Current design theory holds that excessive changes in geometry are undesirable in conventional civil structures. However the natural world is abundant examples where extreme deformations are the normal state. Our research challenges this restricting structural philosophy with the hypothesis that large elastic deformations can be successfully employed as beneficial design strategy for novel light weight systems. We will present our recent research advances on typologies that benefit from non-linear geometric effects – bending active beam and shell systems as well as novel suspension bridges. The presentation will be of interest to students, academics and practitioners in the field of civil and architectural engineering.