Generative Design

The future of CAD

Are we like bacteria now ?

with 2 comments

Bacteria under observation


We are now reaching a new threshold in computation and sensor technology – where what we do, how we behave and to some extent how we feel can be computationally modelled. Your credit card company and Google have been doing this for some time. They can predict many aspects of your behaviour as accurately as a biologist can predict the reproductive behaviour of bacteria. The acceptance of our collective behaviour is difficult for us humans, as we wish not to degrades our status to that of bacterial blobs. While we live in denial, we allow street cameras, credit card companies and Google to monitor the most intimate aspects of our life. Monitoring our behaviour within buildings in comparison is much much easier.

We behave within buildings in predictable ways. Buildings make us behave in predictable ways. Perhaps this is the purpose of buildings. If we then invert the concept, and model our behaviour, instead of just monitoring, it may open interesting possibilities. We will be able to design our behaviour in an entirely different way. We may be able to induce certain behaviour and from it the satisfaction of the kind we desire.

Daniel Hambleton is onto something. The attempt to yoke experience and form is likely to re-shape the future of architectural design. Crowd simulation seems to be a mature technology now. ( another video on of crowd simulation).

From the design of form to the design of experience

Architecture (particularly western architecture) has had a historic lock-in with form. Eastern architecture (especially Japanese and Chinese) gave much higher priority to experience, perhaps due to the influence of Buddhism which placed human experience at the pinnacle. Perhaps it is such Buddhistic outlook that drove Steve Jobs to focus on the experiential qualities of devices instead of form design. He realized quite rightly, that people bought experiences and not devices. The results of this realization were devastating to those who were selling devices. He ruined their business prospects built on a much older worldview –  the pleasures of ownership of goods, that we acquired as we transitioned from agrarian civilizations obsessed with having enough to eat, into an industrial civilization obsessed with producing things and owning them.

While the bulk of magazine architecture is focused on form, great contemporary architecture gives due priority to experience. The Stanstead airport designed by Sir Norman Foster is a good example of a design that was primarily driven by the experience of the traveller – from the entrance to the plane. The building form is exquisite, but what makes it work so well is the design of the experience the visitor is treated to inline the rat hole that is called Gatwick. Great architecture of the past always married experience to from. The pressure to design unsuitable forms without giving due consideration to end-user experience seems to be a trend of recent origin, driven perhaps by the desperation of harnessing attention – mostly from outside the building.

Sensor Technology

An interesting attempt by Deb Roy to monitor his child’s development ended in the creation of the largest home video, which recorded right from the babble of the baby from every single roof of his house, containing quarter million hours of video of over three years.

So not only can we design for experience, we can also monitor it. Monitoring will help to close the loop on modelling, making it soon possible to design predictable experiences. Will these abilities not change the nature of architecture? If it is possible to computationally derive the experiential qualities of the user, will architects not be tempted to design experiences instead of forms?

Experience is everything

It need not be argued that much of the new economy is about the delivery of experiences. The “experience economy” coined by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore is not a fad. It is a new realization. As the service economy takes hold, goods are increasingly seen by business as secondary. Most consumer companies are now struggling to deliver engaging experiences. Architects are yet to come terms with it. They are likely to see themselves as creators of experiences. Forms will be designed to deliver experiences. In this context.

Should generative design then be used to generate experiences instead of forms?

Written by Sivam Krish

August 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm

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