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It is said that digital technology has changed architectural practices radically but in what way? Many people can only see the creation and also the possibility of manufacturing new and complex forms. It is true that new forms are emerging where the contemporary, complex curvilinear geometries are as easy as the traditional Euclidean geometries to produce. Branko described it as ‘in the realm of form, the stable is replaced by the variable and singularity by multiplicity.’ The question is how does computation impact on Architecture? In fact, digital technology has radically changed the design approach. “In contemporary architectural design, digital media is increasingly being used not as a representational tool for visualisation but as a generative tool for the deprivation of form and its transformation – the digital morphogenesis” Such phenomenon has opened up new possibilities for exploration. Architects and designers are exploring a fourth dimension where the main focus is the relations of the structures and interconnections rather than the form itself. This has triggered new architectural thoughts and new conceptual thinking to be developed during the design processes. “The emphasis shifts from the ‘making of form’ to the ‘finding of form’” -

Branko Kolarevic

Kolarevic, Branko, Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (New York; London: Spon Press, 2003) Suggested start with pp. 3-62



Fig 6. The Double Cone of the BMW WELT in Munich, Germany

The BMW Welt in Munich, Germany is a very good example where the design approach is performative towards various aspects of sustainability while also incorporating a metamorphic generation of forms, which is twisting in that case. The aim of this building is to save energy through efficient natural ventilation, heating and cooling. This aim is achieved by minimizing the mechanical apparatus for ventilation, heating and cooling. The gigantic Hall is thus conceived as a solar-heated, naturally ventilated sub-climatic area. The main feature of the building is the Double Cone. Two cones, one inverted on the other, seem to have been transformed, in this case twisted, to form the Double Cone geometry. BMW Group describes it as “Caught in a whirl of glass and steel, the tornado twists upward and ends in a roof that takes on the form of a floating, flying cloud. Generated by the dynamic twists of the two supporting strata, this tornado functions as the main bearing for the roof. Moreover this dimension and shape have been explicitly designed to have the required structural performance. The design process was thus also driven by its structural performance. “This situation necessitated close coordination at a very early project phase between those responsible for structural engineering, the routing of facility services and building technology.” This places Architecture again in a central role in the building industry as the architects have been dealing with engineers during the conceptual phase of the project. Design computation not only helped in analysing and assessing the performance of either structural aspects or sustainable features such as ventilation, heating or cooling, but also allowed a very detailed precision in the construction of the building. BMW Group stated that “The construction of BMW Welt required 4000 tons of steel and that every single one of the steel sections was manufactured with its own special template and every one had to keep within two millimetres of the design specifications.”



Fig 6. The BMW WELT designed by Wolf D. Prix, Coop Himmelb(l)au Woodbury, Robert F. and Andrew L. Burrow (2006). ‘Whither design space?’, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing, 20, 2, pp. 63-82 com/en/location/welt/ architecture.html

http://www.archdaily. com/29664/bmw-weltcoop-himmelblau/

Moreover, digital modelling software has offered the possibility to designers to explored new shapes beings formed through transformations such as twisting and bending - metamorphosis. Various forms of analogies have also been developed. One example is the biological metaphors based on morphogenesis where specific data concerning different aspects in a biological object can be digitally represented and creates new forms. Frazer argued in his book Evolutionary Architecture, that architectural concepts are expressed as a set of generative rules and their evolution and development can be digitally encoded. Again different approaches can be developed from such concept. Another conceptual approach is the parametric design where the architect are not designing the specific forms of the building but rather a set of equations and parameters which define the geometry generated. This is the proof where digital technology has produced new architectural thoughts and conceptual thinking and thus leading to different and new approaches. Digital advancement in architecture not also speeds up the designing process and makes it more efficient and accurate but allows the architect and designer to explore design solutions based on precedents and related case studies previously resolved successfully. UNStudio has used the same spatial concept in the new Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuggart as the one in the Mobius House. Robert F. Woodburry referred it as different commands such as backup, recall and replay in his article Whither design space?



Fig 7. Southern Cross Station, Melbourne, Australia designed by Grimshaw Architects

Southern Cross Station has a performative architectural approach. The design focus of Southern Cross Station is the dune-like roof that covers an entire city block whose form was developed from performative requirements of the station. The roof ’s form plays a crucial role as part of the environmental envelope ensuring that it is symbol of sustainable architecture developed in response to the hot external climate and the internal need for diesel extraction and ambient cooling via natural ventilation. (Grimshaw Architects) Fig 9. The diagram shows the stack effect ocThe peak of each roof vault is designed with integrated louvres to promote ventilation of exhaust fumes and airborne particles. The curing under the roof design uses crosswinds to produce stack effect in the roof. Alex Matovic from Grimshaw Architects acknowledges the use of 3DS Max was a crucial tool in their designing process. It enables them to adjust the form of the roof very quickly. The use of computation in design thus plays a major role in its conception. “It is maybe even more noteworthy because at the time of the design the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling (CFD) was not sophisticated enough to be used in the project. Despite the lack of CFD the project's stack effect, undulating, double skinned roof is a success.” - Lubetkin Prize Juror This statement explains that the use of today’s more advanced digital technology could have lead to better results or efficiency. The form of the roof can be associated with laws of physics and mathematics and the Lubetkin Prize juror further explained that the roof itself makes much of building physics. It is possible to describe the project in terms of structural forces, prevailing winds, and the ventilation of diesel fumes." blog/post/train-station-expels-fumespassively-and-wins-lubetkin-prize/ southern-cross-station/#



Fig 8. conceptual development diagrams for the roof shape showing the effects of a flat roof as opposed as to that of an undulating roof

A new interesting approach has also emerged with the digital technology being able to quantitatively and qualitatively analyse, assess and evaluate the performance of specific aspect in a building where the performance is the driver to designing buildings. This is commonly known as performative architecture. “The processes of design and manufacture are, in some sense, conceptually separable. Yet the design process must be undertaken with an understanding of the nature of the production process. It is necessary, for example, for a designer to know the properties of the materials with which the part might be built, the various techniques by which the part might be shaped, and the scale of production that is economically viable. The conceptual overlap between design and manufacture is suggestive of the potential benefits of CAD and CAM and the reason they are generally considered together as a system” - Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed.

Fig 9, Southern Cross Station undulating roof

Architects of today have the ability and capacity through digital means to produce a single, cohesive and complete model contains all the information necessary for designing and producing a building as described by Branko Kolarevic. Such examples are the pre-fab buildings where almost all the parts are built in a factory and assembled on site. This allows better control over the production which results on less wastage. It is obvious that the advancement in computation is linked with the develepment of sustainable design. Despite all these benefits, computation in architecture has also its limitations. Terzidis, Kostas stated that it is possible to claim that a designer’s creativity is limited by the very programs that are supposed to free their imagination. He argued that by using a conventional program, and always relying on its design possibilities, the designer/architect’s work is sooner or later at risk of being imitated, controlled, or manipulated by CAD solutions.

Fig 10. The exploration and generative process of the roof shape in 3DS max.

Digital technologies in architecture will be beneficial according on who controls it and more importantly how its practitioners use it. In some cases, they can be only tools to represent the final design solution while in other cases it is a generative tool. What can be retained from computation in architecture is that they have done more good than bad by creating innovative approaches and also by making what was impossible, possible. Terzidis, Kostas (2009). Algorithms for Visual Design Using the Processing Language (Indianapolis, IN: Wiley), p. xx



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Studio AIr_ Journal Entry Phase A_546528

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