Generative Design

The future of CAD

Archive for the ‘Emergence’ Category

Un-Smart Geometry

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The annoying thing about discussing generative design with architects is their inability to disassociate design technology from geometry.

Architecture has long been married to geometry. In the Western tradition, this geometry is of a particular typology known to mathematicians as Euclidean geometry.   There is nothing wrong with Euclidean geometry – it is just that the Western architectural tradition comes with a religious view on its virtues. A classic example is the master of the modern movement uncle Corb writing a “Poem of the Rectangle”. This particular geometric religion was soon to be passed on as the International Style.

As the world got bored with this kind of geometry, a new geometry was needed. And of course architects are in the business of providing just that. But this time round, their intellectual justification and logic was not up-to scratch; so convincing noises had to be to made – to make up for the long slip from the role they once played in knowledge making. Meanwhile the world had really globalized and star architects just needed to shine.What geometry they used to shine was no longer that important – but shining is.

In the middle of all this – I am planting tomatoes in my garden. It is the beginning of  it is summer here in South Australia, but  the occasional winds from the South Pole has started to take a toll on them. They need support.


I has to choose between an optimized architectural solution that comes int he form of straight machine cut vertical poles and ties that “proper” gardener use so that the tomato trees appear to be supported according a deeply cultured architectural structural sensibility that is pleasing to the civilized eye or  a collection of branches that gardener had left behind.

So I am trying this experiment; since I know for sure, that  tomato plants don’t suffer from architectural sensibilities. I want to see how they fair with crooked randomly placed unsightly bunch of branches,  in comparison to the architecturally rationalized one.

Will let our readers know at the end of summer.


Written by Sivam Krish

December 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Posted in Emergence

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What is Algorithmic Design ?

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Cells contain massive amounts of information. If we stretch the total DNA in our bodies it will be about 16 to 32 billion kilometers. Now, that is a lot of code.

We cannot pack in more information than that. If we were to include the exact location and dimensions and geometric details of the circulatory system for example, as we would do in a CAD file, it would require more than trillion kilometers of code. Hence, nature constructs such designs with code. This is beautifully explained by Prof.Robert Sapolsky’s in his Stanford lecture.

Why use Algorithms ?

Algorithmic code is good for creating very complex geometries with small amounts of data. It works very well with the way nature constructs using cellular components. The fractal (or self similar) nature that you see in trees and leaf veins and arteries is due to this. But the code here is embedded in the cell itself and cells organize themselves to create complex forms based on of relatively simple code.

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Written by Sivam Krish

March 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Nature of Order

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Generative Design has an unfortunate start. Its early promoters developed their thinking based on the medieval concepts on the nature of order. Architects have been long obsessed with the aesthetic rationality of order, which formed the central tenets of architectural  philosophy. A tenet that is now being shaken at its very foundation, bringing down with it the validity of centuries worth of interpretation of the nature of order that once formed the core of Western science and civilisation.

An Iraq born Professor Prof. Jim Al Kahaili traces the story of its dismantling.

What struck me most was this  profound statement :

Design does not need active interfering designers. It is an active part of the universe

We need to think deeply about this. It prods us to think through a monumental question : What it is to design ?  It is the  very same question that obsessed ancient architects as they developed a rationality that suited them and their monarchic sponsors. They built their design philosophy on the platform of geometric logic that was then prevalent.

The new understanding of the nature of order has profound implications in every field of human endeavour. In architecture, I hope the implications are clear. It disconnects rationality from the aesthetic fundamentals that we have grown up with – assumed to be universal and on which the modern architecture was built. We now discover its logical foundations to be flawed.

This leads architecture into a catastrophic intellectual vacuum.

Is the orderless form langauge that we see in architecture today an expression of this  ?  Or is it a juvenile reaction to it ?



Written by Sivam Krish

February 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm

What is generative design ?

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I have been asking this question my self, for quite some time.

My attempt to find out has led me through hundreds of published papers, books, blogs and endless discussion that opened even more questions.

What is generative Design?

I have come across many attempts of defining what it is. Many of them are absurd – especially those published in journals that seek to define generative design within tiny niches of  reserch interests. Outside their confines, I have found some good ones that capture the spirit of generative design – I list them here :

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Written by Sivam Krish

January 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Book Review : The architecture of emergence

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Rare are the books that I read twice. This is one of them. Weinstock attempts the impossible. He brings to the table extensively researched and carefully compiled material whihc is of fundamental importance to our understanding of order. He attempts, to convince us that the nature of order is fundamentally different to what we have known. He shakes the very foundation of current architectural thinking. The book is an ambitious and monumental undertaking as it proposes a unified theory of order connecting geology, biology and human development through the frame-work of emergence.

Rare are also books in architecture without glossy pictures that make up for vague and unsubstantiated theories. For those who seek logic in-built and natural  form this a recommended read.  It firmly establishes beyond reasonable doubt,  the true nature of order in nature. The world around us has been built based on this. Unfortunately, architects are totally disconnected with this current understanding order.

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Written by Sivam Krish

October 31, 2010 at 12:42 am

Generative cells

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A few moons ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the lab of Jon McCormack. In the vast campus of Monash University, I was surprised to find it located with in the department of computer sciences; I had expected it to be within the  department of architecture. I had known of Jon’s work as I had seen online – some of his beautiful generated rendition of unique Australian native flowers that grace the landscape that I now live in. But, what I found was far more interesting.

His research student Benjamin Porter demonstrated some interesting work that mimics the embryonic development of chicken limbs. A fascinating area of research that had long intrigued me. It demonstrates how cells without over all process control can form complex geometries orchestrated by a symphony of chemicals released in a coordinated sequence.Developmental biologist now understand the  diversity of life forms in terms of the exquisite variations of this orchestration.

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Written by Sivam Krish

October 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Pencil & Paper : the unshakable duo

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Design researchers are an active bunch. In the Linked in group of Design Research alone, there is close to a good 6000 of them.  Many of them have been attempting to unravel the mysteries of design – “design process” to be specific. Design process , because it sounds scientific and retains the hope that one day rational thinking will somehow make it possible to bring the “irrational process” to order. Such hopes continue.

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Written by Sivam Krish

July 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm