Structural Design via Optimality Criteria: The Prager Approach to Structural Optimization

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During the last two decades, research on structural optimization became increasingly concerned with two aspects: the application of general numeri- cal methods of optimization to structural design of complex real structures, and the analytical derivation of necessary and sufficient conditions for the optimality of broad classes of comparatively simple and more or less ideal- ized structures. Both kinds of research are important: the first for obvious reasons; the second, because it furnishes information that is useful in testing the validity, accuracy and convergence of numerical methods and in assess- ing the efficiency of practical designs. (Prager and Rozvany, 1977a) The unexpected death of William Prager in March 1980 marked, in a sense, the end of an era in structural mechanics, but his legacy of ideas will re- main a source of inspiration for generations of researchers to come. Since his nominal retirement in the early seventies, Professor and Mrs. Prager lived in Savognin, an isolated alpine village and ski resort surrounded by some of Switzerland's highest mountains. It was there that the author's close as- sociation with Prager developed through annual pilgrimages from Australia and lengthy discussions which pivoted on Prager's favourite topic of struc- tural optimization. These exchanges took place in the picturesque setting of Graubunden, on the terrace of an alpine restaurant overlooking snow-capped peaks, on ski-lifts or mountain walks, or during evening meals in the cosy hotels of Savognin, Parsonz and Riom.