

Knowledge Transfer Partnership - KTP010169 (2015-2016): To design, develop and implement a passive heat recovery and storage system for the ETFE foil encapsulated greenhouse façade/roof using phase change material. Industrial partner: Holscot Fluoroplastics Limited

Knowledge Transfer Partnership- KTP9213 (2013-2015): To design, develop and implement a modular self-supporting structural-construction system comprised of linked ETFE foil encapsulated panels. Industrial partner: Holscot Fluoroplastics Limited

East Midlands Sustainable Construction i-Net, Collaborative Research & Development Grant, (2010-2011) Greening the Box: Retrofit of hard to treat housing. Partners: University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and Sustainable Ecological Architects (SEArch) Ltd

TSB/WAG, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (2009-11): To develop innovative building enclosure systems using ethyl-tetra-flouro-ethylene (ETFE) foil. Industrial partner: Architen Landrell Associates Ltd, Chepstow

AHRC/ESRC, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (2007-08): To optimise the use of Church buildings (churches, halls and church schools) in Greater Lincolnshire, through eco-refurbishment/new build (with Dr Behzad Sodagar, University of Lincoln). Industrial partner: Lincolnshire Community Foundation, Sleaford

DTI, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (2007-08): To develop a methodology for the assessment of the "carbon footprint" of buildings designed and constructed by the Simons Group, (with Dr Behzad Sodagar, University of Lincoln) Industrial partner: Simons Design, Lincoln

SEEM/SEDF strand 1 (2006) Feasibility study into Stapleford Forest Park, (with Hill Holt Wood, Norton Disney, near Newark)

DTI, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (2005-07): To develop designs for a range of autonomous eco-buildings leading to the establishment of an environmental social enterprise construction company, (with Dr Behzad Sodagar, University of Lincoln). Industrial partner: Hill Holt Wood, Norton Disney, near Newark. This project received the following awards:

  • KTP Awards 2009 - Special Award "Best ESRC funded project exhibiting Application of Management or Social Science"
  • National Housing Association's - Green Apple Awards: The Built Environment and Architectural Heritage 2009 Gold Winner; Green Champion 2009; Green Apple Champion of Champions Award 2009
  • East Midlands Lord Stafford Award - Innovation in Sustainability

EU FP5 Thematic Network "TensiNet" (G1RT-CT-2000-05010) (2000-04): Tension and membrane structures involving 22 partners from nine countries (with Professor Marijke Mollaert, Free University Brussels). Role: Scientific Coordinator. This project led to the formation of the TensiNet Association

Future Research

Heinz Isler

Ongoing research into the work of Swiss engineer Heinz Isler. Currently working on a book in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Ekkehard Ramm, Wilfried Dechau and Giulia Boller. This will be based on interviews conducted with Isler, together with Ekkehard Ramm in 2003, photographic record by Wilfried Dechau of key Isler works taken in 2021 and Giulia Boller's PhD research in the Heinz Isler archive, gta, ETH, Zurich.

Department of Architecture and Built Environment

The University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 95 14184