Techniques that use qualitative reasoning for structural configuration synthesis and form design are critically examined. Both algorithmic and heuristic methods are considered. Because of the limitations of these methods a hybrid approach is presented. A shape algebra is developed for structural synthesis which leads to a systematic method for generating structural arrangements. This algebra raises the possibility of transforming structural synthesis into a science instead of the art that it currently is. The method is well-suited to automation exploiting a computer’s capability to manipulate symbols. The method searches for good candidate structures that can be used as the initial form for numerical programs for shape and size optimization.

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