MissPres Architectural Word of the Week: Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell

With this week’s word we will be launching from Hancock County’s Stennis Space Center to some out of this world shapes!  While our word is really a three-word phrase, it is the best way to describe some of our State’s funky and wacky roof shapes from the 1960’s.  Our examples are located on the Gulf Coast so if you come to the MHT/MDAH/ Main Street Preservation Conference in Biloxi/Ocean Springs on April 26 & 27, you will have the opportunity see these places in person!  Plus the W.C. Gryder House in Ocean Springs, and St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Biloxi (along with the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County) are on the Final 101 Mississippi Places to See Before you Die, so you can check these off your list if you go.

This week’s word is brought to you by the letter H for “Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell” as defined by Edward Allen’s Fundamentals of Building Construction Materials and Methods.

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Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell: (hahy-per-bol-ik   puh-rab-uh-loid  shel): A concrete roof structure with a saddle shape

The Gryder house is one big saddle shape, while St Michael’s is lots of little saddle shapes over and over again.  Do you have a favorite Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell roof or building?  If so please share it with us.  If you don’t like this type of architecture let us know too, just remember to keep it respectful.  In case you want to check out some of our previous, more earthly words you can do so here.  As always keep your eyes pealed for this and past MissPres Architectural Words of the Week!

Categories: Biloxi, Books, Building Types, Churches, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Modernism, Ocean Springs, Preservation People/Events

15 replies

  1. Okay, pretty sure I am not going to find a lot of this “word” in my inventory of buildings. :)


    • It is a pretty unique design. These are the only examples in Mississippi I’m familiar with and they are less than 5 miles apart. I’m sure there are other Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shells in parts of the state, i just don’t know about them. If you come across one let us know about it!


  2. My favorite architectural term! I swear I’m making up a bumper sticker that says “I brake for Hyperbolic Paraboloid’s!” One of my favorite’s is actually not in MS but in Raleigh NC, the Dorton Arena by Dietrich based on design by Mathew Nowicki. We are lucky enough to have at least one here in Tucson, AZ, a church, that was recently renovated due to leakage issues which these roof lines seem to have. Another one in Albuquerque, actually my father’s Lutheran church, is another great example. I will get a photo of the AZ one and post it! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my love of hyperbolic paraboloids, even the word is sexy, don’t you think?!


    • Knowing Thomas Rosell, you will have at least one avid customer for your bumper sticker :-)


    • I will definitely have to get a longer bumper for my new favorite bumper sticker! Thank you for introducing us to these other hyperbolic paraboloid shells! The design seems to lend itself to churches, maybe due to the open floor space they create? The Dorton Arena is really interesting. You almost never see that much glazing allowing daylight in that type of venue.


      • Will let you know when I get them made up! Looking into a place here in Tucson that can make one for me, maybe a t-shirt would be cool too! Another church that uses this system is St Paul’s Lutheran in Albuquerque, though not sure if its the exact same thing, its very cool both inside and out (my dad’s a retired minister, this is the church he attends.) He is sending me the name of the architectural firm so I’ll have more info to go with it. Thanks for the reply!


  3. I’ve remembered another example of the Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell that has been featured on here on MissPres before.


    The Citizens National Bank in Meridian designed by Robert B Clopton is a neat little Hyperbolic Paraboloid Shell building.



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