Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thesis Structural Solution

These images are from my final structural solution included as part of my thesis. The structure is made entirely from a single ghx script. It is a actuated tensegrity structure, with retractable canvases attached. The architectural envelope can either be vapor sealed or open, and it can bend and twist, as well as respond to changing solar positions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Actuated Tensegrity Module

In my thesis work, I am developing a complete actuated building enclousre. The screenshots above shows the current version, developed entirely in grasshopper. An actuated class one tensegrity structure is sandwhiched between two layers of actuated canvas screens, which unroll based on the position of the sun. The outermost layer is a canvas mullion system designed to protect the actuated componets within. More image to come....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Generative Mistakes

Recently I was writing a Grasshopper definition to create a pattern of rectangles arranged in a gravitational field around a curve. During my work, I accidently mis-ordered the lists of rectangles, and lofted surfaces between them (almost killing my computer). The result was not a blob or chaotic mess however, but something which had both variation in scale, as well as clearly defined solid and void space. I rendered some images of it, as a testament to the ability of parametrics to generate interesting forms even when we do not intend to. Similar to natural creations, these forms seem random, yet were developed through a predictable process.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Future of Beauty

I ran across this six part documentary video by British philosopher Roger Scruton. In it, he outlines the importance of beauty throughout history, what has become of it, and how we can return to it. His premise is that beauty is a quality which embodies the human desire to rise above the mundane, towards the divine. Scruton blames architects for the current lack of beauty in our environment, claiming that modern architecture has abandoned beauty and replaced it with utility.There are many references throughout the documentary to the beautiful architecture of past eras (Baroque, Renaissance, Rococo, etc), and it is clear the Scruton believes that architecture can be redeemed through a return to such ornamentation.

While I agree with his basic premise, I disagree that we should regurgitate the architecture of the past. I believe that the future of beauty lies in technology. It is true that a lot of Modern architecture leaves much to be desired, but contemporary avante garde designers are allowing beauty to once again drive their projects. Whereas Modernist architects like Mies sought simplified forms and closed logical systems, these designers seek beauty (not utility) through variety, repetition, scale, and composition.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Voronoi Introduction

I am currenlty working on a thesis which focuses on 'responsive' architecture - that is, architecture which transforms to enhance temporal, environmental, programatic, or social changes. Last week I attempted to use a sponge as a model for a scaling transformative structure, and i needed some cellular scripts to study it.

These Voronoi shapes are interesting enough, especially the three-dimensional models. In the end however, I believe i am going to trash the sponge metaphor, in favor of an adaptive tensegrity structural system, which also has roots in nature (pun intended).

: Voronoi Grasshopper Definition
: Tensegrity Wall (3ds Max)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Architects as Catalysts

An anonymous blogger commented on this idea from my last post:

"You mention that Architects, in this scenario, play the role of "catalyst for a design". If Architects become not the sole designers, but merely facilitators for design, what does that mean for the profession?"

Whoever you are, thanks for asking! The professional implications of these new design methods are astounding! In my previous post, I had said that the parametric revolution would position architects as catalysts for design which evolves. The most obvious illustration of this statement is a basic script. A script is a pre-written bit of code which, when enacted by the designer, carries out a list of functions. In this scenario, the designer does very little actual work, however, the code has generated a potentially enormous amount of data. If a designer can then take several bits of code, and weave them together appropriately, entire building systems can be produced automatically. (check out eat-a-bug)

The question reminds me of something Yona Friedman wrote about decades ago in Towards a Scientific Architecture. There, he suggested that architects could abandon the creation of discrete building forms, in favor of producing portfolios of building components. His theory was that architects could become (again?) trusted advisers, guiding clients through the implications, opportunities, and dangers of selecting particular building components or systems. While this form of professional practice is dramatically different than our current one, it does align closely with the parametric design process. In both scenarios, the architect has a wealth of components to choose from, but he/she is also becomes responsible for the harmonious and discerned composition of the elements.
While the idea of using building components is not new (think of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino, or the high-tech building style of the eighties), the idea of allowing clients to have a direct influence over their composition is new. One attempt to enact Friedman’s theory has been done by Endhoven University of Technology. The university developed a ‘puzzle’ type interface for client-designed houses. Each puzzle piece was assigned parameters (code) and conditions (associations with other components). The parameters define what the piece is, and the conditions define how it can be used. Clients can then configure puzzle pieces, which relay to a visual rendering of the house in real time. While the architect is not seen in this process, he/she still exists as the author of the puzzle, defining all available pieces, and how they may relate to one another. This affords the possibility of an architect being lauded for the quality of the puzzle, rather than a single composition from its pieces. In this approach, the role of the architect is not slighted, but simply altered. In this scenario, the architect would have to give up the right to exclude the client from the design process. In return, the architect would maintain relevance in today’s collaborative society, and gain a greater understanding of their clients.

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.