Generative Design

The future of CAD

Computational Form Finding

with one comment

An inspiring presentation by Neri Oxman with some break through thinking – on what design processes should be. Inspired of course by Nature, and enabled by new material manufacturing processes.

She asks some very important questions:

What is the origin of form ? How do we invent form?  Where do we begin ?

Instead of asking what the object wants to be, she asks what does the material want to be ? This was the same question that drove the visionary designers like Bukminister Fuller, Lugi Nevri , Felix Candela and Frie Otto – the form finders of a previous generation.  Their material inspired forms stand in sharp contrast to the tortured architectural forms that we see today, which  are often painfully at odds with the nature of the materials and processes that they are built out of. However, they are “forms that are now possible” . Despite esoteric claims, they are often massively inefficient in all forms of performance, except in advertising their own presence. Neri  is making a clear argument for material driven design, where forms are computationally derived by incorporating engineering rules into generative scheme itself.

The other important point she makes is that

Nature authors not forms but processes… recipes that mix material and environment together, and from these mixtures form emerge.

She calls this Computationally Enabled Form Finding.  Her PhD at MIT is about bringing together material properties and environmental constraints and properties, mixing them together  generate form out of it. She argues  for designing systems that incorporate performance criteria.

She reinforces some ideas in this blog about constraints. But she relegates designers to “editor of constraints”. The designer she says    ” becomes a Gardener,  an experimenter that generates lots of options, eliminating and working towards environmental fitness”. She recommends that design should start from analysis  from through material properties. Nature she points out is a grand material engineer. It knows how to organize matter and it designs multi-functionality. She has applied some of these lessons in her own work. She points out that our bones  are doing the analysis, modeling and the fabrication simultaneously as part of the  same process. But in design, we don’t. We separate analysis, modeling and fabrication.

I am not sure how designers are going to react to her thoughts. They probably will ignore her. We should not. In Neri’s thinking,  there are some critical gems that address the quest of environmentalist (and other types of sensible people) : how to design super efficiently, with consideration to materials,  enabled by new fabrication processes and  computational capacities that are available today with due consideration to the limitations of the world we live in.

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Written by Sivam Krish

February 5, 2010 at 1:18 am

One Response

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  1. inspiring lecture and great blog content. keep up the good work

    Eduardo Barata

    February 7, 2010 at 10:03 pm


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