Generative Design

The future of CAD

Archive for the ‘Design Process’ Category

Post Parametric Revolution

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Much of architectural design is now about tweaking parameters. While we are yet to master the fine art of parametric design, there is much excitement about it. Perhaps too much of it. Thanks to it, most  architects are now aware of the benefits of parametric design – where modification can be easily made and (parametric) variations  easily explored.

Parametric play is now enjoying its day in the sun.

While parametric approaches to design are being formulated and built into work processes, something even more interesting is beginning to happen. Architectural geometry is now going through a post parametric revolution.

For a long time in architectural history, proportioning played a pivotal role. Proportioning is the precursor to parametric play, where the overall structure of the design is formed and fixed while its proportions are altered to find the most desirable form. It is powerful and useful. But limited in its capacity to create diverse forms in terms of topology. CAD packages could easily implement this, because they are driven by parameters anyway. But there was something else about CAD packages that remain hidden – perhaps for a bit too long. But remember, in the early days  it was difficult to get designer to use CAD, you had to give them the impression that nothing had really changed and that they can now do in a screen what they used to do with pencil and paper.

After CAD, all geometric forms were inevitably authored by programs. But these programs were hidden. CAD companies went out-of-the-way to provide a veneer that kept the designers minds in the era of paper and pen. Perhaps, they did not guess that they will grow out of it. Perhaps this guess was right, particularly in Industrial design. But it is not so in architecture.

No more shame

The new generation of cutting edge designers now seem comfortable with code. Add-ons like grasshopper have made it much more easy to author code. Code has made it easy to create complex and repetitive forms.  These forms can even compete with spaghetti in terms of geometric complexity.

 

Most cool designs are now authored by scripts.  We are now at the end of simple parametric play. As the programmatic nature behind the construction of the geometry is exposed, it is natural that designers will start re-arranging bits of scripts to create more interesting forms. This is beginning to happen.

 

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Written by Sivam Krish

October 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Are we like bacteria now ?

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Bacteria under observation

Bacteria_photomicrograph

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).

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Written by Sivam Krish

August 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm

End of the road for the turbo-charged drawing board?

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We are now amidst an interesting change. The era of automating the drawing board seems to be drawing to a close. The architecture of today is increasingly difficult to draw with straight lines. There are many repeated components of various sizes. Fabrication companies are now able to crank out shapes that were not possible before. The cost of customisation is also continuously reducing. The virtues of a straight line – sung by the modernist architects inspired by an ancient geometric legend, seem to interest nobody. It has now lost its rationality and more importantly its appeal.

The rise of curvitecture

What’s interesting about design are trends. Because each trend destroys a previous trend and with it, the tools designed to author it. Curvitecture is primarily a result of a reaction to a Euclidean trend that swept the world – as the “modern movement” which imbued mass manufactured forms with aesthetic and rational qualities.  Its overwhelming success,  the mass confusion of what is considered bio and curved and overriding attention seeking the goal of architects has helped fuel trends that have now wrecked the Euclidean sense of Geometry. Its forms, rationality and aesthetic will soon be buried in architectural history.

Anything is possible now

Being creative is about moving to the edge – especially the edge that is being extended by new technology, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Architects entertain the attention-deprived world by authoring unseen shapes of great complexity – which mostly do not relate to increase in performance despite their significant cost.Being and looking “bio” is certainly a justification that works because now being bio is being good and also being efficient. So there is a case for funny forms.

Why programs need to draw

It is impossible to draw a rat’s nest on AutoCAD. But it is possible to do so using programs that can handle the geometry of individual elements. Each element has common attributes that can easily be created by programs. Incidentally, we were built that way. We are a result of genetic constructional programs that told our cells how to and when to design themselves. Drafting board-inspired CAD packages are unable to handle the complexity of the kinds of shapes that are now being authored. A reassuring reaction is that only a small portion of the building are funny shaped and the bulk of what is built can still be drawn with a drafting board.

In the name of efficiency

The era of the turbo-charged drawing board is not to end too soon perhaps the way drawing boards themselves vanished from design practices. To prevent is pre-mature demise, a late but smart decision has been made to marry it to databases so that it can better handle the grunt work of design. This strategy seems to be working. BIM is breathing new life into old CAD. It is bringing obvious ways of working with computers (long obvious to companies like ArchiCAD) into mainstream use.The associated cost savings makes it an easy sell. The advantages are significant and architects are too busy either singing its praises or getting on board. But the age gap is catching up with them; because of the next generation designs very differently.

Cheap, smart, socially authored software

The design schools of today will give you a better glimpse of the future of CAD in architecture. They are now skewed towards scripting based tools – where designs are more transparently authored by programs. In the case of grasshopper, these programs are disguised as drag and drop boxes – giving late teenagers the thrill of connecting them with wires. The network around the grasshopper community is a global collaborative R&D team that is continuously developing new ways of authoring design. Many of them can program too.

The turbo-charged drawing boards, though now newly married to databases, and renamed  BIM certainly is a late stage marriage of significance to the those who are in mature practices, whose choice of CAD is skewed towards realizing designs. But those who wish to use CAD as a creative tool need to look elsewhere.

Written by Sivam Krish

July 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

Digital Sketching

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Computers are great for finalizing designs and lousy at developing them. In the the early stages, the design is under evolution. Early stage design exploration mostly happens in the designers mind inspired by incomplete doodles. CAD is cumbersome. It cannot provide  the magic fluidity of the pen,pencil and mind combo. But this seems to be changing. Thanks to tools like grasshopper it is now possible to rapidly sketch designs and consider variations collaboratively. This is now beginning to take hold in architecture. Thornton Tomasetti -presents some excellent examples;

Interestingly, the work processes of  this engineering firm was inspired by seeing students use grasshopper in schools of architecture. Grasshopper is now reaping the benefits of its open approach (the ease of interfacability  for pumping data in out to various analytical packages)  and large and dedicated user community. So architects and engineers can now share same early stage geometric data and build on it.

Tools like grasshopper are now making the very same transition that open sourced software made. People asked the same questions. Would you run a commercial application on free software ? Whom can I call if I have a problem ? This stuff is good to play around, but would you build a building worth millions of $ with it ?  The answerer is yes, and it is happening now.

Once engineers start using it, it will acquire an aura of reliability and respectability (despite its insect name). When engineers ask architects to provide them with grasshopper models architects will assume that this is serious stuff – this is good not only for sketching but also for building stuff, analysing stuff and further along the line for contracting stuff. But there is nothing to get excited, it’s all still parametric play (mistakenly called generative design).

I can see these engineers highly amused by what they can now do with the tools  they picked up last year. They are yet to see what is to come. Such cleverness will soon be commonplace. Cleverness will soon be about using the cleverness of computers. Getting computers to explore, instead of them driving the designs . But we must thank these folks because they have taken the first step in demonstrating what can now be done.

Written by Sivam Krish

July 25, 2011 at 1:27 am

A good example of Generative Design

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Good examples of generative design are hard to come by – because there aren’t many, especially, in architecture. What is often claimed as generative design usually turns out to be designer-driven design. This is perhaps, due to the late discovery of parametric history based design by architects and perhaps the failure of design academics to define Generative Design.

An interesting example of generative design is presented by Nate Holland at the ACADIA conference as part of his research. Nate is indeed practicing generative design as his work process exploits the computers generate and  search capability  in exploring of design possibilities at the two vertical extremes of the building: Firstly, at ground floor to locate the best shop location and then at  the top levels to orient the towers according to the best views.

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Written by Sivam Krish

May 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Why MCAD platforms are good for generative design

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Generative Design – that is, computers generating design – is yet to happen. It is currently confined in its computational form to the confines of reasearch labs. it has been there for some time. When it  gets out to the real world,  it faces two real challenges. One is the setting up of generative schemes and the other is the selection process which needs to analyse the merits of  thousands of designs.  The CAD system in which designs are generated plays a critical role in both these.

Many may not realize that Design – is a relatively new word (appearing in the English language only after the 16th century) when the art of conception and execution took separate professional paths. Before that, there were only artificers – folk, who just built stuff.

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Written by Sivam Krish

April 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

A Great Example

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This is a great example of the shape of things to come. The magic combination of online tools, genetic models and digital fabrication. ……thought I heard some one say “User Generated Content” .

Damn it . It can now do products. Enjoy the dress rehearsal.

more on >  sketch chair

Written by Sivam Krish

March 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm