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Architecture Design Studio Three: Air JOURNAL Michael J Stephenson


week 1 - Adding to the discourse of Architecture pages 4-6 week 2 - Expression of interest pages 11~...


When I started studying Architecture, I recall that in one of my very firsts lectures, we were briefly introduced to the notion of parametric design, and if I strain my memory, I seem to recall it being described as designing on a mathematical grid. Coming fresh from a year of studying in the Bachelor of Science degree, I found this notion of design comforting, for it seemed to have rules, formulaes and strict solutions. Even with an infinite number of variables possible, each variable could only lead to one solution, which could be found through study. I did not see any room for abitrary/creative decisions. I continued to study with this notion of designing to a formula, which usually manifested as ratios between components in my designs, and I felt uneasy when I made decisions based purely on intuition or creative pulls. Eventually, I came to understand that designing from intuition alone was not ‘wrong’, even if I couldn’t explain the dimensions I had chosen for the design, or likewise, if I couldn’t explain stylistic choices I made. I started this year believing that I could be far more creative and efficient if I just simply followed my intuition first, and dissected my reasoning afterwards. But now I find that my studio class will be purely parametric and I am torn between which approach to take. My understanding of the ‘mathematical grid’ has broadened, as has my understanding of what variables are available to be manipulated... but my understanding of where the intial idea comes from is still developing. Do I start with a pre determined volume of material and change variables until I have a form? Or do I start with a form (developed arbitrarily) which I then tweak through parametric design? I can’t help but feel that the latter is not truly utilising the potential of parametric design, but I feel that the former is too guilty of the same. Perhaps you start with a formula, which you then add more variables to, and add limits, and venn diagramtic exclusions/inclusions... though the formula need not concern numbers at all. I feel that this line of thinking is what true parametric design should be, and that the manipulation of vectors should be an expression of the manipulation of the variables that we find in all architecture. With this said, I think that Parametric Design can be the purest form of design, as it has the potential to be totally free of the abitrary, whilst maintaning infinite solutions as it will be the creative character of the individual designer that chooses just how to manipulate the variables.

This will make up part of my argument for choosing Parametric Design in my Expression of Interest response. I will also write a conclusion at the end of semester to compare how my ideas have changed.

week 1 - the discourse of Architecture

The project featured here first is one of my own. It is a bridge I designed very early in my degree. The brief was to design a bridge connecting the south and north sides of the yarra river, between Birrarung Marr and theAlexandra gardens. The brief called for inspiration to be taken from the surrounding environment, and designing with context in mind was a must. There were of course many ways to approach such a project, as many different modes of design were in the vicinity to be referenced, that is to say, that the site laid itself open to drawing from a multitude of different styles. Ultimately, I chose to reference the trees in the Alexandra gardens. The elms trees in particular with their draping criss crossing branches, and the knobbly form of the fig trees bases, which created space within itself, that subsequently filled with earth and water and had sprouted new plants within them. The branches of the trees grew within and around each other in a way which at first glance would look chaotic. There direction looked unguided and unreasoned but at the same time looked ‘natural’ it looked right. This organic form was something I wanted my design to mimic, for rather than the bridge looking purposely conspicuous, as if saying, ‘Behold, My Architecture!’, I wanted it to almost be overlooked completely, until the moment when one wished to cross the river and realised there was a bridge there. Of course, building a bridge made to look like trees, would probably stick out more than technicolour monolith. So what I ended up designing was a proposal for the management of the growth of four mammoth Moreton Bay fig trees, with a construction period of 200 years, and exceptionally difficult scaffolding designed to manipulate and shape the growth of the trees (retrospectively I realise that Moreton Bay Figs would probably not have been ideal for such a project). Its final result would be four giant trees, two a side, growing out to meet each other in the middle of the river, with the branches and intertwining to become a complex network. Finally, through the voids and supported by cables and struts attached to the main ligaments of the trees, a slender wooden pedestrian footbridge would be laid, hidden amongst the canopy.

It would be an impossibly long term build, unheard of in this modern age. It would be especially long considering the final product would only be a simple footbridge. For something so incredibly difficult to execute, the simple idea behind it was planting four trees. It would raise questions about its worth. It would raise argument for designing for the sake of aesthetics alone. And the strongest contribution it would make would be as its encouragement to push the boundaries even think even further outside the box. Because, undertaking such a long term, and expensive build for such minimal results is a ludicrous idea... one that no one would ever seriously consider. But imagine if it had been built, and imagine how it would boggle the minds of those who saw it and knew its history. They would probably shake their heads in disbelief and state the money could have been put to better use. (Although there is equal chance that it would be viewed as a cheap alternative taken by the council, as it could be interpreted that the trees were already there and that city planners took advantage of it and tied a footbridge to it).

week 1 - the discourse of Architecture

Image from -

Pictured are the design for Melbourne University’s new Architecture Building, and CH2 (Council House Two). Both are recent projects (with the Architecture Building not even yet started) and both display similar qualities to each other. CH2 was an important development for Melbourne, as it was the first building to truly embrace sustainable architecture in it’s design. Likewise, John Wardle Architects design for MU’s new Architecture building also incoporates its eco-friendly qualities into the aesthetics of the design. Movable shutters to control the intake of sunlight are present in both designs, and both designs embrace their form into the overall style of the building, rather than trying to conceal their presence. What this adds to the discourse of Architecture is evidence for arguing that sustainable architecture can not only look ‘good’ but can also have it’s own form and langauge which eventually may even experience a revival hundreds of years from now. It could equally bring about discussion concerning whether sustainable architecture is restricted to a certain style, as ditacted by the required forms of the sustainable features.

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week 1 - Rhino Webinar Part 2 definitions

week 1 - Rhino Webinar Part 3 definitions

Above: example of what goes wrong when selecting curves individually, in this case whilst using the loft command.

week 1 - the discourse of Architecture

week 2 - Parametric Design

Grasshopper Excercises Development of Initial Idea Development of argument for use of Parametric Design

week 2 - Parametric Design


Rotate Rota Ro t te ta te A AXIS XIIS X ‘Mushroom’ ‘M Musshr hroo oom’ m’

Bezier Curves: Standard Loft Added

Rotate 3D

(Above) (Left)

week 2 - Parametric Design

With Parametric Modelling comes a entirely new method of design. The ability to make countless iterations which can be almost infinite in their degrees apart, is made relatively extremely fast and easy compared to other methods (such as hand drawings or computerized models). When used correctly with the appropriate structure present in programs such as ‘Grasshopper’, the slight change of a single variable can drastically alter the entire design. The scope possible from such actions is infinite and of a completely new genesis compared to iterations by hand (or by singular steps through computer modelling). The designer can now experiment at his or her fleeting desire without having to invest hours of work into an iteration which has no guarantee of success. Instead, they can make a couple of quick changes to variables concerning things as simple as magnitude, or dimensional plane, or the relationship between two discrete components, and end up with a form which is entirely unexpected. As such, the use of Parametric Design should not inherently present the risk of restricting the creativity of the designer (due to the softwares pre supposed ideas of the design process), but rather present them with so much creative freedom that the risk involved relates to having too many ideas. Creative constraints will be self-imposed by the designer, allowing for very personal designs to be created (perhaps more individual than those possible with pencil and paper).

Rotation on Axis - 1

Rotation on Axis - 2 The only difference between these two forms, is the ‘t’ input on the PERP FRAME node.

week 3 - Scripting Architecture

These are the results from the definitions on ‘Extracting Iso curves from a surface’. Creating a curve in rhino, referencing said curve in Grasshopper and then Lofting gave rise to the above form. Extracting the curves created the mesh like network of curves on the surface. I then added a Sum Surfaces component into Grasshopper which has the inputs for a start and end curve. I used the U direction output and V direction ouputs from the ISO component as these inputs. With multiple start and end curves, all of which were in pairs, the resulting form has the same basic structure as the original surface, but is now a series of surfaces. I would put the form on the right down as one of the unexpected results one can get from parametric operations. It is totally arbitrary, but none the less looks very interesting... a lot like a turbine of sorts.


Grasshopper Definition

I realise now after completing this excercise, that I did not fully understand what I was doing at the time. Retrospectively I see that this Grasshopper definition is for creating uniform sections within a specific boundary (something I should have grasped from the title alone). This would be particulary useful when it comes to creating section elevations for a 2D presentation, or more importantly, for allowing detailed analysis of the model’s form during the design process. Funnily enough, I also discovered a second use for this definition, albiet one which is probably achievable through a shorter method. The intial lofted surface (still visible in the above image) was quite jagged and not at all a smooth form. After creating the sections on the surface, I had a detailed mesh of curves, which after baking into Rhino, I was able to turn into a surface of much higher resolution than the original.


week 3 - Scripting Architecture RAMBLINGS ON PARAMETRIC DESIGN One of the recent projects I stumbled across during my travels on the internet is the Moon Studio project. This project’s team consists of two architects and an astronautical physicist, who are funded by NASA. Their goal is to design structures that could/would be built via Contour Crafting, a process which uses robotic machines to build structures using materials made from the moon’s geological composition. As this project is incredibly advanced, it will no doubt involve serious scripting in every step of the design process. Designing structures for such a foreign site will require constant testing and simulations to be run on the design to check everything from its basic structural soundness, to its ability to protect again solar storms, gamma rays, and of course the vacumn of space. The designs will therefore have to be permenantly integrated into computer programs so that such things can be tested. And if they will be built by robots, they will need to be blueprinted in exact accurate terms, so that they can be built via more scripts. The robotic lunar machines will carry out a process much like 3D printing that is currently in use in many studios around the world. Aside from a practical need for CAD, the advantages of Parametric Design in this case are clear. No doubt a huge number of iterations will be needed after every step of the testing process, so the ability to easily manipulate discrete components and update the entire blueprint instantly will be a certain must... Likewise, the ability to manipulate the quantity of the same component at once, and/or update its relation to adjoining components will certainly be an absolute necessity. Furthermore, designing for the moonscape is a completely new realm for Architecture, and surely traditional modes cannot apply here (or rather, should not apply here). The style should be a unique style that is both akin with the moon, and also only possible on the moon. The gravitational differences surely throw traditional load bearing structures out the window, and allow a much larger choice of solutions. The possibilties available to exploit materials to whole new levels open up relatively infinite design solutions. Using algorithms that express the requirements of the structure, the limitations of the robotic builders, the necessary order in which the structure need be built in order for the robotic builders to be able to complete the design in the fastest and most efficient way, can be used to create a script that nearly designs the structure itself. Using algorithms from nature can help design a growth system that would allow the structure to become its most efficient and most intuitive form. Basically, in a realm of which not one person has enough experience of yet to truly understand, how can architects who have never been to the moon, create a style suited to it? So complex and intrepid with engineering is the design problem, that a design simply cannot be calculated by hand alone. In such a harsh environment, and at the very beginning of architecture here, no choice can be made that is not purely functional. The design must be born out of its practical use, with no concession being made to aesthetics alone.

That said, choices of the aesthetic which have no implication on the functionality of the design still need to be made, and still need to be made creatively, ie, made by humans, not robots, and this is the role of the Architect. For the absolute cutting edge of mankind’s acheivements/endevours, what could be more suiting than the cutting edge of mankind’s Architecture. Like space exploration, Parametric Design is also a realm not yet fully understood, and by no means has anyone discovered its full potential. The designs possible are as infinite as space itself. In an enviroment not yet used as a site for architecture, the design solutions are beyond the grasp of our current knowledge. Parametric Design is not traditionalist... it is futurist. It is the design method, which style is that of infinite possibilities. Wyndham City is a town set to grow exponentially over the next few years, and as such, its gateway should be a symbol of the city’s future. It will be designed by technology bound to be outdated, but that was at the cutting edge at the time of the idea’s conception. The design itself will grow, at least in the sense that it’s understanding, its meaning, its symbolism will grow with the city. It could even be far beyond its time, and waiting for the city behind it to catch up with it... it will be a point on the horizon which the city is aiming towards... it will symbolise the future, not the past. It will be the new style, and the new style is only possible through parametric design.!/ &tag=scripting


This is a project called BLOOM. Designed Parametrically it holds a form which is quite typical of the design method... one which is elegant, light, fluid, and contemporary. Additionally, its integration in to software allows its components to be ordered, numbered, and cut using an automated laser cutter. I have included it here as I believe it has very close similarities to our brief for the Western Interchange Gateway. It is an installation piece, with no purpose further than to create discourse. It contains elements which are present in architecture, mainly, the enclosed spaces it creates, and the role of light in such places. Furthermore, and most importantly, it has been designed with thermodynamics in mind... This particular project bears important relation to my own ideas, in that I have been toying with the idea of creating a structure that changes with time, so to symbolise the growth of the city of Wydnham. What is special about ‘Bloom’ is that it is constructed of hypersenstive sheet metal, that when heated (ie when exposed to sunlight) it curls up, mimicking the actions of a flower. Designing such a structure outside the realm of modelling software would be an ardious task filled with constant iterations. Here is the clear advantage of parametric design.

week 3 - Scripting Architecture

Sectioning a Solid using a movable point and variable plane rotations. This is a very useful definition to know. It allows you to turn your 3D model (a solid) into a bounding box, and then project planes onto it. The projected planes can then be used as sectional cuts through your model.

week 3 - Scripting Architecture 3D SERIES ARRAY MOVE Definition. This script allows us to generate a huge number of repeating forms very ‘cheaply’ (low use of Grasshopper components). Ensuring to select the ‘Graft’ mode on the output from the ‘MOVE’ component, we can plug the results from a single dimensional move into a second dimension, and again into a third. It seems easily possible that we could add more steps into the script so that every repeating move is slightly different... perhaps based on a random number generator. We could design a script that adds a different direction onto every second repeat, which then goes onto start its on series array. I imagine this would be something like rampant cell mutation, growing exponentially and out of control.

week 3 - Scripting Architecture ORIENT OBJECTS AROUND A CIRCLE

This definition allows us to create repeating copies of an object (in this case a curve) around a circle. We have variables such as the radius of the circle and the number of repeats (planes). Simple manipulation of the radius can give very dynamic results (on right).


The definition for creating a 3D grid based from a single referenced surface in Rhino. I was unable to get this script to work correctly. I had to reference the surface a second time as the base geometry for the MOVE component to acheive the bottom right form.

The definition for creating a 3D grid based from a single referenced point in Rhino.


Iteration 2

Iteration 3


week 4 MOVE A GRID OF POINTS USING A RANDOM FUNCTION Here, I used the arbitrary curve from the previous excercise and added the random function definition to it. I used a high multiplication for the amplitude of the random number generator, so it resulted in quite a tall form. I then baked the resultant points into Rhino and used an autosort ‘curve from points grid’ command to create a curve. I extruded the curve in one direction, then again in a different direction, creating the 3D form seen here.

Journal Week 5  

Grasshopper Definitions

Journal Week 5  

Grasshopper Definitions