Generative Design

The future of CAD

So tell me, what is new ?

with one comment

Engineers are schooled differently from architects. They think differently.  Often, the one that deals with  plumbing will know little about  wiring : they are specialists. Engineers work by setting tasks and goals. They achieve them efficiently – often at the lowest cost and effort. Architects in comparison are messy, but often get paid more by the client. They get to tell the engineers what they want done, often after they have conceived the design, and using their own private creative processes that are often driven by experience, ego and branding considerations moulded into a design philosophy – that separates them from lesser architects.

In most buildings engineering rationality no longer dictates form.  While structural capability in terms of analysis, construction and materials has greatly developed in recent years, the link between good structural design and architectural form is diverging. Most architectural designs now make little structural sense. The best and most creative engineers are at the service of architects, who often seek novelty through structural gymnastics. Only a few talented firms of engineers can support this. Civil engineers are now sing-along service partners.

Novel architecture today, is a result of a  ” because we can” approach of architects and ” yes we can” approach of engineers.

Engineering is a profession of methods. The methods they use, unlike that of architects are highly formalized, extremely well-developed and are shared amongst the profession.  To many of them, generative design, seems to be all noise. Design problems to most engineers come with methods. Some of these methods are very clever, developed, tested, debated and honed through  academic and professional forums. Engineers have been well a head in the game of using computers to apply these methods. There are now very sophisticated methods of optimising designs. Expert Systems, Simulated Annealing, Genetic Algorithms to name a few. So, for them, what is there in generative design?

Perhaps nothing. The only advantage may be in the representation of design – which instead of being on paper is now transported onto  screen, in 3D and better still, parametrically drivable. So, it becomes easier to make changes and consider variations. Finally, architects have started to work smartly with computers. This allows engineers to be involved earlier in the design process than when everything is finalized and there is little room for change. But other than that, its unfair to expect them to be excited about it. As one blunt engineer asked me about generative design…

So…. tell me what is new ? .  I realized that …… I had nothing to tell.

But architects see it very differently. They are excited about the new possibilities.  To many , especially those whom I talk to – Generative Design is the hottest thing – because, the way they design has for ever changed. The changes are radical and the implications are equally radical.

The big change comes from using computers as tools for creative design exploration. So far, computers are the beasts of burden that carry the implementational load of design and also the tools that help display the  creative intelligence of the architect. But this is changing as architects slowly begin to realize the full potential of using computers as partners in creative design exploration.

But this shift is recent. It is only now, architects have  begun to toy with new ways of working on real projects.  Many unfortunately, seem to be developing it as their own secret sauce; some making exaggerated claims of their alchemical processes. The methods used and details of implementation are rarely shared. If generative design is to become  a credible approach to design, these methods need to be shared, defined debated and developed collaboratively like the way scientist and engineers do. There seems to be too little of that. Exaggerated claims resulting in funky shapes featured in glossy magazines only help reduce its credibility amongst engineers.  Naturally, Generative Design – suffers  a credibility problem.

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Written by Sivam Krish

November 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

One Response

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  1. […] Why engineers laugh at generative design […]


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