Form finding encapsulates a family of methods to generate a shape for a structure such that the structure is in a state of static equilibrium under a design load and a set of support conditions.
Form-finding has a rich history in architecture and in structural design, which is reflected in the evolution of the different form-finding methods available today. While all of them have the goal of arriving at a state of equilibrium for a structure, these methods may vary in their underlying mechanical assumptions (elastic stiffness-based, dynamics-based, geometry-based) and in the way a designers interacts with them and exerts control on the shapes output by the form-finding process (e.g. physical versus digital form-finding). Some examples of physical or model-based form-finding are the soap film and textile models used extensively in the ouvre of Frei Otto and Heinz Isler --celebrated structural designers-- to build cable nets and concrete shells in the 1960s. Some instances of digital form-finding methods that arrived over the last decade by leveraging recent advancements in computation include the combinatorial equilibrium modeling (CEM) framework and the thrust network analysis (TNA) that generate shapes for long-span, tension-compression bridges and complex compression-only vaults, respectively.