Sidewalk Labs, the Alphabet subsidiary focused on urban technology, has been working on a new software tool for generating optimized city layouts. In an effort to combat the disconnect between various stakeholders in the urban planning process—architects, planners, engineers, and real estate developers—and their software, product manager Violet Whitney and designer Brian Ho have created a new computational tool that analyzes a wide array of data to automatically create thousands, or millions, of neighborhood layouts from a baseline design. Examples of inputs and considerations Sidewalk Labs listed include regulatory concerns, street layouts, block orientations, real estate, weather, building height, and more, which can then be considered against “quality of life” measures. Using machine learning, the technology should get “smarter” over time. Design always takes compromise. Too much density can cause traffic or an abundance of building shadows, yet too little is also no good. A lot of open space can be great, until it gets in the way of easy movement. Designers and other involved parties can consider their goals and generate many new designs to see different possibilities, which would then inspire and instruct human designers (there’s no doing away with architects just yet). The Sidewalk Labs team also wants to diminish the disconnect between the different software different parties use, from developers' Excel sheets to the powerful modeling tools used by engineers, and make communication easier. In a digital case study, the researchers presented a plan for a two-by-two-block neighborhood that aimed for at least 45 percent open space, 49 percent daylight access, and as a proxy for density, 1.5 million square feet of floor area. While the human-led design hit the required parameters, then using the new tool, researchers were able to generate thousands of variations of that initial design, around 400 of which outperformed the original. Sidewalk Labs also suggested that community feedback might be integrated into the technology and its holistic process in the future, likely important given the pushback its high-tech timber neighborhood—accused of having all sorts of ulterior motives like corporate surveillance—has been getting in Toronto. The tool is part of a broader trend to introducing automation into design, whether on the interior scale, such as WeWork’s proprietary space-laying algorithms, or at the city scale such as emerging “digital twin” projects. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
Posts tagged with "Computational Design":
In West Philadelphia, SOFTlab has realized a six-pillar installation called Spectral Grove. The fanning canopy was realized with the help of three custom computational solutions. Made of powder-coated aluminum, the interlocking metal fins direct light and shadow throughout the day for an animated visual effect. Getting the angles of the canopy just right proved particularly challenging. SOFTlab used a Grasshopper plugin called Galapagos, which runs evolutionary algorithms to optimize the rotation of each pillar’s trunk, reducing the number of acute angles and very small segments. Optimizing the overhead lattice structure was not just a visual concern, either—the interlacing canopy provides the stiffness that holds the entire structure together. SOFTlab automated the design of the nearly 1,000 custom stainless steel brackets that hold the complex canopy together, which would have been nearly impossible to do accurately by hand, not to mention extremely time-consuming, according to founder Michael Szivos. While this is a process the firm has used on many projects, this was the first time that SOFTlab used it to develop parts that would wind up three dimensional after being folded from 2D shapes. Finding the precise shape of the brackets was a difficult procedure, according to Szivos. “The main issue with the bending of the steel brackets was calculating an acceptable tolerance,” he explained. “This was complicated by the interwoven canopy. Because all of the pieces in the canopy connected in an unordered way we couldn't add much tolerance to the bolt holes. If we added tolerance the pieces would eventually not line up because of the overall lack of precision in the connections.” This required some complex mathematics, and while their typical approach would be to model the angles and even everything out across them, the fact that there were so many brackets meant that rather than adding negligible elongation, it could’ve offset lengths by more than an inch. Using automation helped generate the unique brackets that hold the structure together. Even the non-structural elements took advantage of computation. To create the desired gradient effect while staying within budget constraints, SOFTlab created a custom program that created pairs of colors selected from a standard Drylac catalog, meaning that the illusion of using 100 custom colors could be realized with just 28 off-the-shelf shades. SOFTlab is known for its high-tech approach, especially in regards to its other colorful installations like a glowing waterside ring in Virginia, and a kaleidoscopic pavilion in New York. Computational design has served other firms working to make elaborate metal installations look effortless, as well—earlier this year MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY unveiled a sweeping aluminum pavilion created with the help of digital modeling in Texas.
For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit https://techplusexpo.com/events/la/
At Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, the New York-based MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY has constructed the Zephyr Pavilion, a flowing structure of cantilevered, aluminum forms designed through complex computational means. By modeling geometries computationally, Fornes and his studio were able to devise a method of building the pavilion that optimized material thickness and strength such that the structure and the skin are a single piece and the entire pavilion is able to freely support itself. The team used progressive assembly, building the pavilion like a complicated, flexible puzzle instead of out of pre-built pieces. This process also did away with the need to use scaffolding during the project's construction. With diagonally-oriented stripes rippling across its surface, the hollow canopy is formed of five different typologies working together: a locked edge, continuous lines needed for structuring the build-out of the more bulbous parts; a loop column, which pulls many lines to a near singular point; a funneled bridge, or pinch, where areas that are too large require a funnel to connect surfaces, decreasing their radii, and therefore making them stiffer; a creased spine, where a groove is made down a central axis; and a self-supported cantilever. These forms were discovered and codified in the pavilion through first creating the overall topology and then using local form-finding algorithms, rather than operating on the entire structure, which allows for more freedom without sacrificing structural integrity. The final "pieces" could then be slotted together. Fornes has previously used similar methodologies for projects like the Pillar of Dreams in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Brought to you with support fromThe recently completed Totzeret Haaretz (ToHa) office tower on the eastern border of Tel Aviv offers a new public-facing approach to superblock megadevelopments, while simultaneously delivering a remarkably unique design merging glass, sintered stone, and brass. Designed by Ron Arad Architects with the help of executive architects Yashar Architects, the 29-story tower is the first phase of a larger project that will include an additional development of twice the height.
Cosentino. The panels are approximately 10-feet tall and 2-feet wide and are fastened to a mullion between the respective floor plates. The panels were produced in six colors, creating a visual gradient across the weaved-stone street wall. Moving upwards, the tower rotates, widens, and tapers to dramatic effect. Each floor is cloaked in double-glazed Low-E glass curtain wall modules, measuring approximately 12.5-feet by 4.5-feet, inset from a protruding concrete floorplate. The double-skin glass system was developed in collaboration with the contractor, Aluminum Construction, and was tested at the IFC Rosenheim research lab on the southern border of Bavaria, Germany. "Each unit contains an integrated reflective blind manufactured by Pellini Industries and an automated air inlet system which periodically pumps air into the glazed cavity," said Ron Arad Architects. "The warm air exits the unit through an outlet opening at the top." Due to the unique geometry of the project's massing—no two floors of the tower are the same—there is a significant range of solar incidence across each elevation. Using computational tools, the design team determined the appropriate width of the floor plate extrusion, which serves as a passive shading device for the floor below. Similar to the base of the building, the extruding elements are clad with sintered stone panels measuring approximately half-an-inch thick and 6.5-feet wide. A particularly stylistic flourish is found on the south elevation facing HaShalom Road, as the first seven stories of the section are clad in a brass sheathing. The pattern for the sheathing mirrors and twists the extruding floor plates above, creating a complex matrix of sunlight reflection and shading that varies throughout the day. Over time, the sheathing will patina from its current gold-like composition to a more subtle shade of bronze. The entrance is demarcated by a nearly 100-foot-tall structural glass curtain wall, which leads to a seven-story high atrium with a view to the summit of the tower.The building rises on a trio of stiletto-like heels, which constitute a footprint of just under 16,150 square feet. Besides enhancing the nearly full-block public plaza surrounding the building, the seven-story plinths house the bulk of the tower's mechanical infrastructure—permitting the roof to function as an open space with a perimeter walkway and two terraces. To allow for the proper ventilation of the mechanical system while maintaining aesthetic standards required for a street-level facade, the design team developed a permeable system of cross-mounted DEKTON sintered stone panels supplied by Spanish-manufacturer
Presented by the University of Miami School of Architecture and California College of the Arts / Digital Craft Lab Curated by Andrew Kudless and Adam Marcus Emerging technologies of design and production have opened up new ways to engage with traditional practices of architectural drawing. This exhibition, the second volume in a series organized by the CCA Digital Craft Lab, features experimental drawings by architects who explore the impact of new technologies on the relationship between code and drawing: how rules and constraints inform the ways we document, analyze, represent, and design the built environment.
Installed on the grounds of the 2019 Bundesgartenschau (BUGA) biennial horticulture show in Heilbronn, Germany, the BUGA Fibre Pavilion is a the product of years of research in biomimicry at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE). Biomimetic design aims to produce structures, materials, and effects after principles and processes found in nature. In other words, the BUGA Pavilion is a not-so-primitive hut inspired by fauna rather than flora. Specifically, the pavilion’s 60 woven structural components are inspired by fibrous biological composites like cellulose and chitin, which form insect wings and exoskeletons. Evolved over millions of years, these naturally occurring organic fibers are incredibly efficient and incredibly strong. Adapting this principle to architecture, the Stuttgart team created the 4,300-square-foot BUGA Fibre Pavilion using half-a-million-square-feet of a human-made synthetic equivalent—glass- and carbon-fibers weaved together by a robot working between two rotating scaffolds. The resulting hollow warped cylindrical elements, which each took four-to-six hours to produce, resemble a toy finger trap. Workers connected them together on-site to form a dome shape spanning more than 75 feet. An appropriately advanced skin, translucent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), covers the fibrous synthetic muscle system. The design process required intense computationally-powered iteration. Although complex, the manufacturing process is wondrously efficient, producing zero waste and obviating the need for any formwork. It’s also quite strong. Five times lighter than a comparable steel structure, each component can withstand 250 kilonewtons of compression force—or, as the design team notes, “the weight of more than 15 cars.” The fabrication method recalls the futuristic 3D printer featured in the opening sequence of the HBO sci-fi series West World. The comparison is apt because the pavilion truly feels like something from the future. Indeed, as the researchers note, “Only a few years ago, this pavilion would have been impossible to design or build.” Thanks to the dramatic advancements in material science and our powers of scientific observation, the Stuttgart team was able to unite human innovation with natural principles to create something beautiful that perhaps transcends both science and art.
For the Origen Festival in Riom, Switzerland students in the Masters of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication program at ETH Zurich, guided by researcher Ana Anton, 3D printed nine unique, computationally-designed columns with a new layered extrusion printing process developed at the university over the past year and a half. ETH students and researchers created nine unique, 9-foot-tall concrete columns that came together as an installation titled Concrete Choreography. The arrangement of undulating columns served as an environment for dance performances. “The columns create the stage and set for the artists to dance in between, in front, around, to hide, climb and interact in many ways with this unique, monolithic architecture,” explained Anton. “Each column has its own particular expressivity and dynamics, just like the dancers.” The students used an automated, formwork-less process, called Concrete Extrusion 3D Printing (CE3DP), a printing method that continuously deposits and extrudes concrete in .2-inch-thick layers to create complex geometries. Anton has been experimenting with the process for a year and a half, as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between ETH's Digital Building Technologies and the chair of Physical Chemistry of Building Materials. Anton says that for the column’s nine unique forms, “students worked towards finding unique designs suitable to this fabrication method, meaning more fluid geometries locally detailed using material-driven ornament,” going on to say that the geometries they worked with are only possible because of the high-resolution printing of CE3DP. ETH’s Digital Building Technologies lab claims this method comes “with the advantage of precise, digitized shape customization [that is] ideal for the creation of freeform shapes that would be impossible to produce with any other technology on the market.” CE3DP also has the added advantage of being fast; the columns each took just 1.5-to–2.5 hours to create. According to Anton, “The forest of columns should work both as performance space but also as an outdoor installation which invites visitors to explore the garden before and after the dance.”
Exhibit Columbus, the annual celebration of mid-century and contemporary design in Columbus, Indiana, will be showing off new possibilities of materials that unify support and envelope. This August, two of the festival's six University Design Research Fellows will present this work as part of a brand new fellowship program. Marshall Prado, a professor at the University of Tennessee, is creating a 30-foot-tall tower out of a carbon-and-glass fiber spun by robots. To manufacture Filament Tower, strands of the material were rotated on a steel frame and injected with resin, which is cured and then baked to increase its tensile and compressive strength. After cooling, the 27 computationally-designed components were removed from the steel frame and made to support themselves. The design was inspired both by historic architecture—akin to the churches of Eero Saarinen—and by biology. Filament Tower mimics the integrated, fibrous matrices of protein structures native to the connective tissues found in plants and animals, all while maintaining transparency. Christopher Battaglia, a research fellow at Ball State University, turned his skills to a different material for Exhibit Columbus: concrete. In DE|stress, a 35-foot-long, 9.5-foot-tall, pavilion, Battaglia critiques the common approach to prefab concrete construction, which often sacrifices either strength and control over form. DE|Stress is made from 110 curved panels created in a green-sand casting method, where the concrete, made of silica sand and bentonite clay, is worked while still wet. The same CNC robot that produced the mold, which is easily recyclable, later prints the material, giving the process a high degree of efficiency. “There’s no material waste in the form-making at all,” Battaglia claimed in a report from Autodesk. He also said that 3D printing gives a far greater control over shaping the vault-like structure, which is designed to encourage communal occupation and encounters.
At the Valerie C. Woodard Center, a community resource center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a new pavilion seems to rise right out of the earth. Called Pillars of Dreams, the continuous 26-foot-tall cloud-like structure is the creation of MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY, which is known for its complex, computationally-designed structures made of interlocking linear panels or "stripes." In Pillars of Dreams, as with other of the firm's projects, these stripes function not as just exterior and interior walls, but as the structure itself. “The skin of the project is everything—it’s your envelope, your experience, and foremost your structure,” explained Marc Fornes. “All projects we do are creating structure through geometry—self-supported structures.” Pillars of Dream is constructed with stripes of ultra-thin aluminum sheets, laser-cut into “labyrinthine” bands of 3-millimeter, two-layer stripes. “It’s actually a giant 3D puzzle," Fornes said. The design process for Pillars of Dreams represents a continuation and an evolution of more than 15 years of practice, which was inspired originally as a reaction to the triangle-driven geometries used in the 1990s and 2000s to develop complex architectural forms. This approach, which mirrored the polygon meshes of some digital models, resulted in a huge number of panels that take a great amount of time to assemble. The goal of working with the stripes is to speed up construction and have fewer elements to work with. Pillars of Dreams was created to inspire visitors to “carry on a sort of dreaming, escapism.” It operates at a variety of scales—appearing one way to someone driving by, another as it’s approached, and then surprises visitors by allowing them to enter its interior, the colored gradient that is created by different shades and shapes inside and out evolving as one gets closer. It is, according to Fornes, “a universe curved in all directions.”
What if we could “breed” buildings to be more efficient? That’s the provocation by artist, designer, and programmer Joel Simon, who was inspired by the potentials of 3D printing and other emergent digital manufacturing technologies, as well as his background in computer science and biology, to test a system of automated planning. With a series of algorithms of two types—“graph-contraction and ant-colony pathing”—Simon is able to “evolve” optimized floor plans based off different constraints, using a genetic method derived from existing neural network techniques. The results are, according to a white paper he put out, “biological in appearance, intriguing in character, and wildly irrational in practice.” The example he gives is based off an elementary school in Maine. Most schools are long corridors with classrooms coming off the sides, a highly linear design. By attempting to set different parameters, like minimizing traffic flow and material usage, or making the building easier to exit in the event of an emergency, the algorithms output different floor plans, developed on a genetic logic. But this optimization is done “without regard for convention [or] constructability,” and adding other characteristics, like maximizing windows for classrooms, led to complicated designs with numerous interior courtyards. For projects like schools, he suggests, class schedules and school layouts could be evolved side-by-side, creating a building optimized around traffic flow. While perhaps currently impractical (there’s no getting rid of architects—or rectangles— yet!), Simon hopes that the project will push people to think about how building with emergent technologies—like on-site 3D printing, CNC, self-assembling structures, and robotic construction—can be integrated within the design process. These technologies have promises for new forms that are hard to design for, he believes, and potentials that can’t be realized through existing design methods. As he told Dezeen: "Most current tools and thinking are stuck in a very two-dimensional world…[but,] designing arbitrary 3D forms optimized for multiple objectives—material usage, energy efficiency, acoustics—is simply past human cognitive ability."
Anyone who’s played The Sims (especially with cheat codes) knows the fun and ease of designing your own home with a few clicks of the mouse. Anyone who's designed an actual, IRL home knows that the real process is completely different. Homebuyers who want a custom home often encounter a frustratingly opaque and expensive process, or are stuck with pre-made plans that look like everyone else’s. They’re left, as Michael Bergin, cofounder and director of architecture at the startup Higharc put it, with “houses that are just left without design.” And even getting an architect to customize stock home plans, like those available online, Bergin said, can wind up costing at least in the low five figures, so instead, most go for pre-designed plans. “People spend their entire savings, everything that they have, on something that's not fit for them." Higharc believes there could be a “middle ground” in home architecture. To that end, it's developed a web-based home design app aimed at the everyday user and homebuyer. “We are trying to…address fundamental inefficiencies, structural challenges in the home building,” said Bergin. “The product that we are developing isn't going to replace an experienced 20-year architect,” he admitted, but it will, Higharc hopes, make customization much more accessible to a wider swath of new home buyers. Higharc is trying to embed “architectural intelligence” directly into its web-based software. The app uses, among other technologies, “procedural generation,” a computational technique borrowed from video games (one of Higharc’s founding members, Thomas Holt, has game industry experience), that generates graphics on the fly. “The difference between where this lands in gaming and our approach is that we're building in these heuristic or structural rules, so that no house that's produced in our system is structurally deficient,” explained Bergin. “[Higharc] looks at the international building code and prescriptive span tables and ensures that every house that we are producing is something that's buildable.” (A recent Curbed article reported that many of these code data come from the International Code Council, which recently sued the startup UpCodes for republishing building codes.) Higharc said that as it expands into new markets (it's currently beginning its first role out in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, area), it is also incorporating regional building codes. To help with siting, Higharc pulls in public GIS data. Users can pick a plot anywhere in their area from a Google Maps–like interface and try out building their home. They can then take their design and see how it fits on another plot, and Higharc will adjust the home accordingly to make sure it fits just right on the new site. Right now, The Sims comparison might go a little too far—those 3D characters don’t have to worry too much about structural integrity, after all. Higharc allows users to choose from a series of options—preset aesthetics, number of bedrooms, guest suites, number of floors, the size of each room, etc.—and automatically generates a home optimized for the user selections and the chosen plot, immediately adjusting and restructuring the entire home as the homebuyer switches options. All the while, the software displays an estimated cost range that adapts with each change to help users stay on budget. “We’re making [home building] a fun process, making it an accessible process for everyone,” said Bergin. “Ultimately, we just want to make better neighborhoods and give home buyers and builders choice—and agency.”
Presented by University of Virginia School of Architecture and California College of the Arts / Digital Craft Lab Curated by Andrew Kudless and Adam Marcus Emerging technologies of design and production have opened up new ways to engage with traditional practices of architectural drawing. This exhibition, the second volume in a series organized by the CCA Digital Craft Lab, features experimental drawings by architects who explore the impact of new technologies on the relationship between code and drawing: how rules and constraints inform the ways we document, analyze, represent, and design the built environment. Participants: Benjamin Aranda & Chris Lasch; Bradley Cantrell & Emma Mendel; Sean Canty; Madeline Gannon; Howeler + Yoon; MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY; Ibañez Kim; IwamotoScott Architecture; Stephanie Lin; V. Mitch McEwen; MILLIØNS (Zeina Koreitem & John May); Nicholas de Monchaux and Kathryn Moll; MOS (Michael Meredith & Hilary Sample); Catie Newell; Tsz Yan Ng; William O’Brien Jr.; Outpost Office; Heather Roberge; Jenny Sabin; SPORTS; John Szot; T+E+A+M; Nader Tehrani; Maria Yablonina Curator Talk and Panel Discussion: Monday March, 25 at 12:00pm, Campbell Hall 153