Adaptive structures modify their geometry and internal forces through sensing and mechanical actuation in order to maintain optimal performance under changing actions. Previous work has shown that well-conceived adaptive design strategies achieve substantial whole-life energy savings compared to traditional passive designs. The whole-life energy comprises an embodied part in the material and an operational part for structural adaptation This thesis presents a new method to design adaptive structures capable of large and reversible shape changes achieved through actuation. To this end, linear actuators are strategically fitted within selected elements of reticular (e.g. trusses and frames) structures. Structural adaptation through controlled large shape changes allows a significant stress redistribution so that the design is not governed by extreme loads with long return periods. This way, material utilization is maximized and thus, embodied energy is reduced. A set of target shapes that counteract the effect of peak loads are first obtained through geometry and sizing optimization. Strategies have been developed to reduce the uncertainty due to the presence of multiple local minima so that the computational efficiency is improved and the convergence is guaranteed. A method is formulated to obtain a suitable actuator layout in order to control the structure into the target shapes. This is a challenging task due to the combinatorial nature of the actuator placement process which, in this case, includes geometric nonlinearity. A heuristic for near-neighbor generation based on the actuator control efficacy is employed to explore effectively the large search space. The heuristic has significantly improved convergence, which is important for structures with complex topologies that are made of many elements. A framework for real-time control combining shape optimization and nonlinear force method is proposed. The objective of the control framework is to minimize the operational energy for shape adaptation while satisfying stress and element buckling limits. A linear-sequential formulation is presented, allowing a computationally-efficient implementation of real-time shape control through a mechanics-based formulation. Through a nested univariate optimization scheme, an adaptive structure with minimum whole-life energy requirements is synthesized. Numerical case studies demonstrate that whole-life energy savings can be achieved compared to weight-optimized passive structures for the configurations studied in this thesis. Structures that adapt to loading through large shape changes achieve marginal whole-life energy savings with respect to structures that adapt to loading through small shape changes. Nevertheless, significant embodied energy (and thus material mass) savings are achieved with respect to weight-optimized passive structures as well as to structures that adapt through small shape changes. Experimental studies at various scales are carried out to verify numerical findings and investigate the feasibility of the design method. Experimental testing has demonstrated that significant stress homogenization through large-shape changes is achievable. The control framework allows for real-time shape adaptation to achieve stress homogenization under various loading conditions. An energy appraisal carried out on a near-full-scale prototype confirms that considerable savings of the total energy can be achieved by adaptive solutions.