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Design Studio AIR 2013


CONTENTS 1 3 4 5 7 9 9 11 12 13 15 17 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 27 29 31 33 35 36 37 39 41 43 44 45 47 51 53 54 55 56 57 59 61 63 69 73 81 82 83 85 87 91 93 94 95 96 97

Introduction Part A. EOI I: CASE FOR INNOVATION A1. Architecture as a Discourse 0 The reception of architecture vs its production 1 Precedent: The Smithsonian Institute 2 Precedent: The Cloud House A2. Computational Architecture 0 Computerized vs Computational Architecture 1 Precedent: Monocoque II 2 Precedent: Fibrous Tower A3. Parametric Modelling 0 Parametric modelling a design tool and a style? 1 Precedent: Galaxy SOHO 2 Precedent: New National Library A4. Algorithmic Explorations 1 Week one 2 Week two 3 Week three A5. Conclusion A6. Learning outcomes Figure sources Endnote references Part B. EOI II: DESIGN APPROACH B1. Design Focus 0 Biomimicry 1 Structure 2 Interactive and responsive architecture B2. Case Study 1.0 1 Experimenting with a given definition 2 Matrix B3. Case Study 2.0 1 Reverse engineering 2 Matrix B4. Technique: Development 1 Structure 2 Matrix 3 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino B5. Technique: Prototypes 1 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino 2 Interactive and responsive architecture with grasshopper B6. Technique Proposal 1 B.E.R.T 2 Website prototype B7. Algorithmic Sketches B8. Learning Objectives and Outcomes Figure sources Endnote references Part C. PROJECT PROPOSAL C1. Structure 0 Taking a fields approach 1 Precedent: Mesonic Fabrics 2 Design exploration 3 Matrix 4 Process 5 Final design 6 Final model C2. Arduino 1 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino 2 Interactive and responsive architecture with grasshopper 3 Proof of concept C3. Website 1 Animation 2 Data C4. Final proposal 1 B.E.R.T C5. Algorithmic Sketches 1 Making the model 2 Meshes and smoothing C6. Learning Objectives and Outcomes 1 Final presentation feedback 2 Learning objectives Figure sources Endnote references

BEN SHACKLETON Design Studio AIR 2013 Tutors: Angela Woda and Gwyll Jahn


BEN SHACKLETON Bachelor of Environments Architecture Major 3rd Year Throughout my studio subjects at The University of Melbourne I have used different computer software to varying degrees. I completed the Virtual Environments subject in 2011 which gave me a solid introduction to Rhino 3D using the paneling tools plugin. This introduced me to the processes of creating complex geometry and rationalizing this double curved surface into a series of planar surfaces that made fabrication of


my cardboard lantern possible (figure 1). I found this process to be both rewarding and interesting and look forward to experiencing how the Grasshopper plugin can differently inform the design process for me. Another subject where I heavily utilised computer software was in Studio Water last year where I used Rhino equipped with the V-Ray plugin to model and render my design (figure 2).

Figure 1: Final lantern design. Virtual Environments 2011.

Figure 2: Final render for Kew Boathouse project inspired by Alvar Aalto. Studio Water 2012.




A1. ARCHITECTURE AS A DISCOURSE A1.0 The reception of architecture vs its production As Richard William states in his 2005 paper ‘Architecture and Visual Culture’ architecture is better viewed as a network of practices and debates about the built environment as opposed to buildings as material facts. He explains that we can achieve this though focusing on the reception of architecture over its production. Often reflecting (or not reflecting) the cultural movements

of its time, architecture is a valid and interesting representation of social values and technological concepts and with this the opportunity for great discourse and debate is born. The discourse surrounding architecture can spread much further and last longer than the immediate experience of inhabiting it.


A1.1 Precedent

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE Foster and Partners Washington DC, USA. 2004-2007


Figure 3: Reinvigorated courtyard space of the Smithsonian Institute by Foster and Partners


This courtyard is a gift to the entire nation, as well as the nation’s capital. Cristian Samper, Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution1

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard was transformed from an unusable space overgrown with shrubbery and trees into one of Washington’s largest event spaces through a design which enclosed and landscaped this area bound by a neoclassical historical landmark. This redesigned courtyard now hosts a range of social events such as concerts and public performances and is perhaps why the Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution described the space as a ‘gift’. The idea of public architecture being a gift, especially one ‘to the entire nation’, highlights the possibility architecture has in affecting change within a population much broader than just the local users of the space. Successful architecture can be (and often is) a national icon which people can be proud to relate to; a beacon of ideas and discourse. This design shows sympathy to the building’s history while proposing great things for its future and as such embodies an attitude held by this cultural instution. This sympathy which manages to symbolise and respect the building’s cultural importance is shown in two main ways; firstly the way in which the canopy is designed to give the appearance that it is floating above the historic building1 (figure 4) and secondly through the juxaposition of materials and architectural styles which clearly frames the existing building. It often takes bravery to try and improve a classic building such as this because people identify with them in their current state and value their historic significance. For example, Foster and Partners recently received public criticism for an older but similar project in which he designed a canopied enclosure of the inner court at the British Museum (figure 5) which was described as ‘a pompous waste of public space that inserts a shopping gallery into the heart of a sublime cultural institution’2 by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.

Figure 4: Roof hovering above existing building

The design also embraces contemporary ideas such as environmental efficiency since the structure was specifically designed to do ‘the most with the least’1, an achievement aided by the use of computer algorithms and software. The roof is a great example of what the firm describes as ‘geometrically complex, environmentally responsive architecture’1 and thanks to the Specialist Modelling Group at Foster and Partners was achieved in an efficient manner with many aspects analysed through a single computer program. The computer code was used to explore design options and to generate the final geometry as well as additional information needed to analyse structural and acoustic performance to visualise the space, and to create fabrication data for physical models2. This demonstrates initiative in the manner in which the design team not only developed a design response but took it back a step and developed a design approach through their original computer program. Their computer code had fifty seven parameters used to control the roof geometry1 and this parametric design approach gave them greater control and flexibility when producing iterations of the design. This approach is still relatively new in the profession and the success of the project is a testament to the potential of parametric design. The revitalisation of this courtyard gives the building greater relevance in this day and age, ideally bringing new and previous crowds to experience the space in a new way which will be appreciated now and into the future. Both this project and the firm’s previous similar work on the inner court of the British Museum provide recent examples on the role of architecture in nurturing social and cultural values through respecting the architectural discourse of the past while also furthering current discourse by looking towards the future through embracing technological advancements.

Figure 5: Inner court of the British Museum. London, UK 1994-2000


A1.2 Precedent

CLOUD HOUSE McBride Charles Ryan Fitrzoy North, Melbourne, Australia, 2012

Figure 6: This sculptural space has caught widespread attention


A daring argument in the long tradition of architectural discourse regarding representational form in architecture. 2012 Melbourne Design Awards


The renovation to this double-fronted Edwardian house is designed, constructed and experienced as three quite distinct parts. As per the clients request the facade was revitalised in a manner which respects the history of the North Fitzroy streetscape3 but the new sections of the building push the geometrical and representational boundaries of what a house can be. The boldly patterned carpet upon entering hints towards the fun and playful nature of the house but it isn’t until you reach the start of the extension, the bright red cubic kitchen pod, that one fully experiences the house’s courageous design and character (figure 7). The design shows full commitment and honesty towards its concept and was recently described as a ‘strong idea’ project by Leon van Schaik4, Professor of Architecture (Chair of Innovation) at RMIT in Melbourne. A strong idea such as this becomes memorable and relevant to the current architectural discourse. Metaphorical forms in architecture has come under scrutiny in the past. Arguably Australia’s greatest example of the concept of metaphor in architecture, the Sydney Opera House by Jorn Utzon in 1957 was criticised for

having ‘arbitrary and superfluous’ shell structures5 which illustrate the sail motif. Sigfried Giedion responded to this by posing the question ‘Are we prepared to go beyond the purely functional and tangible as earlier periods did in order to enhance the force of expression?’5 Although Cloud House architect Debbie Ryan said the living room’s shape also works to dampen the noise6 it is fair to say the form isn’t entirely function driven and hence relates back to the question posed by Giedion. The cloud house is a great example of how bold levels of expression can be achieved beyond functional drivers. The design has a personal and memorable quality which has garnered a particularly positive reaction throughout the architectural community as winner of the 2012 Melbourne Design Awards Residential Constructed award. The pluralism throughout this house works well to accentuate the extravagance of the final living space and a more restrained form would likely struggle to be as memorable. This isn’t to say however that a more abstracted form wouldn’t necessarliy be as interesting. The success of this project demonstrates the value in exciting and eye catching designs, which is a main goal for the Western Gateway Design Project.

Figure 7: Series of views as you travel through the house.


A2. COMPUTATIONAL ARCHITECTURE A2.0 Computerised vs computational architecture

Computerised: digitally enabled The creative ability of humans mixed with the rational abilities of a computer can combine to create a powerful symbiotic design system7. There are various degrees and manners in which contemparary architects utilise the power of the computer and these processes can be broadly categorised as either computerisation or computation. Computerisation is common in architectural practice today, where existing designs and concepts are brought into the computer interface for means of experimentation, documentation and presentation. Frank

Figure 8: Sketch


Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (figure 10) is a particularly famous example of using a computer to realise an already conceptualised design. Gehry used gestural sketches (figure 8), sketch models formed by sheets of paper rolled and taped by hand and other abstract means of representation of his design intent. He turned to CATIA software (more commonly used in aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding fields) to construct a manipulatable 3D model8 (figure 9) through scanning his own hand made models. The distinction here is that the design concept well and truly existed visually before turning to computer software.

Figure 9: Digital model

Figure 10: Completed building

Figure 11: Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome

Computation: digitally driven

with a series of flat glass panels and undulating steel ribs.

More interesting in the context of the Wyndham Gateway Design Project and the current architectural discourse is the method of computation; a potentially highly generative and creative digitally driven design process. Using 3D modelling programs such as Rhinoceros or 3Ds Max, computation vastly expands the range of conceivable and achievable geometries.

There are however ongoing and incoming changes within the design and construction industries which are working to narrow the seperation between design and fabrication of complex geometry. Traditionally complex forms have been very difficult and expensive to design, produce and assemble but advancements in Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD and CAM) are changing this. This change challenges to fully integrate and align the design information of a project with its construction information, a move which would theoretically revert the architect back to the medieval role of the master builder.

Beyond the Euclidean geometry which is found in more traditional architectural practice and theory, computation allows for complex curvilinear surfaces that have been described as ‘topological’, ‘rubber-sheet’ and ‘blob’ geometry of continuous curves9. 1996 Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo speaks of “forgotten geometries lost to us because of the difficulties of their representation”9 but through computation these geometries can now be represented with much more ease. The application of a triangular grid such as that which Buckminster Fuller applied to his geodesic dome (figure 11) has become a basic computational technique to easily approximate a doubly curved surface as a fabricatable structure. Material constraints often impose a need for planarity for construction to be practical. For example the Smithsonian Institute and Inner Court of the British Museum by Foster and Partners produced seemingly doubly curved roof shells

Much of the current architectural discourse about computational architecture addresses recent advancements in 3D printing technology and the possibilities it could bring to architecture, with Norman and Fosters being an early adopter of this technology as part of their design process10. This serves as the ultimate example of the master builder concept, where the digital information is directly converted into a real structure similar to the common process of printing a text document onto paper. It is an exciting time for architecture and through a computational approach the Wyndham Gateway Design Project can achieve a design which proposes new, inspiring and brave ideas while furthering the discourse as desired.


A2.1 Precedent

MONOCOQUE II Neri Oxman Museum of Modern Art, NY, 2007 Designer Neri Oxman is best known for her work in environmental design and digital morphogenesis through her interdisciplinary design initiative MATERIALECOLOGY. She describes her process as ‘computationally enabled form-finding’ in which she brings together material properties and environmental constraints to generate form11. She combines, for example, characterstics such as those of structure, thermal properties and light diffusion.12 Monocoque is french for ‘single shell’ and this design is a structural skin using a Voronoi pattern with densities relating to loading conditions. Oxman explained that the modernist idea of a seperate structure and environmental filter (glass) such as Mies Van Der Rohe’s early 1920s skyscraper explorations as the ‘antithesis’ of her own work11. This skin instead embodies the structural characteristics of distributing shear and stress while maintaining a visually striking ‘facade’- in this case a complex geometrical form which is designed to be more sustainable and modelled here in acrylic composites. This voronoi pattern is parametrically modelled and analysed, so that the structural paths are optimised based specifically on the shells form. As with most of her forms being driven by nature, the inspiration for this comes most specifically from the membranes of egg shells, but her work in varying structural densities is inspired by a range of natural phenomenom such as palm trees, bones and beaks.


This small scale model has been 3D printed and the current limitations of this technology are visible in the joints between the separately fabricated shell pieces. Other streams of her work aim to improve construction technology, as she simultaneously designs both the designs themselves and the means to make such designs more achievable. An avid supporter of 3-D printing, Oxman continues to explore what she calls ‘Variable Property Printing’13 to realise designs such as her Monocoque explorations. As opposed to materials such as the common concrete pillar which is typically volumetrically homogenous, this printer aims to produce functionally graded materials through a dynamic mixing of composition material, as inspired by bones.14 In her role as a professor at the MIT media lab, Oxman furthers the discourse surrounding both construction and design of computational form among varying scales, with strong emphasises on 3-D printing and biomimicry respectively, as shown in her widely published presentation at the Poptech 2009 conference. The installation for Wyndham’s Western Gateway could benefit from a similarly elegant relationship between structure and aesthetic which is achieved here through computation.

Figure 12: ‘Single Shell’ material exploration

A2.2 Precedent

FIBROUS TOWER Kokkugia Unbuilt, 2008

Figure 13: Second published series of Fibrous Tower experiments

Furthering the discourse surrounding material multifunctionaliy and efficiency in architecture, this concept building designed by progressive design firm Kokkugia resonates with the idealogy behind Oxman’s work while taking it a step further by applying it to the common tower typology, a much larger scale. A study in material optimisation, this exoskeletal tower combines the structural and tectonic aspects of a structure into a single skin, while allowing areas for ventilation and vertical gardens . This ornamental and performative shell theoretically allows for floorplates to remain column free (figure 13). Similar to Monocoque, forces follow a non-linear path with load distribution relying on collectively organised intensities as opposed to a series of discrete components as per more traditional building techniques. This fibrous concrete shell is still able to be constructed through conventional formwork techniques

and as such caters to common building practice despite its experimental nature.16 While it is beneficial in the long term for Oxman to be exploring new construction technology, Kokkugia’s work is more immediately valuable in the sense that it caters to current practice. It is clear that the computational approach here was fundamental to the project and its outcome. It is through algorithmic generation that this geometry successfully fulfills both of these criterias. Different outlets allow company partner Roland Snooks to explore this stream of emergent architecture. He maintains a wide spanning teaching capacity currently at universities in Pennysylvania, Columbia and Southern California and has a history of more local work such as at RMIT and the VCA in Melbourne16.


A3. PARAMETRIC MODELLING A3.0 Parametric modelling a design tool and a style?

Figure 14: Endesa Pavilion by IaaC 2011

Within the current architectural discourse driven by technological advancements throughout the world, designers are exploring not only the way computers can inform design outcomes but also the design process itself. On the forefront of this exploration are the methods of of parametric modelling and scripting. The concept of parameters in architecture isn’t new. Parameters usually set by the client such as budget, room specifications and site, fundamentally inform design outcomes. Traditional analogue methods of design will find that these parameters will correlate with the final outcome but parametric design allows for much more explicit relationships. A common platform for parametric design is the Grasshopper plug-in for the Rhino 3D modelling software, which is a visually driven work space with clear relationships between elements of the 3D model. Within this program the designer establishes the relationships by which parts connect and the computer analyses this algorithm to produce a design. An idea can be efficiently explored through the manipulation of said relationships since the computer rationally calculates outcomes and hence maintains consistency. The automatic nature of these changes means routine aspects and repetitive activities are drastically simplified allowing for a far greater range of potential outcomes for the same investment in time.17 Where lower production costs have often motivated standardization another advantage of parametric modelling is that bespoke production becomes much more feasible18. As already mentioned in section A2, computational techniques allow for direct conversion of a 3D model into the relevant fabrication information but parametric modelling means this can be done in a highly accurate and efficient manner and changes to the design can still be made through and after this process.


A highly customisable software, Grasshopper boasts a strong community of likeminded individuals of varying skillsets to generate productive discourse. With currently

over 12,000 discussions, the official forum has support from the softwares developers and enthusiasts alike, with a range of third party plugins being available to extend the capacity of the grasshopper plugin. For example there are plugins such as Kangaroo which allow the user to apply physics simulations to their model, while Geco and Heliotrope deal with environmental factors and Firefly allows the integration of basic electronic circuits called arduino. Parametric modelling has found success as both a form finding and performance based tool. A quintessential example of performance based parametrically modeled design is the Endesa Pavilion (figure 14). Purely driven by environmental factors, data relating to sun angles is mathematically processed and results in a facade optimised for solar gain while maximising solar panel surface areas. This digitally fabricated pavillion uses parametric modelling (figure 15) to produce a compelling argument in the discourse surrounding architectures capabilities to respond to the energy related environmental issues of the 21st century. Quintessentially a ‘form follows function’ building, perhaps a more subtle integration of the solar panels and eaves could see this tool become widely used in more mainstream architecture. The opportunity for this certainly exists since the parametric model has been made open source and can be adapted to any location around the world.­19 Figure 15: Rhino 3D model using Grasshopper to calculate optimised eaves

Various pavilions have been constructed recently to explore the form finding capabilities of parametric modelling. Beyond creating 3D computer models, different techniques have been explored to actually fabricate such geometries. The Driftwood pavilion (figure 16) shows how a contoured approach can be applied to a complex curved geometry to produce flat timber elements which layer to approximate the initial form. While not the most materially efficient approach it does create an interesting effect and demonstrates the power of grasshopper in transforming a curved form into a buildable structure. The ICD/ITKE research pavilion of 2011 (figure 17) demonstrates a panelled approach to represent a large dome shape. Differently sized planar timber surfaces join to create a number of polygons which interlock at various angles, a biomimic approach inspired by the skeleton of sea urchins. The panels are interlinked in the same way as minute protrusions of a sea urchin’s shell plates notch into one another20. This relationship can be parametrically modelled and applied to all panels in the 3D model before they are fabricated. An advantage of parametric modelling is that the overall form can still be manipulated even after applying paneled elements over it. This gives the designer a lot of freedom in the manner in which they approach a project, for instance looking at patterning before form or vice versa.

Parametric design isn’t without problems though, with three main workflow issues explained by guest lecturer and tutor Daniel Davis at the University of Melbourne in March of 2013, drawing on his international experience as both a teacher and practitioner of computational design. Firstly it can be quite complicated to retrofit a parameter if it wasn’t accounted for in the early stages of the algorithm but the flexibility still far outweighs that of an analogue design process. Throughout the design process it can also be quite hard to actually see the changes you are applying, since grasshopper works at a very detailed level. Most of all though, an algorithm can be very hard to decipher without the help of its author and this can limit the reuse and sharing of parametric models in collaborative design teams. Throughout my own work I have found these negative characteristics to be the case. Overall though it is clear that the flexible nature, form-finding and performance analysis power, and simple translation to fabrication information makes parametric modelling a powerful and efficient design tool.

Figure 16: Driftwood Pavilion by AA Unit 2, 2009

Figure 17: ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion, 2011

Some argue however that parametric design is more than just a tool and that it dictates a style in itself. The following two case studies demonstrate the power of parametric modelling on a much larger scale, with one completed and one proposed building.


A3.1 Precedent

GALAXY SOHO Zaha Hadid Architects Beijing, China, 2007

Patrik Schumacher in Architectural Design Vol 79, 2009

Company director and Senior Designer at Zaha Hadid Architects, Patrik Schumacher, has come under great scrutiny since his 2008 Parametricist Manifesto in which he announces ‘Parametricism’ as the next great style following modernism. As a practicing architect at one of the worlds largest firms, a highly regarded educator and author of many published works, Schumacher has been at the core of much of the architectural discourse surrounding parametric modeling. Schumacher articulated a set of rules to best summarise this style as shown in figure 18. The project information on the firm’s website describes the building as comprising of ‘volumes which coalesce to achieve continuous mutual adaptation and fluid movement between buildings’21 and hence embodies the principles articulated by Schumacher. Whether you are convinced or not that the ideology behind parametricism as a style is entirely sound, buildings such as the Galaxy SOHO demonstrate the capabilities of parametric modeling at an enormous scale. Going on to the website of Galaxy Soho you will find a page dedicated to the parametric design of the building22 which is indicative of the extent to which the architects are trying to brand parametric modelling a style. While this built project is a testament to the dynamic and fluid forms that parametric modeling facilitates, (the design language that the firm has become internationally renowned for) this building doesn’t serve to substantiate the need for this new style. Schumacher fails to explain the need for these principles

Negative principles (taboos) -Avoid rigid forms (lack of malleability) -Avoid simple repetition (lack of variety) -Avoid collage of isolated, unrelated elements (lack of order) -Avoid rigid functional stereotypes -Avoid segregative functional zoning 15

Figure 18: Schumacher’s principles of Parametricism

Aesthetically it is the elegance of ordered complexity and the sense of seamless fluidity, akin to natural systems, that is the hallmark of parametricism.

beyond the superficial and aesthetic. In the case of the Galaxy SOHO these principles have led to a building which is undeniably typical of the firm but one that also has a questionable relationship to the site and context. Hadid describes the building as paying homage to China’s historic building typologies with courtyards and “fluid movement” between spaces21 but as it looms over a large sprawl of characteristic Beijing hutongs one may find these associations to be quite shallow. The extreme disparity between the scale of the building and the surrounding urban fabric is to a degree driven by the incredible rate and magnitude of development throughout China, however it is still a fundamental role of the architect to respond appropriately to the given site and its context. This social and cultural shift in China doesn’t explain the conflicting geometry between the building and its surroundings and the unabashed manner with which the firm promotes their own architectural ideals has led to a building which stands in stark contrast with its city. This challenges the universal nature with which the firm spreads their style, applying it to all architectural opportunities they investigate. The fact that the firm can design these sorts of forms using parametric modelling doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. While parametric modelling is a valuable tool for the form finding and performative benefits previously explained, it is yet to be proven as the basis for a universally needed and evolutionary style in architecture, despite Schumacher’s push to do so.

Positive principles (dogmas) -All forms must be soft -All systems must be differentiated (gradients) and interdependent (correlations) -All functions are parametric activity scenarios -All activities communicate with each other

Figure 19: Recently opened Galaxy SOHO building.


A3.2 Precedent

NEW NATIONAL LIBRARY OCEAN NORTH and Scheffler & Partner Prague, Czech Republic, 2006 (Comptetition Entry) Perhaps a better example of the benefits of parametric modelling in large scale architecture projects, this project combines the approach of biomimicry with computational techniques in the same spirit as Neri Oxman’s smaller scale work.Quite clearly derived from the structure of a tree, this building has two large ‘floating’ structures cantilevered from a sturdy trunk. The branch-like tectonic articulation of these structures is derived from the mapped vector fields of principal forces (figure 20) combined with other parameters such as the angle of incident of sunlight, view axes and spatial characteristics23. These interrelated parameters generate specific branch elements with different dimensions, angles and orientations23 and produces an overall envelope addressing form, loadbearing behaviour to produce a building with minimum footprint and maximum inhabitable volume with high material economy24. Another parametric model was used to calculate the

Figure 20: Relationship between forces and structure


distance and degree of inclination between facing surfaces within the interstitial space between the trunk and two cantilevered sections. These calculations optimised the modulation of thermal, airflow and luminous conditions of the different areas. The different levels of opacity and permeability of the building also helped this23. The parametric model proves fundamental to addressing the initial goals of the project through interrelating the design of the structure with the inhabitable space to produce a highly site specific solution. This project successfuly demonstrates the capacity of parametric modelling to simultaneously synthesise aesthetic, formfinding and performance based criterias. The solution is a highly rational yet unique building, and although a much larger proposal was selected for first place in the competition this submission remains an elegant demonstration of the capabilities of parametric modelling as a core driver in the design process.

Figure 21: A more site specific demonstration of parametric modelling in large scale architecture.



A4.1 Week 1 This vase has a number of controllable parameters such as height and width as well as the rotation and taper of the bottom, middle and top among others. This demonstrates the level to which a designer can experiment with a form and easily and quickly create numerous iterations. The soft and differentiated forms here embody the spirit of Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher’s work as described in his 2008 manifesto.

Figure 22: Parametrically modelled vase

A4.2 Week 2 This task was an experiment in producing a form out of points. The points were converted to three curves, then to a surface, back to points and then curves mapped through these points. Grasshopper is very flexible in the extraction of data and overlaying of information on a form. Tools like this help create buildable geometries.

Figure 23 : Exploration in producing form from points.


A4.3 Week 3 With a focus on producing more realistically fabricatable models I produced a ribbed structure to approxmite a curved surface (figure 26). A structure like this can facilitate planar glass panels to produce an approximated curved glass roof, in the same vein as Norman and Fosters’ Smithsonian Institute (figure 3, page 5) and British Museum projects (figure 5, page 6). The same surface was then converted to a series of planar triangular faces (figure 25). This approach of tesselation is similar to that of the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion

2011 (figure 17, page 14) although there are a range of approaches to achieve fabricatable structures. The Driftwood Pavilion (figure 16, page 14) for example applies a sectioning logic to contour the complex curved geometry into timber strips. I revisited my initial vase project to experiment with applying these new definitions and found that the triangular faces could accurately appromixate the smooth, curved geometry.

Figure 24 : Vase with definition from figure 25 applied.

Figure 25 : Planar triangle faces.

Figure 26: Piped ribs.



“ The computer has brought an incredible amount of technological advancement to professional and creative sectors of the world and architecture is no different. Much of the most interesting and widespread architectural discourse recently has been around role of the computer and these changes that it can potentially bring. An essential tool for the aspiring architect and most professional architects alike, the computer has the ability to both enable and drive design. It is in this second category that we are finding architecture that proposes new, inspiring and brave ideas. From the performance based experimentation of people such as those of the IaaC, to the cross-disciplinary material research of Neri Oxman to the built testaments of the power of computation such as Zaha Hadid’s work, parametric modelling is proving a valuable approach. Through parametric modelling it is now realistic to generate, explore and often fabricate a whole variety of geometries that were once ‘lost to us because of the difficulties of their representation’, as said by 1996 Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo. A range of successful pavilion installations continue to explore complex geometries and are developing the language to represent such forms once fabricated. The Driftwood Pavilion and ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion used the approaches of sectioning and tesselation

should propose new, inspiring and brave ideas, to generate new discourse. Western Gateway Design Project Brief

respectively and I have explored a range of different approaches myself including tesselation and using strips/ ribs. Neri Oxman’s work, Kokkugia’s Fibrous Tower and Ocean North’s New Czech Library use a strongly biomimic approach to achieve optimum performance and a more organic aesthetic. Large sculptural installments such as that which the brief proposes often benefit from integrity within the structure and material useage. Parametric modelling excells in optimising structures and achieving material economy as demonstrated by Ocean North and Scheffler and Partner’s New Czech Library. Architecture has a rich history of highly original and experimental forms (which were often heavily criticised at the time such as Utzon’s Sydney Opera House and Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum) and parametric modelling is an exciting technique to continue to explore form . The work of Utzon and Gehry inspired new discourse and parametric modelling poses an opportunity to create the discourse for now and the future. It is the combination of parametric modelling’s strengths as both a form finding and performance based tool that makes it so exciting in the current architectural age and why I believe it should be the fundamental for this project.

A6. LEARNING OUTCOMES This semester has introduced me to a different approach for architectural design and has challenged me to question the role of the computer in the process as well as how it can help me. I’m intrigued by the connections that can be created between base geometry and fabrication data and what this means for the future as well as the freedom grasshopper gives you in changing your design very late in the process. I also didn’t realise the magnitude to which this tool has been applied in professional practice which has further opened my eyes to the built environment around me.


In retrospect Grasshopper would have been a very valuable tool for the Virtual Environments subject I did in which I created a tessellated paper body lantern. Grasshopper would have given me a lot more flexibility and scope to explore my design and would have offered simpler solutions to problems I had such as that of having non planar surfaces.

Figure 27: Freeway site in Wyndham City


FIGURE SOURCES Figure 3,4: <> Figure 5: <> Figure 6, 7: <> Figure 8: < image source:> Figure 9: <image source:> Figure 10: <image source:> Figure 11: <> Figure 12: <> Figure 13: <> Figure 14: <> Figure 15: < youtube ‘Fully-customized, modular solar house is 3D printed prefab’> Figure 16: <> Figure 17: <> Figure 18: <> Figure 19: <> Figure 20,21: Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, ‘Designing Morpho-Ecologies: Versatility and Vicissitude of Heterogeneous Space’, Architectural Design: Versatility and Vicissitude, issue 2, volume 78, 2008, pp. 105-106 Figure 27: <> Architecture Design Studio: Air (ABPL30048_2013_SM1) Subject Page, Gateway Design Project


ENDNOTE REFERENCES 1. <> [accessed 17 March 2013] 2. Michael Kimmelman, ‘In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions’, The New York Times, 29 January 2013, <. html?pagewanted=all&_r=0> [accessed 17 March 2013] 3. Leon Van Schaik, ‘Cloud House’, Architectureau, 6 August 2013, <> [accessed 18 March 2013] 4. Leon Van Schaik, ‘Differentiation in Vital Practice’, Architectural Design: The Innovation Imperative- Architectures of Vitality, issue 1, volume 83, 2013, pp. 110 5.<> [accessed 18 March 2013] 6. Sarah Danckert, ‘Cloud House could have silver lining for architect at global awards’, The Australian, 11 August 2012, <> [accessed 18 March 2013] 7. Yehuda E. Kalay, Architecture’s New Media : Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 3 8. Kolarevic, Branko, Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (New York; London: Spon Press, 2003), pp. 9 9. Kolarevic, pp. 4 10. Brady Peters and Xavier DeKestelier, Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Manufacturing at Foster + Partners (Proceedings of the ACADIA 2008 Conference), edited by Andrew Kudless, Marc Swackhammer, Neri Oxman. 11. Neri Oxman, ‘On Designing Form’, PopTech, 2009 <> [accessed 22 March 2013] 12. <> [accessed 26 May 2013] 13. Kathryn O’Neill, ‘Natural Design’, Spectrum, Spring, 2013 pp 17 <> [accessed 26 May 2013] 14. <> [accessed 26 May 2013] 15. <> [accessed 26 May 2013] 16. <> [accessed 1 April 2013] 17. Woodbury, Robert (2010). Elements of Parametric Design (London: Routledge) pp. 24 18. Burry, Mark (2011). Scripting Cultures: Architectural Design and Programming (Chichester: Wiley), pp. 9 19. IAAC, ‘Solar House 2.0’, Faircompanies, 2012, <> [accessed 1 April 2013] 20. <> [accessed 27 May 2013] 21. <> [accessed 2 April 2013] 22. <> [accessed 2 April 2013] 23. Michael Hensel and Achim Menges, ‘Designing Morpho-Ecologies: Versatility and Vicissitude of Heterogeneous Space’, Architectural Design: Versatility and Vicissitude, issue 2, volume 78, 2008, pp. 105-108 24. <> [accessed 2 April 2013]



Parametric Modelling




Interactive / Responsive Architecture

Cage Design (PHYSICAL)

‘B.E.R.T’ & arduino (VIRTUAL)



B1. DESIGN FOCUS B1.0 Biomimicry Wyndham City Councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brief offers the opportunity to explore abstract ideas and biomimicry is fundamentally driven by the abstraction of ideas found in nature and their reapplication to design outcomes. As per the brief the outcome should also explore placemaking aspects and qualities while representing the municipality, and the rural and seaside location lends itself to a nature-driven response. Although invisible, air is a medium which transfers many environmental factors all around

us, such as light, wind and sound and an architectural exploration of this would be relevant in the ongoing discourse of the relationships between the built and natural environment. Nature is driven by incredibly complex relationships between organisms and the environment and with parametric modelling we can begin to abstract these relationships. This approach can lead to original and engaging forms, another brief requirement.


B1. DESIGN FOCUS B1.1 Structure

Structural forms and processes that arise organically in nature can be scientifically analyzed in an effort to produce strong, efficient, and elegant structural systems for the built environment.


Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP engineers

Natural phenomena has long provided inspiration for innovation in design and science. Examples range from small everyday examples such as velcro being based on the hooking characteristic of burrs to large bespoke examples such as the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe inspired by the natural ventilation capabilities of a termites nest. There are a number of natural properties that can be explored in the world around us but in an architectural context the most exciting prospect is that of emergence. Emergence in terms of both structural efficiency and natural patterns. In emergent processes the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts and this has great implications for structures. Neri Oxman describes nature as a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;grand material engineerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;25 and values multifuncionality in natural materials. She uses this inspiration to generate form, such as the structural skin of Monocoque 2 (page 11). In a similar vein, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP engineers believe that emergent processes can inspire adaptable, Figure 28: Transbay Transit Tower, San Francisco, competition entry.


constructable and cost effective strucural systems because these organic solutions have been shaped by nature over time into their most efficient state26. One particularly interesting example of the firms work is the competition entry San Francisco Transbay Transit Tower inspired by natural forms relating to logarithmic spirals. Such spirals are found in shells, seeds, plants, spider webs, hurricanes and galaxies. This logic was applied as a braced system of radiating structural members that would equally distribute the stresses while minimising the amount of material used. Engineer Anthony Michell articulated this spiral behaviour in his reasearch in the early 1900s as a spiral traversing around and gradually receding from a fixed center. This structural skin is visually dynamic, structurally optimised (for 1000 year seismic events and materially efficent. Wyndham City Council promotes and shows commitment to environmental sustainability足27 and this sort of biomimic structure displays sensitivity to this issue.

Nature is also full of beautiful emergent patterns found in organisms such as plants and animals. Pine cones are a natural representation of what is now known as the fibonacci sequence and many African jungle animals such as giraffes, zebras and cheetahs have interesting patterns in their fur coats. Such patterns offer aesthetic value and could positively inform the design outcome of this project. A great example which is easily parametrically modelled in grasshopper is that of the phyllotaxis- an arrangement of leaves found in nature which can be modelled as a parametrically controllable voronoi pattern. This is the sort of spiralled pattern that informed the Transbay Tower since it is logarithmic in nature. Figure 29 shows exploration of the parametrically modelled plant in grasshopper with the first linedrawing being the inital outcome. The main parameters that could be controlled were the radius of the shape, the size of the elements and the culling pattern defined by boolean true/false relationships.

Figure 29: Grasshopper exploration of Phyllotaxis definition.


B1.2 Interactive and responsive architecture An extension of the design approach of biomimicry, a focus on interactive and responsive architecture provides a strong platform to explore the dynamic relationships within the environment around us. The world is full of everchanging ‘data’ which we can tap in to in order to create responsive architecture. In the modern age, basic hardware such as the arduino board allows us to harness and use this information through the use of sensors.

Various project have used this idea in the past, collecting a range of input data and using it to trigger different responses. It is our intention to produce a biomimetic structure which is interactive and responsive to the site around it. This will make our project biomimetic in more way than sense- the overall design approach as well as the physical element on the site.

HYLOZOIC SOIL Philip Beesley This parametrically modeled and digitally fabricated forest-like system responds to the movement of occupants via gentle ripple motions throughout the lightweight acrylic skin. A series of sensors embedded in the skin communicate with the arduino board, sending signals to a number of actuators which control the movement of different fan like ‘pores’ to gently brush against people in the space28. This immediate and tactile response creates an environment suggestive of dense foliage brushing against

your skin, where the habitat seems to have a mind of its own. The local and physical nature of the response it produces is perhaps less appropriate for our freeway site but is relevant nonetheless. This project makes use of the Arduino microcontroller board’s ability to read sensors and control devices, using a network of sensors and actuators connected to different arduino boards throughout the geotextile mesh29.

DATAGROVE Future Cities Lab This installation is interesting in the way that it renders invisible data into displays of light and sound, a direction which we would like to explore. It takes data from local trending twitter feeds and using arduino ‘text to speech’ modules reads them back to people in the vacinity. The brightness of these modules depends on the quantity of data coming in as well as the proximity of the user30. This is socially driven architecture that amplifies various

discourse within the local community in an unconventional and physical way. It demonstrates that we can draw from more than just the natural environment in interactive architecture, that we can draw on other realms such as the social and technological too. As opposed to regular news broadcasting, this installation focuses more locally and on any sort of topic since it is a reflection of the twitter sphere, a platform easily accessible by the general public.

THEATER OF LOST SPECIES Future Cities Lab Planned to be part for an exhibition on ocean sustainability this interactive art installation invites viewers to engage with digitally rendered animations of various extinct sea creatures which will respond to people moving around the structure. This is done through the use of arduino sensors which will also trigger pulsing light as another response similar to the Datagrove project. This project uses rhino 29

software with grasshopper and firefly plug-ins to model the geometry and deal with data flow parametrically30 and this is the workflow which we would like to explore. This is a refreshing way for users to engage with the educational content of the exhibition. The digital rendering of the data in the form of extinct sea creatures is a fun and flexible approach and is very relevant to our own project.

Figure 30: Exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 2007

Figure 31: Exhibited at the Zero1 Seeking Silicon Valley Beinnial (San Jose, California) 2012

Figure 32: To be exhibited at the Blue Trail (San Francisco, California) 2013


B2. CASE STUDY 1.0 B2.1 Experimenting with a given definition

SPANISH PAVILION Foreign Office Architects Aichi Expo, Japan, 2005

Figure 33: Hexagonally tiled facade


Starting with an algorithm which produced a 2D hexagonal pattern inspired by the Spanish Pavilion (A1), we explored different ways to change the pattern (one per row) as well as different methods of applying it to a surface (one per column), layed out in a matrix on page 33. Our initial reaction to the given model was to see how we could apply it to a surface. We achieved this through â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;mappingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; the pattern to the surface (column 2) but the pattern was still only made up of thin non-structural line elements, most notably the disconnected offset edges. We then lofted between the outer edges of the hexagons and the offset inner edges to produce flat members and we extruded these to make these members 3D like the original design. We did this with the culling pattern both on and off and found while the culling pattern allowed for a more varied design, it could often lead to structural impossibilities with unsupported elements such as E4. With this in mind, a non culled piping element was introduced to span these gaps as shown throughout column 6. Column 5 shows the unextruded lofted tiles which could be connected to the piped structure to create either areas with more shade or just a visual pattern.

After this process, the most successful iteration in my opinion is B6. The larger offset creates thicker extruded panels which contrasts the thinner piped hexagons moreso than the panels with a smaller offset. These less ordered culling patterns look more dynamic and portray a sense of growth and decay which is at the core of biological processes. The difference between the panelled and nonpanelled sections creates an opportunity for interesting lighting and shadowing effects, in the same way the original pavilion strategically used both opaque and hollowed out panels depending on the desired lighting and vista conditions of different areas. While the panels which grow in size shown in rows D and E have clear biomimic implications, the larger panels limit the ability of the structure to smoothly approximate curved geometries when compared to smaller panels which are more accurate in achieving this. An approach like this could be quite effective in producing a shell structure for the Wyndham Gateway. The culling pattern allows the opportunity to explore visual patterns to both decorate the structure and accurately control the treatment of light upon it.


B2.2 Matrix

A Supplied pattern

B Larger offset and different pattern for culling offsets

C Striped pattern for culling

D Skewed grid with larger hexagons and different pattern for culling

E Skewed grid with smaller hexagons and different pattern for culling



2D pattern


Pattern applied to surface


Lofted and extruded panels (without culling)


Lofted and extruded panels (with culling)


Hexagons piped and offsets lofted as panels


Hexagons piped and extruded panels


B3. CASE STUDY 2.0 B3.1 Reverse engineering

FIBROUS TOWER II Kokkugia Unbuilt, 2008 Where Kokkugia’s initial exploration of their fibrous tower idea focused on producing a conventially buildable concrete structure, this sequal is more conceptual, exploring a further differentiated skin.

surface. Lofting this pattern mapped to the surface would often create incomplete surfaces, or a series of small lofts that were unconnected, and this was our biggset problem with this grasshopper definition.

Inspired by this design, we modelled a simple tower form to investigate the application of complex and irregular patterning (A) and the condensing and expanding of these patterns (B). We created a 2D voronoi based off a grid of points which we culled with a range of boolean patterns, giving us decent control over the voronoi pattern. By drawing curves within the voronoi grids we formed a more cell-like pattern which we were then able to map to the

Although our completed iterations may not entirely resemble the Fibrous Tower 2, it was a valuable excercise in the application of different patterns to a simple form. A slight variation in the form was introduced in section B’s exploration where the shape was broken to produce a semi-cylindrical form. I think it would be beneficial in the future to explore more continous surfaces.

Figure 34: Kokkugia’s Fibrous Tower II


B3.2 Matrix





The physical form will be informed by the natural environment in an abstract way and should coincide with our chosen design narrative. The matrix found on page 39 represents a solution space produced with the goal of producing a cage-like structure. This structure should define and enclose space, but not necessarily in the most explicit way. Further developing the process from our reverse engineered case study 2.0, we found improvements and created a series of more flexible definitions to achieve a range of outcomes. They key difference was to use the surface morph command instead of the map to surface command, which allowed us to morph a continous, extruded 2D surface to a range of forms which either enclose space or simply cover it. The mostly square surfaces we morphed had the circular voronoi cells cut out of them and we had a lot of freedom to change this cellular pattern. Pattern B used a different voronoi pattern, with less cells which were without the curve among other changes. These alterations produced a more rigid looking pattern which was an undesirable change. In pattern C we changed to using a point grid with a culling pattern applied which gave us greater control over the voronoi we were producing. Clearer patterns were beginning to emerge and greater variation in cell sizes was introduced. Patterns D and E were exploring the effects of using much


larger and lesser voronoi cells which proved benefitial. This produced more abstract forms which had a looser representation of their base geometry. This allowed the opportunity to materialise a base geometry (7) which in fact twisted and intersected on itself, since the linear elements were able twist around without necessarily intersecting with eachother, something virtually impossible to achieve with a denser pattern. These complex and abstract forms show potential. Patterns F, G and H replaced the voronoi pattern with the phyllotaxis definition previously produced, which gave even greater flexibility creating patterns such as the evident spiral arrangement with greater variation in cell size. The down side to this approach was the pattern needed to have a lot of cells to produce these effects, and such dense patterns become less evident when applied to curved surfaces, especially one designed to be viewed at speed. In terms of base geometry, I believe the less regular forms such as 2 and 4 produced the most interesting results and the less varied topologies such as 3 and 6 are uninspiring. Shape 4 has a very relevant characteristic in the way that it looks as if it is growing out of the ground and this could be worth exploring further. Parametric modelling gives great flexbility in producing complex forms and it is this path we would like to pursue.

Figure 35: Explorations in various forms and their articulation


B4.2 Matrix


















B4.3 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino

Learning Arduino As previously stated our design approach has two simultaneous streams going, that of producing a physical form on the site and also of introducing an interactive element. Similar to our design precedents, we turned to arduino hardware to facilitate the interactive component of our design, using a similar workflow to the Theater of Lost Species project. Using a range of simple but functional sensors connected to the breadboard we can calculate different variables. This data is imported via USB from the arduino board into the computer, where the native arduino software is compatible with the Firefly plug-in for grasshoper. This provides us with fluctuating values which can feed into many pre-exisintg grasshopper components in our parametric model. We set this up and ran a few


simple sketches inbuilt into the arduino software to establish that our connection was working. The website Cosm (formerly Pachube) provides a number of data flows such as local temperature that can be fed straight into firefly, eliminating the need for arduino. This is good to keep in mind but using our own measurements gives us greater control over the specific data we want. The use of local and relevant data such as pollution levels, number of houses or traffic could also be used to produce an outcome with a social and political function, representing real issues in the area. Statistics like this arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t necessarily as variable as more basic environmental changes and this would lead to a less visually dynamic, yet useful outcome.










Figure 36: Framework of our Arduino workflow


B5. TECHNIQUE PROTOTYPES B5.1 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino

Gathering Data Now that we have established how the arduino hardware generally works in the context of a parametric model and a physical environment, we have begun exploring different sensors that we can use to develop our workflow and parametric model. We sourced light, sound and vibration sensors to begin measuring data and build a dynamic parametric model. The combination of these types of sensors demonstrate the way energy is all around us, by

Figure 37: Light sensor


tapping into the air which fills the environment we live in. We managed to read the data from each sensor seperately in the grasshopper workspace but are yet to succesfully read multiple sensors connected simultaneously to the breadboard. The number of analogue inputs on the arduino board we are using suggests we can theoretically connect up to six sensors. The various sensors require different configurations as shown below.

Figure 38: Sound level sensor

Figure 39: Touch/vibration sensor

B5.2 Interactive and responsive architecture with grasshopper

Using the data parametrically We found great flexibility in the way we can use the gathered data as part of a parametric model. We experimented with how we can use it define dynamic geometry, such as a series of spheres populating a 3D geometry.

mathematical operations were used to scale the data to a more appropriate range. Data values of 0 could also be undesirable for certain inputs such as number of points populating a grid, but setting a minimum value overcame this.

The nature of the different data gathered produced varying ranges, with numbers often too high to directly relate to a specific variable, for example light to sphere radius, where high values sometimes reaching 300 would lead to the surfaces of the spheres intersecting. Simple

Ideally we would have different data streams serving different functions within the model, to create a more irregular outcome, where seperate parameters would change independently.


Define USB port and Arduino sketch to read Read data

Set update rate in ms




Knock (wind)





Figure 40: Grasshopper definition which automatically updates based on incoming data to create dynamic geometry



Introducing B.E.R.T Our project is driven by a narrative that we have been developing alongside our arduino explorations. This overarching idea combines the physical and digital aspects of our design, driving both the expression of the sculpture and the workflow of the arduino process. Biological Environmentally Responsive Transients (B.E.R.T for short), are fictional and invisible organisms which exist all around us. The site in Wyndham has become an outdoor testing facility, since it has been discovered that these bugs can now be visualised within a field defined by a cage-like structure using experimental new technology. This defined space represents a border crossing, but not for humans moving betweem countries, it is instead for these organisms changing from a state of being completely invisible to a state of being digitally visible. These organisms experience fluctuations in appearance and group behaviour depending on the same energy that we can measure- light, sound and wind. Changes in light level results in a change of size, whereas changes in sound will effect the colour. The number of organisms increases and decreases with the change in wind speed, as the energy from wind causes them to multiply. These are easily controlled inputs found in the parametric model


diagramatically shown in figure 36. This story can be told and visualised in different ways, such as an easily accessible website that broadcasts a view of the site overlaying the moving organisms onto the landscape. The cage serves as a sort of prop to this broadcast and also as a point of interaction for local users of the site. Highway travellers will only be able to see an intriguing empty cage structure, with simple signage encouraging them to visit the website whenever they can. This website approach has the power of expanding the audience base to an international scale, since anybody can use the internet to view the broadcast. Once a broadcast has been set up, the context in which it can be viewed is quite varied since the internet is accesible from both phones and computers these days. Furthermore it could even be broadcasted as part of an exhibiton in Wyndham, inviting drivers to visit the town centre to engage with the project more directly. This fictional story serves as an abstract and playful way to demonstrate the way even basic technology can harness invisible data from all around us, and use it to inform our designs, adding to the discourse surrounding both environmentally driven and computational architecture.

Figure 41: Work in progress cage design.


B6.2 Website prototype

Figure 42: Day time view of first camera

B6.2 Website prototype

For presentation purposes we produced a mockup to demonstrate our concept. Using flash to mimic the behaviour of the bugs, a range of different views can be modelled and easily navigated on the website. The site uses a simple layout focusing on the animation of the

Figure 43: Flash workspace animating second camera view


B.E.R.Ts onto the cage. It is also connected to a whole range of social network services to allow for easy sharing, exposing the project to some of the most powerful yet informal arenas for discourse such as facebook and twitter.

The working protoype can be found at:

Figure 44: Night time view of first camera



B7.1 Voronoi explorations My most useful weekly grasshopper task since we started part B of the journal was the exploration of voronoi patterns in both 2D and 3D. This 2D pattern generating definition was used in our part B4 technique development matrix because of the great control it gives over producing complex yet ordered patterns. A limitation in this definition is that the boundary of the main pattern is basically

Figure 45: 2D Voronoi Patterns


circular, which is less than ideal when morphing to different surfaces, but this was improved by shrinking the bounding box to lessen the spread around the edges. The definition relies on offset polygons of whatever degree to define a series of points which could then be culled with great control using different boolean patterns.

B7.2 Explorations in form While developing our own design I produced a few forms which I found quite interesting. The first one reminds me of the mobius strip for the way it twists around on itself, in this case weaving between itself to approximate a geometry that originally twisted and intersected with itself.

The other two are different patterning of another base geometry which a group partner developed, which lightly touches on the ground while gently growing up and outwards quite elegantly.

Figure 46: Interesting outcomes from design exploration

B7.3 Reverse engineering tutorial My favourite video tutorial was learning about fields and pointcharges to reproduce the Mesonic Fabrics project by Biothing. It is a rewarding definition which is best explored in the rhino workspace by manually moving certain elements around as opposed to relying on different sliders to simply change values within a definition.

Figure 47: Biothing reverse engineering tutorial


B8. Learning Objectives and Outcomes B8.1 Mid semester presentation feedback

It was interesting to have a few fresh set of ears critique our work and was a great opportunity for us to see how we go explaining the idea. After a few initial misunderstandings and questions were cleared up the feedback seemed quite positive and was at the same time very constructive. Firstly I liked the suggestion of making the cage more minimal and abstract as a means of provoking more thought. It was suggested that we look more into a fields based approach in order to create a complex tree-like structure that grows out of the landscape. In terms of our narrative this structure acts more as a field than a cage. One member of the panel explained that he would have liked to have heard more of the story about the B.E.R.T to paint a clearer picture of their meaning and behaviour. This is definitely something to work on for the final presentation because it is a very unique element of our project that many people may not expect based on the


given brief. The other great advice we were given was to rethink our chosen measurements, to map more useful and local data such as pollution level, number of houses in Wyndham and traffic because it will add another layer of meaning and relevance to our project, giving it a stronger sense of purpose in the context of Wyndham City. I still find parametric modelling can be quite tricky to achieve your desired results, but it is very rewarding when you can manage this. After creating a number of matrixes I believe I have experienced the highly iterative nature of parametric modelling and find it to be a productive and practical way to work. Following the path of using the arduino and sensors has opened my eyes to a stream of architecture I was not previously very familiar with and I am excited to see how far we can take this technology for this project.

FIGURE SOURCES Figure 28: <> Figure 30: <> Figure 31: <> Figure 32: <> Figure 33: <> Figure 34: <>

ENDNOTE REFERENCES 25. Neri Oxman, ‘On Designing Form’, PopTech, 2009 <> [accessed 22 March 2013] 26. CIVIL ENGINEERING MAGAZINE JUNE 2011. ~ page 60/61 27. <> [accessed 7 April 2013] 28. <> [accessed 28 May 2013] 29. Robert Gorbet and Philip Beesley, Arduino at Work: the hylozoic soil control system. 30. < > [accessed 28 May 2013]




C1. STRUCTURE C1.0 Taking a fields approach In response to our mid semester feedback we redirected our cage explorations to a very different approach, which we believe responds better to our project’s narrative and has greater scope to create an abstract and evocative structure. Using a fields based approach the structure will serve as the materialisation of the paths on which the B.E.R.Ts travel, as opposed to being a cage enclosing a space in which the B.E.R.Ts are visualised. The concept of fields as a tectonic approach in architecture is best explained by established New York architect Stan Allen.

While he explores this concept at different scales, right up to that of urban planning, it is his section on ‘field conditions’ which is particularly relevant. He highlights the key characteristics of field conditions which he explains as ’defined not by overarching geometrical schemas but by intricate local connections’. The overall forms are often ‘highly fluid’ and work as a composition through ‘unifying diverse elements’ at ‘intricate local connections’31. This logic can be applied to a form finding exploration both as a starting point and later as a means of evaluating the varied outcomes for the different details they produce.


C1.1 Precedent


Figure 48: The effects of the invisible fields is manifested in the behaviour of the different members


While the original project used a series of complex and original algorithms, similar geometry can be achieved parametrically in grasshopper and rhino, as shown in figure 47. Biothing describe the behaviour of the geometry as drifting between ‘rigid geometrical states and more organic states’32 and this is the sort of behaviour which is interesting for the structural element of our project. The emergence of the thin elements from the ground to their divergence and convergence at different points creates a differentiated geometry with fluid details and a clear overarching form. Without the introduction of fields the repetitive, strand like elements of the composition would be monotonous, with evenly spaced members rationally defining the overall form in a more routine manner. The convergence of members is important to give structural integrity to the overall form and the divergence gives variation to the spacial characteristics of different areas, creating areas of detailed shadows and direct light. The emergent quality is useful to achieve a sense of fluidity in the form, where members rise subtly from the surrounding landscape and smoothly flow in different

directions. Proximity to the central points of attraction causes the most chaotic behaviour, with members sharply bending to return to a state of balance and order. The sense of a journey and linearity (albeit curved) that each member depicts gives a perception of motion to the static object, since you can see the distinct paths that the field lines took satisfy all surrounding influences, and this physical manifestation of what are otherwise invisible forces acting on the fields is the characteristic which we most want to portray in our own model. Through focusing on behaviour such as emergence, divergence and convergence, showing both order and chaos, we aimed to achieve a similarly evocative form as Biothing has done so here. It is through understanding the behaviour of the linear members reacting to the conditions of different forces which create a field that will give us the greatest control over the form that emerges. Harking back to Allen’s explanation; it is the relationships and local connections between these members that will really define the qualities of our ‘cage’ structure.


C1.2 Design exploration


Figure 49: Detail of our own design outcome showing both emergence and divergence of strand elements

Our groups main outcomes throughout our exploration of fields as a form finding process is shown in a matrix on the following two pages. Each parametrically modelled outcome shows the field lines that simultaneously define the overarching form and the paths which the B.E.R.Ts will be virtually projected onto. Divided in to four main streams, the explorations investigate the characteristics found within Allenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s article and embodied in the Biothing project, and these concepts served as criteria against which to evaluate the outcomes. Stream A focuses on the representation of chaos and focus through the widespread emergence of different strands and their clear convergence on different points. This repeatedly led to spiral forms perhaps indicative of tornadoes or other phenomena but nevertheless without the degree of variation and complexity we were seeking. The abrupt convergence on a single point also contradicted the sense of fluidity we were aiming for. Returning back to our initial cage concept of defining a space, stream B was an exploration in using fields to approximately define an enclosing geometry. Introducing further degrees of emergence failed to prevent the regularity of the geometry which was taking on a nest-like form. In stream C you can see a clear change we made towards extended forms which relate much better to the long site

in Wyndham where viewers will drive past at high speeds. The length allowed for more subtle emergence of strands from the surrounding ground while still being able to achieve a defined volume of space through augmenting the middle section of the paths. Through mirroring the different geometry around a range of planes the forms became symmetrical and took on different characteristics. The members would overlap to create hatched patterns but much of the linework was becoming very dense and hence counteracted one of our initial criteria for the cage- that it would be an abstract representation of its overarching form with plenty of negative space as opposed to a more solid and continuous surface. Being able to see through and inside the structure will mean that more B.E.R.Ts will be visible, which is important for our project. Stream D retains many of the characteristics mentioned in C but most notably gets rid of the symmetrical element. We believed this was adding an unwanted sense of regularity as opposed to the complexity and differentiation we wanted to achieve. In order to command a greater degree of divergence within the field lines we placed forces over and around the intersections of the gently curved base geometry, to diverge paths directly around the points they were trying to traverse. We found this worked best in the outcome highlighted and it is one of the reasons why it was design we pursued and further refined. Overall, it was this outcome that best fit our criteria.


C1.3 Matrix







C1.4 Process

Pages 64 to 67 show a simplified overview of the steps we undertook to produce our final cage design. 1. Define base geometry: The base geometry is divided to define the starting points of the field lines, which came out 2D due to the flat curves we used. In response to the site we found that the long curves work best, and that the gentle curve creates a more gradual emergence of strands. Curves were placed near each other and with slight overlapping sections to create fields lines that were originally nearly identical but could be made quite different if certain forces were placed close to these intersections. 2. Generate field lines. The field lines are brought into the third dimension by


placing an attracting point above. A repelling point works to soften the potentially sharp point were fields meet, as well as inflate a large portion of the shape. The field lines are still fairly regular at this point. 3. Introduce forces. Various forces were used to augment and distort the field lines, manipulating the overall form as well as specific details and junctions. Each force has a great deal of flexibility which can be explored parametrically. We could drag the location of the force around in rhino space as well as change a range of characteristics within grasshopper. Ten spin forces were used in total, using different planes, strengths and directions. Each force was introduced to further the emergence, divergence and convergence of the lines.









4. Materialise and smooth This stage is where we took our field lines and converted them into 3D structural members. We piped each curve with a set radius but wanted more differentiation across the surface. We smoothed the pipes which blends intersecting and adjacent members. To do this we had to first export the rhino file into 3D coat to fill the piped elements. This process was vital to achieve the divergence and convergence that we did, with the most densely piped section in the middle consolidating into a continuous surface for maximum effect.


C1.5 Final design

Figure 51

Figure 52



To achieve fluid integration within the surrounding landscape and to give a sense of growth.

For maximum differentiation and representing choas and order.


Figure 53

CONVERGENCE For further differentiation and structural integrity.


C1.6 Final model


We faced a few issues with 3D printing our model spawning mostly from the brittle nature of our structural members. The first important factor was that we would need to print our cage onto a modelled section of the site to give the form rigidity. We included the triple lane (plus two emergency lanes) freeway to give a sense of scale. We wanted to have as much detail as we could in the structure but knew we could only have a minimum diameter of two millimeter before the members would snap. We minimised the number of field lines but had to find the right balance between having enough that it would be structurally stable but not too many that it becomes a mostly solid surface. The nature of our model meant we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t split it and print it in multiple parts and join them back together

because the members would be too weak to hold their form without breaking. This meant our overall model size was limited to the printer bed dimensions which are 200mm by 200mm, so we printed our model at a scale of 1:200. In reality the structure would be more detailed as shown in previous renders (page 69-72) and would be constructed out of fibreglass. The structure is thirty five metres long and is situated to be best viewed by traffic heading towards the city and Wyndham as per the first sentence of the project brief which specifies the audience as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;city bound trafficâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.

To Melbourne & Wyndham

To Geelong Figure 58: Site plan showing location of cage


C2. arduino C2.1 Interactive and responsive architecture with Arduino

Three sensors The focus of our refinement of our working arduino model was to get the three sensors reading simultaneously. Previously we could read the light, knock and sound sensors seperately, but connecting them to the breadboard and having firefly read the separate data simultaneously proved to be a challenge. Through experimenting with the arrangement on the breadboard and the coding of the arduino sketch which we were uploading to the arduino board, we were able to get the three sensors working together. Now that we had worked this out we could theoretically scatter a series of sensors throughout the cage on the site to read our chosen environmental data.

Figure 59: Three sensors functioning simultaneously


C2.2 Interactive and responsive architecture with grasshopper

Updating the model Now that we could read the data separately using the arduino sketch, we needed to read this data separately in grasshopper it could be used independently. Using the tools in grasshopper we could easily separate the data and we once again had to rescale the ranges of numbers we were receiving to be more appropriate for their relevant function. The other main change to our working B.E.R.T model was the integration of our new cage design. The concept behind the cage has changed and the B.E.R.T model had to respond to this. The cage was now the materialisation RETRIEVE DATA

Define USB port and Arduino sketch to read Read data

Set update rate in ms

of paths moving through the field conditions, similar to the way that the structure of the cantilievered sections of the Prague Library by OCEAN NORTH and Scheffler and Partner is a materialisation of the paths of principal forces. The B.E.R.Ts were now populating and moving along the members of the structure as opposed to existing within a defined volume as per our initial idea. Through evaluating the curve at an everchanging factor the points defining the location of the B.E.R.Ts would always be moving. We decided the B.E.R.Ts are small pulses of light, as represented here by spheres. DEFINE GEOMETRY



Knock (wind)




Points along curve

Figure 60: Updated grasshopper definition


C2.3 Proof of concept

Taking it to the streets We took our fully functional interactive B.E.R.T model out into the public to get footage proving that it works over a range of tests and to gauge the reactions of different people. Many people were happy to stop and have a go at our little experiment- tapping, talking and flashing lights at the arduino. People were impressed by the real time response being shown on my screen and showed interest in our project, with one group even asking where they will be able to see our final work. The video was used in our presentation as a proof of concept of our B.E.R.T model which was succesfully responding to sound, light and vibration.


Figure 61: Freeze frames from our demonstration video


C3. website C3.1 Animation

Changing software The flash software which we used previously produced a very basic 2D animation and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t show the behaviour of the B.E.R.Ts as best as we could. Moving to the 3D rendering software MODO we were able to get a much more detailed render of the cage and the B.E.R.Ts as small pulses of lights. Using MODO we found it would work best to show the changes from the three sensors separately. The updated website is available at:


Figure 62: Render of sound changing the colour of the B.E.R.Ts.

Figure 63: Render of light changing the B.E.R.Ts intensity

Figure 64: Render of wind changing the number of B.E.R.Ts


C3.2 Data

New data being shown We decided to add three more pages on the site beyond the environmental factors we measured on site. We chose to also show CO足2 levels, as well as rainfall and traffic density at the site. CO足2 and rainfall data would be read from an external source such as the Bureau of Meteorology, whereas traffic conditions would rely on another sensor on the site. These animations will be relative, comparing the measurement from Wyndham with that of Melbourne city as a way of showing some of the difference in qualities between the two areas. We believe this adds another layer to our project, bringing in data that shows interesting data which will change over long periods of time, inviting users to check the website regularly. It is an abstract and whimsical way for users to monitor useful statistics between the two cities, and a uniquely Wyndham experience. By making a whole other audience base in Melbourne applicable these additions aim to further spread the discourse and relevance of the project.


Figure 65: Website page showing relative CO2 levels


Figure 66: Still frame from the render showing difference in rainfall between Wyndham (green) and Melbourne (cyan).




Summary Our project stands as a social commentary on the possibilities of interactive architecture as inspired by nature, with a sculptural element placing it at the forefront of computational design discourse. The insertion is appropriately scaled to make a large impact for moving traffic and the experimental nature of the structure and interactive element encourages further reflection beyond first view. It responds to the site by drawing on invisible influences (ie. sound, wind, light) and visually representing these changes on the website. The cage design shares this ideology by also being a visual manifestation of invisible (albeit fictional this time) forces, distorting and augmenting the paths into a highly differentiated structure which is also complimentary to the overarching narrative.


Driven by the narrative of the fictional B.E.R.T organisms this is a unique response to the design brief tapping into a range of discourse from the architectural to the environmental and social. Three key aspects of our response to the brief that make it particularly effective are: 1. This range of discourse which it could be a part of, 2. The addition of a potentially global, virtual audience as an extension of the local audience, 3. The dynamic nature of the outcome, to be always different for users through the everchanging data on the website.

Figure 67: Freeway site in Wyndham City


C5. ALgorithmic sketches I learnt a lot about different computer programs through refining the cage design, most notably gaining an understanding on how fields work within grasshopper as explained in section C1.4. The following examples show other things I learnt throughout this period of our work.

B5.1 Making the model In order to make a model that could be 3D printed I had to undertake a few key steps, many of which I did in grasshopper. I modelled a large section of the site which I cropped in grasshoper as per the dimensions of the printer bed. I then extruded the base and carved out the bottomside to produce a strong yet lightweight base.

Figure 68: Render of our 3D model


I then set up some parametric relations to move, flip, rotate and scale the cage design and site until they were sitting together as I wanted them to. Doing these transformations in grasshopper gave me great flexibility to continually make small changes until the model was what I needed for the 3D printer.

B5.2 Meshes and smoothing In order to make the 3D model I had to turn the geometry into a mesh, to convert it from a series of interesecting surfaces to a single solid sculpture. I took the mesh from rhino into 3Dcoat where i could â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;voxeliseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; it, basically filling the mesh with 3D pixels so that it becomes solid. This naturally smooths the geometry a little bit. With the solid geometry back into rhino I could now apply the

smooth command to shave down the exterior faces of the members, thinning them and blending them to achieve the differentiation seen in the model. It would create artifacts where the strands merged or separated where it looks like paint sticking between the faces and this was hard to avoid but gives the structure a little more character overall.

Figure 70: Detail showing effect of smoothing and the artifacts


C6. Learning objectives and outcomes C6.1 Final presentation feedback

Our presentation received mostly positive feedback and some valid criticisms were also raised. Overall we were congratulated for our experimental approach since it was understood that we explored a number of new concepts and technologies to achieve our outcome, some of which as an extension to the course guide. There were however a few issues which werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t entirely resolved: 1. How realistic it would be to build this structure. In rebuttal this wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a prioritised criteria for our project since we introduced the whole interactive element and we were trying to push the geometry to be very abstract and complex. 2. There is an obvious disconnect in the data being fed into the B.E.R.T grasshopper model and the final 3D


renders on the website. The next step for this project would be to try and achieve closer to real time rendering of the B.E.R.T grasshopper definition onto the website. 3. Even in the current state of the rendering it became very complicated trying to render the three original behaviours into a single view, so instead light, sound and wind were shown seperately. Some other positive comments were: 1.that the added factors were very useful and gave our project an extra level of credibility. 2. The criteria set out in the brief regarding discourse and audience was well addressed.

C6.2 Learning objectives

Objective 1. “interrogat[ing] a brief” by considering the process of brief formation in the age of optioneering enabled by digital technologies

Objective 1. We analysed the brief extensively and formulated our response as shown in our design approach diagram on page 25.

Objective 2. developing “an ability to generate a variety of design possibilities for a given situation” by introducing visual programming, algorithmic design and parametric modelling with their intrinsic capacities for extensive design-space exploration;

Objective 2. I made a series of design matrices to explain and evaluate design outcomes, such as those shown in sections B2.2, B4.2 and C1.3, as well as a small one in figure 29. The outcomes were often organised very rationally to summarise the process and reasons throughout each step of my explorations.

Objective 3. developing “skills in various threedimensional media” and specifically in computational geometry, parametric modelling, analytic diagramming and digital fabrication; Objective 4. developing “an understanding of relationships between architecture and air” through interrogation of design proposal as physical models in atmosphere; Objective 5. developing “the ability to make a case for proposals” by developing critical thinking and encouraging construction of rigorous and persuasive arguments informed by the contemporary architectural discourse. In addition, Studio AIR will enable students to: Objective 6. develop capabilities for conceptual, technical and design analyses of contemporary architectural projects; Objective 7. develop foundational understandings of computational geometry, data structures and types of programming; Objective 8. begin developing a personalised repertoire of computational techniques substantiated by the understanding of their advantages, disadvantages and areas of application. Figure 71: Learning objectives laid out in subject reader

Objective 3. Starting the subject with my experience of 3D modelling software being only rhino, I can now say I successfully used grasshopper to explore a range of design outcomes. I also learnt about 3D coat as explained in section B5.2 which was vital for the 3D printing, another first time experience. Objective 4. Our interactive approach focused on the innate qualities of the air around us and the plethora of energy and data we can read from it. Objective 5. Focusing more on precedents in this subject than I have in the past has been very rewarding and I have been exposed to different arenas for discourse which I wasn’t aware of, such as the Architectural Design publication, the avery catalogue and helpful online communities such as the grasshopper3d forum. Objective 6. I believe I successfully analysed many of my precedents in terms of their conceptual, technical and design aspects, as well as their relevance in the current discourse. Objective 7. Something which I didn’t expect coming into this subject was that I would learn the fundamentals of the arduino software/hardware and it’s relevant coding in order to have firefly read the sensors correctly. Objective 8. I would like to think our final approach to the cage design was fairly unique among the subject, relying on fields as opposed to panelling, voronoi patterns or other techniques.


FIGURE SOURCES Figure 48: <> Figure 67: <> Architecture Design Studio: Air (ABPL30048_2013_SM1) Subject Page, Gateway Design Project

ENDNOTE REFERENCES 31. Stan Allen, ‘From Object to Field’, Architectural Design: Architecture After Geometry, issue 5, volume 67, 1997, pp. 24 32. <> [accessed 6 June 2013]


2013 S1 Ben Shackleton  

Design journal for Studio AIR 2013, semester 1, at the University of Melbourne.