Ben Galea I grew up in Melbourne creating buildings, towns and cities whilst playing with Lego with my younger brother. The idea of creating, designing and building and the joy that came with it must have stuck because here I am studying my third year of architecture. My current experience with digital design tools extends as far as Google Sketchup and stops there. I have never used Rhino, Grasshopper, Photoshop, InDesign or even Illustrator and this course looks to be a steep learning curve for me as I attempt to get my head around these various programs. However, Parametric Design intrigues me, particularly the way in which forms can be so easily created and altered. The use of computer aided design opens a whole new world of possibilities in spatial creation and experimental design outcomes.
Case For Innovation
s digital architecture continues to grow in prominence in our cities, so do the questions about reliance on digital tools and what real capacity we as humans have to create, when so much is reliant on computer programs. Innovation in architectural form has been largely digitised in the new millennium due to the ability to expedite experiments. This is because of digital models and their capacity to be altered at the click of a button. The ease with which a model can be redesigned, reinspected and eventually replaced creates a need for the digital environment to encourage continued innovation. However, form is only one cog in the architectural machine. It is the responsibility of architects to ensure the final designs remain relevant to the target audience and do not ostracise themselves due experiment for experimentâ€™s sake. Although difficult to define, architecture is essentially the creation of space for people to inhabit and this should not be lost. When buildings are built as a means to themselves, this human aspect and social relevance of architecture is lost and the structures risk becoming large, ineffective sculptures awaiting demolishing.1
Contrasting these potential pitfalls in over-experimentation, digital modelling tools create the environment to enhance the social significance already prominent in architecture. Redefining space to maximise efficiency and quality of life can be achieved through intuitive use of computer aided design. Effective data analysis alongside continued discourse between the architectural profession and public needs are requirements to achieve this. The Gateway Design Proposal asks for cohesion between architectural design and public interface. Creating â€˜forward-lookingâ€™ symbolism that is both stimulating and relevant relies not only the specifics of the design but how well they are aimed at the target audience, predominantly visitors. ______________________________________________________ 1 Kostas Terzidis, Algorithms for Visual design using the processing Language (Indianapolis, In: Wiley, 2009), p. xx
This journal will focus on the perception of space and the forms that create it through the use of sectional partition and contouring. Using precedents to highlight differing aspects, this discourse will aim to inform the future direction of the design approach to the Gateway Design Proposal. Defining form and space through sectional contouring is being used more frequently in architecture due to the increased ability to construct larger forms through the division and compartmentalisation of parts. By both implicitly and explicitly implying sectional abstraction and contouring, perceptions around form and the space it creates can be altered. Computation as innovation will be the main driver to influence mainstream change as complex and diverse architectural forms begin to increase in number. This, along with the discourse will make up the body of this section of the journal with a scope to inform the design approach in later sections.
â€˜Defining form and space through sectional contouring...â€™
Sectioning as Form Finding The Versailles Pavilion by Exploration Architects utilises sectional contours as the basic form of the pavilion with everything else following this lead. The portal frame is made up completely of straight lines but through employing the section cuts, the structure is perceived to be curving throughout its length. The nature of the project means that light is allowed to flood in during the day, and filter out at night, whilst utilising glass to protect individuals from the weather outside. Although a temporary structure (it was removed in 2011)2, the value in this project is in its alternative placemaking, juxtaposing the Palace of Versailles just metres away. The Versailles Pavilion expresses an ability to divide space whilst also allowing individuals to understand their surroundings. Using sectional cuts and vertical contouring, what could easily be a solid, opaque structure, allows views and interaction through the light partitions. This expresses the strength and potential in which sectional architecture holds. Redefining spatial partition by altering conventional architectural practice can be employed in any number of ways to create a new kind of wall. Dividing spaces but still allowing them to remain open is the concept that drives this idea ______________________________________________________
2 dezeen magazine, Versailles Pavilion by Explorations Architects, (online website) <http://www.dezeen.com/2008/12/18/versailles-pavilion-by-explorations-architecture/>
View from inside memorial Photo taken by self
Creating the ‘whole’ through scaled cohesion Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is a distinctive piece of place-making architecture. It was commissioned to symbolise the Jewish victims of WWII but uses no symbols or signage. Space is divided by concrete stelae creating the feeling of isolation and dizzying disorientation. However what is particularly interesting to this studio is the use of dual sets of statistical data to create the contoured effect of both ground level and the tops of the concrete stelae. Through manipulation of meaningful input data relating to statistical evidence during WWII3, the design was able to take shape by creating a flowing undulation from the edges of the memorial site. Similar to Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, also in Berlin, the use of undulation can create signs of physical nausea through the manipulation of gradient on site and disorientation of the senses. Although the topography taken as a whole seems to be a flowing undulation of curves, each independent stelae is essentially static and unmoving. Creating a ‘contour’ effect through the intelligent distribution of these concrete prisms, one overall structure is composed of many smaller elements. Although not exactly ‘contoured’ or ‘sectional’ architecture, this project provides scope to synthesising a whole design by analysing the small scale details relative with the larger form. __________________________________________________
3 Hanno Rauterberg, Talking Architecture, (ed. Prestel Publishing, 2009)
A.2 Architectural Computation Man and Machine Computation in architecture has altered architectural process by giving the designer a multitude of independant choices existing at the same time. A large breadth and depth of options is now available to be explored alongside each other to aid the search for the ‘right’ design solution to the ‘right’ problem. Through the use of manoeuvrable data, instead of a committed line or point, design space can be altered to achieve a plethora of options before evaluating the possible outcomes.4 Kalay claims however, that computation can only provide the rational side of architecture, for example algorithms and analysis, and that the irrational understanding of human behaviour, aesthetics and ‘feel’ of a building must come from the designer.5 The trend of computation in architecture will go on to create a codependance between machine and human to create architecture that fits the contemporary mould. Whether this is progress or regress remains a widely debated issue in the global architectural community. __________________________________________________
4 Robert F. Woodbury and Andrew L. Burrow ‘Whither design space?’, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, (Analysis and Manufacturing, 2003)
5 Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004)
Possibilities and Limitations of Computation As well as altering architectural process and design techniques, computation also has enabled projects to be created that used to be close to impossible. Computation allows the design space to visually reflect almost any form the designer has in mind through the mathematical simplification of extremely complex forms. Documentation and visual representation is no longer restricted to what can be hand drawn through the mass digitization of architecture. New forms such as radical three-dimensional undulating curves (right) can be represented just as easily as straight lines can. This, in turn widens the possibilities as to what can realistically be designed and constructed. However, we must ensure that the foundations of architectural representation is not lost. There is still much value in drawings and sketching with architecture. Computation is simply a tool to help develop the ideas that the designer has. Computation can be used to generate form but should still be considered as just a tool in the design process. Mitchell proposes a ten-point checklist of ‘retired and rewired’ architectural terms.6 But, replacing Parti with Genome and Tectonics with Electronics, for example, provides a limiting scope to design and cannot fully encompass contemporary architecture. Although architecture is ever-changing, it is essential the techniques of the past are used to inform intelligent design, not replaced. __________________________________________________
6 William J. Mitchell, ‘Antitectonics: The poetics of virtuality’, in The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and crash culture, ed. by John Beckmann (New York: princeton Architectural Press, 1998) pp. 204-217
Large Scale Contouring Galaxy Soho in Beijing (pictured), by Zaha Hadid Architects uses
contoured sectional curves to create a three-dimensional undulating structure consisting of five volumetric spaces. Computational techniques and the easy visual explorations it creates, allowed each volume to gently flow into the other through progressively increased radial curves. The project has aesthetic similarities to Frank Lloyd Wrightâ€™s Guggenheim (1936) but shows how computation allows the designer to alter and expand forms with relative ease.
“It is possible to claim that a designer’s creativity is limited by the very programs that are supposed to free their imagination.”7 -Kostas Terzidis
A.3 Parametric Modelling ‘Parametric’ by definition relates to parameters and involves working within given constraints, usually mathematical. By that loose definition, all architectural projects are parametric in nature, for example, a building cannot have a bigger footprint than its’ site or some kind of height restriction imposed on the building. However, this journal is primarily involved with computational parametric design, specifically projects designed using Catia, Generative Components or Grasshopper. Parametric design tools enable the exploration of new forms, material performance and overall structural techniques. Globally, the architectural trend seems to be moving toward ‘parametricism’ due to the speed at which experimentation can be carried out and alterations made. Using the computer to quickly perform algorithmic equations and data alteration, architects have been able to create unprecedented forms. Parametric design is also creating a global forum specifically linking mathematics and design, which allows a literal abstraction of ideas and algorithmic uses into new projects and uses.8 The shortcomings with parametric design, however, lie within the specific functions programmed into the current and future design tools. Like all mediums used for design space, we are restricted by what we can do with them. If a function is envisioned by the architect but not programmed into software, then the design is limited and the designer needs to turn to other design mediums. __________________________________________________
7 Kostas Terzidis, Algorithms for Visual design using the processing Language (Indianapolis, In: Wiley, 2009), p. xx
8 Robert Woodbury, Elements of Parametric Design (London: Routledge, 2010) pp. 7-48
Contours as form and spatial manipulators One Main Street, a project by dECOi Architects, is defined by its sectional undulating ceiling and only made possible through the use of parametric design tools. Evident in the pictures below, the construction is incredibly complex as each wooden section is unique in size and shape. There is a specific relationship between the dips in the ceiling in the rise in the flooring system and this is due to the possibilities of parametric design techniques. Constructing both the hung ceiling structure (below left) and undulating floor system out of ply sections was a decision based on form and function. dECOi claims that it was more suitable for the fabrication machine to cut the section pieces in long curving lines, rather than straight interlocking shapes. The material is relatively light and the parametric process allowed for the manipulation of form, which was able to optimise the use of the plywood and its structural performance around the columns.9 _________________________________________________________
9 dECOi, One Main Street (online website) < http://www.decoi-architects. org/2011/10/onemain/>
Repetition and Sectional Abstraction Continuing the theme of sectional design using parametric tools, the Webb Bridge in Melbourne by DCM spans across the Yarra River in a snake-like layout. The parametric design tools allowed the repeating rib design on the southern end of the bridge to extend around the apex and onto the main span. Many iterations of the steel latticework were generated almost simultaneously, creating a wide breadth of options before developing the possible outcomes.10 The snakeskin rib pattern required parametric modelling to expedite the design process and enable the pattern to continue throughout the latticework area.11 This project and its’ use of parametric tools show how they can be applied to any project, no matter how big or small the effect. _________________________________________________________
10 Australian Institute of Architects, Webb Bridge by Denton Corker Marshall, (online website) <www.architecture.com.au/awards_search?option=showaward&ent ryno=20053006> 11 Sarah Hart, Architects discover bridge design can eb the perfect union of art and science, ‘Architectural Record’, (2013) < http://archrecord.construction.com/resources/conteduc/archives/0406edit-4.asp>
Algorithmic Exploration With algorithmic exploration, the possibilities are literally infinite. From the first data inputs to the final design outcomes, there are a plethora of options for the designer to produce the forms which he/she wishes (or doesnâ€™t wish) to create. The algorithmic exploration to the right is a simple example of what is possible through parametric design. By continually altering and reusing shapes, the â€˜blobbedâ€™ section rows on the bottom right were extrapolated from the simple DNA-like curve at the top left. Although not overly complex, the final shape is a radically different and unexpected use of the curved surface. This example is used to show that breadth and depth can literally come from any arbitrary basic form in parametric design. The possibilities are limitless and express the major reasons for the increased use of algorithm in architecture.
basic starting surface
triangulation of surface points
contouring of resulting surface
surface removed from contouring
blob effect through data manipulation
Conclusion To design parametrically is to continually innovate by creating new formal structures and influencing perceptions of architecture. Through analysis of the precedents used in this journal, specific design techniques relating to contours and sectioning can be utilised and expanded in the Gateway Design Project. This is the major design approach that will be sought after through manipulation of spatial partition through sectional and contoured form design. The precedents used show an array of different styles in which sectioning can be utilised from the obvious large scale in Zaha Hadid’s Galaxy Soho to the smaller scale, One Main Street by dECOi Architects. Computation and parametric design will be the most effective way of completing this task due to the rapid model alterations that can take place. This speeding up of experimentation coupled with the rational form finding means that the use of parametric techniques will allow for the ‘best possible’ design by creating a large breadth of initial options and an increased depth of formal manipulations. Furthermore, as parametric design moves towards the forefront of architectural practice, it is the appropriate process to use to design an “exciting and eye catching installation”, that “inspires and enriches the municipality” of Wyndam City.
Learning Observations After four weeks of studying architectural computation, it seems that as with any architectural movement of the past, it is highly contested and debated as to where it really sits in architectural practice. Just as the modernist movement was divided, it seems that so to is the computational movement. Using the parametric design tool ‘grasshopper’, it has become apparent to me that so many more options are quickly available by tweaking data inputs. Using this tool for other projects would have helped to produce a much wider breadth of options to individually and quickly analyse. This, in turn, would have possibly altered some of my previous designs and also helped me to better utilise space allocations within the various briefs.
Bibliography 1 Kostas Terzidis, Algorithms for Visual design using the processing Language (Indianapolis, In: Wiley,) 2 dezeen magazine, Versailles Pavilion by Explorations Architects, (online website) <http://www.dezeen.com/2008/12/18/versailles-pavilion-by-explorations-architecture/> 3 Hanno Rauterberg, Talking Architecture, (ed. Prestel Publishing, 2009) 4 Robert F. Woodbury and Andrew L. Burrow ‘Whither design space?’, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, (Analysis and Manufacturing, 2003) 5 Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004) 6 William J. Mitchell, ‘Antitectonics: The poetics of virtuality’, in The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and crash culture, ed. by John Beckmann (New York: princeton Architectural Press, 1998) pp. 204-217 7 Kostas Terzidis, Algorithms for Visual design using the processing Language (Indianapolis, In: Wiley, 2009), p. xx 8 Robert Woodbury, Elements of Parametric Design (London: Routledge, 2010) pp. 7-48 9 dECOi, One Main Street (online website) < http://www.decoiarchitects.org/2011/10/onemain/> 10 Australian Institute of Architects, Webb Bridge by Denton Corker Marshall, (online website) <www.architecture.com.au/ awards_search?option=showaward&entryno=20053006> 11 Sarah Hart, Architects discover bridge design can eb the perfect union of art and science, ‘Architectural Record’, (2013) < http://archrecord.construction.com/resources/conteduc/ archives/0406edit-4.asp>