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University of Applied Arts


Rolex Learning Centre


Unearthing Project


Computation in Architecture


Scripting Cultures




Matrix of Combinations


Case Studies


Reverse Engineering: Dior Ginza


Reverse Engineering: Airspace Tokyo








A CASE FOR INNOVATION “architecture as a discourse”



rchitect Wolfgang Tschapeller has won a competition to overhaul the University of Applied Arts Vienna. This incredible project features a glass facade which appears to grow off the existing university block, and allows staircases and elevators to hang off of the facade of the old building. This project would clearly require an enormous amount of innovation and ingenuity in achieving the physical structure. The building will feature inflatable balloons which are inflated to signify special occasions. It is clear just by observing the renders and plans of the building that it is ground breaking in its technological and architectural stature. This project would be key in changing the discourse of architecture, due to its highly experimental and controversial nature. The building was has been designed through digital modelling, and presumably the fabrication and construction techniques would need to be intensely considered and accommodating to such a complex work.




“In my opinion, this project reflects our aspiration to move further beyond the framework of plane structure. The building presents itself as an unusual singlevolume space in which the presence of lots of patios seems to cause each space and each corner to connect with one another while keeping some distance from one another at the same time.� - Ryue Nishizawa, GA Architect 18, November 2005.

The Rolex Learning Centre is a multi-use building which includes various learning spaces for students and the general public, a library with 500,000 books and an international cultural hub for EPFL. The centre is a one storey structure which constitutes an undulating form, dividing the interior spaces into various segments, while allowing a continuous flow of movement. To me this building is significant in shifting the architectural discourse for various reasons. The form of the building has obviously been designed digitally and manufactured using cutting-edge technology. The form itself, whilst being 5

ultra-modern, is incredibly organic, and the building could be imagined to exist as a living entity, growing and warping through natural means. The method of dividing spaces through undulating a single fluid space is ingenious, and similar examples would be few and far between. The building stands out as existing in quite a unique form, where true innovation has been used to see its completion. The structural and engineering aspects of the building are another amazing feat, with the roof appearing suspended above the identical floor structure. Achieving this feature required entirely new methods of construction.

UNEARTHING Personal Work Architecture Design Studio Earth 2011

The main project of ADS: Earth was to design a tourist information centre on Herring Island. The building was to be inspired by the concept of ‘earth’ as well as the environment, both natural and created, on Herring Island. My inspiration came from the patterns of light created when looking through a canopy, and I wanted to create something that looked as if it was growing naturally out of the island itself. The actual form of the building came through experimenting with different materials, and I appreciated the way balsa wood could interlock creating a natural concave surface. Another precedent I researched was the designs by Santiago Callatrava. Many of his buildings appear similar to my model, and he uses cutting edge technology as well as digital fabrication techniques to create interesting, 6

almost creature-like forms. Through the innovations developed in digital design techniques, architecture can be re-imagined, and a new paradigm can be created where buildings take on a completely new form and purpose. Instead of confirming to historical styles of architecture, through the use of this new technology more complex and innovative structures could conceivably be built, like my design for a visitor centre. Clearly with the stresses that have been placed on the planet from humanities increase in population and industry, new ways of behaving and interacting with built form needs to be developed. By engaging in discourse, the architectural community will hopefully create effective ways of dealing with these issues.

computation in architecture

MORPHOGENESIS “Digital modeling software offers a rich repertoire of transformations a designer could use to further explore formal potentialities of an already conceived geometry.” (Kolarevic, 2003)

Computer modeling allows the parameters and mathematical algorithms that decide the form of a digital model to be manipulated in unlimited ways, creating infinite possibilities for the architect. Simple forms can be deformed easily using this type of software, leading to new and unique formal variations. The advantage over physical modelling is obviously the ease with which digital models can be manipulated, as well as the potential to return to previous states in the manipulation process. Using animation software in the design process adds a temporal dimension to the process, where forms can be manipulated throughout a time frame and recorded. Its static state can then be captured at any moment throughout this process, creating a unique form which could potentially exist in the real world.

and used advanced fabrication techniques to create a hybrid interior which flowed throughout the apartment and produced organic geometries. This technique could be applied to the Western Gateway design project to create an artwork which is a manipulation or combination of more organic forms, warped or altered to create a new expression of an already existing object. Such techniques can challenge peoples pre-conceived ideas about how forms should be, allowing discourse in these innovative areas to progress our understanding of architecture and design.

The city of Wyndham requires a design that is exciting and innovative, and will help to capture the spirit of the community in a three-dimensional structure. These precedents show the potential for parametric design to create unique, dynamic structures that represent an idea and translate that idea into a physical representation. By considering this project as arising from discourse, one may render built form from the contemplation and discussion of the purpose and meaning behind the project.

An interesting example of this technique comes from the architects Kolotan and Mac Donald who use digital modeling to ‘morph’ different objects together to create a unique, organic form. In the Ost/Kuttner apartment project in Manhattan (far-right image), they digitally combined furniture with the interior of the building itself 7

computation in architecture Another innovation in the realm of digital design is in the creation of a digital model through the scanning of a physical object. This translation from the physical to digital is often referred to as ‘reverse engineering’ (Kolaveric, 2003). The scanning process will lead to a series of digital points in space (point cloud), which can then be used to model NURBS curves or lofted surfaces (as used in Grasshopper and Rhinoceros). This digital model can then be manipulated digitally to divert from the original physical representation.

Once the desired transformation has been completed in the digital realm, it can conceivably be transformed back into physical form through digital fabrication. Digital fabrication connects the architect directly to the process of materialisation and construction, where they would previously have been separated from the production of the building. As Kolaveric (2003) explains the consequence of these innovations is that architects are “...becoming much more directly involved in the fabrication processes, as they create the information that is translated by fabricators directly

into the control data that drives the digital fabrication equipment.” The most notable architect to use these two methods is Frank Gehry (see image of Walt Disney Concert Hall below). Gehry often begins his design process with a physical model. Once he has developed the form into a larger scale, the model is scanned and replicated in a digital environment. From here, through the use computational modelling techniques, the practical issues of the building can be resolved, which then leads to the fabrication of materials, and finally to the construction of the building.



PARAMETRIC DESIGN “It is innate to the representational nature of CAD that materiality is conceptualized as a mere passive property assigned to geometrically defined elements, and that material information is understood as facilitative rather than generative.” (Achim Menges, 2012) Achim Menges, in his article ‘Material Resourcefulness: Activating Material Information in Computational Design’, explores how modern design techniques allow material information to be used within computational design processes, generating an architecture which utilizes the innate properties of materials as opposed to treating all material as a homogenous and passive property of design. Menges argues that traditional design techniques treat materials as simply a means to an end, and instead of understanding and working with the unique attributes of various materials, the designer has instead created forms from the material, instead of allowing the material to influence the form. This mode of design is described in reference to one of the most fundamental materials used in architectural design: wood. The anisotropic nature of wood, or its relative tensile strength along the grain compared to across the grain, can be understood digitally. This information can then be used in the design process, allowing the cellular structure of the wood to influence its use in a larger context. This process is demonstrated in a project by students at the University of Stuttgard. By performing experiments on the structural characteristics of wood, the students were able to integrate this information into the design process. The result was the development of a system which dealt with utilizing the wood’s natural characteristics by integrating it into the design process, as well as the manufacture and assembly of a prototype structure (see image). C O N T I N U E D . . .


Menges presents other innovations in this facet of design, including the process of digitally scanning wood in order to map the interior structure of individual pieces. This information is then used to best utilise the wood’s individual properties. The ideas presented in this article present a radical new way in viewing the relationship between built form and the utilized materials. Traditional forms of design and architecture tend to impose certain forms on materials without considering how the materials could impart unique qualities on the design to create more organic and intuitive designs. On the other hand, computational design can appear soulless and artificial. Digital models which are fabricated digitally using polymers can seem alien and lacking in any formal qualities. By understanding different materials and their inherent properties, particularly natural materials, designers can create a sympathetic relationship with the material and the proposed design, allowing for forms which would essentially be more organic. While the project Menges has described suggest that this area is incredibly modern and lacking in precedents, it seems to be a promising area which may produce a radical shift in the way we perceive the built environment.

Achim Menges, Material Resourcefulness: Activating Material Information in Computational Design (pages 34â&#x20AC;&#x201C;43), Architectural Design, Volume 82, Issue 2 Images from: University of Stuttgart <>








This matrix of combinations represents a series of experimentations and manipulations using CUT definitions. By combining inputs, associations and outputs, a variety of forms and patterns can be generated, and then by manipulating the constraints in Grasshopper and Rhinoceros, these shapes can be altered to suit a particular design intent.

and how these could be potentially used to meet the criteria set forward in the Gateway Project Design Brief.

The purpose of these experimentations was to explore the various possibilities and limitations of these definitions,

The most interesting and dynamic designs utilized a Grasshopper-produced pattern upon a warped three-dimension-

These experiments allowed for the most successful combinations of grasshopper definitions to be discovered and utilised, as well as those that gave unsatisfactory results.


al surface (manipulated in Rhinoceros). There are infinitely many patterns that can be created just with the combination of the CUT definitions provided, let alone those that can be produced through sheer ingenuity. The Rhinoceros platform allows for surfaces and structures of any form to be digitised. The combination of these two modelling modes allows for an extensive range of possibilities for creating a form that will satisfy the Gateway Project design brief.

attractor point +extrusion

boolean+ extrusion

curve attractor/ extrusion

surface grids +extrusion

group matrix

curve attractor+ rotation


The various design examples given in the CUT research project utilize parametric design techniques to create buildings and sculptures that express design intentions. The digital design techniques for many of these buildings and facades appears identical to those used in our experimentations.


The de Young Museum (pictured below) by Herzog & de Meuron Architekten, Switzerland, in collaboration with Fong and Chan Architects, San Francisco, utilises perforations to simulate the effect of light filtering through a forest canopy, complementing the surrounding parkland. The facade is made from copper that has oxidized over time, creating a facade that integrates with the surrounding landscape. Here, the architects have used parametric modelling in combination with the selected material to create a design which is perfectly appropriate for this particular setting, and would presumably meet the clientsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; brief. In a similar fashion the Andre de


Gouveia residence, by Vincent Parreira of AAVP Architecture, and Antonio Virga Architecte, uses parametric modelling to create a perforated surface which acts both as a cultural symbol as well as acting as a skin to control the environmental factors affecting the building. The pattern created by these perforations alludes to the characteristics of the ancient Portuguese palace and residence, allowing for a modern interpretation of a defined cultural symbol. The facade acts as a transparent veil, controlling light intake to the building, as well as creating distinct visual effects both inside and out. The design for the Gateway Design project should utilize the possibilities available through parametric design to draw on cultural symbolism to create a fresh identity for the City of Wyndham. By responding critically by the design brief, we will be able to create an installation that meets the clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s requirements, while providing an innovative and unique feature that will put Wyndham at the forefront of design.


The Dior building in Ginza, Tokyo uses similar design and fabrication techniques to create a perforated facade that serves to represent the cultural icon of the brand. The building, designed by the Office of Kumiko Inui, uses the pattern seen on Diorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s iconic â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lady Diorâ&#x20AC;? handbag, and applies it on a large scale to act both as the symbol and advertisement of a brand, as well as the facade of a building. The facade is comprised of a double skin, the outer layer being perforated 10mm thick aluminium sheeting. The inner layer is printed with the same pattern but at a smaller scale, contrasting with the outer perforations, creating a foggy, ghost-like appearance. I reverse-engineered this facade using the image-sampler definition. The pattern was drawn in Adobe Illustrator (lower left image) and referenced in grasshopper (middle left image), creating the pattern on a surface within the Rhinoceros platform. This pattern, which consists of tiny circles at regular intervals that respond to the input image by having altered radii, was exported as a vector image (top-middle). The simplicity of this technique shows the capacity for parametric modelling to create distinct, intricate designs in a small amount of time, which otherwise would take extraordinary effort.


This image sampling technique could potentially be used in the Gateway design project to represent, as in this example, a cultural symbol relating to the site, serving as an icon of the place, as well as an attractive feature of the city.


Airpsace Tokyo is a mixed-used residential and commercial building designed by Hajime Masubuchi of Studio M. The facade of this building is another example of how parametric modelling can be used to create a design which serves multiple functions, acting as a cultural reference to the pre-existing site while serving the practical purpose of limiting views and light between the interior and exterior of the building. The voronoi screen, whose structure is similar to the cellular structure within plants, refers to the previous land use of the site, which included areas of very dense vegetation. By recreating this pattern using parametric modelling, two A4 sized sheets of voronoi patterning were created and cut out with cardboard. By playing with lighting and composition, these patterns created a variety of different visual effects. Light shining through the sheets created dynamic patterns. The visual restrictions that can be seen through these patterns would have a variety of practical uses on a larger scale. In the Airspace Tokyo project, the facade responds to the privacy needs of the building. The facade near bathrooms is denser, for example, integrating this practical need with the design of the building. This technique could be used in the Wyndham Gateway project to create an interesting visual experience for cars travelling along the freeway. This screen could be integrated into a three-dimensional form which could draw reference to the cultural and historical aspects of Wyndham.




Experimentation was performed on several physical models. One model, which used a pattern of perforated circles and an attractor curve to spell out ‘W’ was somewhat of a failure. The Rhinoceros surface was slightly curved, and fabricating this slight curve proved difficult, as the paper naturally wanted to warp back to a flat shape. In the photos seen here, we experimented with a simpler model - two sheets of thick card with different sized perforations, painted black. Using a lamp we explored the different visual experiences that could be demonstrated through manipulation of the model/light composition. Yehuda Kalay (2004) explains that design is a logical and evaluative response to a particular need. The act of designing requires logical steps that are considered with respect to the original design intent. In the case of the Wyndham project, the need is clear - to create a design which reflects the city’s cultural and historical background, as well as its rapid expansion and new identification as an established city. The purpose of the physical exploration was to understand which types of materials, lighting, patterns, and forms would produce an attractive visual experience that could be utilised in the Gateway project. The most interesting images, like those shown here, display a sense of atmosphere and intrigue. We want the act of passing through the Wyndham Gateway to give be a dynamic one, where motorists have a strong sensory experience that engages them and draws their curiosity to the intent of the design. From our experimentations particular design features stood out as being particularly engaging. The use of an interesting, textured material that will weather and gradually integrate into the landscape will help to create an organic design that works with, not against the current landscape. Using multiple layers, each with a different pattern of perforations allows for a sense of atmosphere within and around the design. These layers will be warped and manipulated into a form that reflects something bold - a symbol for the city of Wyndham. Combining these features with the use of atmospheric lighting, we are confident in creating a design that will meet and surpass the expectations set in the Wyndham brief.

“Design, accordingly, is a purposeful activity, aimed at achieving some well defined goals.” yehuda kalay 2004


REALISATION Competitive Advantage


rom these case studies and personal explorations it is obvious that parametric modelling techniques are able to produce designs which can cater to the needs of myriad design requirements. The Wyndham City council has listed a variety of distinct criteria in the brief. In particular they want a design that is â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;exciting and eye catchingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, that inspires and enriches the municipality.

for a new understanding of form and art to be developed. By referring to the cultural and historical background of the City of Wyndham, as well as the criteria described in the brief, we are confident that by using the techniques explored in this document, we can create a design which is exciting and innovative and will bring the city of Wyndham to the forefront of design.

Parametric modelling and digital fabrication techniques have opened up a range of unprecedented possibilities that have the potential to put a project on the map on an international scale. The design features produced through these techniques allow

From here onwards, our team will work towards producing a design which will turn the site (see above) from a homogenous roadway into a feature which will give the city of Wyndham a distinctive and recognisable identity. 20

As the municipality is expanding rapidly, expecting nearly 10,000 new residents annual, the area needs to adapt to these inhabitants and exhibit an environment that is a comfortable and inviting place to inhabit. Our team has shown the ability to draw from a wide variety of ideas and use critical analysis and innovation in producing design ideas that are affective and innovative. With a thorough understanding of the site context and a range of precedents and digital design techniques, we are confident in our ability to sculpt the gateway to Wyndham into an iconic feature that will place the city on the international stage.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES+OUTCOMES Personal progress in relation to the learning objects outlined in the Course Outline: 1. I have gained the ability to draw key considerations from a brief document, and reflect on precedents and experimentations to realise a methodology for creating an appropriate design response. 2. Learning the fundamental principles of parametric design has allowed me to explore various definitions and the possibilities they offer. 3. I have developed an understanding of the fundamental techniques of digital three-dimensional media. 4. I have developed a basic understanding of the concept of air in design and its affect on form and weathering, however more personal research would be helpful. 5. By understanding some of the current discourse and precedents in the area of digital design I, in my group, have developed the ability to make a case for proposals. The final design will require further research and a better understanding of these design techniques. 6. By experimenting in Grasshopper and Rhinoceros, I have discovered the advantages and disadvantages of different design techniques, and by exploring their physical fabrications I have been able to see how they may function in a practical application. 7. Through my experiments, particularly with the matrix of definition combinations, I have gained a basic understanding of how these principles work together to create geometries in Rhinoceros. 8. Through the coming design stage our abilities will ideally be improved to the point where the result is comparable to flagship professional projects. ur current work shows progress towards reaching this goal.


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