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introduction designer profile

My name is Scott Walker. I am 20 years old and in the final year of my Bachelor of Environments, Architecture Major at the University of Melbourne. I, like so many others of the next generation of architects, am deeply excited by the possibilities that computational design affords us. I have used Rhino throughout my University design studios and, on occasions, plug-in Panelling Tools to realize my designs. In my first year, I designed and built a wearable paper lantern that was an abstraction of the forces between a turning body and the earth. It was an illuminated sinosoidal prism that wrapped around my torso and head and was structurally stable because of the folds between panels in the material. In second year Rhino was tool for accurate representation of a cultural learning center and a boathouse complex in Kew. This year marks the beginning of an endless experimentation with the generative capabilities of parametric modelling.

left: Virtual Environments wearable lantern; 2011. Paper lantern with folds created in Rhino with Panelling Tools.

















A1. A2. A3. A4. A5. A6.


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B1. B2. B3. B4. B5. B6. B7.


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C1. C2. C3. C4. C5.


69 84 90 94 96







A1. ARCHITECTURE AS A DISCOURSE At no time in architectural history has the practice of design and construction stood still. Whenever a philosophy became too widely accepted, or an approach became too conventional, or an aesthetic lingered too long, an influential circumstance or person intervened to free the practice of architecture of its stagnant state. The ongoing interaction of political, economic, environmental, cultural, technological and spiritual factors cause fundamental changes, over time, to human needs and desires that, by nature, are responded to in architecture. Schumacher has referred to the canon of architectural knowledge and perception as an “autopoetic system,� a biological term referring to a system that produces itself as a function of its own existence. This continuum of influence is best conceptualized as a conversation between factors and contributors; a discourse. A truly innovative design outcome can only be developed or even conceptualized with a deep understanding of the conversation.

top: Exterior of Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao at sunset. middle: Concept sketch of Museum bottom: CATIA digital model; The realization of the concept sketch



Guggenheim Museum Location: Bilbao, Spain Type: Public Museum Size: 32500 sqr.m Status: Established 1997 Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum is the dramatic icon of the contemporary public building. It is an unapologetic indulgence in sculptural expression, exploiting the capabilities of digitally-aided fabrication. It asserts that the language of important public buildings of the past has become irrelevant. It suggests instead a fluid arrangement of forms, implicit of motion, is the appropriate solution and that CAD is the path to its realization (though not conception). The abstract form of the building contrasts established building typologies of modernism in its rejection of structural ‘honesty.’ Curved titanium panels clad an elaborate steel skeleton whose shape predominantly gives no indication of the spaces it encloses. Its irregularity and extravagance, both externally and internally, challenge preconceptions of functionality, perhaps unsuccessfully, by making the space as much a piece of sculptural art as what it houses. A contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk at a massive scale, art inside and out, as opposed to the traditional approach of a modest space that

does not distract from its contents. Gehry is perhaps the best known of the early users of computer aided design, or rather his team is. The studio uses ‘CATIA’ to realize Gehry’s creative impulses. This digital modelling tool had been in use in the ship building industry for twenty years before the Guggenheim in Bilbao was conceptualized. It is curious that this implementation of relatively old technology is heralded by Kolarevic (2003, p4) as the encapsulation of the ‘information age,’ and an icon of the new zeitgeist. There are broader positive implications of such a project. Bilbao had previously endured decades of decay in its urban environment, not to mention an extremely high unemployment rate at up to 25% and the consequential social problems. The museum was to be the centerpiece in a holistic urban redevelopment plan, however the direct benefits of the Guggenheim were truly surprising. The annual influx of foreign (non-Basque region) tourists increased from 100,000 to 800,000 visitors (around 9,000,000 in first ten years). Such an increase has provided accommodation and hospitality industries with an enormous boost in business and the city is reaping the rewards of having something that its citizens can be proud of. (Plaza, 2007, p3).


top: Wave Pier functions as a beach at its end above left: An iconic meeting place right: Wave Pier used as a stage and concert venue



“urban space is not so much an architectural production as a social one” Henri Lefebvre

St. Petersburg “Wave” Pier Location: City of St. Petersburg Florida, USA Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group Type: Competition Size: 39400 sqr.m Status: Unbuilt Bjark Ingels Group (BIG) and Mesh Architecture joined up to produce this design for the new ‘Wave’ pier in St. Petersburg, Florida in the United States. The pier has been folded into an enormous loop, and the boardwalk extended up the curve to emphasise this continuity of form. Like Gehry’s Guggenheim, the Wave is creates an icon, an unusual public space on the Tampa Bay shoreline. The buildings program is multifunctional. Within the arch are a spa, office space, gallery, wave pool, sheltered performance area and mini-golf course just to mention a few. Not only does the Wave accommodate mixed function but the fabric of the building has also been planned to suit changing needs of the city it serves. The empha-

sis is not only on becoming a landmark but on adaptability. Buildings like the Wave are enter into a changing outlook on the role of the architect and the way we understand public space. BIG and Mesh adopt the role of the facilitator, providing flexible architecture, rather than a dictator, imposing an ideal through an authoritarian vision of architecture. As considered by Henri Lefebvre, “urban space is not so much an architectural production as a social one.” With this view then perhaps all that is required of the new building is to be interpretable and desirable to use. Certainly, the form of the building is hardly esoteric, in fact it could even be considered a nostalgic recollection of the loopthe-loops of children’s toys, embedding joyous symbolism into the form. Wave pier is accessible, both physically and conceptually, as well as appealing.


‘Hygroscope’ Achim Menges 2012

“what if...?” Robert Wodbury

A2. COMPUTATIONAL ARCHITECTURE Gehry’s Guggenheim, mentioned earlier as heralding the dawn of the information age (Kolarevic, 2003 p4), in fact barely utilizes the potential of computers in architecture. Most notable projects of the past decade have used computers merely to achieve impressive visual representations of preconceived designs formulated through traditional techniques. Computer generated renders are a powerful way to ‘sell’ a design, but they ignore the real potential of generative computational design.


Yehuda elegantly summarizes the relationship between the designer and computer in light of the unique challenge of design. Design problems are ambiguous and incomplete. Possible solution paths may contradict other aspects of the problem and often further obstacles are exposed and must be resolved simultaneously to the resolution of others. Computers are excellent at following a strict linear process. They are able to store, recall and calculate information sets much faster and more accurately than a person. They do not tire, nor do they make mistakes. However they are incapable of creating their own instructions. Primarily, computers lack intuition and creativity, two skills in which the designer is highly adept.

“Architects are ultimately choreographers of systems” Mark Bury (2011 p.46)

It is important to emphasise, here, that the conservative assessment of computational design, that it devalues or even makes redundant the designer, is unfounded. Computational design is more than a process of selecting from a matrix of digitally generated solutions according to one’s aesthetic because the outputs they choose from are a direct function of the controlled input and generative conditions explicitly coordinated by the designer. What is exciting is that technology is now progressing into a more comprehensive interface between the program and user. Through enhanced communication a “symbiosis” can be achieved where the best attributes of computer and user can work together to achieve well informed, highly accurate, complex, and, most importantly, buildable design solutions. Architectural firms, especially amongst the avante-garde, are restructuring to better incorporate computational design into the studio practice (AD, 2013 p11). Most commonly, specialist teams are formed to tackle computational tasks within the firm. A market has also been created for external consultants as firms look outside their group for algorithmic production. Few firms have fully integrated computation with design method to an extent that they are one and the same, however the advantages of doing so are

immediately evident in that a computational approach is only as effective as it is controlled and flexible (AD, 2013 p131). Such restructuring within firms reflects an imminent fundamental shift in the role of the professional. We are enjoying a “digitally-based convergence of representation and production processes” that will soon result in the “design information.. [being] the construction information.” (Kolarevic, 2003 p7). The benefits of this will be manifold. Not only will the design/construction be highly detailed and accurate, enjoying the complete model update benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM), but temporal coordination can be incorporated as well, returning the architect, to an extent, to the centuries-old role of ‘master builder.’ Greater accuracy and control through such a design and construction process will naturally have time and financial advantages. (Kolarevic, 2003 p8) There is a decisive shift in cutting edge design practice toward parametric and performance analysis design. The rapidity and depth with which we can create and test potential solutions allows the designer to evaluate energy efficiency, acoustic, aerodynamic, structural and thermal performance of highly unusual forms, then control them. This introduces a more multidisci17. plinary design process.

top: Maple wood ‘petals’ during transition. Note the grain of wood is always parallel to the attachment edge. above left: ‘Hygroscope’ in its glass cabinet. Petals are closed during low humidity right: reverse side of ‘Hygroscope’ reveals the structural complexity of the artifact



Hygroscope Location: Centre Pompidou, Paris, France Architect: Achim Menges and Stephen Reichart Type: Permanent instalation; Public Display Status: Built Suspended in a glass cabinet is the computationally modelled and environmentally responsive ‘Hygroscope.’ The project is the culmination of five years of research into the cellular properties of wood in response to atmospheric moisture. Dynamic behavioral properties were established in relation to the natural ability of wood to absorb moisture in a wet environment and yield moisture in dry conditions. ‘Hygroscope,’ in its inert state, is a highly complex fusion of simple, but varying geometry. The precise rationalization of pentagons with hexagons and heptagons is in itself a task that is beyond or at least on the limit of human cognitive and practical ability. As visitors enter the display room they disturb the stable humidity maintained in the Pompidou Center which elicits a hygroscopic response. The rounded, triangular elements of ‘Hygroscope’ flare out in unison like

a flower in bloom (see page 11-12). The petals, for want of a better word, are thin slices of quarter-cut maple with a fine, unresponsive synthetic layer attached. To achieve the desired movement, the direction of the grain and the thickness of the maple slices was carefully controlled. Not only was it imperative that ‘Hygroscope’ be computationally modelled to maintain and rationalize its geometry, but for a functioning product it had to be digitally fabricated also. This involved the precision cutting of over 4000 unique elements. More notable was the method of assembly. Due to the environmentally responsive nature of the material, ‘Hygroscope’ was robotically manufactured. Menges’ work exemplifies the ever-broadening horizons presented to the designer through computational modeling and fabrication. Hygroscope was only successful because it harnessed the rationalization of data and sterile accuracy of machines to realize a sensational final object 19. with no reliance on electricity or machinery.

“even partial and inconsistent designs find value as launching points into unexplored parts of the [creative] space� Robert Woodbury (2006)

top: Galaxy Soho, Beijing, China. ZHA 2009-12 right: Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Arts Center, Changsha, China. ZHA (unbuilt) below right: Wangjing Soho, Beijing, China. ZHA 200914 below left: Beko Building, Belgrade, Serbia. ZHA (unbuilt)



A3. PARAMETRIC MODELING As mentioned earlier, the field of architecture is seldom stationary. It is clear that we are now at the cusp of the next epoch in design approach. It has been the view of many prominent practitioners, like Patrik Schumacher, that architecture has been lost since the demise of Modernism within multiple insubstantial stylistic paradigms. Schumacher has attempted to brand the computational zeitgeist as a stylistic movement that he calls “Parametricism” (Schumacher, 2010). The protocols of this style include formal principles like avoiding rigid forms and simple repetition and to avoid creating a collage of isolated, unrelated elements. Schumacher’s “Parametricism” is an aesthetic pursuit as much or more than it is a generative one, which can understandably be interpreted as superficial. Not helping his case is the sculptural similarity between many of Zaha Hadid Architects’ (Schumacher’s employers) design outcomes.


“The ‘blobby’ aesthetics which to seems to be pervasive in the avante-garde are often sidetracking the critical discourse into the more immediate territory of formal expression and away from the more fundamental possibilities that are opening up [through parametric design].” Branko Kolarevic (2003 p.27)

A3. PARAMETRIC MODELING It is arguable that this grand proclamation of a new style is entirely specious and perhaps even inapplicable, as suggested by Mark Bury (2011). Imposing convention on a design tool that facilitates unprecedented experimentation seems nothing short of counterproductive. However, it is too early to definitively state whether parametricism will be recognized as a style or a design tool, or even whether the two are mutually exclusive. Restricting architecture to being only about the process seems equally as inadequate as does seeing architecture as an artifact. Bury provokes the consideration of why there is such confusion surrounding parametric design. He suggests that the increasing amount of file/code sharing between designers has lead to “cloning” (p.50) (the legality and ethics of this practice is beyond the scope of this argument but nonetheless highlights the vast and unestablished framework of parametric design). It is possible that we are conforming and therefore barely utilizing the potential of parametrics because of insufficient

craftsmanship as a result, not from faineance, but from being time-poor. Branko Kolarevic, in Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (2003) evidently hopes that the shifting consensus moves towards the recognition and mass adoption of parametric thinking as a tool for architectural design, not stylistic hegemony. “The ‘blobby’ aesthetics which to seems to be pervasive in the avante-garde are often sidetracking the critical discourse into the more immediate territory of formal expression and away from the more fundamental possibilities that are opening up [through parametric design].” (p.27)

Waterloo International Terminal (Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, 1993) is among the earliest examples of parametric designs application capabilities. It is not an elaborate formal gesture like a ZHA terminal. It is a highly efficient and refigned structural system that responds directly and consistently to its site and functional parameters. The train track that the canopy of the terminal encloses is curved, presenting an added challenge for the design. Rather than becoming focussed on the specifics of the site, as well as functional parameters such as clearance and setbacks, a basic spanning arch was devised that could be interconnected with others like it. Because of the irregular area that the canopy needed to span over, the same arch could not be reapplied. Instead, tectonic relationships were established between the structural members which could be accurately and easily adjusted to match the specific requirements of each structural arch. The same fundamental model was manipulated into 36 individual, in-

terconnected arches through a parametricallydriven iterative process to achieve structural concinnity. Parametric thought advocates a reversal in the process of design. Instead of locking down the form then working towards a realization, an “internal generative logic” (Kolarevic, 2003) can be devised and rigorously tested then manipulated endlessly to find form. Parametric design allows the architect to perform all the material, structural and other performance evaluations and refinement prior to finalizing the form of the project. It is, to paraphrase Robert Woodbury (2010) a “deferred site fitting.” Design methods remain equally as capable (or more so) in that we can, provided there is sufficient competence, continue to adumbrate digitally as architects had done through traditional mediums. We have only to develop a different/broadened skill set.


top: Spencer Street facade above right: Interior steel structure and orange office boxes left: Roof cladding and undulations with fume ventilation openings around the crests




Souther Cross Station Location: Melboure, Australia Type: Major Train Station and transportation hub Size: 60000 sqr.m Architects: Grimshaw Architects, Jackson Architects Status: Established 2007 14 years on from their influential work on Waterloo Station, Grimshaw, in collaboration with Australian firm Jackson Architects, developed an iconic, performance-driven design for this major Melbourne Station. The Station’s “dune-like” roof was central to the design intent, and the product of a complex inter-disciplinary process. Between conception and execution the design underwent a series of optimization procedures. The undulations in the roof surface were intended to function as natural ventilation systems, gathering diesel fumes from the trains below and using cross winds from Port Phillip bay to extract them through a series of vents around each crest.

A flexible digital model was created immediately after concept approval that could be used as a communicative tool when consulting environmental and structural engineers as well as fabricators. Structural engineers tested the sinusoidal undulations for compressive strength and suggested a reversion to a series of traditional arches to stably maintain the uninterrupted internal volume. A compromise was made between this and the original curvature that used a combination of curves in the peaks and troughs with straight supportive sections between. The model had to be updated again when it was discovered that no Australian steel fabricator had the capability to roll the desired panels. The three-day process of altering the steel support structure to accommodate the new cladding system highlights the benefits of programs like Grasshopper (which at the time was still inadequate for professional use) that could have performed such an update very rapidly through parametric relationships. Whilst the models used were considerably flexible, the lack of automatic updates cost the design team considerable time.

A4. ALGORITHMIC EXPLORATION This experiment is a lofted surface that has been divided into a series of points. The center of a sphere was then aligned to each of these points on the surface. A proximity parameter was established between the points on the surface and an external point. This information was then used to inform the size of the radius; spheres became larger the further away from the external point they were.

The shape of this chair is a simple, lofted surface again. Each curve was divided into points then skewed. A line was drawn across the surface of the chair from one set of points to another. This created an interlocking web of curves that can be offset into fabricable planar strips. It is a simple demonstration of how parametric modeling can be used to find form and then realize it in a highly accurate and flexible fashion.


A5. CONCLUSION Wyndam City Gateway project must provide an innovative and inspiring sculptural landmark that invokes deeper interest in the municipality and advances Wyndam’s development as a cultural and artistic hub. To do so, a statement that merely follows the conversation of avantegarde design would be inadequate. The design must assert itself on the fore-front of architectural discourse and become an iconic contributer in the imminent parametric zeitgeist. Thus far in this expression of interest we have discussed the influence of digital technologies on the output of designers and the profession in general. Possible design outcomes seemed limitless at the time Gehry’s Guggenheim was built yet this was only the beginning. Through generative algorithms, the capacity of computers for immense loads of data processing has resulted in the conceivability of complex tectonic and geometric relationships to extend beyond the human imagination. However, the designer’s intuition is still a critical element in design. If it can be accurately articulated in a generative algorithm the designer can enhance innate intuition with information in the form of experiential and performance evaluation. To achieve a truly “iconic” and “brave” design, the Wyndam City Gateway must utilize the potential of parametric modeling techniques.



In the first tutorial of the semester I wrote, in response to a question about my views on the role of computers in architecture, “computers may are excellent at accurately drafting, rendering and fabricating design ideas but must always be seen as a ‘tool’ to realize more imaginative ideas. Otherwise, we run the risk of dehumanizing design.” I am a little embarrassed by this passionate naivety. I now recognise the enormous potential of computational design and that it is a fundamentally different entity than computerization an electronic drafting. The notion of computers ‘de-humanizing’ design and architecture is clearly a melodramatic analysis. Parametric modeling can enhance the creativity of the designer and is only a hindrance when there is incompetence. This last point is particularly relevant. Whilst I feel that I have progressed well in terms of my Grasshopper ability, there is clearly so much more I could do. The obvious benefits of sustained learning, however, are more than enough to keep me engaged in the future.



Richard Williams, ‘Architecture and Visual Culture’, in Exploring Visual Culture : Definitions, Concepts, Contexts, ed. by Matthew Rampley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005) p115 Patrik Schumacher, ‘Introduction : Architecture as Autopoietic System’, in The Autopoiesis of Architecture (Chichester: J. Wiley, 2011), p4 Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles, Theories, and Methods of ComputerAided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 5 - 25 Woodbury, Robert (2010). Elements of Parametric Design (London: Routledge) pp. 7-48 Burry, Mark (2011). Scripting Cultures: Architectural Design and Programming (Chichester: Wiley), pp. 8 - 71 Woodbury, Robert F. and Andrew L. Burrow (2006). ‘Whither design space?’, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing Kolarevic, Branko, Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (New York; London: Spon Press, 2003), pp. 28 - 62 Plaza, Beatriz (2007) The Bilbao Effect in ‘MUSEUM NEWS Volume: 86 Issue: 5’ Sept 2007 Peters, Brady (2013) Special Issue: Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought in ‘Architectural Design’ Volume 83, Issue 2 March/ April 2013 p11,131 Schumacher, Patrik (2010) Patrik Schumacher on Parametricism: Let the style wars begin in ‘Architects Journal’ accessed via: patrik-schumacher-on-parametricism-let-the- 29. style-wars-begin/5217211.article





B1. DESIGN APPROACH biomimicry Relative to the developmental period of bio organisms, the study of biomimicry has existed for an infinitesimally short period of time. Scientific instruments have recently become sufficiently sophisticated enough in order to facilitate highly precise observation of natural processes. We are now able to analyse the fibrous arrangements of timber, for example, rather than the tree in its entirety. These capabilities translate powerfully into design thought. The well of natural formal inspiration has become vastly deeper, however the practice of superficially imitating nature, as did seeds of change, is absolutely a relic of a bygone era. Through computation, it is now not only possible to understand the inner logic of natural phenomena, but to replicate, simulate and manipulate it in order to produce innovative design.

top: The Grotto right: physical model of The Grotto showing repeated modular units



the grotto

The ‘Grotto’ Architect: Aranda/Lasch Type: Conceptula pavilion Status: Prototype tested 2006-08 The is a conceptual pavilion that reacts to the Western European tradition of creating artificial cave-like formations in picturesque gardens. Aranda/Lasch believe grottoes are negatively perceived as being fake or contrived because they are not informed with a system logic other than the aesthetic hopes of the designer. The architects use a modular component-based tiling system that is a derivation of naturally occurring crystalline and cellular patterns. The modules of the Grotto are considered aperiodic tiles. Taking methodological inspiration from the ‘Danzer Tiles’ created by mathematician Ludwig Danzer, a similar system logic was developed. Four components were established through a carefully controlled voronoi pattern. They can be arranged to interlock endlessly making the possiblity for conceivable form vast.

A chaotic amalgam is produced by such a cluster. From the resultant mass, Aranda/Lasch incrementally and manually subtract cells, in a similar manner to the elemental erosion that produces caves, until a desired effect is achieved. I contend that schemes of progressive reduction are equally contrived as those they sought to elaborate upon. The end result is still a close representation of the initially conceived form. The modularity and patterning of the Grotto, however, are a success. The work of Aranda/ Lasch paves the way for more deeply informed implementation of clustered forms. The counter point to this contention is somewhat troublesome. An architecture cannot be without purpose. With no objective it is difficult to justify any direction. What is required is a balance between creative journey and rough destination.


top: Morning Line in Istanbul. 8 meter tall spindly metal cluster right: intricate internal space created. Fractal forms are better appreciated from within. Multi-scalar geometry appreciated in multi-scalar contexts


B2. CASE STUDY ONE morning line

Morning Line Location: Istanbul Architect: Aranda/Lasch Type: Temporary installation; Public Display Status: Built

generating this coveted quality is possible from a single processed form. It also illustrates how these ends may be reached through playful computation, a technique we sought to emulate.

The morning line by Aranda/lasch in association with Mathew Richie is a dramatically sprawling metal frame structure that functions as an interactive, engaging public art display. The architects employ fractal principles in order to truncate a regular tetrahedron, breaking down the larger formal components into progressively smaller ones. Its rigid, small components have allowed it to be deconstructed and resurrected numerous times in different locations. To add to the complexity of multi-scalar repetition, varying curves were pulled across the hexagonal surfaces, connecting them at the mid points of their edges. The base geometry was then removed, resulting in an “unexpected” and “surprising” visual and experiential effect. There is a tendency amongst architects to pursue complexity through new geometric relationships, however the Morning Line illustrates that


B2. CASE STUDY ONE matrix Our first matrix explores the truncation of polyhedrons. By recreating the truncated tetrahedral algorithmically, three characteristics of the resultant geometry could be manipulated. First was the number of sides to the shape. Unfortunately we were somewhat limited here in that the variation in side number of the base shape was limited from 3 to 5. Conversely, the degree of fractalization was limitless but we restricted our search because of the impracticality of physically producing minute shapes. Steps zero to three are shown here. Lastly, the most interesting manipulation was of the degree of fractalization, or rather, the scale of the resultant shapes as compared with the parent whole. In the matrix, scales of 0.50 and 0.25 were used. Our group shared an attraction towards the larger fractals. At 0.50, scaled polyhedral exert enough influence on the overall arrangement to avoid appearing subordinate and arbitrary. All explorations involved a test of how the geometry could be joined to others like it; a technique that Aranda/Lasch in their essay on the themes of biomimicry, ‘Tooling,’ refer to as tiling and packing. On this basis, the truncated tetrahedrons were most appropriate. Being symmetrical (or balanced) they could have the same tectonic relationship with other tetrahedrons in four, equally dispersed directions. This possibility suggested to us a system of extension, through related geometry, rather than the division and subtraction techniques often employed by Aranda/Lasch (the ‘Grotto’ for example).



B2. CASE STUDY ONE line of best fit Our realization that systems of tiling and packing, like those of The Morning Line, readily lend themselves to growth systems prompted us to develop our own parametric tool. We have entitled it Line of Best Fit. Our intention was to create a tool for rapidly approximating a chain of geometries along any line. If that line were then to be altered in some way, the nature of the algorithm would enable the chain to update automatically. Modular geometries, like the truncated tetrahedron, can be extended in this way to infinitum, thus facilitating an unpredictable form at an iconic scale in response to the brief. Line of Best Fit begins as a single, modular tile placed at the beginning of a guide curve. By isolating the four equilateral triangular faces created by truncation, we established four ideal planes about which to “mirror” the shape. The volumetric centroid of these “options” was analysed for its proximity to the guide curve. The most ideal new geometry is realised and then treated by the algorithm as the new base for option analysis.


Rings of tetrahedrons never perfectly meet

Line of Best Fit begins as a single, modular tile placed at the beginning of a guide curve. By isolating the four equilateral triangular faces created by truncation, we established four ideal planes about which to “mirror” the shape. The volumetric centroid of these “options” was analysed for its proximity to the guide curve. The most ideal new geometry is realised and then treated by the algorithm as the new base for option analysis. The tool proved to be highly effective in quickly producing chains of geometry and, especially in short chains, frequently fostered linkages that kinked and twisted in unexpected ways that a simple curve could not express. But by using the tool we also began to understand the shortcomings of our chosen modular component. Firstly, truncated tetrahedrons, regardless of the scale of their offspring shapes, are incapable of forming a simple ring. By extension, then, multiple chains are largely incapable of reconnecting and even single groups of components fail to form a structural lattice. We had not achieved the “stability through adjacency” advocated by Aranda/Lasch.

top: Ceiling pattern of Water Cube above left: Stadium illuminated at night right: Exterior bulging pattern has direct visual association with water, its salient feature


B3. CASE STUDY TWO water cube

Beijing National Aquatics Center Location: Beijing Architect: PTW Architects, CSCEC, CCDI &Arup Type: Olympic swimming venue Status: Built 2004-07 This iconic sporting complex utilizes the Weaire Phalen packing system. Derived from the selforganizational geometries of soap bubbles, it is supposedly the most efficient packing pattern in terms of minimal surface areas. Conveniently, there are only two tile modules (tetrakai-decahedron and dodecahedron) needed and their arrangement can be recreated and repeated through computation. Water Cube is a box, cut from a cluster of cells. The cluster had been rotated 3-dimensionally by 60 degrees in order to produce irregular patterns in section. The edges of the resultant cells have been translated into structural pipes. With our focus being on modular, semi-crystalline packing systems, we chose to ignore the final steel structure of the Water Cube and concentrate

on the tectonic relationships of the cells in their entirety. The Weaire Phalen geometries not only produce far more intricate patterns than those of our previous explorations, but they achieve “stability through adjacency.� It is exemplary of the emerging discourse surrounding the blurred relationship between structure and ornament that biomimetic systems often produce. Our preconceptions about appropriate structural orders are being challenged simultaneously to being captivated by the apparent formal obscurity of the unfamiliar.


B3. CASE STUDY TWO water cube Orthogonal Weaire Phalen tiling

Following our analysis of crystaline and other cellular arrangements used by Aranda/Lasch, and in light of the conspicuous shortcomings of the truncated tetrahedron, we replicated the modular geometry of the Water Cube. Weaire Phalen geometry was produced using a Grasshopper plug in, ‘Bull Ant,’ and rotated. A simple box was then cut from the cluster, whose density and extent of repetition we were able to control. After piping the edges to show structural members, the algorithm yielded a very similar result to that of the real thing. The exterior surfaces were not inflated as was done in the building because it presented no benefit to our developing argument. Bubbling of thee surface was merely an aesthetic addition to achieve an iconic lucidity of form that was appropriate tot he building’s function.

60˚ rotation

Smaller cell radius

Structural piping


Water Cube shares the methodology of subtraction with the Grotto. Both conform to a trend of using highly sophisticated tectonic arrangements that are, in themselves, visually engaging, to fit into a preconceived shell. Whilst it is undeniable that Water Cube was successful in becoming an icon of the 2008 Olympic Games, one cannot help but think that there is more to be explored here. Beginning with very simple exploration, we extracted the cell intersections with a slightly more complicated shell. The effect was very similar. It changed little when we removed portions of it. A far more interesting result was a reversed approach. By approximating the cells around a shape the form could be highly undulating and the relationship between each modular component remained non-hierarchical.

45. Stability through adjacency


Regrettably, it was only at this late stage that the group’s myopia became obvious. The premise that billions of years of evolution are a rationale for biomimicry’s validity as a design ideal are potentially flawed because the natural designs we may try to emulate now are merely works in progress. Evolution and biological adaptation are continuous entities. Whilst we had developed tools for visually realizing growth, we had neglected to ingrain a fundamental generative logic that would fuel it. We required an emergent logic. Having developed a system for multi-agent interrelation, a study of collective behaviour, or ‘swarm intelligence,’ was appropriate. Collective behaviour conjures immediate thoughts of birds and fish. Each individual, within the flock or school, has no cognition of the group as a whole. Individuals respond directly to the immediate conditions around them, and through and perpetual chain reaction the group will dynamically shift. Ants, social insects living in immensely populous colonies, can interact collaboratively, using their bodies to form a bridge enabling the overall body of ants to traverse an obstacle and continue in their forage. There is a direct parallel between our developed design methodology and the collective behaviour of the ants as they use their own geometries to facilitate and influence those of the next agent in pursuit of a common objective.

To establish an objective for our Lines of Best Fit we used a simple flocking algorithm called locust, akin to the principles outlined by Benjamin Aranda in ‘Tooling.’ We gave the agents a heading (an attractor point) and a force to avoid (repulsion point). Introducing obstacles and destinations, as well as varying the size of the swarm, yielded varying results. Lines representing the proximity between agents and their trajectories became more complex as individuals were stranded or stalled by obstacles. A containment box was used to condense the swarm and test the viability of applying the form finding technique to the site conditions that will later be incorporated. Frei Otto, the architect and engineer, conducted a series of experiments on the emergent behaviour of paths. Using a circle made of bent wood as a frame, he strung wool across it resulting in an intricate pattern of straight lines. Slightly loose strands allowed for the deformation which occurred when he submerged the frame and wool in water and shook them for a few seconds before removing them and recording the results. The wool, in contact with water, gathered to combine multiple strands into single amalgams. Entirely new paths emerged in place of the dry orthogonal ones, establishing more direct (and hence more efficient) routes.

A) Maintain a minimum distance from flock mates and avoid collisions.

B) Align movement vector towards the average heading of flock mates.

C) Cohere to the flock, steering toward the central mass of the group.


“Rather than the detail being understood as a finer resolution of the whole, it is the behavioural interactions at the micro-scale that becomes a generator of macrolevel form and organization� Roland Snooks (2011) top and above: ants displaying a pattern of self-organization by bridging their own bodies across a gap left: microscope image of crystal dodecahedron crystals forming

“Form finding experiments can provide useful information and embed a logic and elegance into structural design� Harri Lewis (2011)

The ant bridge was a particularly interesting natural behaviour to our group. These social insects are demonstrating patterns of self organization that resemble the principles of flocking discussed earlier; separation, cohesion and alignment. The ants work cooperatively to align toward a common destination, using their own geometries (the structure of their individual bodies) to produce a larger, more stable overall structure. This phenomenon is very similar to that which we are developing. Forms produced are a direct result of emergent objectives and they are only realized through the tectonic parameters of the geometry of the blocks.


Path trajectories in unrestricted emergent space.

50. Path trajectories in restricted emergent space.

B4. TECHNIQUE DEVELOPMENT emergence When emergent lines were allowed to roam unrestricted, enormous looping lines were produced. These are quite interesting, loosely resembling solar flares, however the technique was ineffective in producing shapes that had a relationship with the road or with traffic movement. By restricting the space in which agents could venture (bottom left), they were more inclined to seek out the “goals� (attractor points) we placed along the road. This produced more evocative

lines that were more implicit of motion, but were still lacking a unifying or structural element. We established a proximity relationship between agents to be measured at regular intervals, representing it as a line. It is an extra emergent layer, parametrically and physically linked to agent trajectories. This has allowed agent motion to be represented with a visually and structurally enriching layer to be created repeatedly to produce infinite unexpected outcomes.

51. Path trajectories with timed proximity relationships.


This matrix uses erratic proximity lines as a basis for testing the ideal scale of tesselation for our blocks. The intermediate scale (blocks about 1 meter diameter) is most successful because it does not dilute the emergent lines to the extent of the larger scale whilst avoiding the use of an excessive number of modules.






Truncated Tetrahedron


Geometric agglomerations create complex facades. As the clusters grow bigger, the interior of the form is hidden and potentially wasted. We explored the possibility of introducing depth to our chains and grouping. Using negative offset and boolean, the faces of each geometry could be converted into skeletal mutations. This allows the beholder to peer momentarily deeper into the structure whilst creating a layer of lighting complexity through varied shadow.


Truncated Tetrahedron





We experimented with our own ‘H’ clip joints. These were reasonably effective for the truncated tetrahedrons who only created two types of tectonic relationship. This meant only two modules need be created for all the jointing in the system (presumably). However, with only one connection point there was no resistance to torsion in the structure. This technique was problematic in that when one joint component failed, those surrounding it did also. It relies on the stability of its neighbours too heavily to be a suitable system. We will most likely need to resort to an internal strip bracket system. This will avoid obtuse intrusions into the geometry allowing the lines depicted here to be preserved.



B6. TECHNIQUE PROPOSAL possibilities

Our generative process was applied to our two developed packing systems. An outcome’s fitness was determined by the level of surprise it engendered at first glance. This was often a result of complexity. Immediacy of response is particularly valid criteria as the Gateway will be experienced in rapid transition. Of our two pools of results, we have decided to pursue Weaire Phalen packing. As discussed earlier, the imprecision with which branches of tetrahedrons intersect will have insurmountable practicality issues and is not worth pursuing. We will create depth to mass using skeletal blocks to enhance lighting variation. The emergent lines that the geometric chains are made to follow will be given more site specific headings and repulsion parameters to encourage feasible solutions. These will include freeway clearances for trucks and set backs along the road side. A containment geometry can also be used in sections where these requirements are too precise to rely solely on emergence. Modularity will ensure that the demands in fabrication are manageable. By limiting the number of components we will minimise time and financial cost to deliver an iconic sculpture appropriate to Wyndham City.

objectives The Gateway Project should enhance the physical environment by introducing an eye catching installation which presents brave, new and inspiring ideas to be experience in transition at an iconic scale. It should generate a new discourse for Wyndham, encourage further reflection and represent the growth of the municipality and thus, promote pride within the Wyndham community.



Don’t pretend or presume to know everything. Our group engaged in an incredibly diverse and complex field, biomimicry. The projects that we investigated during our design approach development were the culminations of years, and in the case of John Frazier, decades of research. We found it extremely difficult to elaborate on a system that few people understand fully, cellular arrangements. Ultimately, our development of the crystalline structures was mathematically derived, not through biological investigation. However the discovery of emergence, after reading Frazier’s ‘An Evolutionary Architecture,’ provided us with direction. We could implement the tools we had developed, the variations of the Line of Best Fit, as manifestations of a swarm pattern. This realization only came about through wider learning. EOI part 2 has reaffirmed for me the architectural cliche, ‘an architect knows (or should know) something about everything.







C1. DESIGN CONCEPT We hope to enhance the physical environment using the techniques developed through an interest in the natural systems of geometric packing and emergent behaviour. We will use the inherent visual complexity and structural logic of packing systems to realize brave new ideas at an iconic scale. Through an emergent form finding process we will ensure that the form is provocative rather the predictable. It will challenge aesthetic preconceptions of gateway typologies and thus elicit positive and continued reflection on Melbourne’s fastest growing municipality, Wydham City.





ABC EXISTING SITE Site proposed in the brief.






AB Site C was disregarded because the VicRoads set back requirements reduced it to a negligible size.



Extrusion ESTABLISH BOUNDING BOX The feasible site was extruded upward to create a maximized arena in which flocking could take place. As discussed earlier, if allowed to run with total freedom, swarming agents will expand their patterns endlessly to implausible proportions. By using the entire site we can avoid predetermining a final form as was done in the matrices in Part B.



Connection A connection was made between sites A and B. It is important to recognize that this did not force an archway to be produced but merely provided the opportunity for an arch of some sort to emerge. By maximizing the possible outcomes we gave ourselves a greater chance to produce something unexpected and unique. This connection was restricted by a minimum height clearance of 4.5 meters above the road surface.



Agents whose emergent behaviour we tracked were placed in close proximity to the road at the extremities of the site. We found that this would generate patterns that had a stronger relationship to traffic movement.


Emergence Agents were released. The emergent paths were recorded.




As the agents swarmed, a proximity parameter was measured (recorded as a line) between the agents at timed intervals. This created a structural link between emergent lines, adding a secondary emergent layer with increased complexity and patterning.


Iconic Scale Weaire Phalen geometry is passed along the emergent lines to produce a complex cellular form with embedded structural logic.


CRITERIA These outcomes all emerged from identical separation, cohesion and alignment parameters. It demonstrates the unpredictably of flocking algorithms and the architectural potential of computation involving inconsistent feedback. The twelve formations shown here were selected from an exhaustive pool of many more for their satisfaction of our design fitness criteria. COMPLEXITY The form should be complex though without excessive density or dispersion. DEPTH The form should have varying proximity to the road both laterally and vertically to enhance the transitory experience. CANOPY Canopies tended to create more impressive depth (enclosure and relief). PATTERN Repeated shapes and recurrent though slowing changing patterns within the proximity lines add another layer of complexity to the gateway. The formation and disruption of patterns across the gateway could be best appreciated by moving through it.

The criteria used to select the emergent lines were reapplied to the resultant form to refine the outcome and bring it closer to our design intent.

Complexity Areas of greatest complexity to be retained.


Unexpected The bend in the road caused the agents to collide with the protected traffic area, often resulting in a cluster (shown above) close to the roadside. We found that such an agglomeration yielded interesting hide and reveal views during the approach to the gateway and whilst entering. It denies the commuter a view of the latter part of the gateway until they round the bend; a transitory and surprising experience.



Long arcs of varying geometry seem to bound along beside you, intertwining on your right as you enter the Gateway. Clusters on the right advance and retreat as you rush by. It is then joined by a reciprocal cluster on the left; an abstract mass of holes and shadows. The two converge on the driver at the halfway point, denying any indication of what lies beyond until it is suddenly revealed whilst rounding the corner. The final section features a myriad of geological vaults forming rough canopies to the right which then arc dramatically over the road in three places, terminating the experience on the left as it peters out into skeletal forms, then nothing.


C2. TECTONIC ELEMENTS modularity 8 Joints

Mass customization is certainly possible through design driven by computation, but it is not necessarily desirable. Our gateway achieves complexity through emergent, bottom-up form finding rather than having hundreds of unique tectonic relationships.

6 Faces

4 Blocks




TYPE 2 2

The vertices of each shape are numbered according to their corresponding joint type. Assembly follows some very basic rules.



Firstly, types 1 - 6 are used to assemble the tetra-kai dodecahedrons and types 7 and 8 for the dodecahedrons. Each joint type has one face with a mark on it (in this case a small circle). For types 1 - 5, the marked face is to be attached to the pentagon at the corner its number indicates; the marked face of type 6 attaches to the points of the elongated hexagon; type 7 to the point of the large pentagon. Type 8 does not have a marked face as each face is equal and it therefore does not require specific orientation.


Provided the joints are attached correctly, according to the rules stated above, there is only one way to attach the neighbouring faces making it a very simple operation.








7 8




The diagram above shows an exploded view of the assembly components (in this case for joint 5). The bracket is fixed on the interior of the cell (indicated in red). The bracket is bolted into position roughly before being adjusted (the bolts holes have a small tolerance to enable a precise meeting between faces) then tightened. At the junction of cells, the bolt is simply turned around and the corresponding bracket placed over it before being tightened together. For the purposes of our detail model it was impractical to produce a metal press. Our brackets have all been bent by hand following the parametrically produced templates. However in full scale production an automated bracket making machine would be a simple and highly effective method of creating these components. We utilized laser cutting to achieve accurate surface junctions. The edge burn from the laser was retained for its stronger expression of the joint. This part of the project has been a particularly rewarding one. We have experienced first hand how the capabilities of computation and parametrically driven design and fabrication can restore the architect to the role of the master builder.



C2. TECTONIC ELEMENTS opportunities The packing system can repeat endlessly. Like crystalline organization, clusters can agglomerate to form large wholes, or disperse into smaller divisions. This lends itself well to the fabrication process and especially so for this limited-access site. The Gateway can be built off site in sections. This minimizes disturbance to traffic and inconvenient labour. Sections could be trucked to the site and joined, needing only a single line of connections (as shown by the blue line below). Multi-phase assembly has other advantages. Instead of merely constructing the entire form in one stage, it could be take place incrementally over weeks, months or a year. This would present a changing experience for the daily commuter. Building in stages validates our decision to use timber for the surfaces. Timber ages through exposure to the elements. This means that the parts of the Gateway that were installed earlier will perhaps have undergone colour or texture changes, creating interesting contrast with the later installations.


One Week

One Month

Six Months

One Year






Above: Entrance to Gateway Below: Exit of Gateway at night



C4. DESIGN EXTENSION structural core

Unfortunately, the method for selecting which cells to make skeletal was manual. We applied our design intuition to make these decisions. Obviously, we had hoped to incorporate this into our form finding approach and have experimented a little with some catenary curve approximations. If this project was to be developed further, the skeletal blocks would have been designated in an entirely parametric way, making the whole system emergent. These diagrams illustrate our intensions. We wanted to retain a structural core amidst the form with less essential blocks being piped.




Our group worked carefully with the brief, dissecting it and extracting important information as we went. Site specification had to be considered, (for example, the removal of Site C from the feasible building space) as did broader conceptual matters (such as the relevance of emergent form finding in contemporary design and the desired experiential qualities of a gateway). Early on we developed a concise paragraph contain-

ing reinterpreted objectives. This was adjusted slightly during the semester. Having a clear statement of intention, we found, was extremely important in realigning us with our goals as we became increasingly immersed in computation. Numerous times, we became distracted by an interesting algorithm without asking ourselves, as our tutor Adam said, “why are we doing this?�


Flicking back through this journal it is evident how much more focused the proposal strategy has become. Our group found in the final presentation that simple diagramming can make even the most complicated design techniques accessible. We chose to do this after being told that not all the guest judges would be familiar with parametric concepts. It is a similar strategy to the one employed by Bjarke Ingels Group, an architectural firm based in Copenhagen. Letting go of any egoist attempts to show how brilliant you are, which often alienate outsiders rather

than involving them and exciting them, is certainly something I will continue to do (hopefully) in the future. However this strategy relies on the design outcome being engaging enough to avoid seeming as over simplified as its diagrammatic communication. In Studio Air, producing an engaging design proposal has largely been dependent on the skills developed in Grasshopper. For us, an understanding of the influence of objective forces in an emergent system was probably most important,


as well as being able to extract different types of information from the emergent outcomes. Another crucial skill that we developed toward the end of the project was a more intuitive ability to produce flexible algorithms. It sounds so simple, but having the foresight to include a well placed number slider or make interchangeable panels containing the various data set required for different functions was the difference between the three of us slowly slogging away at one computer to us being able to collaborate and amend issues others were facing.

A good example of this was the definitions Josh and I built for fabrication. Josh arranged the laser cut file for the plywood faces whilst I built a corresponding file for the bracket system. During the prototyping phase we had a few complications and made some small mistakes with hole sizes and labeling. Twice we only realized the complication after laser cutting, so to avoid the spending the time and money to have it recut we simply adapted our bracketing system. The Gateway project has required me to foster a broad skill set. During this semester I have used


mathematics, learned about generative design and even tried a little scripting (badly), have read extensively and critically to understand the discourse around computation in architecture, learned a little about photography, given aural presentations, stumbled through some graphic design and played with timber and steel. Working as a team has been very beneficial. All our group members have had to overcome frustration, stress and disappointment to push on to a successful outcome. The mishaps in our prototyping phase have emphasized the paramount importance of clear communication. Trying to

meet deadlines for presentations forced us to become better at organizing our efforts so that everyone worked effectively toward a group goal. Lastly, I must thank my group members for the rapport and commitment we maintained through the semester, and my tutors, Adam and Daniel, for their patience, insight and how generously they shared their time and knowledge.




Cfi 541940 scottwalker eoi 3