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Xiaohan Feng Third year undergraduate student in Melbourne University Majoring in architecture Overseas student from China Having fun with all design stuff in and after class


Bold with ideas Respectful to craftsmanship Considering human-nature relationship and psychological experience Facing real social problems and trying to help real people Endeavouring for a better and more sustainable living environment


Handcrafting and hand drawing Wright, Zumthor, Kahn, Ban, Barragรกn and Ando


I am not a fan, yet. But I do enjoy watching a bunch of digits becoming a fanciful reality. And I do believe digital tools are the key to design futuring. I started to learn AutoCAD and Rhino last year for both Earth and Water Studio, finding them absolutely useful. Never touched Grasshopper before, but so far it seems great fun. To be continued...


Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng

Source: Xiaohan Feng




















































When we talk about ‘design futuring’ today, we are not just talking about five-star green buildings or trendy geometric skyscrapers; rather we keep reminding ourselves on how bold imagination and advanced techniques can help us reshape the world, socially, environmentally, culturally and politically. ------Me


PRECEDENT 1 ‘HYDROGENASE’ Architects: Vincent Callebaut Architectures Location: Shanghai, South China Sea Architect: Vincent Callebaut Project Year: since 2010 With the assistance of top design techniques, a rather evolutionary idea has ben brought up: to make green architectures that levitate in air! Using the technology called Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA)1, the Vincent Callebaut team proposed this futurist concept on creating self-sufficient buildings with little land consumption. These so-called ‘Hydrogenase’ buildings are divided into two parts: the exteriors are covered by farmland that breeds seaweed for hydrogen generation; the interiors are designed to be multipurpose spaces including housing, offices, laboratories, and bioremediating green farms that provide food while recycling waste2 . The buildings are also capable of hovering mobility, which means they can transport like aircraft without interventing the on-ground transportation. Architectures are conventionally thought to be steady, permanent and energy-consumptive, however this ‘Hydrogenase’ idea opened up the possibility of creating a new type of architecture that is dynamic, mobile and self-sustainable. It may be the chance for human to find a way out from overpopulation, overdense cities, environment pollution and natural resource deficit. Although the concept seems a bit futuristic and far-off from now, the set of technologies it comprises are indeed being developed today, and so is its potentials.

1 Kunkel, P. (2015) 10 2 Chino, M. (2010; Cliento, K. (2010)

Source: Kunkel

Source: Kunkel


12 Source: Rossenfield

PRECEDENT 2 SHIPPING CONTAINER SKYSCRAPER FOR MUMBAI SLUM Architects: GA Design Consultants Location: Dharavi, Mumbai, India Architects in charge: Shekar Ganti, Gauri Shitole Project Year: 2015

This is an innovative proposal rethinking about how ‘sustainability’ could mean for areas that are economically-disadvantaged, and how design can help with real social issues. As the second largest slum in Asia, Dharavi has a extremely dense population and dwelling layout. Meanwhile it is a local centre of jobs, material recycling and small-scale business, where people live and work together as a big community. Based on local contexts, this high-rise but low-cost building made of recycled shipping containers was proposed. Recycled containers can be easily accessed from Mumbai ports, while the natural property of containers’ steel skin can make it hold up 10 levels without extra support, which greatly cut down constructing costs1 (Rosenfield, 2015). This plug-in idea not new, as it has been realized in the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo (as below). However the container skyscraper shows more intend in making social changes. This is the kind of project that aims for a better human future. It cares about humanity and social equity; it strives to make a decent life affordable for unfortunate people; it makes the proposal upon a thorough understanding of local context; and finally, it uses clever design and advanced techniques to create this environmentally and socially sustainable community.

1 Rossenfield, K. (2015)

13 Source: Rossenfield



Let us not judge a building on its uniqueness, or departure from the past, though these may be good qualities. Let us evaluate a building on its efficacy of form and material usage in reference to context and human occupation; a more purposeful architecture. ------Michael Wacht


PRECEDENT 1 CANTON TOWER Architects: Information Based Architecture Location: Guangzhou, China Engineer: Arup Height: 600m Project Year: 2010

This is a project from my hometown Guangzhou. Thanks to advanced parametric tools, it has become the tallest and ‘sexiest’ TV tower in the world Unlike the most skyscrapers today that bear ‘male’ features like rectangularity, rigidness and strength, the shape of Canton tower is imitating a female figure, being ‘complex, transparent, curvy, gracious and sexy’1 . To achieve this goal, the structure is generated by two eclipses on both ends of the tower, which are rotated against each other to create a twisted, organic yet well-organized form. The most exciting part of this project is that, such an amazingly curvy form can be generated using a few simple straight lines with the assistance of computational design. Plus, computational techniques helped analyzing the most stable form the tower can achieve within the given brief, basing on the immense database of geotechnical and climate contexts. It also helped dividing the tower’s exterior surface into 3300 pieces which are totally unique, so that each piece can to be fabricated at the exact shape and installed at the exact point to make the integrity work2.

1 Hemel, M (quated in Archdaily, 2010) 16 2 Designboom (2011); Archdaily (2010)

Source: Archdaily

17 Source: Archdaily

18 Source: Schumacher

PRECEDENT 2 DUBAI SIGNATURE TOWERS Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects Location: Business Bay, Dubai Architect: Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, et al. Project Year: 2016 (concept) Site area: 650,000sqm

From a practical point of view, it is reasonable to grow skyscrapers in one straight direction only. However this shocking project shows that with appropriate computational tools and bold minds, we can break the traditional strict linearity of skyscrapers and create crazy forms for them. As the experts in parametric design field, the Zaha Hadid team created this unique, twisted, intertwined form, which consists of three ‘dancing’ towers combined in one overall gesture and ‘weaving’ with a series of public spaces through podiums, bridges and landscapes1. The three towers look rather imbalanced and anti-gravity as they are all bent in the middle. However based on precise calculation and computation, they are theoretically practical and buildable. Though this crazy building is never actually built, probably due to concerns about construction safety, it still shows broad potentials on how high-rise building could be designed and probably realized by design computation.

1 Schumacher, P. (2006); Amazing Picturees, 2011

Source: Schumacher




With its increasing simulation capabilities, the computer lets architects predict, model and simulate the encounter between architecture and the public using more accurate and sophisticated methods. In this way, computation makes possible not only the simulation and communication of the constructional aspects of a building, but also the experience and the creation of meaning ------Brady Peters


PRECEDENT 1 Bone structure Optimization Designer: Andre Harris

This is an experimental project that explores the integration of algorithmic design and biomimetic techniques. In the field of biomimeticity, bone tissue has been considered as a strong material system with extremely high strength to weight ratio. Andre Harris in his article ‘Biomimetic 1.0’ showed his studies on the skull tissues of songbirds, and how he used this as an inspiration for structural design1. The aim of this project is ‘to generate a responsive structure, that could perform under different loads and external pressures, optimizing the material resources (using as little materials as possible)’ (Harris). By using algorithmic tools, Harris was able to calculate and emulate the morphogenesis of birds’ skull tissue, so as to create this light-weight and highly-differentiative form with single material. This structural property can be applied in industrial or architectural design2. During this research and design process, generative tools are used not only for calculating and imitating the shape, but to analyze and explore the responsive performance of the system, and to generate an organic artificial structure of similar properties with algorithmic computing.

1 EHSAAN(2010) 22 2 Harris, A (2016)

Source: Harris

23 Source: Harris

24 Source: Hermann

PRECEDENT 2 BOROTIC INTERIORS Designer: Studio li Rahim and Patrick Schuhmacher Project team: Christoph Herman, et al. Project year: 2008/09

This is an explorative project showing how parametric and emergent design methods can generate forms and optimize performance. Within means of algorithmic design, the team developed a dynamic forming system composed of a series of coherent and interrelated fluid lines. As these components follow simple algorithmic rules, they generate different forms when parameters vary, which enables the team to freely explore the forms to achieve the best result both visually and functionally. For instance, in this case, by controlling the line output from tangent to normal, the form smoothly shifts from texture to structure. Thus in the context of interior space, a natural shift between wall texture, ceiling wave, fluid staircase and furniture can be achieved, and all these dynamic changes are integrated in a single algorithmic process 1.

1 Hermann, C. (2016)

25 Source: Hermann




To sum up, In part A we research and explore the development of computational design and how it can assist us to achieve a more generative, responsive and dynamic design process, which is in line with sustainability and futuring. From my perspective, the contemporary design flow works in the following way:

Parametric & Algorithmic tools

Exploration Inspiration


Generation Evaluation


Design futuring

28 Source: Archinect

As shown in some of my precedents, involving and learning from natural organicity has been my main interest. Nature is a highly responsive and dynamic system capable of self-development and self-optimization, which is in line with the inner logic of computational design.

Thus my intended design approach would be a biomimetic one, in which analysis of natural morphogenesis and bio-emulation would be involved. I believe that morphogenesis in natural world can be a good inspiration in terms of organic form generation, sustainability evaluation, and dynamic system design.

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32 Source: Archdaily

Throughout part A, I have a better understanding on the real value of computational design in terms of helping designers think rather than just compose and visualize. The traditional way of compositional architecture is being evolved into an age of algorithmic generation, which offers a more dynamic design system for us to generate and explore freely. My previous studio projects were all compositional designs, which means simply constructing an existing idea in mind instead of experiencing broader potentials. It would have been much easier to generate and explore forms using algorithmic and parametric tools, and to make dynamic responses to constant changes.





Start playing around with extruding and attracted points

Making tubes grow along different directions using vectors from single point

Using curve to re-orientate squares


Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng

Re-orientating triangular planes at a rising direction

Randomly placed balls

Moving and rotating cubes Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng


REFERENCE Amazing Pictures (2011) ‘Dubai Signature Towers - Dancing Towers’ html Archdaily (2016) ‘Canton Tower: Information-Based Architecture’ Chino, M. (2010) ‘High-Flying Algae Airships are Self-Sufficient Cities’ Cliento, K. (2010) ‘Hydrogenase’ Designboom (2016) ‘Information-Based Architecture Canton Tower’ EHSAAN (2010) ‘Andres Harris Bone-Inspired Structure’ Harris, A (2016) Hermann, C (2016) ‘Barotic Interiors’ Kunkel, P (2015) ‘Could Hovering Buildings be the Future of Sustainability?’ Rosenfield, K (2015) ‘GA Designs Radical Shipping Container Skyscraper for Mumbai Slum’ Schumacher, P (2006) ‘The Skyscraper Revitalized: Differentiation, Interface, Navigation’








What if, every time I started to invent something, I asked, ‘How would nature solve this?’ ------Janine Benyus


‘When we look at what is truly sustainable, the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world’ -Janine Benyus


Biomimicry can be defined as ‘an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.’1 After 3.8 billion years of revolution, self-adaptation and self-development, nature has selected the most adaptive and sustainable organisms to survive on this planet. These organisms have been solving all kinds of problems that we are facing today in human world: how to generate power without fossil fuel consumption; how to increase a structure’s strength with minimal materials; how to maintain a relatively constant temperature without extra heating and cooling; how to increase efficiency of material transportation, etc. These secrets to sustainable survival are the key things that biomimicry is searching for and trying to adapt to real-world practice. 1.

Therefore, unlike the natural motif ornaments used since ancient times, biomimicry is never a simple imitation of natural forms and appearance. Instead it focuses on functions; it strives to adapt the ‘blueprint’ or ‘recipe’ from living organisms by involving biological knowledge into design process2: to generate energy like plants we designed solar power technology ; to create strong lightweight structures we look to skulls and egg shells; to minimize air-conditioning we designed facades like termite mounts that optimize thermal performance; to speed up liquid piping system we emulate the form of tree branches...

2. Benyus, J (2009)




When it comes to computational design field, biomimetic design can be fully assisted throughout the whole process: identifying current problems by data collection and analysis; discovering a similar organism model, finding and abstracting related parameters that already exist in the organisms; using algorithmic program to emulate, evaluate and redevelop the natural strategy model; constantly evaluating the applied model performance, etc. Mick Pearce is one of the experts on biomimetric architectures. He was the lead designer of the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe (left) and later the council House 2 in Melbourne (below), both of which were based on the idea of emulating Zimbabwean macro-termite mounds.1 Rsearch on termites shows that a termite mound can function like a lung, harnessing wind ventilation and the high thermal performance of ground to promote the mixture of air in the above-ground mound and air in the underground nest, ultimately facilitating gas exchange and maintaining a steady temperature within the nest.2 Using this knowledge, Pearce’s team abstracted the envelop pattern and structure of the termite mounds, and designed similarar building structures that maximize the use of solar, wind and ground thermal power, to sustain a comfortable interior environment with a small amount of or no air-conditioning. In the Council House 2 particularly, the facades are even openable in response to the external conditions, highlighting the flexibility and adaptiveness of natural organisms.3

1. ArchitectureAU (2007) 2. The Biomimicry Istitute (b) (2016) 3. The Biomimicry Istitute (b) (2016)


PART B.2. CASE STUDY 1.0 - Seroussi Pavilion



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Seroussi Pavilion Design firm: Biothing Location: Paris, France Year: 2007 This pavilion was a computationally-generated result based on the self modifying process of electromagnetic field (EMF) vectors1, which gives the structure an organic form seemingly ‘grown’ out of natural trajectories and patterns similar to corals or plants. The computation definition of this structure is fairly simple with field charges and graph mapper components,. However it is highly adaptive and responsive to site context as the structure is entirely defined by dynamic algorithms (the project is implanted into a steep hill). Moreover, a simple definition enables more potentials in dramatic differentiation when changing parameters and introducing other components.

1, 2010

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- Altering ‘Graph Mapper’ type



Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng

- Changing input parameters

- Introducing ‘Spin Force’ -Altering base curves

- Dividing trajectories and introducing diverse geometries

- Altering base geometries

Source for all images on 53 this page: Xiaohan Feng


The brief we are given is to design a ceiling structure for a medium-size office room, which means it is supposed to be light-weight, visually attractive, and hopefully has good acoustic performance as well as the potential to alter its form for light control in response to user’s requirements. Yet at this first stage of iteration exercise, practical issues such as buildability and structural flexibility are not my main concerns. My goal at this point is to achieve various results with at least one of the following properties: dramatic form change from the origin, high structural strength, high bending degree of material and visual attraction.


The first chosen iteration appears to have the best structural performance. Despite the relatively similar appearance to the initial form, the lantern-like structures function like egg shells which have a high strength-weight ratio with good resistance to both compressive and lateral loads. Key iterations: Graph mapper type, input parameters

The second chosen iteration is one of the most dramaticallyaltered form based on original curves. By simply dragging 2-d curves into 3-d space and introducing spin force, point charges start to give interesting reactions, which reminds me to pay more attention to the potentials in shifting between dimensions. Key iterations: spin force, base geometry

The third chosen iteration was achieved by using the base curve points as input parameters for new geometries, which in this case was the control points for a series of varying circles. For our design brief, circles may be relatively hard to manage during fabrication, yet theoretically it can be solved by introducing cross binding sections or using a radiant joint at the center. Key iterations: new geometries introduced

The final chosen iteration was the result of placing point chargers on an open surface. This track of thinking can lead to a wide range of opportunities of creating free-form structures with diverse surface types: open or enclosed, flat or folded, angular or curvy, etc. Key iterations: new base geometry


PART B.3. CASE STUDY 2.0 - Honeycomb Morphologies



Honeycomb Morphologies Design firm: MATSYS Location: London, UK Year: 2004 This biomimetic installation was part of a MA dissertation in Emergent Technologies and Design at the Architectural Association. The aim is to develop a material system that emulates natural material systems to achieve a high degree of integration between design and performance1. Honeycomb frame has been proved to be extraordinarily strong with its precise layering of hexagonal cells, as the three-way junctions of 120 degree angles in hexagons are the most economical way in natural world to join things together2. Also, because each hexagonal cell is made of six flat planes, the wavy effect of the structure can be relatively easy to achieve, without actually curving materials. Thus honeycomb structures can have a very high strength-to-weight ratio and can be highly buildable due to its planarity essence. These two outstanding properties were applied as the basic ideology in the Honeycomb Morphologies project to modulate the honeycomb system’s inherent geometric and material parameters. By patterning honeycomb cell structure onto two generated curvy surfaces, the result was an organic, strong framework with high buildability.

1 Mathndra, 2011 2, 2016

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Source: Pinterest

These interesting properties of honeycomb structure will then be used in my own design prototype, yet in a different way, which will be explained in Part B.4 conclusion as well as Part B.5 as part of Prototype B.


REVERSE ENGINEERING 1. Forming a loft surface

2. Patterning hexagons

3. Scaling hexagons

4. Introducing attraction point

5. Extruding hexagonal pattern

6. Adding a similar layer of structure


Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng


Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng





- Altering input pattern geometry


Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng

- Altering input pattern geometry - Scaling down cell sizes

- Altering input pattern geometry - Scaling up cell sizes

- Altering input pattern geometry - Extruding cells at certain gradient

Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng


- Introducing diverse graph mapper types


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- Introducing field tools together with graph mapper

- Applying circles and spheres on hexagons

- Applying pipes along hexagon curves

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- Playing with base curves, patterns and graph mapper


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- Inputting circular geometries as base

- Inputting triangular geometries as base

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As a further step from case study 1.0, in B.4 I was trying to pay more attention to the practicality, such as buildability, acoustic performance, structural flexibility and potential light effects, though visual attraction still remains a big part of the selection criteria. Throughout the form development, I noticed a major problem about hexagons as the base cell: though the stability of hexagon is commonly considered as an advantage, it is in fact not suitable for my design intent to create a structurally-flexible installation, which can be dynamically changed in structure in response to customized requests (structural change potentially can be achieved by changing the degree of openness of each cells on the installation surface). This discovery directly results in a fundamental change in my prototype choice and proposal design.


This iteration is chosen because its form appears to be the closest to my initial intent: a simple cell-based surface, visually dynamic and easy to construct. Moreover, thanks to the instability of quadrangles, this structure can be ‘closed down’ or ‘opened up’ by adding or reducing force from two sides. Key iterations: Input geometry for cells

The second chosen iteration shows the potentials of curves. However, despite the charming appearance, curves can be hard to fabricate with timber, especially in this case where a rather freeform generation was developed. Key iterations: Graph mapper added

These two iterations are chosen because they show how hexagonal cells can be applied on different surfaces to create different visual attractions. Compared with the curvy one above, these two forms are relatively easier to realized as all components are planar. However a major problem of these hexagon-based forms is that they are too stable to enable changes in the degree of cell openess, which means a structurally-flexible form cannot be achieved in these cases. Key iterations: Altering base geometries






For the first prototype my partner and I were looking for an appropriate tessellation method for the proposed structure. For practical purpose, ideally our structure will be pin-free and glue-free, being constructed by precise intersection and overlapping between elements. We got inspired by my partner’s research precedent called ‘Dragon Skin’ (pictures above and below), a free-standing arch structure achieved by simply cutting and intersecting timber veneer pieces. We found this type of tessellation not only meet our intent , but provides a good example that makes the structure self-supporting by taking advantage of the interacting forces between bent timber members.


When creating our own tessellation prototype, we changed the initial triangular timber members in ‘Dragon Skin’ into quadrangular ones, because triangles, as three-point-defined planar geometries, potentially have a lower bending degree than quadrangles. We used a similar intersection method as ‘Dragon Skin’ did, but slightly changed the locations of intersecting points so that the tessellation pattern would slant to one direction instead of going straight forward.



The physical prototype was cut out from ivory board by laser cutter. However it did not turn out as we had expected, because the material was too soft to stand by itself. When we added force at both ends to make the whole structure bend, all component pieces were flattened on the curvy surface instead of, as we imagined, making a curvy arch shape by each of the individual component. Despite this, the intersecting connections between pieces worked well, being able to hold up the whole structure as one integrity without glue or pins. For the next stage we will be testing the same tessellation technique on timber veneer, which will give us a real sense of material performance for actual construction.


Source: Xiaohan Feng

Source: Xiaohan Feng77


The second prototype we were looking for was a method that optimizes the bending degree of each component piece. As I mentioned in Part B.3, honeycomb patterned structure has an interesting property that a curvy surface can be achieved using hexagonal cells made of flat planes. However in the meantime, as I explained in Part B.4 conclusion, honeycomb structure lacks structural flexibility. Given these knowledge, we decided to change the method of applying honeycombs: instead of being used as the base structure, hexagonal cells will be patterned on another base geometry and be used as a technique to achieve a higher degree of material bending.


Source: Xiaohan Feng

We also tried morphing with other patterns, which have not been tested with real materials yet. For the next stage of development, more morphing samples should be cut and tested on material performance

Source: Xiaohan Feng79

PROTOTYPE B (PHYSICAL) - BENDING TECHNIQUE We chose the two patterns below for laser cut testing. As these patterns run in different directions, we expected them to have a higher flexibility than others. The honeycomb one worked very well in flexibility and could be bent and twisted in different directions. However, the flower-like one turned out otherwise, being unable to bend smoothly and easy to crack at the axis (see right bottom on the next page). We assumed it was because the flower-like pattern was too large in scale and thus could not provide sufficient bending points along the cutting curves.


Source: Xiaohan Feng

In addition to an higher bendability, patterning on individual panels has two other potential properties: - High acoustic performance - Patterned light effect The concave surface created by patterning potentially can reduce sound reflection and create a better acoustic environment for the meeting room. While the subtle light-and-shade effect functions as an visual attraction as well as light control.

Source: Xiaohan Feng





STAGE 1 - INITIAL DESIGN The initial proposal we got was a simple wavy structure using box morph on a loft surface. At this stage we only used graph mapper to control the layout of elements on the target surface, therefore there was no variation in sizes or orientations of the components. We also got other valuable feedback after Part B presentation, i.e. each component member can be flipped upside-down to create a smoother surface facing downwards; the height difference between components can be more dramatic, etc.

84 Source: Xiaohan Feng

Source: Xiaohan Feng85

STAGE 2 - POST-PRESENTATION PROPOSAL Basing on the feedback, we overturned all the component panels, rethought the design process and introduced a few point attractors to control the overall shape. The result was a more dramatic, drape-like structure that gave a stronger sense of dynamism and control. Further feedback was given that the structure can be more flexible in terms of size variation, orientation and overall layout.


Source: Xiaohan Feng




Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng

Source for all images on this page: Xiaohan Feng





I would like to demonstrate how my outcomes have met specific learning objectives in the same order of our learning sequence. Stage 1 - Theories & Precedent analyzing Instead of being restrained by a predefined brief and target site, we started with a series of readings and precedent projects. The readings provided us fundamental knowledge about the value and principles of computational approaches, while the research on precedents helped us understand how these theories have been interpreted and practiced in reality. At this initial stage, the most important thing is that we start to develop a new way of thinking about why and how computational approaches may contribute to contemporary design challenge. Objective 6: analyses of contemporary architectural projects Objective 7: understandings of computational approach

Stage 2 - Design field research & Computational skill practice Considering my personal interest, I chose biomimicry as my research field and tried to learning from high-performance structures in natural world. However I used this only as a selection guide; the iteration and reverse practices in Part B 2, 3 and 4 were far more explorative and unconstraint, during which lots of exciting outcomes came up unexpectedly. The continuous algorithmic practice has greatly improved my computational design skills, and I have been gradually exploring my personalized computing ‘toolbox’, which then largely contributed to the next stage of criteria design. Objective 2 - generating various design possibilities Objective 8 - personalized repertoire of computational techniques

Stage 3 - Criteria design At this stage we started to actually engage with the predefined context and conditions. Though my partner and I were studying different research fields, we managed to combine our knowledge and techniques into our prototypes and proposal. We started thinking about materiality, assembling and other practical issues within the brief context, such as acoustic performance and light control of ceiling installation. As supplement, the physical modeling process gave us a better understanding of how materials and connections actually work in reality, as well as how space and atmosphere can be created using our proposal. Plus, basing on the constant feedbacks, the proposal has been continuously adjusted and improved. Objective 1 - Interrogating a brief Objective 3 - Skills in various three-dimensional media Objective 4 - Relationships between architecture and air Objective 5 - The ability to make a case for proposals


Source: Xiaohan Feng93




Reorientating fractal polygons randomly on cylinder surface (left)

Applying relative items on twisted loft surface (right)

Field lines manipulated with point charger, spinning force and graph mapper


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Extruding randomly selected points upwards to generate a three-dimensional form

Using anchor and Solver to generate a curvy form from randomly selected points on a base surface.

Same as above, while changing base planar mesh to cube mesh

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REFERENCE (2016) ‘Nest Cells Support Heavy Weights: Bees and Wasps’, http://www. (2010) ‘Seroussi Pavilion’, Benyus, J. (2009) TED Talk: ‘Biomimicry in Action’, GFq12w5WU Mahendra, S. (2011) ‘Honeycomb Morphologies - MATSYS’, Morris-Nunn, R. (2007) ‘CH2’, The Biomimicry Institute (a). (2016) The Biomimicry Institute (b). (2016) d2a3a995525ea08b3 The Biomimicry Institute (c). (2016) 91bc00ed32203706a1 Parr, D. (2013) ‘The Eastgate Centre in Harare - a Termite Mound in Disguise’, https://









FEEDBACK FROM PART B The final proposal we had for Part B has been improved in the geometric variation, layout, on-panel patterning, and the degree of context responding. However, it still has a long way to go in terms of the rationalization of fabrication, because it requires a high precision for the location, dimension and orientation of the panel-to-panel tessellation connection, as well as the precise bending degree of each panel, both of which should be controllable and measurable once being embedded into the Grasshopper definition. Nonetheless, given the limited three weeks’ time, we found it unpractical to finalise the complete definition and fabricate it in time. In addition, the geometry could have been further developed through using the size and thickness of each panel as input parameters to define each panel’s bending degree, patterning size and density, etc, so that the overall structure can be more flexible and manipulable. Yet, again, this can be hard to achieved due to time limit.



A NEW START FOR GEOMETRY After a discussion among the whole class, we decided to work as a big group and chose the geometries created by Chen’s group (below) as our final direction. Compared with other groups’ proposals, this geometry looks the most interesting because of its unusual tube shape and linearity, and meanwhile it gives a sense of elegance that best fit the office environment. Additionally, since the tubes are generated on a grid panel and can be easily controlled by culling and moving the influencing points on the grid, this geometry can have a large number of iteration potentials that vary the aesthetic outcome, light distribution, general atmosphere, etc.




BASE ALGORITHM & DEVELOPMENT (CREDIT: CHEN & EDDIE; GRAPH BY WINDY) The following graft is an extremely simplified version of the base algorithm. The geometry team has done a large number of iterations basing on this algorithm. The first thing we did to improve this geometry changing the straight tubes with sharp turnings into smoother curvy tubes to make the geometry look more organic and generative.

Rectangular grid

Culling points on grid

Generating integrated curves on grid

Explode to individual curve partitions

Moving points on curves, distance varied by Graph Mapper

Generating perpendicular circles along curves, radius determined by curve-curve distance





FINAL VOTE FOR GEOMETRY (CREDIT: CHEN & EDDIE) After continuous efforts on iterating, selecting and improving, the geometry group finally provided the following two proposals to choose from:

PROPOSAL 1 The first voting in class shows a general bias to this proposal because of its surprising ‘bouncing’ form and the high degree of variation. However, considering the practical issues, such complex form can be far harder to achieve in reality with timber veneer, because of the large number of control points it requires to maintain the swirling form. Besides, although the agenda requires an organic and interesting form to vitalize the office atmosphere, this proposal may seem a bit over the line - it can be a perfect installation for a playground or gallery, but maybe not for an office.


PROPOSAL 2 Compared with the previous one, this proposal seems more appropriate for the actual site, as it remains the organic, varying character but meanwhile stays in a simple linear scheme without excessive complexity, so that it gives a sense of gentleness and elegance. From fabrication’s point of view, this form is obviously more achievable due to its linearity and simplicity. Nonetheless, this geometry can be further improved before finalizing. Currently a major issue is that the two ends of the thin canes are straightly lined up, because the parametric definition of the canes starts from the multiple points on a rectangular grid’s edges.


THE VERY FINALIZED GEOMETRY (CREDIT: CHEN & EDDIE) To deal with the issue above, the geometry group divide the definition into individual sections, each of which includes a main bulb and its adjacent canes. In this way the canes’ endings can be controlled individually - being joined into one point and being moved in different directions. At this stage the geometry is finally settled. The next stage would be applying appropriate patterns on the bulbs to make them fabricatable and to add some extra complexity.





A group member has been doing a parallel study on systematic growth and motion, using parametric tool to generate organic patterns that resembles natural flows. With the large number of interesting outcomes, this study could have been very useful at the earlier stage of geometry development. However, due to time limit we decided to keep on using the completed geometry and keep this study as a potential resource for future projects.





My share of work in the group is patterning, which can cover a wide range of design considerations, including the patterning of the overall geometric layout, the patterning on each bulb, and the patterning on each stripe that constructs the bulbs. Since the layout pattern of the base geometry has been explored and finalized by the Geometry group, my job then focused on the latter two considerations.


INITIAL IDEA - WEAVING (CREDIT: ME) My initial concern was the practical issue of how the bulbs can be achieved in reality - obviously cannot be simply wrapping a piece of timber veneer. I got inspired by the traditional tessellation technique in bamboo basket, which enables the construction of a curvy surface with regular straight strips. Thus my initial idea was to apply such tessellation technique to the overall geometry so that it looks like a woven sculpture as a whole. To better integrate the weaving pattern into the geometry, I managed to embed the weaving method into Grasshopper definition so that it is changeable in response to any change in the base geometry. However such weaving method is highly skill-demanding when fabricating, especially in this case where the shape of the base geometry is highly organic and generative. Additionally, our design intent is to create an simple, elegant and therefore linearly-based structure, while such weaving pattern can break the overall sense of elegance.


CHANGING DIRECTION - LINEAR PATTERN ON BULBS (CREDIT: ME) To better suit our design intent, I started to explore some more linear ways to apply on-bulb patterns. Basically there are two strategies to create patterns on bulb surfaces: (1) Changing the profile of strips (e.g. instead of using straight strips, we can vary the width at certain points so that some parts of the strips can overlap); (2) Keeping the straight profiles of strips but changing their orientations and/or bending degrees to create variation, and/or adding multiple layers of strips.



Inspired by the tutor, I divide the bulb surface into a series of strips and changed their profiles into wavy ones by culling, moving and weaving the points on strip edges. By linking the moving distance to bulb diameter, the degree of waving on each strip can vary along the bulb. - Culling and moving points on strip edges + Weave This iteration is based on the wavy strip edges in the iteration above. Instead of directly lofting on the bulb surface, I extrude the wavy lines along the perpendicular direction of the bulb surface. The result then becomes a new type of strip waving with a flipped orientation.

- Flipping strip orientations + Weave

- Shifting list - Attracting points

Nonetheless, such complex pattern may break the overall simplicity of the geometry, making it isolated from the whole design scheme. Plus, such intense bending can be hard to fabricate with timber veneer.

These two iterations are achieved by twisting the strips using Shifting List component. Attracting points are added to control the degree of twisting at certain locations to increase complexity. However, a main issue of these two is that there is no physical linkage between strips - they are essentially floating in air without any supporting or interacting force, which makes them unpractical to fabricate with the limited time and tools available.

- Multiple layers with different twisting directions - Attracting points



- Twisting wavy strips

- Twisting + Undulating

My partner’s iterations show fairly similar ideas. The two innovative developments he makes are: (1) the introduction of vertical undulation of the strips; (2) the twisting of individual strips instead of all strips as a whole. Yet, similar to the problem I am facing, both the vertical undulation and the individual twisting are very hard to refine and fabricate.

- Culled strips twisted individually

- Offset strips from defined base geometry - Extra undulation


LINEAR PATTERN ON BULBS - IMPROVED & FINALIZED (CREDIT: ME) After comparing the iterations we have so far, the very first iteration seems to be the most practical one, because it not only provides physical linkage points between panels, but avoids high bending degree of the strips and thus can be easier to fabricate. However, considering aesthetic aspect and fitness to the design intent, we decide to reduce the amount of waves on the strips, so that the pattern can be less complex and more integrated into the whole design.


FURTHER DEVELOPMENT - PATTERN ON STRIPS (CREDIT: ME) To further diffuse light and to add a bit more complexity to the design scheme, I start to consider making patterns on each strip. By looking at existing examples of light patterns, I explore a few pattern types and try developing the best one that suits the office environment and our design proposal.


When searching for precedents of strip ceiling installation, I got inspired by the Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid (top two) and the Koerner Hall by KPMB Architects (bottom two), both of which embrace a simple linear scheme of patterning, but in a organic, generative way to make the form impressive. Based on this inspiration I develop and test the following two prototypes, one with patterns along the strip’s generative direction, one with patterns at the perpendicular direction:


PATTERN ON STRIPS - IMPROVED & FINALIZED (CREDIT: ME) The final decision - the one generated along the strip direction - was made by democratic vote, and it is indeed advantaged in terms of aesthetics and flexibility in comparison with other schemes: (1) From a purely aesthetic point of view, this organic, generative shape of patterning morphologically resembles the waving pattern of the strips, and thus integrates better into the whole geometry. Plus, its linearity and subtlety better suits the simplistic style and elegant environment of the office. (2) In Grasshopper It is achieved by moving the points on strip edges for a distance defined by the bulb diameter at each certain point, which means the shape and degree of openness of this pattern is embedded in the definition of the base strip geometry. In other words, the pattern is generated from the base geometry and is responsive to the individual strips it lies on, so every on-strip pattern is unique!


To further improve the practical performance of the design, the middle part of the base geometry and the on-strip patterns within this area are deliberately opened up a bit wider, so that more light can penetrate down to the middle table.








LIGHTING ANALYSIS & ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS - LADYBUG PLUG IN (CREDIT: NICK) My team partner on patterning Nick has done an individual exploration on Ladybug plug-in, an environmental analysis platform that focuses on the simulation of real-world light exposure and distribution. Whilst Ladybug is a plug-in that analyses sunlight effects, artificial lighting can be simulated by pinpointing the ‘sun’ at certain locations. In this case, four ‘suns’ are placed at four positions in the office acting as lights. Then the ‘Radiation Analysis’ component is used to analyze the degree of light distribution on the surfaces within the room.


This analysis can be very useful in earlier stages of the design in terms of the size and thickness of each panel. For example, the point where light exposes most can be set as an attractor that increases panel size and panel thickness to optimize the evenness of light distribution; or on the other hand, if that point is used to reduce the thickness of certain area then a maximized light exposure can be achieved. However, due to the limitation of fabrication tools and techniques, this parameter was not used in the actual fabrication. Yet it does provide a new way of thinking on how real-world parameter can be used to create a feedback loop that influences the design process.


PROTOTYPE - RIBS (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) In actual fabrication, timber strips cannot be kept in a curved shape without support, thus circular ribs are needed inside the bulbs to keep the bulbous shape. Instead of simple single-layer rings, the prototype team got inspiration from the South Pond Pavilion in Chicago 2010 (right) and designed a type of wavy circular rib that consists of three layers, with the middle layer acting as the bonding base to force the curving of the other two layers. On the one hand, such unusual shape can make the rib itself an visual attraction and integrates more into the overall wavy geometry; on the other hand, due to the increased layers of each rib, the touching areas between the ribs and strips can also be increased, which means the structure can potentially be more stabilized.

n Grasshopper, this rib form is achieved by moving the points on the ring curve and weave them into new wavy curves. At the spots where the three layers overlap, holes are located ready to be cut for connections. Ideally, more ribs means more precisely the bulbs are formed. But considering the fabrication hardship and time limit, we decided to reduce the ribs to 2-3 per bulb.


Two prototypes of the ribs were made, one with paper and one with laminate-back timber veneer. The paper one was a success due to the high flexibility of the material, while the timber one cracked at a certain point where the degree of bending exceeded the material’s limitation. There are a few ways to prevent the cracking: (1) by increasing the rib radius; (2) by reducing the number of waves; (3) by choosing another thinner matereial with a higher flexibility.


PROTOTYPE - STRIP CONNECTION (CREDIT: CLINTON, BRYDIE & JACOB) The initial idea of strip connection was very straightforward - by simply pinning up two strips at the middle point of the overlapping area. However, an unexpected damage happened during the first prototype process, mainly caused by the following reasons: (1) This prototype was made before the finalization of on-strip patterning, thus there was no on-strip texture which can help reduce the tensile pressure; (2) The timber veneer was laminate-back, which is thick and without sufficient plasticity; (3) The connection technique we used was single-point pinning, which concentrates the force and increases the tensile pressure across the strip panel. These problems are to be solved at the final modelling stage.


1. Lasercutting all components

5. Connecting strips

2. Aligning component in order

6. Wrapping strips

3. Connecting components of the strips

7. Damage at in-strip connection point

4. Aligning completed strips Press studs (bottom) Rivets (right)


PROTOTYPE - CANES (CREDIT: BRANDEN & HUGH) The canes can be the hardest part to fabricate because of the extremely large length-to-width ratio and thus the difficulties to control and keep the canes in place ( canes will be easily draped by gravity). Based on this consideration, we decided to use a material different from timber veneer because veneer is too thin to span the length required. We found a material called Attan Core sourced from Cobra Cane Co., which has a round section with multiple hollow cones inside. Such specific property determines that this material can span a relatively long distance with less deflection, but still has sufficient flexibility for gentle curving and twisting. Precedents can be found in the sculpture ‘The Rise’ at 2013 ALIVE Exhibition Paris (bottom two), where similar material has been used to generate a thin but high-strength structure.


Even though with a relatively high strength, the canes still need to be joined at certain points to keep them stay in place. Again, the prototype team learn from ‘The Rise’ to design the connection sections, which are 3d-printed round panels with a few holes on it to allow the canes to go through. By varying the locations of the holes, the canes can be controlled to form the shape we require.


PROTOTYPE - RIB CONNECTIONS (CREDIT: JINTAO) Since the ribs are the structural supports for the bulbs, the connection between bulbs can be better achieved by connecting the ribs.











FEEDBACKS FROM PROTOTYPES - MATERIAL Material for the bulbs needs to be changed to a thinner and more flexible one to achieve the required degree of bending without cracking, for both ribs and strips. - STRIP CONNECTION TECHNIQUE The single-point pinning technique has been proved to result in an increased tensile pressure on the panels and thus a higher possibility to cause cracking. Therefore, a new technique is needed to better distribute force at the connection spots. - RIB-STRIP CONNECTION The connection between ribs and strips has not been explored at the prototype stage. - SCALES Considering the hardship when making small prototypes, the unpracticality of making a full size model, and the limitation of time, the strategy of making a series of models with different scales and preciseness seems to be more realistic than making just one. Accordingly, different modelling materials and techniques can be considered. For example, a small scale of fully 3d-printed model can be used to show the overall geometry, while a nearly-full-scale detail model should be made in real timber veneer to demonstrate material performance.



IMPROVEMENT - MATERIAL (CREDIT: Brydie & Jacob) Based on the unsuccessful prototype for strip connection, we replaced the original laminate-back timber veneer with a paper-back one, which has a thinner profile, a much higher plasticity and flexibility, as well as a much higher breaking point under tensile force.



IMPROVEMENT - STRIP CONNECTION TECHNIQUE (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) The fabrication team came up with a new connection method that uses sewing technique, which diffuses the concentrated tensile force at the connection spots and meanwhile helps stabilize the shape by increasing the touching area between two strips.



IMPROVEMENT - RIB-STRIP CONNECTION (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) Similar to the strip-strip connection, the fabrication team again used the sewing technique to solve the connection between ribs and strips. NOTABLY, though sewing technique can be useful in fixing and stabilizing the structure, it is not a practical connection method in real fabrication because it is extremely time-consuming and skill-requiring.



FINAL MODEL 1- 3D PRINTING (1:50) (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) This is the smallest-scale model which aims to show the whole geometry. Considering there will two more detail models at larger scales, this one is highly simplified, only showing the overall shape and leaving out both bulb patterns and on-strip patterns.



FINAL MODEL 2 - PAPER (1:20) (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) This middle-scale model shows almost all detail elements for the bulbs, including ribs, patterns and connections (though sewing technique is not used due to scale limitation). Because of the high flexibility and controllability of the paper material, this model has the form that looks closest to our design intent.



FINAL MODEL 3 - TIMBER VENEER (1:3) (CREDIT: BRYDIE & JACOB) This largest-scale model aims to show all connection details including the sewing technique. The outcome is in fact a bit unsatisfying: On one hand, due to time limitation we did not have a complete model that shows both the overall form and the details; one the other hand, the impreciseness during the assembling process makes the final form a bit distorted. In particular, the fact that the panels are not cut strictly along the direction of the natural timber grain may cause potential cracking of the veneer. However, despite all these unexpectedness, the three models together provide a general idea on what the installation may look like, and a more detail demonstration on how the design intent can be realized.








A BIT RECAP OF THE GROUP WORK PROCESS... Working in such a large group has been great fun, but meanwhile very challenging. Frankly speaking, it wasn’t until the end of the second last week that we started to work as an actual team, but we definitely have learned a lot during the process. The first week was a confusion for almost everyone. Every specified team was doing their own work with little communication with other teams; even the members within the same team were not working very close. The result was that some works were overlapped whilst some were disconnected. For example, by the end of the first week, My teammate Nick and I presented some very similar ideas, and some of these ideas are similar to what Geometry team had been doing. Meanwhile, some teams got stuck with disagreements among members. Such lack of smooth work flow directly resulted in energy waste and low efficiency. Luckily things started to change from the second week, when we started to have frequent group meetings for discussion. In this way we started to get a sense of what everyone else is doing, and what we should do to improve our own part and to assist others - especially in the cases when we assist someone from another team, it really helps to open the mind and share new skills and perspectives. So here is the dilemma of large-scale group work: on one hand compromise on efficiency may be inevitable, on the other hand more opportunities of learning and sharing can be a big advantage - whichever to be given priority to should depend on the circumstances. But in our case, like I have analyzed in the previous pages, the efficiency issue has become a main obstacle that hindered the refining and well fabricating processes. This is a lesson that we should always keep in mind.



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