AEC Tech News (#259)

15 Oct, 2009 By: Cadalyst Staff

Generative Design Is Changing the Face of Architecture

New technology allows humans to harness computational powers for practical ends and to generate building design options that couldn't otherwise exist. How did it develop, and where will it lead us?

By Angus W. Stocking

Editor's note: Earlier this week at its Be Inspired awards event in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bentley Systems recognized outstanding applications of its infrastructure design technologies in 17 categories. Many finalists incorporated GenerativeComponents, a relatively new technology that facilitates quick exploration of what-if design alternatives that can result in free-form buildings incorporating innovative materials and assemblies. The winner in the Innovation in Generative Design category was Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (Worcester, United Kingdom) for the Worcester Library and History Centre, notable for its roofscape that reflects the undulations of the nearby Malvern HIlls. Following is a look into the development of GC technology and how it is changing the approach to building design for many architects. Watch for future coverage of other Be Inspired award winners.


Author Jim Paul remarked in Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon that only with the invention of the catapult did engineers begin to attain pre-eminence in world affairs, for it was the use of the catapult that viscerally demonstrated — for the first time — humans controlling mechanical forces many times more powerful than the human body.

It feels as if a similar shift is now happening in architecture, as a new class of software tools — collectively termed generative design — allows humans to control intellectual forces many times more powerful than human minds to design and construct buildings that could not otherwise exist. It is not the first time, of course, that humans have harnessed vast computational powers for practical ends, but something about walking around inside the results brings home the magnitude of what is happening.

Humans are fond of impressive buildings. The 2008 Olympics, for example, probably will be remembered as much for two spectacular buildings — the Beijing National Stadium and the Beijing National Aquatics Centre — as for the many world records that were set in them. Better known as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube, respectively, the buildings’ design, engineering, and construction depended heavily on generative design. By seizing the world stage so dramatically, the two buildings raised the profile of generative design (also called computational design or parametric design) and, to some extent, architecture may never go back.

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Angus W. Stocking is a licensed land surveyor and full-time writer specializing in coverage of the infrastructure industries


Circles and Lines:
Bringing PDFs into AutoCAD

By Lynn Allen

As I travel around introducing AutoCAD 2010 to the user community, I've observed that the biggest crowd-pleasers by far have been the new PDF features in this latest version. Although we've been able to export AutoCAD drawing files to PDF for a while now, we haven't had the ability to bring those PDF files back into AutoCAD. Finally, with AutoCAD 2010, this top AUGI wish list item as been granted.

The PDF file actually becomes an underlay when brought into AutoCAD. You can clip the underlay, snap to it, control layer display, etc. If you are using the Ribbon — simply go to the Attach option of the Insert tab to import the PDF or you can key in the new Attach command. With this command you'll find the option of inserting a PDF file as an underlay.


After selecting the proper PDF file, you'll need to specify things such as the insertion point and scale factor as seen in the figure. You also can choose which layouts you want to insert.

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Lynn Allen has written Cadalyst’s "Circles and Lines" column for 16 years and is the voice behind Cadalyst’s popular AutoCAD video tips.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

2009 Bentley Roads and Bridges Conference
October 19–21, 2009
Charlotte, North Carolina
This conference offers Bentley road and bridge software users opportunities to increase product knowledge, refine skills, and network with industry colleagues, specialists, and Bentley professionals.Read more »

Ecobuild America 2009
December 7–10, 2009
Washington, D.C.
Ecobuild America, sponsored by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), educates design and construction professionals on how to improve our built environment. This conference and exhibit introduce new strategies and materials to create sustainable structures, as well as the technology to do so faster and more profitably. Read more »

2010 ESRI User Group Conference
February 3–4, 2010
Redlands, California
Professionals from California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Islands are invited to connect with peers, colleagues, and ESRI contacts at the 2010 ESRI Regional User Group Conference. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

Mastering Revit 2009 book by Paul F. Aubin


What’s New at

CAD Manager's Toolbox:
What to Do When Old Tools Won’t Work on New 64-Bit Operating Systems

The upgrade to a new OS can spell trouble in the form of incompatible peripherals. The good news is, there are some simple workarounds you can try to bring everything into harmony again.Read more

Learning Curve: Commands, Macros, Action! in AutoCAD 2009 and 2010
AutoCAD 2009 introduced the Action Macro recorder to easily automate commonly repeated tasks. AutoCAD 2010 has worked out a few of the initial kinks and added new functionality. Read more

Autodesk Discontinues Stand-Alone ImageModeler Sales
Beginning in November, ImageModeler 2009 software and ImageModeler 2009 upgrades can only be purchased in combination with other Autodesk software. Read more

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

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