Updated: 14 July 2009
This responsive software explores the opportunity for generative processes to inform the design of architectural forms. Can a piece of software create families of forms that, from one generation to another, evolve along some inevitable yet unknown trajectory?
The after/afterparty is a collaboration between Michael Meredith, an architect, and myself, a software developer. Michael approached me less than a month ago, asking if I would like to make a generative version of the Afterparty, a series of furry cone structures that his firm mos was in the process of installing at PS1 this summer. This seemed interesting so I immersed myself in the project during the past few weekends.
The first iteration of the project was not generative; it was a manual system in which one can draw three-dimensional cone-like huts in a simple gestural way. If one were to put such a tool online, could the design of architectural forms be crowdsourced? Could there be an architectural equivalent to Amazons Mechanical Turk? Might there be an elephant path of designs that emerges from broad use? If one left the tool and returned a week later, could ones design have grown, adapted, or reproduced during ones absence?
The 2nd iteration was an explicitly generative one. This small animation investigates how a mutating voronoi grid can be used to generate a constantly morphing set of buildings in plan view.
The 3rd iteration represents cells (polygons) within the voronoi grid as furry, 3-dimensional cones. The inner radius of each cone is computed as a fraction of the shortest distance between the polygons center and vertices. This figure is used to compute the height of the cone, so that cones with small radii are generally taller than those with large radii. Edge segments are interpolated in 3d space to create arches.
The 4th iteration is characterized by the addition of color and high resolution screen output.
This is a work in progress. It is not yet a thorough investigation into the possibilities that computer science offers to architects. The underlying algorithms are relatively simple, and could be enhanced by truly encoding a genealogy into the huts (rather than relying solely on voronoi). Could a blend of nature and nurture be represented in the visualization? Can a cone absorb attributes of its neighbors? This is also a tool being made after-the-fact; the potential for this tool to influence the final built forms is inherently limited. However, this initial work points the way to a flexible, organic work process between architect and software developer for future collaborations.
A flickr set documents work that has led to this point. We will keep both this set and this web page up to date with progress as the project continues.
We used processing to make this. Download the software for:
And the source code:
David Lu (b. 1974) lives and works in nyc and Seattle. His focus is on the drawn line. His methods oscillate between the traditional (hand, pen, ink) and the computational (code, algorithms, custom device input). His subject matter too varies, from pop culture to abstraction to urban data. He has recently extended his definition of drawing to include maps, particularly those that document social and technological phenomena in cities.
Davids approach is explorative and research-based. His thinking is informed by a background in design and software development. He occasionally collaborates with artist collectives and research labs; his projects with Futurefarmers and the Senseable City Lab at mit have been exhibited at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Design Museum in Barcelona. He holds Bachelors degrees in Computer Science, Economics, and Psychology from Rutgers College. He studied design at the now defunct Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy.
Michael Meredith is a principal of MOS, an interdisciplinary architecture and design practice engaging an inclusive methodology of speculative research, expansive collaboration and extensive experimentation. The firm is based in Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, and lead by two directors, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample. Their work has been recognized with multiple awards and published in numerous books, magazines and websites.
MOS' work develops from speculative research ranging in typology, digital production, structure, material, program and use, to larger networks of social, cultural, and environmental conditions. The scope of MOS' research constantly shifts and expands to suit the unique sets of parameters specific to each individual project. As a result, MOS is a flexible organization grounded in expansive collaboration. Each individual project bears the unique imprint of a broad network of collaborators: from artists and graphic designers to engineers, environmentalists, computer programmers, cost estimators, amongst others. This framework for research and collaboration creates parameters for extensive experimentation, synthesizing diverse streams of expertise with emerging technology and digital processes.