Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Parametric Play

Modernists of the last century esteemed the idea that building components had predictable uses, and so they designed these components as static objects which meet intended needs. In the sixties, however, theorists such as Nicholas Negroponte and Charles Eastman recognized that designers could not accurately predict the range of future uses a space would serve, and thus could not properly provide for programmatic variation. Such theorists lead the way in investigating responsive architecture.
Today’s intensification of social and urban change, combined with the renewed concern for sustainability, amplifies the demand for responsive architecture. Advances in ubiquitous computing have made it possible to animate buildings in response to changing program or environmental conditions. The architect can now play the role of a catalyst for a design which evolves. Designers have begun using generative components, not only as form-finding instruments, but as actuated building systems.
This project is conceived to illustrate the form-finding potential of parametric models, as well as their potential to adapt to changing data. The tower-like form can change in height, width, rotation, and number of floors. Any number of additional programmatic variables can conceivably be added to the model. 
The skin of this project is composed of generative components, all of which are defined by a common algorithm. The algorithm determines the normal vector of each component, and produces a dot product from each normal vector and the solar angle (vector).  Base on the value of this product, apertures open or close to control light intake, similar to the movement of a pupil. While architectural day-lighting is much more complicated than what this system addresses, the model illustrates the ease by which designers can solve complicated issues through the use of generative components.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ACADIA Conference

The 2009 ACADIA Conference was recently hosted by the Art Institute in Chicago. While I did not attend, I am fortunate to have a borrowed copy of the conference proceedings. Thus far, it seems that the compilation seems to include a broad review of parametric design methodologies, with applications ranging from mixed media to construction processes. What is most substantial however, is its inclusion of digital theory.

As members of Gen Y, we are exposed to a much larger architectural tool kit than those before us. Technology allows for increasingly complex and variant formal methods, using generative components and mathematical algorithms. The work of the Deconstructionists (Novak, Lynn, etc) has added phrases like 'gravitational field', 'attractor geometry', and 'fuzzy logic' to the architectural vocabulary. The totality of this new toolkit forms the genesis of what Patrick Schumacher calls 'Parametricism.' While Schumacher claims that this new style is 'mature', I disagree.

The parametric movement is still young, and has not yet matured to the extend of outright theory. For many of us, Parametricism is still an issue of method, not theory. This may account for the perceived thoughtlessness of some digital architectures. I argue that while we are not thoughtless, our work is not as thoughtful as it could be. So, as Gen Y, how will we create the future of Parametricism? Will it remain simply an evolution of method, of tools? Will it develop into something more meaningful? Something substantial?  Perhaps the greatest challenge we will face in our careers is the synthesis of method and theory within this new paradigm.

The ACADIA Conference proceedings acknowledges this issue, and provide a great foray into some contemporary resolutions. Further, it is not a 'show-book', rather it provides detailed accounts of parametric design processes, and the critical thinking associated with them. Perhaps after the price drops ($80 at the conference) It would be a wise professional investment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Generation Y: Who are We?

Generation Y is also known as the 'Millennial Generation.' It typically refers to those born between 1980 and 1994, although it is disputed by demographers, and varies across countries. A range of between 1988 and 2008 is also used. Generation Y is primarily the offspring of Boomers, although some are the children of older gen Xers. More important than birth chronology, however, is the distinguishing attributes of our generation. A survey of 2,500 gen Yers conducted by Talentsmoothie found that respondents, “had little interest in their parents’ work-dominated lives… weren’t seduced by salary and status. Instead, the ability to ‘make a difference’, balanced by plenty of downtime, was their career dream. … despite the current climate, Generation Y hasn’t altered its values. Recession or no recession, this is a group that will ‘walk away’ if the company doesn’t match its ideals.” The blog pwcom 2.0 has also done a study on emerging gen Y professionals: "Peer pressure replaces bureaucracy; hierarchical structures are replaced by networks of councils and boards; silo-type approaches are superseded by collaboration and ‘a democracy of ideas’. Such approaches are also supported by financial incentives and by Web 2.0 technologies, enabling ‘leadership from the middle."
Do these findings accurately describe us? In my experience they do. We are about collaboration and communication.

Our general outlook on the world also affects our design heuristics. We favor plurality of interpretation over totalitarian objectivity. We approach design problems from a multitude of angles, seeking subjective meaning over pure form. The end of Modernity, symbolized by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, has brought a dramatic re-conceptualization of cultural systems. Postmodernist thought rejects booleanation, in favor of subjectivity and inter-dependence.  Generation 'Y' lives in this landscape, and values the plurality of discourse over autonomous definition. The architects of this generation will not seek purity of form or perfection of detail. Rather, they will conspicuously draw from many methods, materials, and heuristics in their search for meaning. Gestalt associations will then become of the highest importance in the formation of both architects and architecture.

As Gen Yers, we are just now entering the workforce. We are eager to find substance and value in the architecture we create. Conversely, we want architecture to demonstrate our values of justice, peace, unity, and authenticity.This blog is a candid exploration of that quest.

For further information on gen Y:
pw20.com : for info on our impact in the professional world
work empowerment foundation : a list of general characteristics and values
10 Key Characteristics : by Jason Young

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog Creation

This blog is maintained by Thomas Sharp, a graduate student of architecture at Judson University. It began publishing for the public on Oct. 19th, 2009.