I am an architecture student in my third year at the University of Technology Delft. I was born and raised in the Netherlands but as of july 2012, I now live and study in Melbourne to broaden my horizon and enjoy architecture at the other side of the world. Besides architecture, I am interested in graphic and furniture design. Other hobbies include sports (tennis, korfball, volleyball, running, skiing and snowboarding), shopping and travelling.
In the Bachelor degree of Architecture in Delft, students are introduced to digital architecture in three ICT subjects. So far I have completed two of them and in these I have started to learn how to use the software Maya, AutoCad, Rhinoceros and Grasshopper. In my own design process I actually donâ€™t like working with computer software. One of the reasons, I think, is that I was first introduced to digital architecture by Maya. While I think Maya is a wonderful program for rendering, I believe it is difficult for modelling your design because dimensions are relative rather than absolute and the interface is just so overwhelming. Especially for a beginner in digital architecture software. Finding Maya so hard to understand, I developed my drawing skills instead and by now I just use the computer for creating plans, sections and detailing in AutoCad. Another reason for not incorporating the use of the computer in my design process, is that I generally enjoy the look of a drawn perspective more than a 3D rendered image. The only programs I do frequently turn to are the Adobe Creative Suite ones. I use Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign to make my drawings just that bit more presentable and neatly organise them for presentation posters. In Studio Air, however, I would like to make a new start with digital architecture and also explore how it can help me in designing buildings. What I mean by that is, that as of now, I only see the computer as a means to generate images of how my design would like AFTER I finish the design. And since I actually prefer the feel of hand drawings, I didnâ€™t see the use of programs like Maya and Rhino for me personally up until now. I am curious to learn how digital software can help my smooth out my design process, lead to different design decisions, undiscovered possibilities and maybe even a wholly different design aesthetic.
So far I have completed 4 studios. The architectural design is key for each studio but every subject also focuses on related areas like urbanism and construction. Compared to the University of Melbourne, studio subjects are a little different in set-up. They are very intensive subjects in which you solely focus on working on your design for 8 weeks. Studio hours of 60 to 80 a week are not uncommon.
Design Studio 1: House and Settlement BRIEF The design of a little neighbourhood of 10 houses and the development of one of these houses including a studio and garden. Focus is the link of this dwelling to its new neighbourhood and a close relationship to public space, other parts of the city and the natural surroundings. Spatial design is aimed towards finding the right relation between program and context.
Design Studio 2: Building and Construction BRIEF The design of an exhibition centre on an artificial island used as a deposit of silt pollution. Focus is the handling/use of site specifications like smell, the absence of a direct connection to the mainland etc.. The main structure, key details (window frames, joining of beams and columns etc.) and climate design are also to be designed and calculated for feasibility. Sustainability is important.
DESIGN I tried to incorporate the famous nearby dunes in both the urban and architectural design. The houses are ‘randomly’ placed on the site, ensuring private garden for each. The house is open plan and is supposed to feel spacious and ‘exciting’ because of the different ‘objects’ protruding in and out of the main glass box and the bridge connecting these rooms.
DESIGN In this studio I came up with a design concept and tried to make it visible in all levels of detail. The building is to be a metaphor for the site it is on: an absolute shape which encloses a ‘dirty’, fluid substance. In the end I came up with 4 large concrete rectangular slabs on different levels in which an organic object was randomly placed and which formed the actual exhibition space.
Design Studio 3: City and Housing BRIEF The transformation of a former industry site to a residential area. Focus is the understanding of the relation between the ‘urban’ – morphology of the city – and the ‘architectural’ – typology of the residential buildings. The new area is to respond adequately to the varied characters of the adjacent neighbourhoods, to be easily accessible and to integrate different living environments with suitable building typologies. Sustainability is key.
Design Studio 4: Small Public Building BRIEF Design of an extension for the Faculty of Architecture in Delft which includes a library and lecture-hall. Focus is the ‘collision’ between a more functional and architectural approach to design. Building costs, managing aspects and the detailed and extensive desirable program are important in the design process and should be integrated with the ideas and wishes of the architect.
DESIGN The design focuses on a central axis which points in the direction of the famous landmarks of the older, inner city close by. Another key was the remaining of the old industrial buildings on the site and incorporate them in the plan by using them to divide different building typologies and living environments.
DESIGN Because the final design is an extension, I didn’t want to ‘undermine’ the existing building which is, I think, quite beautiful and majestic. Therefore I tried to design the new wing in the same kind of typology but differently executed. The final result is a large corridor in which the lecture-hall and library are placed as objects with a different scale, form and material.
Of all the achievements of the famous modernists of the twentieth century like Corbusier, Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright, I like the Farnsworh House (19451951) by Mies van der Rohe the best. The house is a one-room weekend retreat of 140 m2 situated near the the city of Plano, Illinois, US on a private, secluded site. This design especially speaks to me because of its integration with nature. The glass walls spanning from floor to ceiling ensure a full view of the surrounding woods and the large and fragmented terrace leading up to the entrance makes for a less defined distinction between inside and out. The house also seems less invasive of the site because it is raised 1,5 m above the ground, making it seem even lighter and more airy. This is not for aesthetics alone, the house is situated on river banks which are occasionally flooded. I believe choosing to place the design here instead of on ‘safer ground’ higher up makes the house even more a part of the natural conditions of the surroundings. Another aspect I like is that the ‘weightlessness’ look of the outside of the house is continued inside by its open plan living. The kitchen and other utilies are situated in a core placed off-centre in the plan making the rest of the room a fluid space free to organize in any way one would like. The resulting flexibility and spaciousness is something I try to realise in my own designs as well.
Something I really appreciate about this design by by Mies van der Rohe is its ‘honesty’ and ‘clarity’. What you see is what you get, less is more and the construction of 8 thin steel columns supporting the concrete floor and ceiling slabs is visible, practical but also part of the overall concept. I think Farnsworth House is a interesting piece of architecture to consider when thinking about digital architecture. Obviously, being built almost 60 years ago, the house is designed by hand, without any help from computer software. And by looking at it, this seems very do- able; it looks simple. I think, however, to make a simple design like this look clean and beautiful, detailing like window frames, joining of beams etcera have to be extra carefully designed to avoid them interfering the bigger visual effect Using computer software to quickly try different variations of these aspects in the design might turn out to be quite helpful. You obviously don’t need a computergenerated 3D model to imagine how a raised, glass box would look like in real life. However, because of the easy zooming in and out features of this kind of software, it seems to be a perfect way to see how little details like different window frames affect the appearance of the design as a whole. I don’t think architects should strive for complicated buildings just because it is possible to create them in computer software, but instead, these kind of programs can be used to perfect more simple designs as well.
An architect I have only recently discovered but really admire the work of is Glenn Murcutt. His design philosophy actually draws quite a bit of similarities with Mies van der Rohe’s. Both highly regard the relationship to nature and properties of the site and both are known for their influence on their homeland architectural culture (Australia and the US respectively). I think Murcutt takes the integration with nature-aspect even further than Mies van der Rohe, his main objective being “to touch the earth lightly”. Murcutt’s buildings are true examples of vernacular designs and incorporate Australian traditions, sustainable measures and natural resources where Mies van der Rohe is more famous for his use of glass and steel and the exploration of these new technologies. “A building should be able to open up and say, ‘I am alive and looking after my people,’ or instead, ‘I’m
closed now, and I’m looking after my people as well.’ This to me is the real issue, buildings should respond. They should open and close and modify and remodify, and blinds should turn and open and close, open a little bit without complication. That is a part of architecture for me; all this makes a building live.” One of the designs of Murcutt I like, is the pritzker price winning Simpson-Lee House of 1989-1994. The residential building is found on Mt Wilson and works with the local environment while capturing majestic views of the surroundings. The house is oriented to face NE, sheltering from cold W/SW winds. The treatment of materials and construction techniques try to mimic the filtering of light through foliage, characteristic of the Australian bush. Elements like the louvred north face (completely restractable) emphasise the intimate relationship between buiding and landscape.
Water is collected from the roof and used for drinking water and to flush toilets. Excess water is stored in a reflecting pool which also serves as a water supply in case of bush fire (note, sprinklers are located on the roof, not in the building). Lighting and ventilation is easily controlled with the North-East wall which can be closed from view or completely opened. The blinds on the exterior of the house block the hot summer sun outside of the building envelope, so the heat never makes it into the house. Mies van der Rohe’s and Murcutt’s ‘clear’ architecture is something I am starting to appreciate more and more now I am getting bored with the flashy architecture which seems to be the norm of our time. I think this growing dislike is something interesting to explore in relation to me studying digital architecture. If one takes for example the work of Libeskind, Gehry and Zaha Hadid, I think their
designs are hugely depended on computer software. The kind of shapes they use, how they combine them, intersect them; it is so complex, you have to design these kind of buildings in 3D. They are hard to describe with just plans and sections. I am therefore curious how these kind of architects work; what is their design process like? How do their first sketches look? These are the kind of questions I ask myself and I like to see answered this semester in studying digital architecture. How do their first ideas relate to the final 3D digitally designed outcome? When and how did they switch from sketching the first outlines to modeling them on the computer? How do you start modelling and editing curves, surfaces and solids when they seem to be based on some random lines on paper? And what can the role of architecture design software be in my own design process which tries to steer away from these kind of shapes?
Besides the obvious advantages of using computer software in the design process like the exploration of new shapes, visualisation & presentation and speeding along and smoothing out the design process (repetition, variations are easier and faster to create by computer than hand, fabrication), I believe the biggest oppurtunity of computational architecure is its role in designing sustainable architecture. Especially parametric design seems very useful in designing facades which can react on the environment like wind and sun conditions and so, regulate climate design in a environmentfriendly way. When the facade of a building, for example, becomes more open or closed according to sunexposure, less air conditioning/heating is required which means lower energy bills. In other words, adaptive architecture.
There are already numerous examples of designs across the world in which these weather responsive building skins are applied. A common example is the use of louvres adjustable according to sunangles but other, more advanced techniques have already been used as well. I think the Media-TIC building by Cloud 9 architects in Melbourne is an interesting example. The two facades who receive the most sun, are cladded with special EFTE components which can be inflated with air/nitrogen which create a shade effect/filter the sun like a cloud respectively and keep the heat outside of the building. Instead of adaptive architecture, computational architecture design can, for example, also be used to optimise material use, minimising waste and achieve sustainability this way.
Another example of computational architecure I appreciate, though part of another discourse entirely (non-euclidian geometry), is the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion by Snohetta Oslo AS in 2011. The 90m2 building is located on the outskirts of Dovrefjell National Park, overlooking the SnĂ¸hetta mountain massif and serves as an observation pavilion. This unique natural, cultural and mythical landscape has formed the basis of the architectural idea. The building design is based on a rigid outer shell and an organic inner core. Considerable emphasis is put on the quality and durability of the materials to withstand the harsh climate. The rectangular frame is made in raw steel resembling the iron found in the local bedrock. What I think is interesting about this design in the digital discourse is its use of material and the
the production process. Wood is not the most obvious material to work with when designing curved (or even double-curved) surfaces and while wood has been used in multiple non-euclidian projects before (mostly in the form of plywood sheets), this design is build from pine timber beams. To be able to do so, not only the design itself is modelled with the help of computer software, also the fabrication process makes use of intensive software programming. Using digital 3D-models to drive the milling machines, local Norwegian shipbuilders created the organic shape from the beams. The wood was then assembled in a traditional way using only wood pegs as fasteners. This mix of modern techniques and local traditions makes the building, according to me very interesting. A remark could be that this way of using wood in the design is quite wasteful.
In Mapungubwe, located on South Africa’s northern border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, Peter Rich has designed a 1,500 m2 Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre (2012) which includes exhibition spaces and offices. The key aspect of the design are a series of stone cladded, self-supportive vaults. The vaults have been designed using a 600 years old construction system based on compression alone, most familiar to us by Gaudi’s design of the Sagrada Familia. This way of construction is low on economical and environmental impact and does not requite any steel reinforcement. In this particular case, stone vaults also created local labor and set in motion a poverty relief program by training men to produce the over 200,000 tiles necessary in the construction of the domes. The design of the vaults was done by using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA), a new graphical formfinding tool for exploring three-dimensional compressiononly shapes. This new analysis/form-finding method has been introduced, developed and implemented by Philippe Block, under the guidance of Prof. John Ochsendorf, as part of his PhD dissertation at MIT. According his site, “Thrust Network Analysis was originally developed to assess the safety of historic structures in unreinforced masonry, specifically for understanding and explaining the equilibrium of
three-dimensional vaulted structures with complex geometries. TNA allows e.g. the exploration of different assumptions on how forces could be travelling through the structure or the incorporation of structural discontinuities such as cracks, while visualizing the internal forces in the system in a clear manner using comprehensible force diagrams. Thrust Network Analysis is most powerful for the design of compression-only structures, particularly for structures with self-weight as dominant loading which is the case for masonry structures. The method allows you to explore different force patterns, manipulate the internal distribution of forces by interactively tweaking the force diagrams and define and constrain the design spaces. All these levels of control result in a flexible form-finding method to explore new and exciting shapes for compression-only structures. By learning from the historic masterpieces in unreinforced masonry, this method now allows new possibilities for this honest and sustainable building material, stone.” This sounds very exciting and for me, is a new way of using parametric design in high tech software is ued to renew old construction principles. However, it begs the question whether we really need a computer to calculate the shape of self-supporting domes when Gaudi has already succesfully done so 600 years ago, obviously without a laptop by his side.
In the same light, though with an aethetically very different outcome, two students from the Kassel University completed The Kassel ‘selfsupportingframework’. In this project students Mischa Proll and Andreas Günther found a way to breath new life into a eight hundred years old construction technique called the reziprocal frame or mandala roof. The first documenting of such a framework, they claim, dates back to the twelth century when the Buddhist monk Chogen used this technique in his temple designs which still influence the dome-like architecture found in China and Japan today. A reziprocal frame work is based on short wooden joists carpentry-joined which, when consistently applied with the same beam length, profile etc., can create a self supporting dome shape. This is, in other words, a static system. Proll and Gunther, however, have developed a calculation principle wich allows the construction of almost randomly formed, highly stable surfaces using this system of carpentry-
joined joists. They found that by variating individual parameters, for example changing the joint between two wooden beams, this leads to a change in all the other connected joins as well. Varying the length of the joists and where they join turns this static system into a variable one which makes free geometric forms possible. Using computer software has shown that even when using a traditional construction technique, high complex forms can be created with wood (a renewable building material) and this is very much a technique of our time. This design fits with the growing interest of recent years in carpentry-oriented joinery. For the last few decades, the use of these kind of joinery has declined as it was too expensive compared to steel nail plates. The increased use of CNC-driven manufacturing techniques, however, makes these techniques more cost effecient again and so, argues for a revival of this sophisticated use of wood joinery for load-bearing constructions.
After 4 weeks of studying computational architecture, I am definitely not as negative as I was before I started this subject. I have come to the realisation that digital architecure is so much more than the fancy shapes and blob architecture I believed it stood for. In the examples I found, the use of computer software has really added something to the final output which otherwise would not have been possible. High tech software which actually breathes new live in forgotten or neglected techniques of the past, who would have thought. So far, I have been enjoying the use of Grasshopper immensely. I like figuring out what the different components can do and as of now, I prefer Grasshopper over more traditional modelling software like Rhino and Maya because it is seems so straightforward; input, command, output, done. I am a long way from creating an actual design in Grasshopper, let alone making full use of the possibilities and advantages of a parametric workflow, however, I am looking forward to the rest of the semester and discovering something new and exciting every day.
We think biomimicry is a very interesting discipline within parametric architecture because mankind can learn a lot from nature. Trees, flowers and plants mostly have very effective structures which we can apply in architecture for efficient building constructions. Also, animals and plants have been able to adapt to extreme environmental conditions. In designing the climate control of a building, using the same principle for example plants use to cool down, a project will benefit of a cost and energy effective climate system. But most of all we chose biomimicry as the discourse for our design because we want our sculpture to make sense. Animals and plants donâ€™t just have a double curve there or a useless 15 degree angle there, every part of their form has a reason and has evolved into the shape most effective for that function. Something which should be true for all architecture as well. When we take a look at the Wyndham City Gateway we can apply biomimicry in a very interesting way. At this moment Wyndham is a small suburb outside Werribee where you can find the Werribee zoo and park. Itâ€™s a pretty unknown suburb and it can be put on the map by creating a visually interesting image that will mark the start of the Great Ocean Road. As the Great Ocean Road is known for its breathtaking natural scenery, an eyecatching design derived from nature makes sense.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture building by the Aesthetics Architecture Go Group in Qatar, better known as the â€˜cactusâ€™ building, is famous for its ability to adept to the dessert climate just like a cactus. The building has a few interesting aspects that we will explain, after that we will explain how we should build this model in Grasshopper. The cactus building is a great example of biomimicry in architecture because of its facade system. The hundreds of smart shades on the outside that open and close depending on the strength and direction of the sun are really fascinating and well considered. We think this is a great example of biomimicry because the designers have learned from the local nature on the site. Qatar has a very strong desert climate and by observing and learning from it youâ€™re
able to apply its advantages in a building. The cactus is a great example of vegetation that is able to adept really well to the hot climate. The designers used its advantages very well and created a building that has similar properties as a cactus. If we have to design a building like this in Grasshopper we have to start with the basic shape of the building. We think you have to start with a basic circle surface, after this you copy these circles and place them above each other, the space between the circles will be the storey height. After that you can change the size of the circles separately, when we have done that we can loft the several circles into the building shape. When the basic shape is build we have to design the shading elements and attach them to the shape its surface.
The Shadow Pavilion, which is placed in the Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, is a very interesting biomimicry project because in first instance you donâ€™t really recognize biomimicry in the design. The pavilion by PLY Architecture consists of a lot of metal cones that are all working together to make it a self supporting structure. The reason why this pavilion is a biomimicry project is because of this self-supporting system, the structure is based on the arrangement of flowers and leaves that are using the same principle to be self-supporting. This phenomenon is called phyllotaxis; phyllotaxis is the arrangement of leaves along the plant stem. This phenomenon is not very common, thatâ€™s why in first instance people wonâ€™t recognize this as a biomimicry project. We think this design is very well considered and put together
because all the cones are working together in the same way as the leaves of some plants are working together. Besides the self-supporting system this pavilion is special because of the second function of the cones. The cones are not only structural but they are also exaggerating the different natural elements as sunlight, wind, sound and moisture. The sunlight gets exaggerated because of the reflecting properties of the material it is made of, when the wind is going through the cones it makes a noise what implicates a stronger wind then it actually is, the same thing goes for sound as the outside sounds seem to be louder then they really are and last but not least the moisture is exaggerated because of the sound it makes when it falls on all the different cones.
The Mangal City by Design Team Chimera harnesses biomimetic principles borrowed from a range of sources. The characteristics for this design are flexibility and adaptability. The spiraling skyscrapers structure are modeled after the complex ecosystems created by Mangrove trees. The project is an urban ecological system composed of modular pod capsules that shift to adapt to environmental and contextual conditions. The space is being divided following a logic of cellular aggregation, embedding neighboring relationships at different scales, and is also the ground reference of the urban housing massing negotiation. Models from nature such as branching and phyllotaxis have been the driving paradigms to create a parametric
machine which is able to create a responsive urban ecology. The technology makes it possible to generate a complex geometry and surfaces whose organizing principles are borrowed from nature. In Grasshopper, one could perhaps start with a curve to create the central ‘stem’ and use commands like pipe and offset to give it volume and thickness. Next the surface can be divided to create points which can be used to cut the shapes from the ‘stem’ and as starting points for the ‘branches’. Using one of the rotate commands these branches can than be aligned according parameters like the angle of the sun.
The 2011 research pavilion at the University of Stuttgart is an example of biomimicry because it has a very special structure. By doing a lot of research on different structure in nature the people from the University of Stuttgart came up with a really special and effective structure based on the Sand Dollar. This dollar refers to an extremely flattened surface, therefore they are better known as sea biscuits. By using a structure based on this sand dollar it became possible to create a really thin but still a very strong structure, by using this structure the people of the University of Melbourne have saved a lot of money on material. Besides the low construction costs the lightweight material also makes it really easy to assemble, disassemble and transport.
All different elements the pavilion consists of are created based on the transmission of mechanical stress, by optimizing this transmission it became possible to create the very thin but still effective and strong structure. The elements are all produced by a robotic system that made it possible to create the perfect elements. In short, this is a great building that has used a natural element very well to construct a very effective construction. The thin material, the great transmission of mechanical stress and effective use of the computer made this a very successful project that the student of the University of Stuttgart can be proud of.
MODULE VARIATIONS > 4
SURFACE VARIATIONS >
A B C D E
Starting from the grasshopper model of the Mangal City building, we varied the shape and size of the surfaces and modules to come to our own design. We began with simplifying the original, double-curved shape of the mangal surfaces [column A] so the modules would no longer interfere with eachother (problem we encountered in modelling). After that, we explored some more random variations of the surfaces like differentiating each [B], creating one surface all around [C] and playing around with scale using simple number sliders [D]. Soon after that we started shifting away from the dominant vertical direction of the Mangal City design to a horizontal direction [E-G}. The idea was that our sculpture could overhang the roadso drivers could not only enjoy the design as an object from afar but that it would actually influence their experience of driving the road. In the final two steps we wanted the surface shape to evoke a feeling of ‘dynamics’ and ‘speed’ to link to the highway environment. For the modules we tried out shapes ranging from organic [1-2] to angular [3-6], from smaller [1, 3, 5] to larger [2, 4, 6]. We found that we liked the original shape we modelled for the Mangal City Building best  because we think its fluent form compliments the surface and it has enough ‘length’ to define itself but not control the overall design. From stage [F] onwards we skipped the modules on top of the surfaces as they can’t be seen well from the road anyway.