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... should provide an entry statement and arrival experience... ... should create a focal point of iconic scale and presence... encouraging a sense of pride with in the local community...

... should propose new, inspiring and brave ideas, to generate a new discourse...

part b: design approach 36

design focus Since we last spoke...


icking up from where we last left off, what’s happened in terms of my broader knowledge? Has my skill set developed to a better standard? Has my understanding of this project and how to tackle it been honed in on? The simple answer is yes, but that doesn’t leave much room for creativity at all. The demanding nature of this project has a uniquely frustrating way of pressuring one to advance their skills and knowledge in the fields of computational proficiency, time management and creative expression. While frustrating in one sense, it really allows these abilities to flourish to the best of one’s ability in the face of pressing time constraints and expectations of standard.


hile I by all means feel as though I’ve come to grips with the nature of parametric design, it’s painfully obvious I have merely scratched the surface of the vast capabilities of parametric design. Instead of thinking in terms of what I know and what I’ve come to learn relative to the endless possibilities offered by parametric design, I find it more reassuring to converge my attention on a certain style of parametric design, which is precisely what has happened these past few weeks. By selecting one of a number of research streams under the umbrella of parametric design, I have been able to de-clutter my head and set guidelines for what is expected of myself according to my own standards and that of my fellow group members.


y focusing on one computational method for parametric design, we can as a group, conceptualise and realise a proposal through an intricate design process forged from initial concepts and conceived through a bevy of processes, both computational and physical.


he computational method of our choosing is tessellation. This stream offers many advantages, the primary ones being scope for innovation, applicability for built form and the interchangeable possibilities between two and three dimensions, whether we decide to focus on panelisation, heterogenous or homogenous methods, complex element repetition or any number of notions of tessellation.


ith these advantages though, come potential difficulties, however this will certainly provide us with the opportunity to expand design decisions and form solid ideas that persevere in the face of viable consequences; When we cook up our proposal, we will be certain that our design intent has prevailed over opportunities for drawbacks and restrictions to thrive.


design focus T

essellation is traditionally defined as a form of planar tiling using geometric shapes without gaps or overlapping and it can be further broken down into regular, semi-regular and aperiodic tessellation. Given the current focus on parametric design, it is worth considering how this traditionally planar discipline can be applied to three-dimensional form, and with what degree of success and originality.


or a job like the Wyndham City Gateway Project, the design intent centres around criteria such as intrigue, interest or simply aesthetics. We believe that in the context of parametric design, there is a great deal of scope to create tessellating forms as the basis of a proposal. By taking a simple concept of intersecting shapes and applying the parameters to some kind of base, we have the ability to adjust just about all the basic elements of Euclidean or non-Euclidean geometry to create something intriguing.


case study 1.0 V

oltadom, by Skylar Tibbits, employs relatively simple conical elements with oculi at the tips for light and view accessibility. As these cones intersect, they form a tessellation and allow a vaulted space to be traversed and when the correct internal lighting is applied, the material itself takes on an intriguing and original form, creating a unique space which would no doubt keep one’s eyes off the ground. Another interesting feature of Voltadom is the notion of front and back facing elements; something which has some significance in CAD programs. While tangible objects require thickness, this structure somewhat blurs this notion of inside and outside due to the stark intersecting points along its profile.


he reason this project really stood out as a good basis for our research, is that it is a terrific case of applying tessellation, a traditionally two-dimensional application, to a doubly-curved vaulted surface. Even at this stage of the project, a tessellating formation applied to a threedimensional surface is an intriguing notion. Be it regular, semi-regular or aperiodic tessellation or any combination thereof, Voltadom sets a great point and case of what can be achieved in digital design, and in tangible form.



o really understand the process behind Voltadom, we used the provided Grasshopper definition to explore this tessellation technique and through documentation we were able to provide a matricised exploration process that demonstrates our progress.


matrix exploration


case study 1.0 points

non-regular linear

regular linear



matrix exploration T

he beauty of any matrix is it’s simplicity. Rows and columns organised in a temporal manner are very effective at conveying processes of logical thinking. The initial steps taken in the design approach stage were these - By changing certain variables within parameters, we are able to document our progress for a single set of data but to progress further, we select a successful variation and expand on it, or allow it to become the basis for the next line of thinking.


he starting point was to follow the thought of a point - line - plane - loft process. From one dimension to two to three. This logical thought process helps to maintain consistency and achieve a dimensional metamorphosis.



he original Grasshopper file was based on a point system, generated from a populate 2D function. It was thought that I would continue to utilise points as the main basis for the file and to add some more intriguing element of parametric design I included the use of attractors to apply a macro pattern - essentially this process was more about the points than it was about what the points produced.

non-regular linear


he next process took quite a leap. Before honing in on a decisive, logical linear basis for our points, we decided to link the notions of point and line in an extreme example whereby the corresponding points of each individual cone element don’t match up, resulting in nonregular cones that stretch across a much greater area. While this technique clearly doesn’t form a tessellation, it is consistent with our aim of achieving something different from the original product and it helps to visually demonstrate this relationship between the point and the line when using conical shapes.


regular linear


ollowing on from a rough linear thought basis, we went ahead with a more logical linear definition basis to form our tessellations. And what better way to follow a logical linear array than to use a spiral as the base curve? What we gathered from this technique was that depending on the number of points per curve, the overall resulting tessellation can be viewed as a logical inward spiral or a collection of apparently random intersecting shapes. Also depending on the size of the elements, a tessellation will only occur when all the shapes intersect with each other.



rom the point we get the line, then the plane, then the loft. This third dimension changes everything. Our initial attempts to apply a series of cones to a lofted surface proved moderately futile, due to the uniform orientation of all cones regardless of position on the loft. We finally managed to orient the cones perpendicular to the points on the loft upon which they sat, which really gave life to the three-dimensional notion we were going for. The process of alteration was centred around using attractor points to alter the size of the cones based on a selected point. This process made good foundations for a process where size would be determined by position on the loft itself. This loft process proved the one with the most potential for alterations using existing parameters, as well as having the ability to make us of control points in three dimensions.


case study 2.0 A

t this point in the project our task, to attempt to reverse-engineer a case study project, must be undertaken. By exploiting the tools in Grasshopper we are able to define our own logic and apply it to our digital modelling. Regular baking of definitions into Rhino and a non-restrictive matrix progression are methods we used to visually convey our thought processes.


hat stands out about the project EXOtique is, among other things, its contextual placement. Set up in the Architecture School at Ball State University in Indiana, it seems only fitting to implement a futuristic-looking parametric design in this setting. Another advantage of this case study is its ease of fabrication. As earlier discussed, a computational design is great, but to fabricate and assemble it is the true test. A series of planar panels combined to form a lofted surface makes transportation and assembly a relatively simple task, and cheap fabrication costs helps to bolster this. This strong characteristic of EXOtique is a quality we are attempting to replicate in our modelling process.


XOtique’s surface protrusions and connections are interesting points of light penetration and appear to give the whole structure an interesting glow - this phenomenon occurred later during the prototyping stages with results similar to this.



matrix exploration


case study 2.0 one





matrix exploration one

This design process is essentially a base progression. While our attempts were to reverse-engineer the original model, the consideration was to think about the boundaries of positive and negative space. This process, while still employing parameters, had less emphasis on excessive alterations and has a more consistent, uniform appearance.


ur attempts to reverse-engineer the Projectione case study were in our opinions both novel and progressed. Being a relatively simple process, the Projectione example could have easily been achieved by creating a loft and applying a hexagonal grid pattern to it through the Lunchbox plugin but as this simple process would inevitably fail to communicate a process of guided thinking, we instead chose to inherit the basic principle of the Projectione pattern and warp the principles of positive and negative space.


This iteration carried on from the first by exploiting point attractors which influence both the size and distribution of the hexagonal spaces. We feel as though this iteration demonstrated a greater understanding of attractors as a parameter as the hexagonal holes’ size variation is quite significant.


he next step will be to consider further development of tessellating models. With a number of pre-case-study-2-considered fabrication techniques in mind, we will ensure to consider the point-line-plane-loft though process in our technique developments.


o while we haven’t achieved a hexagonal panelling system on a loft, we have come up with a series of different panelling technique that make use of attractor points and curves, as well as differing panel shapes and positions.



Expanding from our use of attractors, the next process involved the use of not points but curves to influence the hexagonal holes’ placement and size. We believe these curves gave a greater overall aesthetic to the panels, creating an advantage over points by linearising the distribution of points that dictate hole positioning.


The result from the previous iteration was one we were quite satisfied with thus we applied this linear attraction technique to a new panel type. Instead of a two-way panel system that doesn’t flex, we made use of a more three-dimensional base, which is something we intended to achieve from the beginning, following on from a pointline-plane logic.


technique prototype I

t’s all well and good to conceptualise an original and creative parametric design, but for realworld application, it all comes down to fabrication. The first attempt at creating physical models laughed in the face of digital fabrication; we thought this design required the human touch.


he basic concept is simple; by exploiting the natural angle of repose of a material, in this case plaster of Paris, we are able to deposit piles of the substance onto a base and periodically harden them with a light application of water. As the cones form and grow in size, they begin to intersect. As discussed, the tessellation itself is these intersections between cones, essentially a form of voronoi cells.


he advantage of this fabrication method is its static, uni-body nature. Large scale fabrication techniques using this method would not require complex joinery or assembly; to employ this methodology to some sort of panelling or tiling technique, it would make for a relatively simply assembly. The nature of the material itself is like concrete; a cheap and universally available material whose self-binding nature makes it practical for prefabrication methods.


his model, where applied to a finished proposal, has the potential to ignite intrigue in passers-by due to the double-edged nature of the sword that is tessellating cones. When viewed from front on without a great deal of influence from the effects of perspective, the overall form appears to be a simple voronoi tessellation with a central oculus or tip point, however as the surface itself has been extruded outward, a third dimension has been brought into the equation and travelling at 100km/h, the apparent warping nature of this model would be very interesting.



ith the formwork and a 10mm base in place, the cone formation process can begin. By spreading the plaster over the perforated board, the cones originate and form at predictable points. Periodic water application to the cones hardens the outside edge, followed by more plaster application. The initial results were a little less inspiring than originally hoped, however this was easily fixed with a little attentiveness to detail and a pocket knife to trim the unwanted material.



ith stage 1 completed and all the cones formed to the desired height, the surface was not entirely consistent in terms of smoothness or angle. The tips were culled where necessary and work began on scraping off the unwanted material to achieve a smoother looking surface. The final stage was to continue using a knife to fillet the surface right up to the point of intersection with adjacent cones. This was to achieve the sharp intersection - the primary aim of the model. The finished result was certainly more pleasing than it was before the formwork was removed (see above). By culling unwanted material, the overall surface was a pleasing result, with indications of that element of human touch.


n additional brief test we conducted, also a plaster-based method, used the idea of individual moulds to create conical forms.


here were of course issues with this method of model making. The primary one was to do with achieving a consistent texture throughout - the cones, being solid, were not cast as single entities but were formed through periodic deposition and hardening. The consequences of this limitation are illustrated in some of the images opposite. Despite these issues, the process itself was intriguing and surprisingly therapeutic, and the result was achieved to a standard with which we are satisfied.


his technique was interesting but required the sacrifice of the clay formwork and seemed somewhat impractical to use on a larger scale, 53 but we simply wanted to explore multiple avenues for fabrication techniques.


The final model




nother idea for fabrication was to use cutouts of a flexible material which would link together to create a three-dimensional surface. Card was the ideal choice for this modelling process. By unfolding tessellating elements in Grasshopper, it was a simple matter of tracing these individual cutouts and linking them together.


he drawbacks of this method came primarily from the nature of the connections between cones. The seam on each cone was a blatant flaw that compromised the smooth surface consistency we were aiming for, but this issue created an unexpected phenomenon. Light easily penetrates these intersections and the conical oculi to create an interesting visual effect and utilising hollow cones combined with lighting techniques is something we will certainly consider for the final proposal.



further prototypology W

hile the first exploration in the domain of physical models was successful in our opinions, we knew that further exploration was required. To really achieve a unique model that contains specific geometry, 3D printing was determined as the best way to create something very specific and detailed. While we concede that this method of fabrication could be considered somewhat of a cop-out, we must acknowledge the limitations of non-digital fabrication techniques outlined in the previous plaster-based model. As a result, we chose to explore the abilities of 3D printing and come up with a physical model that demonstrates a more specific case of our selected tessellation method.


ttractor points were used to influence the size of the cones as well as their corresponding cap - this technique is not something we could have achieved practically had we chosen to stick with the original plaster technique. In a real wold application, 3D printing would certainly be nice to use due to its specificity but would no doubt have heavy financial implications.


he result was very pleasing indeed. The printing quality achieved the level of detailed we hoped for and provided a tactile sensation.





learning objectives, outcomes T

his process that has collectively made up the design approach stage has evolved from initial idea conceptions to a focus on emphasis to the design; not necessarily the finished product, but the core elements that will make up the proposal. Tessellation as a design concept has proved to be a very workable and broad discipline to explore. From initial Grasshopper logic that defines our design to a whole host of fabrication techniques both digital and manual, the learning process has been comprehensive.


n-studio presentations were conducted and they proved a very useful tool to gain feedback and criticism. The professionalism of the setting is tied in nicely with the formal / informal communication methods and the result of this interaction provides solid grounding for work undertaken afterward. Feedback received from the panel during the presentations was helpful. It was stated that the actual purpose of the models must be better explained; the plaster model could have been anything thus it should be made more clear exactly what it is. While this is more of a visualisation critique, it is still necessary to take on board and work from there.


he coalescence of the materials over the course of the fabrication process was praised, which we were glad to hear as this coming together of the individual elements was a key part of our fabrication process.


he presentation was our first real opportunity to communicate our ideas to date and the feedback received has helped us to solidify our learning objectives and as a result, we are able to push on with a stronger sense of direction. In addition to verbal communication as a learning technique, other vessels of information have been key in our advancement.


he theoretical learning components encountered in this stage of the journal have been useful in adding to our collective knowledge of architectural discourse, most prominently the case studies 1.0 and 2.0. This is because instead of simply observing, analysing and commenting on designs, we are immersed in the opportunity to interact with the definitions that create said designs.


ith all this research, feedback and computational experience, we are confident we can press through to the final stages of the project and come up with an intriguing proposal for the Wyndham City Gateway Project.



references Case Study 1.0

Voltadom by Skylar Tibbits images collected from the following: Case Study 2.0

EXOtique by Projectione images collected from the following:


Part B - Design Approach  

Part B of the EOI stage of the Wyndham City Gateway Project Proposal

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