Building Design

Smartgeometry Event Pushes Limits of Architectural Design

15 May, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Professionals and students alike collaborate using advanced computational software and conventional tools.

Other clusters included the following:

  • PAD (Probabilistic Architectural Design) addressed the coupling probability theory with parametric architectural and urban design. It explored the range of probable structure heights and road networks within the development, analyzing and simulating the nearby network of London roads and associated building heights to understand the relationships between building heights and the road connectivity and capacity. It looked at a range of respective building heights to optimize a given design based on sun exposure required for each building with the goal of minimizing surface temperature of the building and maximizing the volume while remaining within the constraints of what the road network can support.
  • Computer Vision and Freeform Construction explored the use of augmented reality to facilitate precise physical construction of digital models for complex-shape, thin-vault structures using various materials and video sensors. It used video cameras and computer-vision techniques to facilitate the fabrication and construction of two different thin-vault structures using foam glass and Catalonian bricks. Each structure is self-supporting, even during construction.

Master mason Carlos Martin Jimenez of Spain played a key role in the Computer Vision and Freeform Construction cluster, which married augmented reality technology with old-world craftsmanship.

  • Projections of Reality strived to create a working prototype of a physical urban model augmented with real-time analysis. It explored ways to capture real-world models and create digital models of them through scanning equipment including point cloud devices and Microsoft Kinect sensors. It analyzed various characteristics of the digital model to project analytical data back onto the physical structure — for example, developing the digital model, analyzing factors such as the impact of solar radiation, and viewing this data overlaid onto the live image of the physical structure, creating a hybrid physical and analytical view of the structure.
  • Transformational Strategies' goal was to investigate strategies with integrated analysis and multi-objective optimization software, such as GenerativeComponents, to explore the apparent dilemma of optimization for an uncertain future. It challenged how we conceive of transforming an existing city into one that is sustainable and environmentally resilient.
  • Thermal Reticulations explored ways to measure the gap between the prediction of performance and the measurement of reality for facade design. Advanced methods and technologies were used to harness empirical data and examine various ways in which designers can simulate entropy within thermodynamic systems, using simulation aimed both at building efficiency and heat flow. It studied the difference between the simulated thermal performance of digital models compared to the real-world thermal performance of actual constructed physical models through the use of Arduino chips and temperature sensors. Models were manufactured with built-in sensors and exposed to heat lamps using infrared cameras and Arduinos to evaluate the temperature of various parts of the physical model.

Real-World Applications

Conceptual exploration pursued in the clusters at Smartgeometry are ground-breaking, but would mean little if findings couldn't be applied in the real world. During Smartgeometry 2013, Bentley Systems hosted a press conference in which presenters shared projects that have applied discoveries that originated at Smartgeometry events over the years.

John Ball and Paul Rogers, of the London firm Robin Partington Architects, described the challenges of a firm designing diverse projects with four generations of employees, all of whom have different areas of design tool expertise. How do we control quality of design, and how do we employ technology to help produce these things a lot quicker? Rogers asked. How does the workflow proceed with the older generation sketching and the younger generation using CAD [and other related technologies]?

"While we will concentrate heavily on technology today, because that's why we're here," Rogers continued, "it's not the only thing we use. We have to use the appropriate tool at the appropriate time. So we use yellow trace, we still use the phone, we still go through the modeling process. And the tech that we use … again, is using the right tools at the right time." Project team leaders should resist the pull to use only the tools they know and instead should tap the various skills of team members, he said.

The firm's Park House project, for example, "we're calling a combined workflow," Ball said. "It's the first time for us to see the evolution of parametric modeling and how we use it." Because of the shape that was generated by its contextual components, he said, designers generated the curve based on their 3D modeling expertise at the time and an understanding of the geometry. Is building this type of curve more expensive? "If you understand the technology, it shouldn't be."

Park House, London. When one curved wall of glass meets a differently curved wall of glass, "you can't illustrate that in 2D," said architect Paul Rogers.

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About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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