Frei Otto, b.1925 is one of the greatest living structural engineers. A master and pioneer of lightweight tensile structures he studied architecture at the Technische Universitat in Berlin after being drafted as a fighter pilot in the Second World War. After a brief stint in the States where he met some influential figures in the world of then contemporary design, Otto set up practise back in Germany in 1952.
Otto's first major structure was a saddle-shaped cable net pavilion at in Stuttgart and what a start! Naturally the magnificent debut of young talent attracted major attention from the worlds of engineering and architecture
Having met architectural wonders such as Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe and Lloyd Wright, Otto went head to head with another visionary, Buckminster Fuller at the Montreal Expo, both designing pavilions and both interested in structural efficiency (Otto via tension, Fuller by his famous tetrahedral designs).
Founding the Institute for Lightweight Structure at the University of Stuttgart in 1964 Otto continued his work with such projects as the pictured Munich Olympic Arena of 1972.
Interestingly, early in his career Otto used physical models to text complex tensile forms before adopting computer based techniques as the size of his projects increased. Since the Munich Stadium in 1972, Otto has spent time studying biological structures and researched grid shells which are seeing great popularity at the time.