eCAADe 2012 Volume 1 Digital Physicality

eCAADe 2012 Volume 1 Digital Physicality
30 eCAADe
Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic
vol. 1
Edited by Henri Achten, Jiří Pavliček, Jaroslav Hulín, Dana Matějovská
eCAADe 2012
Volume 1
Digital Physicality
Volume 1 Digital Physicality - eCAADe 30 | 1
Henri Achten
Jiří Pavliček
Jaroslav Hulín
Dana Matějovská
Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Architecture, Czech Republic
1st Edition, September 2012
Digital Physicality – Proceedings of the 30th International Conference on Education and
research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe, Prague, Czech Republic, September 12-14, 2012, Volume 1. Edited by Henri Achten, Jiří Pavliček, Jaroslav Hulín, Dana
Matějovská. Brussels: Education in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe; Prague:
České Vysoké Učení Technické v Praze.
ISBN 978-9-4912070-2-0 (eCAADe)
Copyright © 2012
Publisher: eCAADe (Education and research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in
Europe) and ČVUT, Faculty of Architecture
Cover design: Jakub Čaja
Printed at: Opus V.D.I., Prague
All rights reserved. Nothing from this publication may be reproduced, stored in computerised system or published in any form or in any manner, including electronic, mechanical,
reprographic or photographic, without prior written permission from the publisher.
2 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 Digital Physicality
eCAADe 2012
Volume 1
Digital Physicality
Proceedings of the 30th International Conference on Education and research in Computer
Aided Architectural Design in Europe
September 12-14 2012
Prague, Czech Republic
Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Architecture
Edited by
Henri Achten
Jiří Pavliček
Jaroslav Hulín
Dana Matějovská
Volume 1 Digital Physicality - eCAADe 30 | 3
4 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 Digital Physicality
Digital Physicality
Digital Physicality is the first volume of the conference proceedings of the 30th eCAADe conference, held from 12-14 september 2012 in Prague at the Faculty of Architecture of Czech
Technical University in Prague. The companion volume is called Physical Digitality. Together,
both volumes contain 154 papers that were submitted to this conference.
Physicality means that digital models increasingly incorporate information and knowledge
of the world. This extends beyond material and component databases of building materials,
but involves time, construction knowledge, material properties, space logic, people behaviour, and so on. Digital models therefore, are as much about our understanding of the world
as they are about design support. Physical is no longer the opposite part of digital models.
Models and reality are partly digital and partly physical. The implication of this condition is
not clear however, and it is necessary to investigate its potential. New strategies are necessary that acknowledge the synergetic qualities of the physical and the digital. This is not limited to our designs but it also influences the process, methods, and what or how we teach.
The subdivision of papers in these volumes follow the distinction made in the conference
theme. The papers in Digital Physicality have their orientation mainly in the digital realm,
and reach towards the physical part. It has to be granted that this distinction is rather crude,
because working from two extremes (digital versus physical) tends to ignore the arguably
most interesting middle ground.
Henri Achten, Jiří Pavliček, Jaroslav Hulín, Dana Matějovská
Volume 1 Digital Physicality - eCAADe 30 | 5
Sponsors of the eCAADe 2012 Conference
Autodesk GmbH
Bentley Systems
Rector’s Office of Czech Technical University in Prague
The eCAADe 2012 Conference is acknowledged by
Czech Chamber of Architects
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The 30th eCAADe conference in Prague is the result of a three year journey that started after attending
the 2009 Istanbul conference, where we got inspired to also organise a conference. Many people have
enabled us to make this aspiration come true. We hope to mention all of them here.
First of all, we would like to thank the dean, Zdeněk Zavřel, for his immediate support after
we coined the idea in a meeting. Together with faculty secretary Jana Tóthová and her team: Eva
Vrátilová, Hana Novotná, and Lucie Skružná, we gained the support that made it possible to produce a
succesful bid and make the conference reality.
The eCAADe council was supportive throughout the whole process and helped with all
aspects of the organisation. Knowing that we could always rely on good advice or help was very reassuring for us as conference organisers. Both acting presidents - Wolfgang Dokonal and José Duarte and Bob Martens and Johan Verbeke were in particular helpful with many issues in the process. Martin
Winchester made sure we could always rely on the OpenConf system to run smoothly and reliably.
Nele de Meyere and Maaike Waterschoot were always ready to advise with administrative questions.
We got a lot of support and advise from the previous conference organisers—Tadeja
Zupančič, Anja Jutraž, Špela Verovšek, and Matevž Juvančič—and valuable pointers from Rok Grdiša to
get InDesign do what we needed.
Financial support was generously provided by the sponsors Autodesk and Bentley, and we
also secured support from the Rector’s office of Czech Technical University in Prague. The Czech Chamber of Architects supported the event as well.
After the Call for Extended Abstracts and closing the OpenConf system we were facing a
record amount of 319 submissions. We want to thank all the authors who submitted and presented at
the conference, and all the session chairs who lead the presentations. In total 106 reviewers helped us
to assess all submissions. The list of reviewers is included after the keynote speakers section.
Our initial team of two was extended by many capable people. Vanda Říhová acted as registration secretary. Jiří Pavliček and Jaroslav Hulín processed a major part of the proceedings. Lukáš Kurilla helped out with the workshops. Martin Odehnal secured the website and helped with the design of
the conference pages. From the faculty we furthermore want to thank the IT-team, Jiří Fuska, Jiří Fuska,
and Daniel Zahrádka, for their help with IT-matters, and all the students who assisted throughout the
We were very grateful to have as confirmed keynote speakers at the conference one of the
foremost Czech architects, Eva Jiřičná, and one of the most prominent Czech AI and design researchers, Jiří Bíla, to provide their views to the conference. John Gero kindly accepted the invitation to be
keynote speaker to discuss past and future.
Finally, we want to thank our partners—Gabriela Achtenová and Lukáš Matějovský—and our
families for their support and patience while we were spending late hours organising, reviewing, editing, and trouble shooting during the past three years.
eCAADe 2012 Conference chairs
Henri Achten and Dana Matějovská
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Keynote speakers
Eva Jiřičná
Eva Jiřičná is the founder of Eva Jiricna Architects. She is a Czech born architect who has been based
in London for over 30 years. The London office currently employs twelve architects and designers,
with a satellite office operating in Prague. Jiřičná’s long experience started with a job at the Greater
London Council on her arrival in the UK in 1968 followed by the Louis de Soissons Partnership working
on Brighton Marina for 10 years, and the Richard Rogers Partnership, where she was responsible for
the interior design packages for the Lloyds Headquarters building. With Jan Kaplicky and his practice
Future Systems, she designed the Way In store at Harrods, an award winning scheme that influenced
a generation of retail interiors, and which enabled her to start her own practice. Over the last decade,
Jiřičná’s contribution to architecture and design has been recognised with personal awards, including
being made a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI), a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), election
as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts, and Hon Fellow A.I.A. (American Institute of
Architects). She holds honorary doctorates and professorships in several Universities, participates on
international juries (e.g Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, new Arts wing for Goldsmith’s
College, London), and lectures internationally on her work.
Jiří Bíla
Jiří Bíla is Full Professor at the Department of Instrumentation and Control Engineering (Head in years
2005-2009), Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, in Czech Technical University in Prague (Vice-rector in
years 2006-till now). He was in study and lecture visits in Technological Institute Linköping (Sweden),
in L.A.A.S., Toulouse (France), in University La Sapienza, Rome (Italy), in Technical University of Wien
and in institute GOPA, Bad Homburg (Germany). The kernel of his scientific activities is in: - artificial
intelligence and neural networks in modeling and control, - qualitative modeling of ill defined systems, - modeling of ecosystem functions and - computer support of the synthesis of technical systems
(including conceptual design). He is author and co-author of 5 books and over 300 conference and
journal papers (1972-2011).
John S. Gero
John Gero is Research Professor at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and was formerly Professor of Design Science and Director, Key Centre of Design Computing and Cognition at the University of
Sydney. He is the author/editor of 50 books and over 600 research papers the fields of design science,
design computing, artificial intelligence, computer-aided design, design cognition and cognitive science. He has been a Visiting Professor of Architecture, Civil Engineering, Cognitive Science, Computer
Science, Design and Computation or Mechanical Engineering at MIT, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia
and CMU in the USA, at Strathclyde and Loughborough in the UK, at INSA-Lyons and Provence in
France and at EPFL-Lausanne in Switzerland.
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List of reviewers
Sherif Abdelmohsen, Ain Shams University, Egypt
Henri Achten, Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech
Aleksander Asanowicz, Bialystok University of Technology,
Gideon Aschwanden, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Joo Hwa (Philip) Bay, University of Western Australia,
Can Baykan, Middle East Technical University, Turkey
Jakob Beetz, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands
Martin Bechthold, Harvard University, United States
José Beirao, TU Lisbon, Portugal
Julio Bermudez, Catholic University of America, United
Anand Bhatt, ABA-NET/Architexturez Imprints, India
Stefan Boeykens, KU Leuven, Belgium
Vassilis Bourdakis, University of Thessaly, Greece
Alan Bridges, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Gülen Çağdaş, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Gabriela Celani, Unicamp, Brazil
Tomo Cerovšek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Birgül Çolakoğlu, Yildiz Technical University, Turkey
Richard Coyne, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Bharat Dave, University of Melbourne, Australia
Bauke de Vries, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands
Wolfgang Dokonal, Graz University of Technology, Austria
Dirk Donath, Bauhaus Weimar, Germany
Tomás Dorta, Université de Montréal, Canada
Theodoros Dounas, Xi’an jiaotong Liverpool University,
Jose Duarte, TU Lisbon, Portugal
Dietrich Elger, KoopX Architects Designers Engineers,
Thomas Fischer, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Pia Fricker, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Tomohiro Fukuda, Osaka University, Japan
Evelyn Gavrilou, University of Thessaly, Greece
Thomas Grasl, SWAP Architekten, Austria
Jan Halatsch, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Gilles Halin, Map-crai, France
Jeremy Ham, Deakin university, Australia
Malgorzata Hanzl, Technical University of Lodz, Poland
Michael Hensel, Oslo School of Architecture and Design,
Christiane M. Herr, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Pablo C. Herrera, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas,
Urs Hirschberg, TU Graz, Austria
Scott Chase, Aalborg University, Denmark
Sheng-Fen Chien, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
Benny Chow, Aedas Ltd, Hong Kong
Taysheng Jeng, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
Anja Jutraz, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Matevz Juvancic, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Anetta Kepczynska-Walczak, Technical University of Lodz,
Sora Key, Carnegie Mellon University, United States
Joachim Kieferle, Hochschule RheinMain, Germany
Axel Kilian, Princeton University, United States
Arto Kiviniemi, University of Salford, United Kingdom
Terry Knight, MIT, United States
Michael Knight, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Tuba Kocaturk, Salford University, United Kingdom
Volker Koch, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Jose Kos, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
Krzysztof Koszewski, Warsaw University of Technology,
Alexander Koutamanis, Delft University of Technology,
Stefan Krakhofer, ask* - Stefan Krakhofer Architecture //
Atkins Global, Hong Kong
Sylvain Kubicki, Public Research Centre Henri Tudor, Luxembourg
Antje Kunze, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Ih-Cheng Lai, Tamkang University, Taiwan
Andrew Li, Athlone Research, Japan
Thorsten Loemker, Canadian University of Dubai, United
Arab Emirates
Werner Lonsing, Independent researcher, Germany
Earl Mark, University of Virginia, United States
Bob Martens, TU Wien, Austria
Tom Maver, Glasgow School of Art, United Kingdom
Benachir Medjdoub, University of Salford, United Kingdom
AnnaLisa Meyboom, University of British Columbia, Canada
Volker Mueller, Bentley Systems, Incorporated, United States
Michael Mullins, Aalborg University, Denmark
Marc Muylle, UA-Artesis, Belgium
Herman Neuckermans, KU Leuven, Belgium
Yeonjoo Oh, Samsung C&T Korea, Republic Of South Korea
Rivka Oxman, Technion, Israel
Mine Ozkar, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Sule Tasli Pektas, Bilkent University, Turkey
Giuseppe Pellitteri, Universita’ di Palermo, Italy
Volume 1 Digital Physicality - eCAADe 30 | 11
List of reviewers (continued)
Chengzhi Peng, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Jelena Petric, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Frank Petzold, TU München, Germany
Sergio Pineda, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Ra’Ed QaQish, The American University of Madaba (AUM),
Ahmad Rafi, Multimedia University, Malaysia
Rabee M. Reffat, Assiut University, Egypt
Gernot Riether, Georgia Institute of Technology, United
Peter Russell, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Gerhard Schmitt, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Marc Aurel Schnabel, Chinese University of Hong Kong,
Hong Kong
Odilo Schoch, BFH Berne, Switzerland
Benjamin Spaeth, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, China
George Stiny, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United
Rudi Stouffs, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Emine Mine Thompson, Northumbria University, United
Christian Tonn, Bauhaus-University, Germany
Bige Tuncer, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Emrah Türkyilmaz, Istanbul Kultur University, Turkey
Aant van der Zee, Eindhoven University of Technology,
Jos van Leeuwen, The Hague University of Applied Sciences,
Johan Verbeke, W&K, Sint-Lucas, Belgium
Spela Verovsek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jerzy Wojtowicz, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
Stefan Wrona, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
Gabriel Wurzer, Vienna UT, Austria
Tadeja Zupancic, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Theme: Digital Physicality
Keynote speakers
List of reviewers
CAAD Curriculum
Impact of Digital Design Methods on Physical Performance
Anetta Kępczyńska-Walczak
Strategic Thinking on the Redesign of a Foundational CAAD Course: Towards
Comprehensive Training on Digital Design
Antonieta Angulo, Joshua Vermillion
Two Approaches to Implementing BIM in Architectural Curricula
Ning Gu, Bauke de Vries
Reforming Design Studios: Experiments in Integrating BIM, Parametric
Design, Digital Fabrication, and Interactive Technology
Tienyu Wu, Taysheng Jeng
An Innovative Approach to Technology Mediated Architectural Design
Education: A Framework for a Web-Based Socio-Cognitive Eco-system
Tuba Kocaturk, Riccardo Balbo, Benachir Medjdoub, Alejandro Veliz
Component-Based Design Approach Using BIM
Andrzej Zarzycki
Educating New Generation of Architects
Leman Figen Gül
4D Modeling and Simulation for the Teaching of Structures Principles and
Construction Techniques: Towards Modeling and Visualization Guidelines for
High-Rise Buildings
Sylvain Kubicki, Annie Guerriero, Pierre Leclercq, Koenraad Nys, Gilles Halin
Building Performance Modeling in Non-Simplified Architectural Design:
Procedural and cognitive challenges in Education
Max Doelling, Farshad Nasrollahi
How to Deal With Novel Theories in Architectural Education: A Framework for
Introducing Evolutionary Computation to Students
Ethem Gürer, Sema Alaçam, Gülen Çağdaş
Volume 1 - Digital Physicality - Contents - eCAADe 30 | 13
Evaluation System for Content and Language Integrated Learning in
Architecture Using Immersive Environments
Matevz Juvancic, Tadeja Zupancic
Cybergogy as a Framework for Teaching Design Students in Virtual Worlds
Scott Chase, Lesley Scopes
Developing Online Construction Technology Resources in Tectonic Design
Jeremy J. Ham, Marc Aurel Schnabel, Sambit Datta
City Modelling
Cities and Landscapes. How do They Merge in Visalisation: An Overview
Emine Mine Thompson
A Parametric Approach to 3D Massing and Density Modelling
Greg Pitts, Mark Luther
Parametric Urban Design: Joining Morphology and Urban Indicators in a
Single Interactive Model
José Beirão, Pedro Arrobas, José Duarte
Schizoanalytical Digital Modelling for Urban Design: Incorporating the
Indexed Keys Methodology Into the Anthropological Analyses of Urban
Małgorzata Hanzl
Parametric Building Typologies for San Francisco Bay Area: A Conceptual
Framework for the Implementation of Design Code Building Typologies
Towards a Parametric Procedural City Model
Antje Kunze, Julia Dyllong, Jan Halatsch, Paul Waddell, Gerhard Schmitt
Supporting Urban Design Learning With Collective Memory Enhanced Virtual
City: The Virtual Jalan Malioboro Experiment
Sushardjanti Felasari, Chengzhi Peng
Integrated Multi-Criteria Modeling and 3D Visualization for Informed
Trade-Off Decision Making on Urban Development Options
Noemi Neuenschwander, Ulrike Wissen Hayek, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
Virtual City Models: Avoidance of Obsolescence
Peter James Morton, Margaret Horne, Ruth Conroy Dalton, Emine Mine Thompson
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Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Interpretation Method for Software Support of the Conceptual Redesign
Process: Emergence of New Concepts in the Interpretation Process
Jakub Jura, Jiří Bíla
Design Optimization in a Hotel and Office Tower Through Intuitive Design
Procedures and Advanced Computational Design Methodologies: Façade
Design Optimization by Computational Methods
Subhajit Das, Florina Dutt
On Creativity And Parametric Design: A Preliminary Study of Designer’s
Behaviour When Employing Parametric Design Tools
Sheng-Fen Chien, Yee-Tai Yeh
Scripting Shadows: Weaving Digital and Physical Environments Through
Design and Fabrication
Eva Sopeoglou
Visual Narratives of Parametric Design History: Aha! Now I See How You Did It!
Halil I. Erhan, Rodolfo Sanchez, Robert F. Woodbury, Volker Mueller, Makai Smith
“Divide Et Impera” to Dramatically and Consciously Simplify Design: The
Mental/Instance Path - How Reasoning Among Spaces, Components and Goals
Antonio Fioravanti, Gianluigi Loffreda, Davide Simeone, Armando Trento
Parametric Tools for Conceptual Design Support at the Pedestrian Urban
Scale: Towards Inverse Urban Design
Anastasia Koltsova, Bige Tuncer, Sofia Georgakopoulou, Gerhard Schmitt
The Disassembly of a Musical Piece and Its Conversion to an “Architectural”
Pathway: An Algorithmic Approach
Stamatis Psarras and Katherine A. Liapi
Generative Design
Swarm Materiality: A Multi-Agent Approach to Stress Driven Material
Marios Tsiliakos
Decoupling Grid and Volume: A Generative Approach to Architectural Design
Hao Hua
Creativity With the Help of Evolutionary Design Tool
Philippe Marin, Xavier Marsault, Renato Saleri, Gilles Duchanois
Volume 1 - Digital Physicality - Contents - eCAADe 30 | 15
Emergent Reefs
Alessandro Zomparelli, Alessio Erioli
Behavioural Surfaces: Project for the Architecture Faculty Library in Florence
Tommaso Casucci, Alessio Erioli
Acoustic Environments: Applying Evolutionary Algorithms for Sound Based
Isak Worre Foged, Anke Pasold, Mads Brath Jensen, Esben Skouboe Poulsen
Exploring the Generative Potential of Isovist Fields: The Evolutionary
Generation of Urban Layouts Based on Isovist Field Properties
Sven Schneider, Reinhard König
Speculative Structures: Reanimating Latent Structural Intelligence in
Agent-Based Continuum Structures
Joshua M. Taron
Modeling of RL- Cities
Aant van der Zee, Bauke de Vries
User Participation in Design
Digital System of Tools for Public Participation and Education in Urban Design:
Exploring 3D ICC
Anja Jutraz, Tadeja Zupancic
Crowdsourcing: Theoretical Framework, Computational Environments and
Design Scenarios
Rivka Oxman, Ning Gu
Visual Support for Interpretation of Spatial Complexities in Urban
Spela Verovsek, Tadeja Zupancic
Affordable Web-Based Collaborative Mapping Environments for the Analysis
and Planning of the Green Networks of Brussels
Burak Pak, Johan Verbeke
Shape Studies
Fuzzy Approach to the Analysis of Architectural Composition: As Applied to
Villa Design by Adolf Loos
Zuzana Talašová
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Leaving Flatland Behind: Algebraic Surfaces and the Chimaera of Pure
Horizontality in Architecture
Günter Barczik
Recursive Embedding of Gestalt Laws and Shape Grammar in the Weaving
Design Process
Rizal Muslimin
Shape Grammars for analyzing Social Housing: The Case of Jardim São
Francisco Low-Income Housing Development
Max Andrade, Leticia Mendes, Giovana Godoi, Gabriela Celani
Generation of Energy-Efficient Patio Houses With GENE_ARCH: Combining an
Evolutionary Generative Design System With a Shape Grammar
Luísa G. Caldas, Luís Santos
Transformation Grammar for Housing Rehabilitation: From a Specific to a
General Grammar
Sara Eloy, José Pinto Duarte
On Shape Grammars, Color Grammars and Sortal Grammars: A Sortal
Grammar Interpreter for Varying Shape Grammar Formalisms
Rudi Stouffs
GRAMATICA: A General 3D Shape Grammar Interpreter Targeting the Mass
Customization Of Housing
Rodrigo Correia, José Duarte, António Leitão
Bio-Origami: Form Finding and Evaluation of Origami Structures
Daniel Baerlecken, Matthew Swarts, Russell Gentry, Nixon Wonoto
Estimating the Fractal Dimension of Architecture: Using Two Measurement
Methods Implemented in AutoCAD by VBA
Wolfgang E. Lorenz
Simulation, Prediction, and Evaluation
Study on an Architect-Oriented Workflow for Freeform Surface Design Tools
Chengyu Sun, Junchao Lu,Qi Zhao
An Event-Based Model to Simulate Human Behaviour in Built Environments
Davide Simeone, Yehuda E. Kalay
Real-Time Electric Mobility Simulation in Metropolitan Areas: A Case Study:
Eiman Elbanhawy, Ruth C Dalton, Emine Mine Thompson, Richard Kottor
Volume 1 - Digital Physicality - Contents - eCAADe 30 | 17
Architectural Software Tool for Structural Analysis (Atsa) Intended for Intuitive
Form-Finding Process
Lukáš Kurilla, Marek Růžička, Miloš Florián
Iterative Refinement Through Simulation: Exploring Trade-Offs Between
Speed and Accuracy
Patrick Janssen, Vignesh Kaushik
Physics-Based Modeling as an Alternative Approach to Geometrical
Constrain-Modeling for the Design of Elastically-Deformable Material Systems
Moritz Fleischmann, Achim Menges
Acoustic Consequences of Performative Structures: Modelling Dependencies
Between Spatial Formation and Acoustic Behaviour
Dagmar Reinhardt, William Martens, Luis Miranda
Urban Acoustic Simulation: Analysis of Urban Public Spaces Through Auditory
Merate Barakat
Explauralisation: The Experience of Exploring Architecture Made Audible
Thomas Krijnen, Jakob Beetz, Jacob Voorthuis, Bauke de Vries
Emergence as a Design Strategy in Urban Development: Using Agent-Oriented
Modelling in Simulation of Reconfiguration of the Urban Structure
Peter Buš
Equalizing Daylight Distribution: Digital Simulation and Fabrication of
Optimized Inner Reflectors and Bottom Extractors for a Light-Duct
Shinya Okuda, Xiaoming Yang, Stephen K Wittkopf
Meeting Simulation Needs of Early-Stage Design Through Agent-Based
Gabriel Wurzer, Nikolay Popov, Wolfgang E. Lorenz
Parallel Analysis of Urban Aerodynamic Phenomena Using High and Low-tech
Flora Salim, Rafael Moya
Virtual building Construction Laboratory in Undergraduate Engineering
Maciej Andrzej Orzechowski, AgataWłóka
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Design Tool Development
ar:searchbox: Knowledge Management for Architecture Students
Christoph Langenhan, Arne Seifert, Astrid Teichert, Frank Petzold
Visualizing Post-Occupancy Evaluation Data: Rationale, Methodology and
Potential of Enviz, a Visualization Software Prototype
Panagiotis Patlakas, Hasim Altan
Lawnmower - Designing a Web-Based Visual Programming Environment That
Generates Code to Help Students Learn Textual Programming
Gabriel Wurzer, Burak Pak
System Design Proposal for an Urban Information Platform: A Systems
Gideon Aschwanden, Chen Zhong, Maria Papadopoulou, Didier Gabriel Vernay,
Stefan Müller Arisona, Gerhard Schmitt
Open Graphic Evaluative Frameworks: A Climate Analysis Tool Based on an
Open Web-Based Weather Data Visualization Platform
Kyle Steinfeld, Stefano Schiavon, Dustin Moon
Building-Use Knowledge Representation for Architectural Design: An
Ontology-Based Implementation
Armando Trento, Antonio Fioravanti, Davide Simeone
Design Guidance for Low-Energy Dwellings in Early Design Phases:
Development of a Simple Design Support Tool in SketchUp
Vincent Macris, Lieve Weytjens, Kenny Geyskens, Marc Knapen, Griet Verbeeck
Parametric Urban Patterns: Exploring and Integrating Graph-Based Spatial
Properties in Parametric Urban Modelling
Martin Bielik, Sven Schneider, Reinhard König
Application of Fuzzy Logic for Optimizing Foldable Freeform Geometries: An
Example of a Practical Application – A Foldable Window Shade
Madalina Wierzbicki-Neagu, Clarence Wilfred de Silva
Volume Rendering in Architecture: Overlapping and Combining 3D Voxel
Volume Data with 3D Building Models
Christian Tonn, René Tatarin
Volume 1 - Digital Physicality - Contents - eCAADe 30 | 19
Virtual Architecture
A Case Study of Using BIM in Historical Reconstruction: The Vinohrady
Synagogue in Prague
Stefan Boeykens, Caroline Himpe, Bob Martens
Virtual Worlds and Architectural Education: A Typological Framework
Burak Pak, Caroline Newton, Johan Verbeke
Physical and Digital Models for Electronic Spaces: The 3D Virtual Re-Building
of the Philips Pavilion by Le Corbusier
Alberto Sdegno
Urban Games: Inhabiting Real and Virtual Cities
Andrzej Zarzycki
Index of authors
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CAAD Curriculum
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 21
22 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
Impact of Digital Design Methods on Physical
Anetta Kępczyńska-Walczak
Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning, Lodz University of Technology, Poland.
[email protected]
Abstract. This paper deals with relationship between the digital and the physical on
the basis of retrospective of previous eCAADe conferences and the author’s didactic
experience. In order to show a scope of issues, different methods and tools are described
and analyzed. Author believes that described approach may contribute to the ongoing
discussion on recommendations for CAAD teaching. Reflecting the conference theme,
author poses the question whether digitality can be identified as intangible physicality.
Keywords. Digital design theory and methods; digital architecture; integrated design;
teaching strategies.
This year we are celebrating the 30th eCAADe Conference. The conference title Digital Physicality/
Physical Digitality clearly defines the current stage
achieved in the information and communication
technology and CAAD. It might be considered as a
significant milestone on a “long and winding road”
we have been passing over these years. What is
more, the themes of last four conferences: from the
architecture in ‘computro’ in Antwerp (2008), through
Computation: The New Realm of Architectural Design
(2009 Istanbul) and Future Cities in 2010 in Zurich to
Respecting Fragile Places (2011 Ljubljana) seem to
support this statement. Digitality is not a tool anymore, on the contrary, it has fluctuated towards “intangible physicality”.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary is a good opportunity for a retrospective overview of ideas development, concepts evolution, and technological
progress. Through these years some schools have
become leaders followed by the others. Some
schools have specialised in particular domains while
other offered general introduction to the vast variety of CAAD aspects. Despite these developments,
“the field has changed little in the course: ambitions,
goals and means remain largely unchanged since the
early years. What has been changing is the position of
the area relative to architecture and building in general, both in academia and in practice. This has led to
changes in the internal priorities of CAAD, especially in
teaching. A critical examination of the strengths and
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 23
weaknesses of the area leads back to the fundamentals
of computational design. These are more important
than ever, despite, even because, of the broad adoption of computer-aided tools because they determine
not only the true character of the area but also possible
scenarios for new directions for CAAD research and development” (Martens, Koutamanis, Brown, 2007).
This brief retrospective recollects the time when
introducing CAAD started with teaching how to use
a mouse and click left or right button intuitively. The
digital aids to architectural design process seemed
to be more an obstacle than facilitation. There is a famous cartoon by Roger Penwill, illustrating early use
of computers in architectural practice: it presents a
designer working at a large drawing table using a
pencil and a drawing rule, and the computer is used
as a chair... [1]
In this context it seems crucial to look back at
some of the previous conferences themes which,
starting from 1982 in Delft, have been reflecting
advancements in digital technology and, what is
more, its stronger and stronger influence on education, research and practice. Moreover, the technology has been forcing us to lifelong learning in order
to keep up with brand new discoveries, research
and applications. In the 1990s CAD curriculum and
computer craftsmanship in architectural education
were settled. The conference in 1994, entitled The
Virtual Studio, introduced the concept of “virtual”
for the first time in a way that the main lecture hall
hosted the “real” presentations while an identical
lecture hall located directly below, hosted the “virtual” presentations relayed simultaneously in sound
and video from “above”. Then, in Palermo (1995)
multimedia potential power was broadly explored
and discussed. In 1997 (eCAADe conference in Vienna) another shift was observed through focusing
on Challenges of the Future. In consequence, topics
such as a digital design process, spatial modelling
and collaborative teamwork evoked in the context
of new directions for computation in design profession. Two years later, during the eCAADe conference Architectural Computing: From Turing to 2000
hosted by the University of Liverpool, the evidence
24 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
of a radical change in the nature and goals of CAAD
education and research was emphasized. At the beginning of 21st century the terms Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Architectural Information
Management were already adopted and applied in
practice (eCAADe conference in Helsinki in 2001). It
has passed exactly ten years since the conference in
Warsaw took place. Its main theme Connecting the
Real and the Virtual underlined duality of physical
and digital design worlds. The question provoked
a discussion how these worlds could be effectively
and creatively inter-related. Only a year later, the
eCAADe conference in Graz, became a forum focusing on virtual and augmented reality as well as
spatially immersive real-time environment as a tool
for designing, communicating and collaboration. A
further search for the place and role of digital technology in a design process became a focus of the
eCAADe conference Digital Design: the quest for new
paradigms which took place in Lisbon in 2005. Two
years later, editors of the Predicting the Future conference proceedings stressed that the virtual environments had become quite enough close to reality that it was possible to predict the performance
of a project prior to its execution. At the same time,
authors emphasized that it was difficult to predict
which direction the technology would develop in
the future. Principally, because “the future does not
»just happen«. It needs shaping by people with ideas,
people with visions and people working hard in research” (Kieferle, Ehlers, 2007).
So, through these years we have come up to
the stage where distinction between real and digital has become pointless since information and
communication technology has embedded in the
physical world and sunk into it deeply (Brown, Winchester and Knight, 2008). It is observed in everyday
life since development of multimedia influenced
the perception methods of contemporary generations, who absorb knowledge in a different way
than their predecessors. Linking various media and
digital imaging forms a modern source of information broadcasted to people, whose imagination is
being shaped by mass media, including television,
Internet, computer games and mobile applications.
There is no doubt the impact of technology also
affects the performance of professional practice.
Nowadays architects and designers are challenged
by constantly evolving technology and, in consequence, are provoked to explore undiscovered
domains. Moreover, the best known masterpieces
of contemporary architects would not be possible
without advanced digital technology. As a result, on
the one hand, it stimulates constant challenges and,
on the other hand, it evokes requirements of the
education process.
The eCAADe conferences have become not only an
established forum for exchanging the leaders’ experiences in the cutting edge research but also a place
of inspiration for the followers. They have enabled
discussions of primary ideas and supported methodological thinking. What is more, teaching or educating has always been a predominant factor. The
history of CAAD teaching at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning at Lodz University of Technology goes back to 1993 - next year we will celebrate 20th anniversary of establishing the CAAD Unit.
Over the period education and research in the field
pursued, similarly to other schools of architecture,
the “long and winding road” from the basic CAAD,
through BIM, advanced 3D modelling and GIS, towards integrated design methods. It is, however, not
only a question of deploying a particular software,
but also of teaching strategies. The latter issue will
be revealed in the following sections.
At present, we teach undergraduate students of
four different course studies, namely: Architecture
and Urban Planning, Interior Design, Architecture
Engineering and Spatial Economy. First and second
year students are given fundamental courses in
CAD, BIM and basic GIS applications while third and
fourth year students learn advanced 3D modelling,
visualisation techniques and multimedia presentations. What is more, they are introduced to more
complex topics such as computer aided spatial plan-
ning and management tools, parametric design,
generative architecture and algorithmic methods of
design among many others. Some of those courses
are elective, so students can choose a subject to
study. The overall didactic goals have been defined
as follow:
1. to provide an introduction to CAD and BIM
2. to develop practical skills by creating information models of architectural objects and
project documentation based on the models;
3. to develop practical skills of advanced three
dimensional modelling, visualisation and
4. to introduce latest tendencies and technologies of computer aided design (e.g.: parametric
design, generative architecture, algorithmic
methods of design, 3D scanning, point clouds,
photogrammetric, rapid prototyping, reverse
engineering, VR, GIS);
5. to amplify knowledge of computer aided
spatial planning and management;
6. to provide methods and techniques of postproduction in architecture, and multimedia
7. to extend computing skills in terms of creation
of parametric and generative objects.
To sum up, the general mission is to open students’
minds to the new technology and develop skills of
appropriate software selection in terms of acquiring projected objectives and satisfying final results.
In order to show a scope of issues to be dealt with
a variety of tasks, different methods and tools are
described and analyzed in the following paragraphs.
Individual work
The aim of the project was to provide a realistic
three-dimensional visualization of buildings along
the main street of the historic city centre of Lodz.
Therefore, it was necessary to acquire archival materials, then to digitise them and to verify through the
comparison with photographic documentation of
the current stage of buildings. On this basis, threedimensional modelling of buildings was done with
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 25
the use of the CAD and 3D modelling software. The
accuracy of modelling often required the elaboration of architectural details. Then the visuals were
done deploying dedicated software for photo-presentation. The accomplished virtual reconstructions
were visualised and presented to the public during
an open-air exhibition arranged along modelled
street, so everybody could compare the results
achieved by students with the real appearance of
heritage buildings. This is an example of the traditional, instructive teaching method, supplemented
by individual task summarising achieved skills.
The aim of the project was to create three-dimensional models of roof structures based on measured
drawings of old wooden churches, done earlier by
students during a summer training. There were four
principal goals of the project. First, to recognise
historical timber roof structures, secondly, to attain
three-dimensional models of trusses comprised of
elements suitable for virtual assembling and disassembling as well as for animation, thirdly, to accomplish models capable to store and visualise various
types of information such as nature and level of
damages, structural characteristics and force distribution analysis, and finally, to increase knowledge
and skills in the three-dimensional modelling.
The organisation of work required that the group of
fourteen students had to create the list of individual
tasks, to determine the order of their implementation and to select a coordinator to supervise the
proper conduct of the subsequent stages of action.
The coordinator was responsible for the division of
work and submission of the entire model, while the
preparation of the components was the responsibility of other participants.
Problem Based Learning
Ksiezy Mlyn is an important part of the former paternalistic industrial complex, built in Lodz in the
late nineteenth century. The site is one of the best
examples of this kind in Europe. A good state of
preservation and authenticity of most buildings
26 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
mean that the complex has outstanding historic
and heritage value and is of great importance for
the local community. This latter issue was the fundamental assumption of the project, which objective was to find the best method of commemoration
this city area. The result was a comprehensive study
devoted to Ksiezy Mlyn in a form of a website. First,
three-dimensional models of the whole complex
and its most important components (including a director’s villa, a factory hospital, a school for workers’
children) were done with the use of the CAD and 3D
modelling software. On this basis, cardboard mockups for self-assembly were prepared. Furthermore,
an interactive map of Ksiezy Mlyn was created providing historical description of each object and photographic documentation illustrating its past and
present condition. Particularly interesting results
were achieved through a series of views, recreating
daily life in Ksiezy Mlyn, in the style of old postcards
from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
What is interesting, the PBL method facilitated a
broader exploration of the possibilities prior to deciding on problem-solution, and moreover, it gave
opportunities to learn a variety of digital tools within one project. Work started with the “brainstorming” allowing active involvement of participants and
their commitment to the subject.
Then, students jointly defined a problem, its
solution, and created an implementation plan.
The progress of the project was being evaluated
throughout the semester, which helped to overcome the greatest difficulties instantly. The final outcome reflected the workload of various participants.
The main task of two workshops for the fourth and
fifth year students of architecture and urban planning was to introduce students to algorithmic design techniques. It is necessary to stress that students did not have any experience in programming
before (Kepczynska-Walczak, 2008).
During the first workshop students were familiarised with the possibilities of Maya software and
algorithmic design and programming skills.
During the second workshop, the participants
had an opportunity to experience a real designing
process – from an initial concept, through its development, to the realisation of designed structure. The
main task of the workshop was to create a component, as a starting point for a complex structure by
experimenting with various transformations of this
basic element. Students explored and tested different tools and functions of the software, such as:
duplicate, grid, field force, deformers, blend shapes
and lattice.
The results of the above-described workshops
depended primarily on the skills in using a new tool
and to a lesser extent on spatial imagination as well
as a designer’s concept.
Figure 1
Digital physicality - an example of student’s design.
MEL script language. They experimented with simple programming and checking effects in the virtual
space. Later, they tried to write a script in order to
achieve a spatial form in a controlled way. The involvement of students was impressive, although the
visual solutions depended mainly on cognition of
Figure 2
Matrix illustrating the problem
of designer’s imagination
limits. The arrows indicate
transformation of figures.
With appropriate software
it is possible to obtain the
shape which ought to be in
the square with the question
mark. But is it possible to
imagine it before the results
appear on the screen?
Various modes of teaching applied in the projects
have been presented. Author believes in aided value
of the approach described above so that it may contribute to the ongoing discussion on recommendations for CAAD teaching (Kolarevic, 2008; Matejovska and Achten, 2008).
What is more, some of presented projects acknowledge the synergetic qualities of the physical
and the digital. This issue might be also illustrated
with a diploma design of a building, flexible by
changing its appearance due to digitally simulated
modes of performance. As a result an observer receives digital responses in a physical way. The building communicates with an observer through the
changeable performance. In other words, digital
physicality, though intangible, can be perceived or
experienced with physical senses (fig. 1).
The Interactive Panorama of Liverpool is another interesting case of relationship between the
real and the virtual. The loop of technology which
occurred during the panorama creation might be
also considered as a symbol of transition process
blurring boundaries between the digital and the
physical - “merging real and virtual worlds somewhere
along the virtuality continuum which connects completely real environments to completely virtual ones”
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 27
(Brown, A., Winchester, M. and Knight, M.: 2008).
There is, however, another important lesson,
which might be drawn from the described projects:
the impact of digital tools and methods on a final
design performance is immense. Though, it strongly
depends not only on students’ creativity but, what is
observed as predominant, on scripting skills (fig. 2).
We are now witnessing unprecedented transformation of work of an architect. This implies a smooth
transition from design to implementation, carried
out entirely within a digital platform. According to
Mitchell (2005) “buildings were once materialized
drawings, but now, increasingly, they are materialized digital information - designed and documented
on computer-aided design systems, fabricated with
digitally controlled machinery, and assembled on
site with the assistance of digital positioning and
placement equipment”.
In consequence, algorithmic and procedural
thinking as well as programming skills are becoming a commonplace for contemporary designers.
This poses new challenges for architects to acquire
skills that until now were the domain of IT engineers (Kepczynska-Walczak, 2008). With generative
methods architects no longer model forms directly.
Instead, the form is generated by the computer, and
the architect controls it with a code or script. The designer’s work starts to resemble that of a programmer. What is more, such a design process requires a
high level of mathematical knowledge, rather unusual for graduates of schools of architecture.
Similar situation was experienced in the early
years of CAAD, when imagination was constrained
by variable tools and computer literacy. In other
words, if there is no direct link between a designer’s
mind and designing tool, a designer becomes rather
a reviewer than a creator (fig. 3.). This conclusion
resembles the thought of Aart Bijl (1983), who considered the ease of use as a single most important
criterion of judging the importance of new developments in digital technology.
This may be considered as a main obstacle challenging architects on the “long and winding road”
towards the synergy of the physical and the digital.
28 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
Figure 3
Relationship between a designer and a digital tool (after
Bijl, 1983).
Bijl, A 1983, ‘Know your technology or can computers understand designers?’ in WP De Wilde et al., eCAADe Proceedings of the International Conference, Brussels, pp.
Brown, A, Winchester, M and Knight, M 2008, ‘Panoramic
Architectural Art: Real-Digital Interaction as a Catalyst’
in M Muylle (ed) Architecture ‘in computro’, eCAADe and
Artesis University College of Antwerp, Antwerp, pp.
Kepczynska-Walczak, A 2008, ‘Contemporary Renaissance
Architect - Yet Architect?’ in M Muylle (ed) Architecture
‘in computro’, eCAADe and Artesis University College of
Antwerp, Antwerp, pp. 445-450.
Kieferle, J, Ehlers K (eds) 2007, Predicting the Future, eCAADe
and FH Wiesbaden/FH Frankfurt, Wiesbaden - Frankfurt am Main, p.5.
Kolarevic, B 2008, ‘Architecture in the Post-Digital Age: Towards Integrative Design’ in M Muylle (ed) Architecture
‘in computro’, eCAADe and Artesis University College of
Antwerp, Antwerp, pp. 653-658.
Martens, B, Koutamanis, A and Brown, A 2007, ‘Predicting
the Future from Past Experience’ in J Kieferle, K Ehlers
(eds) Predicting the Future, eCAADe and FH Wiesbaden/
FH Frankfurt, Wiesbaden - Frankfurt am Main, pp.523532.
Matejovska, D and Achten, H 2008, ‘Five Experiments to
Elicit CAAD Work Strategies of Students in Three Levels of Education’ in M Muylle (ed) Architecture ‘in computro’, eCAADe and Artesis University College of Antwerp, Antwerp, pp. 877-885.
Mitchell, WJ 2005, ‘Constructing Complexity’ in B. Martens,
A. Brown (eds) Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures 2005, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 41-50.
Strategic Thinking on the Redesign of a Foundational
CAAD Course:
Towards comprehensive training on digital design
Antonieta Angulo , Joshua Vermillion
Ball State University, Department of Architecture, United States of America
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The paper describes a new implementation of an existing course on digital
design and its contribution to the curriculum of the undergraduate pre-professional
architecture program at Ball State University. The strategic thinking behind the
re-design of this course reflects not only the need to update its content to reflect
the state-of-the art in the domain but also responds to a diversified context that
exhibitschanging trends due to digital culture, use of digital media in learning and
practice, and educational policy. The paper elaborates on these larger contextual
elements and describes the new instructional methods implemented through a
modular framework of assignments and a multi-layered delivery system. The
paper concludes with a series of recommendations for the future improvement,
constant assessment, and further development of the digital design course.
Keywords. Digital Design; Instructional Methods; Parametric Thinking; CAAD;
The paper describes the new implementation of an
existing course on digital design (ARCH263) and its
contribution to the curriculum of the undergraduate pre-professional architecture program at the
Department of Architecture in Ball State University. This course was and continues to be the only
required regular course directly related to digital
design in the curriculum. The ARCH263 is offered
every fall semester to sophomore students and also
to career-change students aspiring to continue into
the master of architecture program. The new implementation of the ARCH263 was deployed during the
last academic semester (2011) for a population of 80
students distributed in three sections in the sopho-
more level and one section in the career change
level. Each section had an instructor who was also
supported by a teaching assistant. The classes met
two times a week for one hour and 45 minutes in
each class.
The main reason that triggered the initial impulse to re-design the course resided in the need
to update its content to reflect the state-of-the-art
in the domain. We are aware that digital design is a
domain that closely relies on information technology and that dependency drives constant change
in the content and the format through which the
teaching and learning of digital design conventionally happens. Accordingly we have revised the as-
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 29
signments on a yearly basis and have introduced
major modifications every three years. In the last
revision of the course during the summer of 2011,
we realized that the changes in information technology were only part of a larger context that was
also changing and required a strategic response. The
larger context is diversified and exhibits changing
trends due to digital culture, use of digital media in
academia and practice, and educational policy. The
contextual elements that were taken into account to
determine the instructional methods implemented
in the course are described below.
Digital culture: who do we teach?
Manovich (2001) stated that “today we are in the middle of a new media revolution -the shift of all culture to
computer-mediated forms of production, distribution,
and communication.” Our students are the so called
college millennials (Strauss and Howe, 1991) who
have grown up with digital technologies integrated
as an everyday feature of their lives: for school, work
and entertainment (Pew Research, 2010). Our college
millennials are natives (Prensky, 2006) in the digital
world. They are used to receiving information very
fast, do parallel processing and multitasking, they
prefer graphics over text, they prefer random access
to information instead of a set order, and they are
used to networking and working in groups. They are
usually more eager to try out a new software program before reading the manual. They are users of
all the different types of social media (i.e. Facebook,
Twitter, etc.); they are experts at distinguishing the
relevant facts from information pollution and usually take a critical stance towards their sources. Our
college millennials exhibit basic digital literacy that
involves more than the mere ability to use software
or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety
of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function
effectively in digital environments. Accordingly, the
ARCH263 reflects the student’s ability to speedily
and successfully achieve computer aided architectural design (CAAD) literacy and dedicate more time
and effort to exploring digital methods to undertake
30 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
project-specific designs. The ultimate goal of this
course is to install in the students the ability of learning how to learn to use the ever-evolving digital resources and to understand its significance in their
design projects.
Use of digital media in academia and
practice: what should be taught?
Historically a CAAD course had as primary goal
to instruct on how to produce drawings. Through
time we saw that by producing 3-dimensional digital models it became easy to generate not only the
visualization documents but also the construction
and analysis information. Nowadays, most progressive practice and academia would agree that the
goal is not only learning software to produce building information; it is about learning to design with
the digital media in every stage of the project. In
learning to design with digital media the emphasis
mainly gravitates on exploration and validity of design principles and design processes (representing
alternative solutions and diagrams of interdependency) and less in the attainment of a design product
(producing final building documents).
The area of concentration in our foundational
course is the “digital expression of the building
form” (Szalapaj, 2005) designed during conceptual
stages of a project. By borrowing this concept from
Szalapajon the three core aspects of the application
of information technologies to design practice, we
are interested in the ways in which computer modelling systems can be used to manipulate shape
during the design process. We specifically teach
how to create geometries that resemble the form of
architectural objects and we instruct about the parameters, variables, constraints and basic aesthetic
and performance-oriented objectives that concern
the creation of form. To fulfil these teaching objectives we have selected 9 commercially available applications (including plug-ins). This group includes
the categories of 3D computer graphic software,
vector graphic editors, video-editing software, raster graphic editors, computer aided design editors,
and html editors, mainly from McNeel, Autodesk,
and Adobe software houses (Rhino, Grasshopper,
Panelling Tools, 3DS Max, Architectural Review, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Premiere). We
have chosen these applications because they cover
a broad spectrum of skills, they are compatible with
our peripherals (printers, plotters, etc.), have easy inter operability, and because we have seen them successfully used in conceptual stages of design.
On operability terms, we see that in academia
and practice there is a gradual shift towards implementing collaborative, open environments where
screens, printers and other peripherals stand ubiquitous and are available to accessing the information and communicate with design partners via
digital networks. Since our department has a strong
emphasis on digital fabrication, we also strengthen
the relationships between digital design and digital fabrication. We instruct students on how to use
laser cutters and 3D printers. We give only 11 main
lectures for the whole student body and implement
working sessions in smaller groups per section.
The students have cold desks elsewhere to work
with their personal laptops through wireless networks that connect them to peripherals distributed
throughout the building.
Educational policy: how it is delivered?
Educational institutions in general and public institutions in particular are pressed to articulate maximum
effectiveness in the objective of providing high value.
That objective combined with the social and political
framework in which state-funded institutions must
operate results in a quest to generate a large number of graduates, in the shortest time possible, and
at low cost. As a result our mandate is to reduce our
undergraduate programs to a maximum of 120 credit
hours (Associated Press, 2012). Currently operating at
126 credit hours with courses that exceed the relation
of credit hour and instructional content, it is not possible to assume that our curricula will support more
credited content. This implies that ARCH263, our required course in digital design will remain unique in
the curriculum; becoming the cornerstone for further
individual student-led learning in the subject.
The educational policy framework of our institutions
has therefore a substantial impact on our instructional strategy. Because we are aware that we will
not be able to teach everything our students may
need to learn, it becomes imperative that we support the process of learning to learn in a proactive
way. We also know that this particular domain is in
constant evolution and that periodical formal retraining processes would not be practical in contrast
with the more sustainable approach of continuing
professional development. In that context, it is important to develop a learning environment that is
similar to the environment in which our graduates
will continue to learn. The implementation of student owned computing policy and the eradication
of commodity-level computer laboratories are important steps in that direction. In such an environment the students are largely autonomous in their
choice of hardware, system configuration, and networking attitude. At the same time, our institution is
freed from the fiscal responsibility to implement and
maintain traditional computer labs and can concentrate in supporting higher-end infrastructure that
in terms allows our students to have access today
to resources that will be mainstream technologies
when they graduate.
Beyond the process of learning to learn and how
our instructional strategy may support that process,
we must also keep in mind that the course on digital design stands within the curricula that supports
other learning threads and that those threads can
and should also support learning in digital design.
For instance, in lower-division undergraduate studios we concentrate on fundamental design issues
such as form-giving, and it is in part because of that
reason that our course is in particularly robust on
software that supports management of geometrical modelling;facilitates crossing back and forth
between the digital and analog domain through
scanning and prototyping; and provides exposure
to state-of-the-art knowledge that will be predominant when the students graduate a few years down
the line(namely parametric modelling). In similar
way, as the student makes his/her way into upper-
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 31
division undergraduate studios and acquires knowledge on building materials and systems, workshops
in the application of building information modelling
and database management becomes supported
and the students are exposed to software usage
(i.e. Revit, Ecotect, etc.) in accordance with progressive practices understanding once more that such
knowledge will be predominant when they soon
graduate. Additionally, other advanced simulation
and parametric modelling techniques (i.e. Grasshopper, Digital Components, etc.) are also taught
in specialized courses within the certificate of Digital Fabrication of the graduate program. Finally, as
the student moves into graduate school and it is
required to perform a period of professional internship, we expect that the student will be exposed to
a current digital productivity environment that combined with his/her constantly updated knowledge
of digital design will allow them to be competent in
the customary professional environment.
In the re-design of the course there were two questions to be answered: how to teach digital media
and how to teach to design with digital tools. In our
CAAD course the students are made aware that a
computer can be used as a productivity tool, but we
rather use it as a tool for learning and design. First
of all, we believe that digital media should “provide
a good conceptual model and make things visible”
(Norman, 1988). Four operational principles explain how to achieve modelling and recognition of
the digital tool affects: visibility, affordance, natural
mapping, and feedback. Whenever the students use
digital media, students will function best if they can
understand how these tools work, which actions
may actually be carried out, and the effect of their
actions on these tools on the resolution of the overall design task. As a consequence, all our instructional resources, including tutorials and guidelines, were
explicit and non-ambiguous; all suggested digital
processes and expected results were overt and subjects of demonstration. We showcased parametric
modelling tools, and demonstrated through exam-
32 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
ples not only the results of the process, but also tried
to render the computational black box transparent
explaining the inputs, outputs, relationships, propagation, modification, and variation of parameters.
Moreover we believe that the most effective way
to teach digital media is in the context of their application in a design task. The design tasks are embedded within a modular framework of assignments. In
the recent past our students have implemented design processes that are iterative in nature and rely on
the production of vast amounts of representations
that inform about explorations, evaluations, and
adjustments. The design ends when the alternative
at hand somehow satisfies the briefing in the time
allocated by the project; but there is no warranty
that the final result is the most efficient or the most
creative. Due to lack of prior knowledge and experience, our students -who are novice designers- usually spend vast amounts of time understanding the
context and constraints, and searching for a viable
solution; they spend less time evaluating and adjusting and therefore generate few or no alternative
solutions. Conventional CAAD offers many tools for
modelling, rendering, and animation in support for
the creation of representations that these conventional design processes require.
The new ARCH263 introduces the concept of
parametric thinking (Moussavi, 2011) into the conventional design processes hoping to push the
boundaries of conventional design reasoning to
make explicit the relationships of the design aspects
and parts. Parametric thinking entails that designers explain how things relate and how by modifying
the variables and/or the relationships between the
variables we can generate alternate solutions that
respond to the same context. In this way parametric
thinking supports the processes of evaluation and
adjustment that are mostly disregarded by the students. Our ultimate pedagogical aim in this regard
is to create a cognitive shift in our students’ design
thinking -from generating form as a purely aesthetic
concern- to understanding and valuing the connections and dependencies between form, materials,
and performance.
We believe that the constructivist approach can support the learning and instruction of digital design
as it follows a parametric thinking design process.
A constructivist approach to education implies that
learning is the active process of constructing rather
than passively acquiring knowledge, and instruction is the process of supporting the knowledge
constructed by the learners rather than the mere
communication of knowledge by the instructors
(Jonassen, 1997). In this approach, the role of the instructor is regarded as of a facilitator. In our course
the instructors give general guidelines as to how the
design problem may be approached. It is important
to highlight that the instructors of the different sections have the expertise to teach design studio classes. The constructivist instructional methods that we
have implemented can be described as follows:
The assignments describe a significant design
task for the generation of creative geometrical
solutions in the context of a well-defined problem. The instructors provide resources “scholarly scaffolds”, that inform about methods on
how to solve the problem. In a process of assimilation (Piaget, 1950), the students should
recall prior design knowledge (i.e. relevant
cases)and integrate new knowledge with old.
By recognizing the suitability of the digital resources, students should learn on demand the
tools and the processes needed for each particular task.
Students are expected to follow an iterative
trial and error process until reaching the desired result. It is a dynamic process through
oscillations between prototyping, testing, and
accommodation. Prototyping is implemented
by undertaking constant switches between
representations in physical and digital media. The students are able to consider the design alternatives from different points of view.
Modelling methods include the creation of
2-dimensional and 3-dimensional geometries
using vector, surface and solid techniques. A
select taxonomy of digital fabrication tools,
strategies and methods (Schodek et al., 2005)
are used by the students for physical prototyping. Visualization is instrumental through stateof-the-art global illumination techniques for
rendering and animations. Testing the design
results against meaningful criteria encourages
the students to establish and discern about design values, and undertake strategic decisionmaking between optimization and satisfaction of design concerns. Parametric modelling
is implemented through simple scripting and
graphic algorithm editors and offered to the
students as snippets they can use to test the
performance of their designs. This testing triggers reflection on students who become aware
of the role of variables and parameters and the
relationships between the parts of the design.
The understanding of the parametric relationships helps them to formulate a new solution
through accommodation (Piaget, 1950). Accommodation leads into the creation of new
prototypes or adjustment of old ones. Only
if the parametric relationships exposed during testing are well assimilated, the students
can be introduced to geometry generation
through parametric modelling or to follow a
conventional linear process of modification.
Final reflection about the experience is implemented with online design journals for metacognitive reflection. Self-evaluation of the different design processes and results are made
explicit by each student through brief writing
assignments at the end of each assignment.
Each assignment had a questionnaire for the
students to respond and record their own understandings of their process and result.
Using these instructional objectives and adjusting
to the constraints imposed by the context, we have
implemented the new course through a modular
framework of assignments and a multi-layered delivery system.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 33
Figure 1
Excerpt of skill set matrix,
overlaid with specific design
Modular framework
The new ARCH263 aims to provide awareness of
a wide range of design-oriented programs, techniques, and skills. But beyond that general objective,
we have sought to promote the understanding of
five distinctive skill sets, namely: drafting, modelling,
rendering, fabrication, and communication. Each
assignment required the student to incrementally
learn about each kind of skill.
The instructors proposed four separate assignments over the semester as shown in Figure 1. The
web page journal was a graphic design oriented assignment for posting student work and explaining
process. The three other assignments used patterning and repetition as generative design motif. The
projects are described as follows:
In the second assignment students were asked
to design two flat “Patterned Screens” for filtering sunlight through an existing building façade.
The third assignment dealt with the design
of an “Urban Tower” form with a patterned
structural envelope system. Fabrication of this
34 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
assignment focused on prototyping a threedimensional assembly from two-dimensional
In the fourth assignment students designed
three-dimensional solid components that were
aggregated into an “Undulating Wall” system.
In each project emphasis was given to external and
internal parameters for the generation of patterns
and forms. Testing these against specific criteria allowed students to interrogate the many connections between geometry and performance. Parametric thinking was framed to the students as a way
to manage the complexity of each project, while
improving design schemes to meet performance
goals in an iterative fashion. For each project, the
students were required to create an array of literal
(pictorial) and analytical (diagrammatic) representations (selective examples shown in Figures 2, 3, and
4), revealing different stages of the design process,
as they were used as elements of testing and reflection.
Figure 2
Example “Patterned Screen”
assignment including a
graphic pattern composition
(left), exterior rendering of the
screens in context (centre),
and a laser cut scaled panel
prototype (right).
Figure 3
Example “Urban Tower” assignment including (from left
to right) a occlusion testing,
structural system development, exterior rendering, and
scaled laser cut model.
Figure 4
Example “Undulating Wall”
assignment including component development in clay
(physical) and Rhino (digital)
along with occlusion testing
in Grasshopper (left), interior
rendering (centre), and 3D
printed scaled model (right).
Multi-layered system
The characteristics of the multi-layered system of
delivery are described as follows:
Redundancy of information: The lecture
classes that are mandatory for all the sections of
the course are recorded for voice-over explanations
and viewing of the interactions on the screen. These
recordings are edited and made available online immediately after the actual class. The guidelines and
procedures explained in the lectures are available
also as tutorials; these are used by the teaching assistants to help the students as needed.
Sharing of resources: All the class resources
which include PPT presentations, tutorials in text
and animated formats, scripts, image libraries, and
some executable applications were prepared by the
instructors. These resources are shared inside common archives with access online.
Multimodal channels: Although we teach the
millennial generation, not all students have the
same proficiency in the use of digital tools for design. We offer several multimedia formats to adjust
to their different learning styles.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 35
Student-centred instruction: The most important skill that we can convey is to “learn how to learn”
the relevant skills for digital design. Many tools will
become obsolete and many others will emerge, thus
the students are encouraged to step into the process
of being aware, acquire understanding, and practice
using suggested methods but to reflect and choose
the most satisfactory and time-effective strategy.
Scalable effort: The students may vary considerably in their capabilities and aptitude to search for
innovative solutions. We encourage them to explore
solutions beyond the standard expectation and support individual advanced exploration.
Practice-based learning: The students are
required to practice extensively and therefore develop strategies that yield the most effective results.
Students need to learn what they can reasonably
accomplish in a set amount of time and maintain a
well-articulated workload for a practical expectation
of success.
The blog of the course [1] gives evidence on
how we have implemented the delivery system; it is
a hub for many links to students, instructors, teaching assistants, access to course information, and access to resources dealing with the solution of assignments: tutorials, lectures, scripts, and others.
After the deployment of the course we have obtained relevant data sets from class observations
and learning outcomes of 4 sections. This information has provided us with positive indicators of the
effectiveness of the implemented instructional
methods. Additionally, we have also obtained feedback from the students as data taken from their online journals. The feedback has shown positive indicators of students’ level of satisfaction regarding the
instructional methods and their perceived learning.
Some of our findings after this implementation are
elaborated separetly.
Even though the digital culture is pervasive in
our actual society we have not yet reached a “plastic range” in the training of digital media in design.
High-impact tools would demand new digital skills
36 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
(i.e. algorithmic and analytical skills) and a new attitude towards design (i.e. parametric thinking). We
have taken a step forward to cultivate parametric
thinking among our novice design students, but
sustained effort is needed.
Educational policies applied to universities seek
a balance between skills, credentials and cost; our
digital design course must adapt itself to the current policies and with a pragmatic attitude it must
progressively demand strict pre-requisite skills
(i.e. image editing, 2-dimensional vector drawing,
WYSWYG web editing, and document editing) and
discriminate what can be left to self-teaching when
domain-knowledge is available (i.e. building information modelling and database management, performance simulations).
Our organization of assignments within a modular framework that encourages the learning of the
same diversified set of skills on an incremental basis
had a positive outcome and high level of acceptance among students. One semester after the entire sophomore class has been exposed to the new
ARCH263 we see them extensively applying these
newly acquired skills in other courses, especially in
design studios.
The results of the instructional objective in regards to instilling the skills of parametric thinking
were difficult to quantify. We have observed that
all of the students have used the available small,
custom-written end-user scripts and Grasshopper
plug-in definitions to test the design performance of
their best options. We have also observed that most
of the students understood the logic behind the
causal relationships among the parameters in their
projects’ outcomes. Most students have discovered
the inner workings of parametric thinking. Only a
few of them considered it practical (due to time constraints) to learn parametric modelling and explore
a large array of alternatives; conversely, to finish the
assignment on time they identified the direction of
improvement/modification using the conventional
digital means they had utilized and reached a satisfying solution. The design results of the class were
more believable; they showed a mature aesthetic
concern validated by selected performance issues.
We need to unify the efforts of studio instructors
to promote the practice of parametric thinking we
have introduced through this course.
The content and objectives of the course are
vast and ambitious but they have been encapsulated into a system that delivers high-impact results
through the use of redundant, decentralized, and
multimodal resources. We have reached a balance
between cost and expected outcomes. This is a
three credit course offering that implies nine hours
of study and three teacher-student contact hours
per week. However, the instructors and teaching
assistants are available on-demand to guide the
students. Beyond that we assume that the students
are in control of their learning and are responsible to
self-regulate the time and effort to be invested. The
following are few recommendations for the immediate enhancement of the course:
Provide specific tutorials about parametric
scripting and representations. Additionally,
complement the discovery method on parametric structures based on class assignments
with in-depth explanations of how to formalize
design intent, design constraints, and design
variables. The use of case studies will be promoted.
Create more opportunities to handle physical
media (1) through traditional models prior to
the use of digital processes and representations, and (2) through digital prototyping for
the sake of testing concepts.
The online journal can be improved to re-direct
the attention of the student to find the usefulness of the skills to resolve an expanded set
of design problems; and to learn to adapt and
combine methods of digital design for similar
Jonassen, DH 1997, “Instructional Design Models for WellStructured and Ill-Structured Problem-Solving Learning Outcomes” Educational Technology Research and
Development, vol.45, no. 1, pp. 65–94.
Moussavi, F 2011, “Parametric Software is no Substitute
for Parametric Thinking,” in The Architectural Review,
Posted September 21.Last accessed on May 12, 2012,
Norman, DA 1988, The Design of Everyday Things. New York:
Pew Research Center 2010, Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change in Millennials: A Portrait of Next
Generation. Last accessed on May 12, 2012, http://
Piaget, J 1950, The Psychology of Intelligence. New York:
Prensky, M. 2001, ”Digital natives, digital immigrants.”On
the Horizon.vol.9 no. 5, pp. 1-6.Last accessed on May
12, 2012,,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.
Manovich, L 2001, The Language of New Media. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press.
Schodek, D, Bechtold M, Griggs J, Kao K, and Steinberg M
2005, Digital Design and Manufacturing: CAD/CAM Applications in Architecture and Design, Hoboken, NJ: John
Wiley & Sons.
Strauss, W and Howe, N 1991, Generations: The History of
America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. United States: Quill.
Szalapaj, P 2005, Contemporary Architecture and the Digital Design Process.Amsterdam: Elsevier, Architectural
Associated Press 2012, “Indiana places new limits on college credits,” in Evansville Courier & Press News, Posted
March 7. Last accessed on May 12, 2012, http://www.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 37
38 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Two Approaches to Implementing BIM in Architectural
Ning Gu1, Bauke de Vries2
The University of Newcastle, Australia, 2Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands.
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. BIM is an IT-enabled approach that supports enhanced design integrity,
efficiency and quality through the distributed access, exchange and maintenance of
building data (Haymaker and Suter, 2007; Fischer and Kunz, 2004). More recently,
many universities have responded to the adoption of BIM in the profession, by gradually
introducing the practice into the curricula (i.e. Cory and Schmelter-Morret, 2012;
Ibrahim, 2007; Plume and Mitchell, 2007). Focusing on collaboration – one of the most
important aspects of BIM, this paper presents two approaches to implementing BIM in
architectural curricula with a focus on collaboration but from two different collaboration
scales. Through observation and reflection of these two approaches to teaching BIM, the
paper concludes by discussing BIM curriculum design.
Keywords. Building Information Modelling (BIM); curriculum design; case studies.
Traditionally, the collaboration in the Architecture,
Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has
been based on the exchange of 2D documents. Although each discipline uses 3D models in practice,
the collaboration among disciplines remains largely
2D-based until recently. The large-scale of projects,
the increased demand on efficiency, and the proliferation of object-oriented CAD tools have enabled
the direct exchange of 3D building data in AEC collaboration. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is
envisaged to play a significant role in leading this
transformation. Going beyond 3D model, BIM advances object-oriented CAD by defining and applying intelligent relationships between elements in a
building model (Lee, Sacks and Eastman, 2006; Ibrahim, Krawczyk and Schipporiet, 2003). BIM models
can include both 3D geometric and non-geometric
data. The built-in intelligence allows the automated
input, exchange and extraction of design and construction documents, as well as other building information, for different disciplines at different stages.
This level of intelligence can also reduce errors in design and construction, based on the encoded rules.
Therefore, BIM is considered as an IT-enabled
approach that supports enhanced design integrity,
efficiency and quality through the distributed access, exchange and maintenance of building data
(Haymaker and Suter, 2007; Fischer and Kunz, 2004).
Recent commercial CAD tools such as Revit (http:// and ArchiCAD (http://www. are object-oriented supporting certain BIM capabilities. Various supporting tools have
also emerged that can exploit information embedded in a BIM model for different tasks (Khemlani,
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 39
2007). Server technologies such as EDMmodelServer
( on the other hand have been
developed as a platform for direct storage, integration and exchange of building data from multiple
disciplines based on certain standard data language
such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), without
being limited to specific commercial applications.
More recently, many universities have responded to the adoption of BIM in the profession, by
gradually introducing the practice into the curricula
(i.e. Cory and Schmelter-Morret, 2012; Ibrahim, 2007;
Plume and Mitchell, 2007). There is not a uniformed
understanding and practice for implementing BIM
education because different academic programs
can have varying learning objectives of BIM and
very different student cohorts and organisational
context. Our research focuses on exploring collaboration – one of the most important aspects of BIM.
This paper presents two approaches to implementing BIM in architectural curricula with the focus on
collaboration but from two different collaboration
Approach I focuses on intra-disciplinary collaboration within the architecture discipline only, while
approach II extends to inter-disciplines towards
teaching the more fully integrated BIM practice to a
mixed cohort of students. Through observation and
reflection of these two approaches to teaching BIM,
the paper concludes by discussing BIM curriculum
design in terms of the following aspects:
1. The readiness and requirements of the students, the teaching staff and the institute.
2. Principles and strategies that underpin BIM
curriculum design.
The paper argues that in BIM education there can
be different stages towards teaching the fully integrated BIM practice which is multi-disciplinary at
core. Different institutes should critically assess their
needs and readiness and understand the implications of those factors, in order to develop a curriculum that is most suitable.
40 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
BIM adoption
One of the most critically research issues in BIM is
its adoption. BIM adoption research explores the industry’s readiness for BIM in relation to the aspects
of product, process and people, in order to position
and facilitate BIM adoption by understanding the
current status and expectation across disciplines.
It has been identified that there were both technical and non-technical issues that require considerations. The evidence also suggests varying levels
of adoption across the industry. There were studies
indicating that where even the industry leaders who
are early technology adopters in many cases have
varying degrees of practical knowledge of BIM and
hence at times different understandings and different levels of confidence regarding the future diffusion of BIM technology will co-exist among BIM
participants (Gu, Singh, Taylor and London, 2010).
Internationally, there are also varying levels of adoption and understanding from country to country,
from discipline to discipline and from client to client. Although many researchers and practitioners
espouse collaborative working environments in the
common practice there are still challenges to be met
in many parts of the world, particularly, in relation to
a fully integrated collaborative mode of operation
by multiple disciplines. These challenges are not
only technological but more often cultural and operational.
Therefore to foster and enhance BIM adoption
in the AEC industry lie not only in providing technical solutions, in fact it has been identified that implementation and human related issues were the
key drawback to wide-scale adoption (Aranda-Mena
and Wakefield, 2006). BIM adoption requires changes in organisational culture and calls for new roles
and skills of BIM participants (Gu and London, 2010).
BIM education can play a very important role in facilitating such changes (Gu, Singh, Taylor and London,
2010). BIM enabling technologies should be integrated into the university curricula, not only as just
another set of design modelling and management
tools, but as a way to investigate and reflect on the
changing nature of the building profession in order
to prepare students for these changes.
BIM education
To prepare the BIM-readiness for future AEC professionals and to further the adoption of BIM in
the industry, different BIM curricula (i.e. Cory and
Schmelter-Morret, 2012; Ibrahim, 2007; Plume and
Mitchell, 2007) have been developed and integrated
into various AEC-related academic programs. As an
emerging educational topic in the AEC domain, BIM
education is complex. Firstly, BIM is a multidisciplinary topic. Therefore BIM-related contents are vast
and can be sourced at least from the following three
areas. Depending on the purposes of the curriculum
and the needs of the students and the institutions,
the content can vary quite significantly.
Technology related contents: i.e. tool capabities, building data interoperability, and so on.
Application related contents: i.e. visualisation,
building performance analysis, and other domain specific uses with architecture, engineering or construction focus.
Collaboration related contents: i.e. communication protocols, teamwork skills, project management, interdisciplinary knowledge, and so
Secondly, there is not a standard formula for designing and implementing BIM curricula because each
academic program is different with its unique approach to BIM interpretations and practices.
For example, Cory and Schmelter-Morret (2012)
implemented a BIM course specifically for the construction discipline. The development of the course
was directed by the results of a series of studies
that surveyed the professionals about the needs of
the industry. Using Revit as the base platform, the
course focused on the technical implementation
and data flows between the architectural, structural
and MEP models in a real-world building project.
On the other hand, Plume and Mitchell’s approach
(2007) focused on the architecture discipline. Stu-
dents role-played in implementing an interdisciplinary building project using BIM server technologies.
Through BIM the course introduced interdisciplinary
collaboration to architecture students. The use of
the BIM server technology directed the emphasis of
the course to building data interoperability. Further,
Kensek (2012) surveyed various approaches to BIM
education in terms of the broader integration, using
the School of Architecture, University of Southern
California as a case study. While the study was not
exclusive, nevertheless it presented a wide range of
objectives and different implementation levels in
BIM pedagogy:
General integration of BIM technologies: The
introductory level of BIM courses can be integrated in courses that either focus on technologies (i.e. in an architectural computing course)
or focus on design (i.e. in a design studio).
Advanced BIM-related topics: More advanced
and specialised subjects that are enabled by
BIM such as performanced-based design, parametric design and modelling, building data
interoperability and coordination, and etc. can
be embeded and delivered as electives (i.e. in a
series of advanced seminars).
Professional engagement: It was argued that
the tertiary education should reach out beyond the student body to the profession, and
to be critically informed and evolved through
the interactions with the profession. Therefore the third level of BIM education is about
professional engagement, which can be facilited through conferences and industry-focused
Amongst various technological, cultural and operational foci of BIM, collaboration is one of the most
recognised characteristics of BIM, and therefore it
became our main focus in developing BIM curricula
for the architecture discipline. The rationales of such
a focus is also supported by the on-going interest of
collaborative work in the field (Kvan, 2000; Achten
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 41
and Beetz, 2009) and its enabling tools, while in
practice failures and losses were observed and often
because of inadequate collaboration and communication. The interest by scientists was much driven
by the new possibilities that internet provided for
distributed work. At architectural schools Virtual Design Studios became immensely popular, because
they allowed students from different continents to
share ideas (Kvan, 2001) without being physically together. At the same time project websites became
mature, and these were quite fastly adopted by the
building practice. Project websites support companies very effectively in document management and
document sharing (Otter, 2007). Nowadays, with the
maturality of the technology, BIM seems to encasulate the above aspects and provides an integrated
platform for supporting collaborative work in the
AEC industry. This section describes two approaches
to implementing BIM in architectural curricula with
the focus on collaboration but from two different
collaboration scales – intra-disciplinary and interdisciplinary.
Approach I: intra-disciplinary
Approach I applies BIM in simulating and teaching
intra-disciplinary collaboration within the architecture discipline. A case that adopts this approach is
the ‘Communication in the Built Environments 4’
course implemented in the School of Architecture
and Built Environment at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Architecture is one of the three
disciplines within the School, alongside with Construction Management and Industrial Design. The
Australian model of an accredited architectural program consists of two degrees, a three-year Bachelor
of Design (Architecture) degree and a two-year Master of Architecture degree. The course is a core subject for the first degree. Among the three disciplines
within the School, students are possible to enrol in
courses from a different discipline as electives. However, the collaborative teaching and learning is only
faciliated at the basic level and more often between
the two disciplines of Architecture and Construction
Management. They are genenal subjects related to
42 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
the whole building industry such as design communication (with both traditional tools and digital
tools), construction ecology, construction technology and so on. While the concept and the practice
of BIM are introduced in various modules across the
two disciplines. ‘Communication in the Built Environments 4’ is the only course that focuses on BIM
and faciliates the learning of theoretical understandings and technical skills in implementing BIM collaboration. The course is attended by architectrual
students only who has successfully completed a basic digital communication course.
‘Communication in the Built Environments 4’
was set up initially for the architecture discipline as
an advanced digital design and modeling course.
With the rapid emergence of new digital design
technologies and skill sets, additional digital design
courses have been developed to address advanced
and more specialised digital design topics such as
digital sketching and sculpting, parametric design,
and fabrication. These new courses have enabled
the re-structure of ‘Communication in the Built Environments 4’ to remove a part of the digital design
and modeling content. As the core digital communication unit, the course was enhanced and integrated with the content of architectural collaboration in
2008. The theory and practice of design collaboration were introduced and exercised through group
projects with international partner institutes in the
form of a Virtual Design Studio (Gu, Gul, Williams
and Nakapan, 2009), powered by commercial 3D
virtual world platforms such as Second Life (http:// Since 2010, it has been transitioned into the current BIM focus. The shift enables
the course to more closely match the needs of the
industry regarding collaborative work and BIM. The
commercial software adopted, i.e. ArchiCAD Teamwork server ( is architecture-specific
and widely known to the local industry. This enables
the course to provide students with references to
real-world local projects, which contextualises their
learning and helps them to better understand the
rationale and importance of collaborative work, as
many students were found quite resistant against
collaborative work especially at the beginning of the
course. The current objectives of the course are:
To introduce the use of BIM in contemporary
architectural design practice.
To introduce the key principles of designing
and collaborating in a BIM environment.
To apply the above knowledge in using ArchiCAD Teamwork server and Web 2.0 technologies for web-based architectural design and
collaboration of BIM.
The assessment of the BIM component in the course
is a collaborative architectural project. In groups of
four to five members, students are required to collaboratively complete a small residential re-design
project over seven weeks, using ArchiCAD Teamwork server as the BIM platform supplemented by
Web 2.0 technologies for communication and collaboration. One of the main challenges of carrying
out the BIM project is the large class size (between
80 to 100 students enrolled each year). With the assistance of the tutors, students are introduced to
each other at the beginning and groups are formed
voluntarily by the students themselves. In our experiences, students have been attracted to each other
and agree to come together as a group for various
reasons, i.e. matching skills, existing friendships,
previous collaborative experiences and so on, which
has enabled the formation of groups with a range of
dynamics that can lead to some different and interesting collaborative processes and outcomes. Each
group is required to appoint a project manager who
coordinates the project collaboration and serves as
a regular contact point between the group and the
teaching staff. Based on design collaboration theories and practices as introduced in the lectures, each
group is then given the flexibility to establish roles
and to determine the collaboration processes and
protocols that suit its own team dynamics. For example, there are groups being formed based on design roles such as architects, interior designers, landscape designers and so on. Non-design tasks that
are related to the BIM model, communication and
documentation are then shared by all group mem-
bers. There are other groups being formed based
on task distribution, which can include, i.e. project
architects who are in charge of design tasks in general, BIM officers whose key responsibilities are to
support and maintain the BIM model hosted on the
ArchiCAD Teamwork server, communication officers
who lead the design and presentation document
production and publish and update the group web
site or blog, and so on. Group formation together
with the project completion plan form the first formal assessment (10%). Each group is required to
present and justify its decisions at an in-class presentation and is critiqued by the teaching staff and
other groups. Three weeks prior to the final submission, each group presents the project progress in
the studio as the second course assessment (10%).
As a group, they are required to critically review the
overall progress against the original plan and realistically estimate the completion plan and adjust the
plan and collaboration strategies if necessary. As
individuals, they are required to critically reflect on
their own progress and contributions against the
original assigned roles and tasks. The final submission (80%) for each group includes both the group
assessment items (50%) and individual assessment
items (30%):
Group assessment items: An original BIM model and various documentations produced from
the model; a web-based collaboration portal
that captures the development and completion of the BIM project and the group communication during the project.
Individual assessment items: A self-reflection
on the student’s own contributions to the BIM
project and to the group, and documentations
of evidence.
The teaching and learning is structured into two
parts. The first three weeks comprise of lectures and
technical tutorials. The lectures briefly introduce BIM
theories and practices, which also includes a guest
lecture by a major local architectural firm that has
adopted BIM in supporting its collaborative work.
The tutorials on the other hand aim to provide a
‘crash course’ for developing the students’ technical
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 43
skills in working with ArchiCAD Teamwork server.
The remaining four weeks comprise of largely design studios, where the groups are supported and
critiqued to develop their projects either on-campus
or online.
The score of student overall satisfaction has
been consistent (between 4 and 4.2 out of 5), indicating that the students are generally very satisfactory with their experience in the BIM project. Although most students are aware of the increasing
importance of BIM in the AEC industry, many are
still found resistant against design collaboration and
group work at the start of the project. In our case, it
is very important to engage students from the start
of the project and to provide practical examples to
make them understand the rationale and relevance
of the project. In this regard, a guest lecture with
one of the main local BIM adopters has been successful in contextualising the significance of the
issues. In the coming year, we aim to increase the
involvement of practitioners to serve as BIM consultants during student project development and during various critique sessions. In group formation, our
students are introduced to main conceptual models
and core skill sets of design collaboration. They are
then given the flexibility to form their own groups
based on their understandings of the knowledge.
In this case, we believe that such flexibility has
motivated the students to be more engaging and
to take ownerships of their project, and as a result
they are more willing to work with and to overcome
difficulties arise during BIM collaboration. In addition, different team dynamics also lead to diverse
collaborative processes and outcomes in the whole
class. These “alternatives” have enabled the students
to see different solutions other than their own and
to understand the differences, more importantly
to appreciate the complexity and possibility of
BIM collaboration. It has been very rewarding to
see that during project plan and progress presentations some students can actively participate in
discussions on issues beyond their own group. The
reflective journals published weekly using Web 2.0
technologies have been another effective tool in
44 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
the course. Firstly, they are monitoring tools for the
teaching staff to gain an overview of the progress of
individual students and their group, so that potential issues can be identified and addressed as early
as possible. Secondly, they enable the students to
self-evaluate their project and collaboration. Finally,
they also form the base of each student’s individual
submission items. In our case, accessing individual
students in a group project has been most effective
in fostering student engagement and participation.
Approach II: inter-disciplinary
The Faculty for the Built Environment at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands is
not a typical school of architecture, but has a strong
focus on technology. Students can do a Masters in
Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP), or in Construction Management and Engineering (CME). The
ABP Masters consists of the following graduation
tracks: Architecture, building physics and services,
building technology and construction, real estate
management and development, structural design,
urban design and planning. A specialisation on
BIM is possible in all graduation tracks, which has
enabled the establishment of BIM education across
architecture, enginnering and construction. The
CME Masters is run by the Faculty of the Built Environment and the Faculty of Industrial Engineering
and Innovation Sciences. CME does not differentiate
into graduation tracks. For the ABP and CME Master
programs, a BIM course is run under the name ‘Collaborative Design and Engineering’. The course is
attended by students from both Masters programs,
hence it consists of a groups of students with a very
mixed background and interest. In this section, we
examplify the second approach to BIM education
through the introduction of ‘Collaborative Design
and Engineering’. This approach extends the first
approach to teaching the more fully integrated BIM
practice across disciplines.
The course started in 2006. At the start of the
course the main aim was to teach and to practice
collaborative design using file sharing and communications tools. Collaborative design was considered
more than just cooperating on the same task. We
were convinced that a building project can only be
successful if all disciplines truly understand and respect each other. The challenge was to investigate
how the internet technologies can support this state
of mind and how it can manage the process.
In parallel to the teaching the Collaborative
Design and Engineering (CDE) course, the Design
Systems group of the Eindhoven University of Technology has been involved in BIM research and development since the mid 1990s. At that time this
research was named product modelling and process
modelling and it took many years before standards
and tools became mature. Since approximately 2008
a wealth of software has become available that supports the BIM process. It seemed obvious to integrate BIM knowledge and technologies into the CDE
course. Today the course has a strong focus on BIM
as a supporting technique for successful collaboration in a building project. The learning objectives
Architectural design and engineering: To gain
insight in what architectural design and engineering processes are and what paradigmata
exist for these processes.
Multi-disciplinary design: To gain insight in the
specific aspects of multi-disciplinary design. To
know what social processes are important in
Designing design processes: To gain insight in
designing design processes, facilitating design
processes. To learn to work in autonomous design teams.
Building Information Modelling (BIM): To gain
insight in the application of Building Information Modelling methods and techniques to
support multi-disciplinary design.
Computer support: To get acquainted with and
to evaluate means for computer support for
multi-disciplinary design. To be able to apply
these means for one’s own design processes
and to experience the possibilities and limitations of these means.
Systems Engineering: To gain insight in Systems Engineering theories and putting these
theories into practice in a concrete project.
In this paper we focus on the implementation of BIM
in architectural curricula. Hence we only highlight
here the BIM aspects and leave out the other learning objectives. The course assessment consists of a
design assignment, namely a new shopping mall
annex offices in the Eindhoven city centre. For the
assignment the group of enrolled students (approx.
40) are split into two consortia that will compete
with each other on the best project plan. A consortium consists of four companies, with three to five
students each: Architects, Engineers, Urban Designers, Project Developers. Project Developers have
two responsibilities: Real estate management and
project management. At the start of the course a
CEO is appointed for each company. The remaining
students can apply for a job in a company through a
job application letter with a short CV. The job application letter is sent to the teacher and the students
need to indicate a first and second choice. Students
are distributed over the companies according to
their first choice as much as possible. The course
lasts 10 weeks and is rewarded with 7.5 ECTS, which
means that students spend 2.5 days per week on this
course. In the first three weeks lectures are given on
specific Collaborative Design and Engineering topics. In parallel workshops are organised for practicing BIM methods and techniques. After three weeks
each consortium presents its project management
which includes: Information plan, communication
plan, time plan, organisation breakdown structures,
work breakdown structure, functional breakdown
structure, functional and general requirements, system breakdown structure, function-system matrix,
process model and exchange requirements. From
the fourth week on, the consortia work on the design assignment. In this period the teachers only
give guidance on the process and help to solve technical issues. After eight weeks the consortia present
their final plan. The target audience is the mayor of
CAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 45
the city. Two weeks later the following reports are
Individual: Literature study, reflection report.
Company: Product report, process report.
Consortium: Project management plan, project
In the CDE course BIM lectures give an overview of
the BIM history and the state-of-the-art in today
research and development. In the workshops we
practice the following BIM methods: Systems Engineering using COINS Navigator, Building Process
Model Notation (BPMN) using Microsoft-Visio, and
IFC model sharing using the BIM server. Systems Engineering is already common practice in civil engineering, but now it has also gained attention from
the architectural field. COINS-navigator (http://www. is a
free-ware tool that supports specification of functions, requirements, systems and performances
in a systematic way. It helps students to elicit and
specify the objectives of their design. BPMN is advocated by the BuildingSmart community as the
preferred method for creating process models and
exchange requirements. The process model helps
the students to explicitly describe who are exchanging information, in which order and in what format.
The BIMserver is an open-source server (http://www. that supports management and sharing of IFC models and CityGML models. Students
configure the platform and it leads them to collaborate through sharing models instead of transferring
document files.
In general students are quite positive about the
course. For most students it is the first time they truly collaborate on a common assignment. Students
with a background in design and engineering are
used to work on their own project. In this course the
design process is a true collaborative effort and with
the right mind set it is more than just an aggregation of work parts. For students with management
background it is the introduction into the complexity of designing and engineering a building. A delicate issue is the balance between the rewarding for
the process and the product. Unlike typical design
46 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
projects, in this course the process is equally important. Focussing only on the process would result in
a very theoretical course that misses the pressure to
work on a good design and hence lack the collaboration experience. Because the total course duration
is relatively short but yet very intense, the number
of design cycles is limited. The process models including the exchange requirements are created one
design cycle ahead. Moreover, since students spend
much time together, the need for digital model sharing and telecommunication is lower than in real
Students are very well aware of the BIM urgency,
thus they are very interested in the topic. Experience
with BIM tools is very diverse, but students manage
quite well to divide the learning work load within
the companies. Technically current BIM tools show
many shortcomings and failures. A major learning
objective of this course is to find work-around for
these problems. We train the student to document
and test the collaboration process up front in order
to prevent trouble and frustration during the design
and engineering process. Although challenging and
frustrating sometimes, students appreciate that
they can work and experiment with state-of-the-art
Next year we will add an exam to the Collaborative Design and Engineering course. In recent years
we concentrated on the organisation of the course.
Today many scientific BIM publications are available
that are a good basis for course materials. Additional
to the technical and collaboration skills that are now
examined through the reports we will also test their
knowledge on BIM theory. Another wish is to involve
practitioners from the building industry as consultants during the design and engineering process and
for the final evaluation.
This paper has presented two cases of implementing
BIM in architectural curricula. The courses focus on
collaboration, one of the main characteristics of BIM.
These two courses adopt two different approaches
as discussed above and have very different scales in
collaboration. Approach I applies BIM for intra-disciplinary collaboration within the architecture discipline only. Approach II explores the full benefits of
BIM through a more integrated collaboration across
multiple disciplines for a mixed cohort of students.
The different set-ups of the courses closely reflect on
their differences in terms of the backgrounds of the
enrolled students, the needs of the programs, the
context of the institutes and the resources available.
The evidence from the industry shows that although
the potentials of the fully integrated BIM across all
AEC disciplines have been widely recognised, however there are still varying levels of adoption across
the industry. This is because for each practice, the
transition to the fully integrated BIM is highly individualised and will need to match its readiness and
be tailored for its specific needs. Similarly in BIM education, there can be different stages towards teaching the fully integrated BIM practice that has its core
in multi-disciplinary collaboration. As shown in the
two case studies above, different institutes should
critically assess their needs and readiness and understand the implications of these factors, in order
to develop a curriculum that is most suitable.
To conclude the paper, the following discusses
the readiness and requirements of the students, the
teaching staff and the institute. We then highlight
some corresponding principles and strategies for
BIM curriculum design, especially for facilitating and
assessing collaboration. There is not a standard formula for designing and implementing BIM curricula,
it is important to acknowledge the different contexts and needs of each academic program when
introducing and facilitating BIM in their students’
In terms of the readiness of the students, there
can be varying levels of perceptions on and skills of
new technologies as well as collaboration. In interdisciplinary scenarios, the issue can be even more
complex. In our second case, students with a background in design and engineering are more used to
working on their own. For BIM the design process is
a true collaborative effort and the right mind set for
collaboration has never been more important. For
students with management background the techni-
cal and cross-disciplinary knowledge and practice
such as the complexity of designing and engineering a building can be a challenging learning experience. Therefore it is very important to engage students from the start of the project and to motivate
their learning by clearly communicating and contextualising the rationale and relevance of the project
to their professions through practical examples and
the involvement of BIM adopters from the industry.
A balance of both theoretical, practical and technical course contents, an engaging project brief with
industrial relevance, a well-formed collaborative
team can each play a part in enriching the student’s
BIM experience. Once the students take ownerships
of the projects, they are more willing to work with
and to overcome difficulties arise during BIM collaboration. Besides these factors, it is arguable that the
most important and motivating factor for many students is in fact a suitable and fair assessment design.
Unlike typical design projects, for BIM the process is
equally important. Therefore, a delicate issue is the
balance between assessing and rewarding the process and assessing and rewarding the final product.
Depending on the context, it is also important to assess both the group performance and the individual
performance. In our first case, accessing individual
students in a group project has been most effective
in fostering student engagement and participation.
To facilitate BIM collaboration is also very challenging for the teaching staff. BIM is a multidisciplinary topic and BIM-related contents are vast and
can include but not limited to technology related
contents, application related contents, and collaboration related contents. It is important to allow the
students to understand this level of complexity but
without overwhelming the students. To achieve this,
it often requires the careful set-up of the course as
well as the project and the collaborative team, so
that different disciplinary knowledge can be shared
and executed by different team members. It is also
required for the academics to find the balance between being a facilitator/collaborator and a monitor/assessor and act accordingly during the course
to support the students more effectively.
While moving towards teaching a more inCAAD Curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 47
tegrated BIM collaboration across multiple disciplines for a mixed cohort of students, the complexity of the course increases significantly. To facilitate
such courses often requires effective collaboration
among staff members across disciplines and across
Finally for the institute, to effectively integrate BIM
curricula requires a strong commitment to recognising, resourcing and realising collaboration and
communication as an important graduate attribute
in the program design. BIM enabling technologies
should be integrated into the university curricula,
not only as just another set of design modelling and
management tools, but as a way to investigate and
reflect on the changing nature of the architecture
and building profession in order to prepare students
for these changes. The implementation can take different stages to suit the needs of the institute and
to better prepare for its transition, however it will
require strong efforts in innovating the course, program and degree structures to enable collaboration
and encourage interaction among disciplines within
the institute.
Achten, H and Beetz, J 2009, ‘What happened to collaborative design?’, Proceedings of eCAADe 2009 Conference,
Istanbul, Turkey, pp. 357-366.
Aranda-Mena G and Wakefield, G 2006, ‘Interoperability of
building information - myth of reality?’, Proceedings of
ECPPM 2006 Conference, Valencia, Spain, pp. 127–133.
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BIM adoption in the AEC industry’, Automation in Construction, 19, pp. 988-999.
Gu, N, Singh, V, Taylor, C and London, K 2010, ‘BIM adoption: Expectations across disciplines’, in J. Underwood
48 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD Curriculum
and U. Isikdag (eds), Handbook of Research on Building
Information Modelling and Construction Informatics:
Concepts and Technologies, IGI Global, PA, pp. 501-520.
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Life - a context for design learning’, in C. Wankel and
J. Kingsley (eds), Higher Education in Virtual Worlds:
Teaching and Learning in Second Life, Emerald Books,
Bingley, UK, pp. 159-180.
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and improving multidisciplinary design and analysis
narratives’, Proceedings of DDC 2006 Conference, Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
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smart objects: potentials and limitations’, Proceedings
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in curricular integration’, in N. Gu and X. Wang (eds),
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Reforming Design Studios
Experiments in integrating bim, parametric design, digital fabrication,
and interactive technology
Tienyu Wu , Taysheng Jeng
National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been widely accepted as an
integration tool that enables modelling of form, function, and behaviour of building
systems and components. Using BIM, building design can be approached in a more
logical way by integrating spatial, structural and mechanical systems as well as cost
and energy performance in the early design stage. In this paper, we develop a design
framework using BIM in varied design processes, including architectural programming,
conceptual design, parametric design, digital fabrication, and interaction design. We
conducted an experiment to reform design studios using BIM throughout the design
process. A classroom of the future called iSTUDIO is constructed by applying BIM,
parametric design, interactive technology, and digital fabrication. Keywords. Building information model (BIM); Parametric Design; Digital Fabrication,
Interaction Design
In the past decades, much effort has been done in
developing a centralized digital representation of
the building that is used to facilitate the exchange
and interoperability of information in the building
life cycle (Eastman, 2011). Few research works
explored the use of BIM in conceptual design (Clayton, 2006). Some designers argued that adapting
BIM activities in the design studio may pose a threat
to design thinking (Denzer, 2008). Another educator argued that BIM is useful in understanding of
building tectonics and can easily support the craft
of building, systems integration, and documenting design work much faster (Eirik, 2010). A strong
argument is that architects could not draw a building design without knowing building tectonics
and components. To select evidence to support
the argument, we conducted an experiment to reform design studios using BIM throughout the design process. We develop a classroom of the future
called iSTUDIO by applying BIM, parametric design,
interactive technology, and digital fabrication. This
paper reports the result of the iSTUDIO project,
and describes how to apply a BIM-centered design
framework to designing a classroom of the future.
The iSTUDIO is a two-years project for developing
an adaptable, interactive, and smart classroom. The
iSTUDIO classroom has been designed using several
design software and involved with cross-disciplinary
collaboration with designers and engineers.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 49
This paper describes the future classroom design
process of integrating professional teams by using
BIM and parametric design. In the design process,
BIM plays a crucial role to control the design parameters and information exchange between software,
machines, and applications. For example, CAD/CAM
tools can compile 3D models to machine codes for
CNC laser cutters. BIM not only can help designers
to efficiently communicate with teammates, but
also prevent construction problems. The method
used in the process of spatial design, the troubles
of Implementation, and the integration of software
applications require us to develop a BIM-centered
We develop a design framework using BIM to integrate varied design process. The BIM-centerted
design framework includes five parts: architectural
programming, conceptual design, parametric design, digital fabrication, and interaction design.
With the rapid development of sensing and interactive technologies, opportunities for developing
an interactive classroom by integrating authentic
learning environments and the resources of the
50 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
digital world have attracted much attention from
designers and researchers in both the fields of architecture, human-computer interaction, and computing (OWP/P Cannon Design, 2010). To develop the
classroom of the future, we initiated a research project called iSTUDIO. The iSTUDIO project started with
the architectural programming phase in many of the
higher education classes by observing, brainstorming, studying in the field, and interviewing teachers
and students. Based on our observations, traditional
classrooms have the following drawbacks: 1) lack
of multi-way interaction and immediate sharing of
knowledge among students, and 2) limitations and
inflexibility of physical boundaries in classroom.
Two important criteria for future classrooms are
interaction and engagement. To enhance interaction and engagement, we decided to design and
construct an integrated digital-physical classroom
of the future. The significant functions corresponding to the features are tree-shape digital fabrication,
transformable furniture, smart floor, real-time broadcasting, and an instant feedback virtual platform.
To facilitate communication and documentation between project participants, we decided to
use BIM as a single, parametric, 3D model to generate plans, sections, perspective, details, and schedules. Elements in BIM are managed and manipulated
through a hierarchy of parameters. We used AutoCAD Revit Architecture as a BIM tool to construct 3D
models. The 3D models support visualization of the
design and allow us to improve communication and
collaboration between participants. In the preliminary design phase, a 3D view of iSTUDIO was modeled, showing accurate physical conditions for the
project, as shown in Figure 1.
Inspired by Architect Louis I. Kahn’s notion of first
school that “schools began with a man under a tree,
and around him the listeners to the words of his mind”,
we proposed an adaptive and interactive classroom
with a natural atmosphere. The concept was implemented by making a tree shape inside the space.
The tree shape was derived from an old banyan tree
Figure 1
A framework of BIM-centric
integrated design process.
Figure 2
The classroom before
construction (Left); A 3D view
of iSTUDIO showing accurate
physical conditions for the
project (Right).
of NCKU campus, which has long been considered
as the symbol of NCKU. The tree shape was designed
and turned out to be the section of the classroom, as
shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3
The concept comes from the
banyan tree of NCKU.
The design project involved with a variety of professionals. Their background included architectural
design, interior design, industrial design, interaction design, user interface design, computing, and
mechanical engineering. Before implementation,
our project team decided to use BIM as a tool to facilitate collaboration process and construction management of the classroom. The schedule included
routine weekly meetings for five months.
Figure 4
Sketches of the iSTUDIO
Figure 5
The final design drawing for
digital fabrication.
The next step is to translate the sketch of tree shape
into a real-world physical space. In order to implement the organic shape of trees, we used parameters to define a tree form and played its relations.
The tree form turned out to be the section of the
The iSTUDIO prototype is implemented in a
40-square-metres classroom and can house up to 20
students. The classsroom prototype was equipped
with transformable furniture that can be dynamically reconfigured into both a large whiteboard and
desks for group discussions. A section view of the
classroom is shown in Figure 5.
CNC machine helped us to mock up the prototype of the classroom. We mocked up physical
models by using CNC machines and laser cutters.
Then we used the prototypes to examine some limitations of joints and conducted assemble tests, as
shown in Figure 6.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 51
Figure 6
A tree-shape prototype produced by CNC machines.
BIM architectural software helped us to understand
the process of design, controll the detail of 3D models, connect different parts of design, and adjust parameters. BIM provided an efficient method to translate 3D models into several digital fabrication files.
For example, FBX, gbXML, SAT, DWF files for different
design software.
The next step is to construct a full-scale classroom
with digital fabrication. Before construction, we use
BIM software to help us to find design problems, to
reduce design loops, and to improve the quality of
There was a problem that we did not find in experimental construction. For example, the joint of
each wood panel required intensive coordination
between designers, engineers, and contractors. The
workers had abundant construction experiences in
different fields: wood, painting, glass, mechanics,
electronics, and CNC machines. It was challenging to
negotiate with professional workers. The construction process required discussions and negotiated
with workers, such as the specific color of paint, special joint of each wood panel, or the camera angels...
In addition to spatial design, the classroom is equipped with ubiquitous computing technologies for
interactive and collaborative learning. For example,
light controls are integrated into the floor. Teachers
can control the intensity of the light or turn it on and
off by stepping on sensors on the floor. A web-based
platform called “SynTag” was implemented for knowledge sharing. Lectures will be recorded and archived online for e-learning purposes. These recordings
will also be annotated with the real-time comments
and tags so students can see which parts of the lecture received the most responses ( Hsu, 2011).
A “Live” interactive tagging interface was implemented for collaborative learning (Chang, 2011).
The interface contains a real-time broadcasting system and a real-time interactive tagging system. The
result of the construction is an innovative classroom
52 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Figure 7
The joint of the tree-shape
Figure 8
An overview of the iSTUDIO
Figure 9
Sensors are installed under the
Our experiment reveals that BIM can be used as an
integrated tool for logical design thinking. Another
finding is that BIM supports a collaborative design
environment. It helps us to have efficient discussions by sharing information and data exchange. We
can synchronously drawings, select materials and
tectonics in detail by using BIM. Effective change
management is another improvement. BIM not only
becomes a platform for integration, but also a communication tool between team workers. Building
an innovative classroom requires interdisciplinary
researches using combined skills of specialists in
design, interactive technology, networking, mechanical electronics. The iSTUDIO project is an experimental outcome of integrated cooperation. This
experiment shows that BIM helps us to manage the
design and construction processes. It also helps our
interdisciplinary cooperation efficiently. Structuring
building information has the potential to speed up
collaboration process, control the building cost, and
also improve logical design thinking.
smart floor in iSTUDIO.
Figure 10
The “Tree” perspective of
iSTUDIO after construction.
called iSTUDIO. The iSTUDIO classroom has been
used for lectures, design critiques, and group discussion. Students enjoyed the iSTUDIO’s atmospheres.
The new configuration of the iSTUDIO classroom creats more interactivity, flexibility, and engagement in
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 53
This work was supported by the Taiwan National Science Council, grant No. NSC 100-2221-E-006 -224.
Chang, S, Jeng T, and Yang Y, “Developing a Real-time Interactive Social Learning Platform Across Classroom Borders”, Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on
Computers in Education (ICCE), T. Hirashima et al. (Eds.),
November 28-December 2, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Deutsch, R 2011, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for
Architectural Practice, Wiley.
Denzer, AS and Hedges KE 2008, “From CAD to BIM: Educational Strategies for the Coming Paradigm Shift”, Proceedings of the AEI 2008 Conference.
Eastman, CM, Teicholz, P, Sacks, R, and Liston, K 2008.
BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Architects, Engineers,
Contractors, and Fabricators, Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.
Hsu, Y, Jeng T, Shen Y, and Chen P 2011, “SynTag: A
Web-based Platform for Labeling Real-Time Video”, Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), February 11-15, 2012,
Seattle, Washington.
Mark, C 2006, “Replacing the 1950’s Curriculum,” ACADIA
2006, Synthetic Landscapes/Digital Exchange. p. 51.
OWP/P Cannon Design, VS Furniture, B. M. Design 2010, The
Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning, Abrams.
Weygant, RS 2011, BIM Content Development: Standards,
Strategies, and Best Practices, Wiley. Sacks, R, Barak, R
2010, “Teaching Building Information Modeling as an
Integral Part of Freshman Year Civil Engineering Education”, Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 136:30.
54 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
An Innovative Approach to Technology Mediated
Architectural Design Education
A framework for a web-based socio-cognitive eco-system
Tuba Kocaturk , Riccardo Balbo , Benachir Medjdoub , Alejandro Veliz
University of Salford, School of the Built Environment, United Kingdom.
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
[email protected]
Abstract. Learning in architecture has shifted from an individual focused approach to a
larger system of interacting individuals in a situated, tool-mediated and socio-technical
context. In addition to developing essential skills to work with diverse design software
and taking part in collaborative design activities, learners also need to be equipped
with competencies that will allow them to operate intelligently outside of situations
of distributed cognitions. The challenge in present educational climate is to develop
pedagogical approaches where situations of distributed cognition are not the ends
themselves but are the means for improving mastery of solo competencies. The paper
contributes to the current discussion about the need to re-orient architectural education
and proposes a pedagogical framework for the development of a new web-based teaching/
learning environment (socio-cognitive eco-system) as an integrated platform to support
both autonomous and distributed learning. Keywords. Technology-mediated learning; distributed cognition; design pedagogy;
digital design education.
The context of this paper lies within the subject areas of “innovative teaching/learning” and “technology mediated learning” in Architectural education.
The proposed paper aims to report on an ongoing
research project which has recently been developed by the Mediated Intelligence in Design (MInD)
research group, at the School of the Built Environment, in the University of Salford.
Our work has its origins in the recognition of the
limitations of existing technology-mediated learning environments used in project-based (or designbased) courses. The ongoing research emphasizes
the need to identify both context and content spe-
cific changes in architectural practice and education - which needs to be addressed in the design of
technologies to support design learning. The proposed research makes an intellectual contribution
to the growing body of literature on “constructivist learning” by taking the “distributed intelligence”
perspective. Such perspective emphasizes the distributed nature of knowledge across individuals,
social groups, and media, and therefore proposes
the need to integrate individual, socio-cognitive and
tool-dependent dimensions of learning and meaning making in Architectural education.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 55
In the specific context of Architectural education
“technology mediated learning” has two distinct
dimensions. One is the didactic use of web-based
technologies to aid the learning process of the individual learner. The second dimension relates to the
highly technology mediated disciplinary content of
the architectural design process itself, due to the
new emphasis on integration of technology into all
phases of design from conception through to production. In this research, new themes and additional knowledge content introduced by the disciplinary
dimension are considered to be closely linked to the
utilization of the didactic dimension. This paper aims
to discuss the extent to which these two dimensions
can be embedded, stabilized and sustained within
the educational context.
Therefore we aim to contribute to the discussion
about the need to re-orient architectural education
and propose a pedagogical framework for the development of a new web-based environment (sociocognitive eco-system) with a special emphasis on
providing support for personalized, self-directed
and distributed learning in Architecture. This emphasis is grounded on the recognition of emerging
modes of informal learning through socio-technical
networks, which have started to become an integral
part of student experience in higher education. The
potentials of diverse media and informal web-based
knowledge acquisition have already been acknowledged to facilitate diverse and innovative kinds of
communication. Although the highly fragmented
informal web-based knowledge acquisition and
sharing (through blogs, facebook, online tutorials,
webinars, twitter, youTube, wikis, etc.) provides powerful inputs to knowledge/skill building, the process
is highly learner centric, bottom-up and usually
motivated by the needs and aspirations of the individual learners. This contradicts with the existing
top-down and controlled course structures and delivery methods with pre-defined learning outcomes
that currently exist. The main challenge the students
face today is making sense of the highly complex, at
times contradictory and very contextual knowledge
they encounter without relevant frames of refer-
56 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
ence, and for the educator to balance the freedom/
autonomy of individual learner with the critical interpretation of the captured information (Siemens,
2010). We are currently in the process of developing
an innovative “curatorial approach” to technology
mediated learning and aim to develop a framework
for a web-based environment (socio-cognitive ecosystem) based on this approach which supports innovative teaching/learning experience and course
delivery. In this paper, we will first present a discussion to ground the motivation and the rationale
for the development of such an environment. This
includes the identification of the combined sociotechnical, cultural and knowledge-based change in
architectural practice and education as well as the
global factors that are driving this change. We will
then reflect on the utilization of virtual learning environments and e-learning in current architectural
education. Both discussions will help identify the
relevant elements of our pedagogical framework
to be implemented in the development of the proposed socio-cognitive eco-system. While doing so,
we will draw from multiple disciplines, including;
design-education, cognitive science, developmental
psychology, learning sciences and intelligent/adaptive learning technologies.
Architectural profession is going through an enormous transformation. The commercial availability of complex software technologies have led to a
new and diverse design culture. Additionally, the
new emphasis on integration of technology into all
phases of design and the growing importance of
climate change, energy and sustainability placed an
emphasis on new roles/skills for all parties, and new
methods of collaboration. The professional market
today demands a reorientation in theoretical, conceptual understanding and skills in the architectural
profession (Oxman, 2008; Kalay, 2006). Practices are
increasingly demanding the need for educating the
“new digital architect”. In order to meet current de-
Figure 1
The Emerging markets and the
potentials for the Construction
Industry by 2020 (Jamieson,
mands for new methods of professional specializations, leading architectural schools in the world are
currently exploring and experimenting with new
ideas, theories, methods and techniques of educating the new generation of digital designers. Various conferences and publications stress the need
to develop new curriculum and new pedagogical
approaches to remain relevant to changing global
demands and the changing profession (Kvan, 2004;
Oxman, 2008; Allen, 2012). There is an urgent need
to accommodate this combined socio-technical,
cultural and knowledge-based change with a re-orientation of the curriculum, new methods of delivery
and pedagogical agenda.
Global trends and profiling the architect of
the future
According to a recent study into the Future of Architectural Profession, conducted by the Building
Futures group of RIBA there is a reduction/decline
in demand for traditional architectural services in
UK since 2008 by 40% (Jamieson, 2010). However,
according to the same study, there is still a considerable increase in demand to study architecture in
the UK. This means more qualified architects are
graduating every year than the profession can accommodate in traditional roles. In order for the UK
architects to take leading roles in global markets it
is crucial that architectural education responds to
the new challenges and demands in the industry.
According to the same study, the global population
growth is predicted at 46%, and 70% of the population is expected to live in Urban Areas by 2050. This
means more emphasis on urbanism, more construction, and a bigger demand for construction professionals, including architects. Although the growth of
construction is reported as 18% in developed markets, this rate is 128% in emerging/developing markets (Jamieson, 2010). Considering that the share
of global construction for the developed markets is
45%, if this trends continues, architects educated in
developed countries will opt more for the challenges and opportunities in the global markets, implying
a growing tendency for architects to work in a more
networked manner (Figure 1).
The same report also addresses a growing shift
towards those trained in architecture moving into
other parts of the construction industry. The number of trained architects holding senior positions
across the industry seems to be gathering pace,
while there is a decreasing emphasis on the “star
architect”, but an increasing trend on “multi-disciplinary design practices”. Previously, personal success
and fame in architecture was impossible to attain
before e relatively older age; nowadays it is quite
common to come across relatively young and successful architectural firms. These firms are designdriven, technology adept and agile, capable of making rapid adjustments as the project or the market
requires it (Allen, 2012). They use new technologies
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 57
and strategic collaborations to leverage their expertise to respond to larger and more complex projects.
In other words, “the habits of mind and ways of
working once associated with experimental practice
or the academy have been re-contextualized in this
new climate of practice” (Allen, 2012, p.226). Creativity and innovation are no longer on the product nor
is design solely judged by it. The new emphasis is on
the means and methods of creating, manufacturing,
communicating and taking tadvantage of global interconnectivity.
The emerging technology-mediated design and
management processes such as Building Information Modelling, and Parametric Design as well as
the emerging visions for an “Integrated Practice” in
building industry also carry potentials to fundamentally transform the way in which architectural education engages with issues of design, technology,
representations; questioning the roles and rules of
traditional architectural conventions. (Ambrose et
al., 2008). There is a growing interest in a new profile
of architect, who can work globally, interdisciplinary,
technically capable, who not only can design but can
also adapt to different cultural and social contexts, can
network and respond to the global themes and challenges creatively.
We are also experiencing the emergence of additional profiles, new specializations and consultancy services high in demand in building industry.
For example specialist consultants who provide coordination mechanism between design and production processes, in-house specialist modelling groups
within the architectural offices who provide customized tools, techniques and workflows per project, or
BIM specialists. In such expanded modes of practice,
one size doesn’t fit all. Is it sustainable or even possible to reproduce “architects” with exactly the same
profile? How do we address the emerging roles and
profiles for architects through effective provisions of
the curriculum and delivery methods? Architectural
expertise is being re-aligned. More importantly, the
question that is of paramount importance for the
profession is how architectural education is responding to these emerging modes of practices and global
58 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
When we look back over the past two decades of
architectural education, we distinguish three distinct and interconnected tendencies and their
consequent repercussions in educational agendas, especially in the developed and developing
countries. The first is a new approach of learning
through social and technological networks due to
the emergence of new intellectual consortiums
developed among (design)tool builders, practices
and academy. Through various workshops real design scenarios are collectively developed, modelled,
computed, simulated and fabricated, opening paths
to new agendas as well as experimenting with new
ideas, theories, methods and techniques of educating the new digital designer. An increasing emphasis is placed on architecture’s instrumentality and
ability to confront actual problems and integration
of technology and multi-disciplinary values into the
design education.
The second is the expansion of the profession’s
knowledge-base and skill sets. Integration of technology into all phases of design and the growing
importance of climate change, energy issues and
ethics and environmental sustainability placed an
emphasis on new roles/skills for all parties, ability
to integrate cross-disciplinary value systems, and
new methods of collaboration. Such an expansion
has also led to a diversity of skill sets and pluralist
tendencies. There is not a single dominating design
direction or agenda, but a series of diverse intellectual agendas multiplying the possibilities and points
of views. This can be confusing to a student in the
process of cultivating his/her intellectual independence which has become a major challenge to attain
in such plural climate. This pluralism is contributed
by the intrinsic methodologies implicitly embedded
in the commercially available “digital design tools”.
A student working with Rhinoceros, Grasshopper,
Generative Components, Autodesk Revit or Digital
Project develop both complimentary and at times
contradictory approaches to “design tasks”, and de-
velop context and technology-bound and situated
perceptions of the problem at hand. These ubiquitous mediating structures that both organize and
constrain activity include not only tools, and new
forms of representations, but also other learners,
teachers and other users distributed in social relations. The influence of tools on the way we think and
design has never been of this magnitude and variety.
The third is the effect of socio-technical networks on knowledge acquisition and blurring the
distinction between local and global dimensions
of design knowledge. Architects today work in distant locations, students are highly mobile and are
exposed to varying approaches. The student enrolling in an architectural school in Tokyo, Los Angeles,
or London is drawn to that city less for its local design culture than by a desire to join into the global
network (Allen, 2012). Many tool builders/vendors
provide skill building activities and travelling workshops (on a global scale) in collaboration with architectural schools, giving access to learners (both experienced and novice) from academy and practice.
Similarly, many online websites and blogs provide
online training and open-source design scripts, 3D
models and other forms of information accessible
by a global network of designers. In order to support the development of students’ competences
and skills for the emergent architectural knowledge
content, the role of the teacher is shifting from “delivering knowledge” to organizing, guiding and assessing student’s learning experience (Lakkala et al.
These recent trends in education today point out to a
common tendency across many schools of architecture in the developed countries: aiding the learner
development through both social and technological
scaffolds to achieve more than the learner and the
instructor could do alone. In this respect, we identify the emergence of a dominant ‘tool-aided’, ‘socially shared’, contextual and highly situated forms
of cognition commonly referred to in literature by
developmental psychologists and learning theorists
as “distributed cognition” (Hutchins et al., 1986) and
“distributed intelligence” (Pea, 1993). The central
idea in both theories is that the resources that shape
and enable activity are distributed in configuration
across people, environments, situations and artefacts (tools). In pointing out the mind-environment
interface, Simon (1996), in his seminal work, The
Sciences of the Artificial, questions whether what
we often consider the complexity of some act of
thought may have more to do with the complexity
of the environment in which action takes place than
the intrinsic mental complexity of the activity. He
then suggests looking at problem solving as distributed between mind and the meditational structures
that the world offers. This is a very distinct departure
from earlier models and approaches in design education and definitions of “design cognition” which
has traditionally been perceived as residing in the
head of the designers and traditional architectural
education had commonly geared towards the development of such “individual cognition”. Therefore
one of the main pedagogical dilemmas today can be
grounded on the gap between the distributed and
the individual levels of intelligence that students are
building through diverse methods of knowledge
acquisition and methods of delivery without any explicit recipes of how to build the link between the
Salomon (1993) introduces two kinds of cognitive effects of technologies on intelligence:
Effects with technology is obtained during intellectual partnership with it, and
Effects of it in terms of the transferable cognitive residue that this partnership leaves behind in the form of better mastery of skills and
While effects with refers to the development of Distributed Cognition, effects of is attributed to the development of Individual Cognition and solo intelligence which are essential for the learner to develop
an autonomous response as a residue to interaction
with the social and technological scaffolds. Today,
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 59
the special emphasis on the use of a variety of digital design software in architectural studios and skill
building workshops offered by many tool builders
provide the necessary social and technical scaffold
to the learner. However, a disproportionate emphasis placed on the “tools” present a risk of promoting
design as solely a tool-driven activity, especially for
the novice learner, displacing the innermost values
of architecture, and as a consequence, weakening
and changing the role of designer in the society.
In addition to developing essential skills to work
with diverse design software and take part in collaborative design activities, learners also need to be
equipped with competencies that will allow them
to operate intelligently outside of situations of distributed cognitions. The challenge in present educational climate is to develop pedagogical approaches
where situations of distributed cognition are not
the ends themselves but are the means for improving mastery of solo competencies. This has been referred to as “the higher order knowledge” by Perkins
(1993) which not only informs the construction of
an understanding of content-level knowledge (of
the domain), but also provides a base for executive
function. In sum, two extremes – the psychology
of individual competencies and that of distributed
cognitions – ought to be accommodated within the
same theoretical framework. “No theory of distributed cognition can do justice to the understanding
of human activity and the informed design of education without taking into consideration individuals’ cognitions. The same applies to the flip-side of
this argument: No theory of individuals’ cognitions
would be satisfactory without taking into consideration their reciprocal interplay with situations of distributed cognitions” (Salomon, 1993, pp.135) (Figure
Hence, a central goal is to facilitate students not
only be a part of “distributed intelligence” presented
to them, but also contribute to the creation of such
intelligence in different contexts.
Technology enables new kind of practices; can it
also be integrated to serve advanced ways of learning as well?
60 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Teaching Architecture is not primarily an instructional process but rather a process of interaction
and experience (Kipcak, 2007) and, as described in
the previous sections, should comprise of elements
to support both distributed and individual cognition. This approach is in sharp contrast with the
“instructionist” approaches to learning where content is overvalued and the learner is made the main
target of instruction. Many online distance learning
environments are developed based on “instructionist” principles. Portals, instructional management
systems, computer assisted instruction and most
online courses are artifacts of instructionism (Cannings and Stager, 2003). It is no wonder why “distance learning” is not a popular approach in design
studio education in architecture, as the current commercially available virtual learning environments
(VLEs) do not have the necessary features to address
the necessary cognitive demands. However, distance learning and e-learning is rapidly becoming
a key element in higher education to produce new
educational systems that support a flexible access
to the educational programs and broadening the
geographical boundaries of universities, supporting life-long learning and continuous professional
development (Littlejohn and Higgison, 2003). Commonly, architectural schools support e-learning
through virtual learning environments (VLEs) which
provide students with access to single and multimedia course materials, online collaboration and
computer-aided assessment of the taught modules
(Mizban and Roberts, 2008). The implementations
so far do not go much further than the replication
of conventional course content and delivery techniques within the web-based environment (Oliver
and Herrington, 2003).
When learning shifts from the individual to a
larger system of the individual’s participation in a
community of practice, it is more relevant to consider e-learning as a situative context of interaction
in which individuals participate and coordinate their
Figure 2
The reciprocal interplay
between individual and
distributed cognition.
activities to achieve meaningful objectives (Greeno,
1998). There have been some bespoke implementations in the design studio context to achieve this.
Majority of the reviewed cases, in the context of
Architectural education, have related to the development of possible new ways to design using new
technology, with the design studio being used as
a “test bed” for new practices (Mizban and Roberts
2008). Other reasons for implementing e-learning
have been to develop students’ skills, facilitate crosscultural exchange, and support students’ design
thinking through the provision of digital repositories and design support system. Mizban and Roberts
(2008) identified two key approaches: 1) to augment
existing teaching and learning activities and/or 2)
to generate new design environments. The benefits
have varied, such as allowing schools to develop
new teaching methods, promote different types of
collaboration, enhance students’ skills and facilitate
a flexible access to multimedia data and educational
resources. However, these web-based applications
have proved to be too generic to support the reflective and dynamic knowledge building process of the
learner(s) which are among the core issues in design
learning. Similarly, the inclusion of the “industry” in
these applications as an active participant in the social scaffolding of the learning is either non-existent
or very limited, and the extensive potential of webbased learning is left under-explored. There is very
little evidence to suggest that e-learning has been
introduced to support any particular pedagogic
or cognitive need or agenda (Mizban and Roberts,
Our proposed approach will be manifested through
an online learning environment (socio-cognitive
eco-system). An eco-system is described as a community of users together viewed as a system of interacting and in(ter)dependent relationships. What we
are proposing is not a substitute to the new modes
of architectural education (effects with), but an essential support and a complementary activity for
building an integrated autonomous and distributed
learning experience for the learner, by combining effects with and effects of technology within the same
environment (Figure 3).
The online learning environment is envisaged as
a dynamic and interactive logbook, where different
learned elements can be compiled, organized (structured), represented and shared selectively. The structure and organization will be guided (not enforced)
by the instructors, but steered by the learners. It will
allow personalization of its content and its interface
by each individual user and will have an embedded
intelligent system to guide such personalization that
would best suit its user’s learning style and personal
preference. The system will have a flexible interface
and infrastructure that could be re-modified to expand and allow new interconnections between its
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 61
Figure 3
Integrating Autonomous
and Distributed learning, by
combining “effects with” and
“effects of” technology.
modules/elements. Therefore the emphasis will not
be solely on “compiling” but also on the active contribution to knowledge construction and delivery.
The system will be composed of modules/features where individual, collaborative and guided
learning will be distinguished yet interlinked. The
guidance will be provided by the instructors who
will be acting as “curators”. Instead of dispensing
knowledge, the curatorial teacher is expected to
create spaces where knowledge can be created, explored and connected. Thus, the curatorial teacher
acknowledges the autonomy of the learners (and
users of the system) and provide interpretation,
direction, provocation and guidance. At the same
time, he/she is not the dominant expert and relies
(and also learns from) the talent and knowledge
of his/her students (Siemens, 2010). This implies
instructors with a flexible approach and an adaptable methodology, capable to provide tasks that
are “checkpoints” rather than full paths. On the distributed side, creative, technical and intellectual
expertise will be distributed among the community
of its users and will provide support and inspiration
for peers engaged in a common learning adventure.
On the individual side, students will steer their own
learning process and become self-aware of their
own learning experiences. They will exercise and
build a metacognition through constant monitoring and reflection on their learning process. If the
individual learning adventure takes an unexpected
turn into a new goal/agenda, there must be adequate flexibility to allow students to take the time
they need to learn, build, grow and reflect. This requires getting personalized feedback and support
62 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
to develop their specialization not according to “prespecified learning outcomes” of the modules, but
according to their individually chosen field of focus.
Lakkala et al. (2008) provide an outline of 4 essential infrastructures to support collaborative online learning (social infrastructure, epistemological
infrastructure, cognitive infrastructure, and technical infrastructure). We interpret and specify the specific characteristics of these infrastructures within
the proposed integrated environment as described
Social infrastructure: to facilitate new and alternative modes of online collaboration to
maximize contact with different types of users
(peers, instructors and other users such as academic/industry partners).
Epistemological infrastructure: directing students to diverse sources for knowledge acquisition, creation and categorization. Different
learned elements can be compiled, organized
(structured) and shared selectively with other
Cognitive infrastructure: ensuring that students
(learners) get a conscious understanding of
ends and means, underlying foundations of design methods/strategies and gradually learn to
work in an expert-like way, by supporting the
development of both individual and distributed cognitions simultaneously.
Technical infrastructure: to support the above
listed infrastructures technically and to facilitate intelligent tutoring as well as personalization of its interface and content according to
user needs, learning styles and preference.
The implementation of these principles and its success also rely on the creation of a robust technical
infrastructure in order to support the achievement
of the intended outcomes of the epistemological,
cognitive and social infrastructures. We are currently
investigating the area of “Adaptive and Intelligent
Web-based systems” and their implementations in
the context of online collaborative learning. The main
point of departure of Intelligent Tutoring System than
traditional CSCL (computer supported collaborative
learning) systems is addressing the issues such as
analysing and understanding of learners’ activity and
production, problem solving and interaction control,
which have not been adequately addressed by classical CSCL systems. These systems attempt to be more
adaptive than other systems as they are able to build
a model of the goals, preferences, and knowledge of
each individual user and use this model throughout
the interaction with the student and “adapt accordingly to the technological means they are presented
with (Tchounikine et al., 2010). In such a scenario, the
dialogue and interaction between the user and the
system usually facilitates an enhanced display of the
subject matter to the learner (presentation adaptation) and links to be followed from the presented information (navigation adaptation).
The proposed socio-cognitive ecosystem is still
under development, but aims to distinguish itself
from the existing online learning environments on
the following principles:
Integrates top-down and bottom-up teaching/
Students not as passive recipients but active
builders of knowledge.
The system implements AI and intelligent tutoring approaches.
Interaction between learner and teachers is extended to include other learners and industry.
Supporting different learning styles with adaptive personalization of interface and content.
Encourages path-finding, specialization towards
a specific niche of learners’ choice (and interest)
where they can devote a certain time of their education identifying that niche and developing
additional skills and competences in that area.
Supports curatorial teaching and encourages
self-directed learning.
In this paper, we have introduced an innovative approach and discussed the rationale and motivation
for the development of a new web-based learning
environment to be used in the context of architectural education. The proposed environment is defined as a “socio-cognitive ecosystem” and is still a
work-in-progress. The paper identified two distinct
dimensions of “technology mediation” affecting
learning in the context of architectural education: didactic and disciplinary uses of technology. The paper
claims that new themes and additional knowledge
content introduced by the disciplinary dimension –
due to the extensive use of digital tools as cognitive
instruments - are considered to be closely linked to
the utilization of the didactic dimension. In other
words, extensive use of technology is impacting not
only what we know and how we design, but is also
opening new directions regarding how we learn on/
about/through design. At the intersection of the disciplinary and didactic dimensions, three distinct and
interconnected tendencies have been identified at
the intersection of education and practice, namely:
the emergence of new socio-technical networks,
expansion of the profession’s knowledge-base and
skill sets, and blurring of the distinction between
global and local dimensions of learning which gives
way to new knowledge acquisition methods.
Learning in architecture has shifted from an
individual focused approach to a larger system of
interacting individuals in a situated, tool-mediated
and socio-technical context. In addition to developing essential skills to work with diverse design software and take part in collaborative design activities,
learners also need to be equipped with competencies that will allow them to operate intelligently
outside of situations of distributed cognitions. The
challenge in present educational climate is to develop pedagogical approaches where situations of
distributed cognition are not the ends themselves
but are the means for improving mastery of solo
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 63
We propose a new pedagogical framework for
the integration of both autonomous and distributed learning in architectural design. The proposed
framework will be used to develop a web-based
learning environment (the socio-cognitive eco-system) and for the development of its social, epistemological, cognitive and technical infrastructure. A
prototype will be developed and tested iteratively
within the context of a masters-level course. The
context of implementation and impact study will be
in two separate studio modules of this course (Hybrid Architecture and Virtual City studios), focusing
on building and urban scales, respectively, and entailing both individual and group working elements.
We anticipate that the proposed output of the
research, the web-based socio-cognitive ecosystem,
will provide an innovative technology-mediated
framework for learning that supports autonomy
and relatedness, self-regulated learning, encourage awareness and ownership in knowledge building/sharing, and at the same time reflects the key
learning outcomes of a course through the curatorial actions of the instructor(s) involved. The main
beneficiaries of this research will be educational
researchers, educators and technology developers
to support learning in Built Environment education
and other relevant disciplines. As a long-term impact, we anticipate that these findings will also have
significant impact on the development of new strategies for project-based (design-based) teaching/
learning and revised educational curricula to support the ever changing and emerging demands of
ICT integrated higher education.
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Design Research in Asia) Chiang Mai (Thailand) 9-12
April 2008, pp. 29-35.
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Cannings, T and Stager, G 2003. ‘Online Constructionism
and the Future of Teacher Education’, in ICT and the
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diated learning from a pedagogical perspective’, Journal of Interactive Learning Environments, Vol. 11, no. 2,
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66 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Component-Based Design Approach Using BIM
Andrzej Zarzycki
New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA
[email protected]
Abstract. The promising directions in current design practice and teaching relate to
creativity with digital tools in the context of building information modelling (BIM),
performance analysis, and simulations as well as digital materiality (computational
simulations of materials) and dynamics-based behaviour. This line of research combines
spatial design with building and material technology in search of effective and efficient
architecture. It reconstitutes questions of what to design by interrelating them with
questions of how and why to design. This paper focuses on the appropriation of BIM
tools for architectural curriculum teaching, from the design studio to building technology
courses. It specifically focuses on BIM-based parametric modeling in discussing
construction details, assemblies, and design explorations in the design studio context.
Keywords. BIM; building information modeling; parametric construction details;
construction assemblies.
The renewed interest in creating-making in architecture, as evident in works of many contemporary
designers, brings a new attention to materiality
and process in design. While the interest in the design process is the legacy of last couple of decades
of practice and teaching, the current version of this
idea moves away from the conceptual and visual toward the actual and performative. It is closely connected with the physicality of architecture through
understanding the performance and impact of constructions on user behaviour.
The component-based design approach for architecture, advocated in this paper, stands in contrast to past concept-centred design process as well
as recent trends in which the weight of conceptual
thinking, either in architecture or in the visual (fine)
arts, has often taken precedence over tactile or material considerations. This has been evident both
with traditional (analog) and with digital-based
creativity. However, recent developments in fabrication, particularly in conjunction with the parametric
BIM platform, create opportunities for balancing this
emphasis on conceptual thinking by bringing material and assembly considerations to the forefront of
architectural discourse. Architecture returns to the
realm of making, rather than conceptualizing. Traditional or digital form making not only considers
the structural behaviours of particular geometries,
as was the case with Antonio Gaudi’s or Frei Otto’s
works, but also starts considering material properties that could only be partially accounted for in
Otto’s soap-bubble models. Computational environments not only allow for readdressing materiality
that is often missing from the design process, but
also allow for asking speculative “What if…” questions. Material properties can be parametrically investigated in similar ways to tectonics or building
performance characteristics such as lighting or an
envelope thermal behaviour.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 67
Deployment of performance-based design, with
its quantitative and qualitative considerations, in
the early design stages is particularly critical in the
context of sustainable design. If, indeed, we want
our buildings to be defined by their performance
and respond to current environmental expectations
such as zero-energy architecture, we need to include these parameters as design- and form-makers
during initial design stages.
Due partially to their CAD legacy, BIM-based
tools lack significant generative design modules
with fully operational bidirectional data connectivity and thus become peripheral within the creative
process. BIM also lacks specificity in programming
and planning areas that could be effectively used
in the predesign phases of a project. The user interface does not adapt to various design tasks or
software competency levels that would require an
intuitive interface. It often feels too technical for
senior (seasoned) designers who are occasional and
casual users. At the same time, general-use, generative design software lacks the database dimension
and material-based knowledge associated with its
digital models. It often provides an ease of use and
quick tool adoption, but it does not grow with the
user’s increased capabilities. Even though architects
may be able to develop visually interesting designs,
it is impossible to verify whether these designs correspond to anything physically constructible, nor
can they be associated with a particular scale or with
particular material characteristics. These designs often exist purely as visual or conceptual propositions
with no ability to advance into physical realization.
This discontinuity between generative and implementive design stages exemplifies a significant limitation of digital tools. (Wallick and Zaretsky, 2009)
To bridge this gap between “design” and “production” tools, this paper investigates generative qualities of the BIM platform through a relatively narrow
but potent set of examples of parametrically controlled constructional details and physically accurate
material simulations. It looks at the overall design as
68 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
the sum of its well-functioning component parts. It
proposes extending BIM interoperability and parametric qualities into early, generative design phases,
thus introducing two-directionality to a traditional
process that follows a general-to-specific way of
To connect generative creativity with professional practice and building technology education,
courses used BIM software. However, working with
BIM software has proven difficult for many designers
because of the narrow range of designs that are possible with the applications. To overcome BIM’s limitations as generative software, the course approach
was to focus on selected software capabilities that
allow for unrestricted creativity in the context of
suitable design language.
To guide students in their applications of digital
tools, it was necessary to define appropriate architectural precedent. As precedent, students investigated contemporary designs representing high
quality accomplished practices, which naturally
translated into parametric thinking and could be
effectively deployed within BIM platforms. Projects
by Nicholas Grimshaw, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, and Santiago Calatrava were just a few of the
designs that fit well into the class methodology and
were relatively easy to handle using digital tools.
In each case, structural system and expression
were clearly delineated with visually interesting
and structurally accurate logic. Waterloo Station, by
Nicholas Grimshaw, was given as such an example,
with trusses naturally morphing their shapes and
thus responding to the overall design of the station
. Such designed trusses, while each of them has a
slightly different confiuration, all of them follow the
same parametric logic. This shared parametric logic
allows for design efficiencies associated with modular or adaptive components. Another discussed with
students example was the Centre Pompidou Metz
designed by Japaneese architect Shigeru Ban. In this
case the wooden laminated timer roof structure was
seen as a dynamic deformable surface that creates
diverse localized conditions of a single tileable element.
Figure 1
Parametric variations of the
roof/skylight assembly (BIM
All chosen buildings had well-integrated and architecturally expressive structural components. The
components performed clearly defined functions
with multiple variations present in a building that allowed for relating them parametrically with one another. After selecting projects and particular assembly components or construction details, students
were asked to study these precedents, model partial
assemblies, and test them as a three-dimensional
BIM models.
In selecting projects and construction details, students were asked to study these precedents, model
partial assemblies, and test them as a three-dimensional BIM models. Projects discussed here follow a
design methodology that starts with a construction
component or material properties and pursues designs that naturally emerge out of the assembly of
initial components.
While this is not an established approach , this
study broadens this method by considering a broader set of design solutions resulting from parametric
alterations and alternations of original components.
It discusses the use of simulations as self-normalizing design validators that in some instances allow
these components to exemplify their inner constructional logic, as is the case with physically behaving materials and assembled components. The
final design projects emerge through a series of ex-
plorations with fragments informing the entirety of
the architectural design solution.
The first part of the assignment—knowledge building—focused on research and modeling of a precedent. Through the modeling students became
familiar with construction detail, assembly, and the
interface between architectural and structural systems.
In this phase of the assignment, students
learned about the spatial organization of various
members and system components, their interconnectivity and interdependencies. Studetns were
able to relate separate structural members into a
single assembly and define construction details as
a series of imbedded parametric relationships that
interoperate on numeric values. These imbedded
parametric relationships allowed for scaling up designs from smaller and simpler assemblies to larger
and more complex ones. These parametric hierarchies, discussed earlier, facilitate inductive design
thinking with individual components informing an
overall design. Students also focused on identifying flexibilities associated with particular designs
and attempted to define them. They were able to
manipulate parametric components and to explore
interactively design variations [fig.1].
The second part—design formation—used the
intrinsic ability of parametric objects (details) to de-
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 69
Figure 2
Parametric details allow for
alternative design explorations and creating larger
velop variations--design scenarios that allowed for
new design formation. When choosing examples for
their explorations, students were asked to consider
the open-endedness of their particular designs and
their ability to develop meaningful variations. In
this design modeling/design phase, students explored the generative possibilities of parametric BIM
models [fig.2]. Three-dimensional, parametrically
resolved architectural details served as speculative,
idea-generating devices for design. Students were
expected to demonstrate the creative possibilities of
their BIM models and to document their parametric
explorations through images, digital models, and a
text narrative (final report).
Another design strategy for the realization of
flexible structural systems used an idea of a surface-based patterns as design generators for space
frame design. This approach looked at the adaptability of individual space frame modules as defined
by underlying surface geometry. In this particular
exercise, students did not test the structural perfor-
70 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
mance of a system but rather focused on ways to
define a design system that could allow for maximum flexibility and ultimately would lead to generating qualitatively new designs. A primary visual
reference for this group of projects was the Centre
Pompidou Metz, designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean
de Gastines, where a roof surface, a wooden lattice,
naturally adapts from being a roof into elements
such as columns. Such a system uses construction
components in a similar way as the parametric definitions discussed earlier. However, the focus is not
on a parametric change but on the adaptation of an
assembly to a new function it plays while preserving
its integral character.
The aim of this exercise was to help students to
develop the technical knowledge necessary for the
pre-comprehensive and comprehensive studios.
Specifically, it addressed the integration of building systems and their appropriateness to the design
intent. Additionally, this assignment facilitated material, dimensional, and construction detail inves-
Figure 3
Digital construction detail
with parametric relationships
achieved with visual scripting
tigations in the context of contemporary architectural practice. The level of the applied constructional
knowledge for this assignment matched that of the
comprehensive studio work and of professional architectural practice. Furthermore, students were exposed to an alternative way of designing, with technical knowledge and a constructability-based idea,
not an abstract concept, as the design generator.
A number of students used other, non-BIM, parametric software, such as Grasshopper, to work on
the construction detail projects [fig.3]. Initially
they were able to develop geometries with greater
sculptural definition and with a broader range of
shapes as compared to conventional BIM software,
Figure 4
Partial Grasshopper script.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 71
such as Revit or Vectorworks. However, their scripts
became increasingly complex, which often led to
reduced flexibility in design explorations as well as
increasingly time demanding to maintain an everexpanding definition. [fig.4] They often traded the
design flexibility existing on the subcomponent
level for the clarity and navigational ability of the
overall design. While this approach gave students
direct access to all the components with the ability
to fully customize all interopperabiliites, these projects quickly became complex and difficult to scale
up. Furthermore, the increased complexity of Grasshopper scripts made it difficult to pass the project to
other collaborating students or revisit projects after
a long period of not working on them.
However, in the long run, visual parametric environments such as those used in Grasshopper for
Rhino allow more for the development of customer/
user-driven features as compared with conventional, out-of-the-box BIM software. A number of thirdparty plug-ins and components are presently available. One of them, Kangaroo, is a physics engine with
components that account for the simulation of a
number of forces and material properties. This open
SDK-like (software development kit) environment allows for dynamic development of the BIM platform.
While parametric variations of construction components, discussed in the previous section, can facilitate development of the meta-details able to define
many, or all possible, design conditions relating to a
particular assembly, they can also be used to study
kinetic and adaptive designs. In this case a parameter represents a constraint or degree of freedom allowing for the movement, rotation, and scale of the
assembly components. By changing a single parameter, such as the angle between two structural mem-
Figure 5 (left)
Adaptive structure—kinetic
Figure 6 (right)
Adaptive structure—parametric model.
72 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
bers or their spacing, the parametric model adopts
to new parametric configuration. The overall design
change is driven by numeric vales and can be easily tied to parametric feeds coming from other components or assemblies. When faced with unsolvable
numeric input, software responds with an “overconstrained” message indicating the problem in the assembly. This becomes a hint for students to better
understand mechanical and spatial relationships of
their adaptive design.
Since the construction detail examples discussed earlier [figs.1-3] can also be seen as adaptive
designs, many students pursued this line of experimentation with BIM and parametric tools.
A student-developed example of such an adaptive assembly is a façade screen system that builds
on the precedents of Chuck Hubberman’s work and
the façade screens of the Institut du Monde Arabe
in Paris designed by Jean Nouvel together with Architecture-Studio. Students developed a number of
physical and computational models to test design
variations and ultimately proposed three-dimensional alternatives to the conventional scissor-like
hinge assembly. Their design not only brought a
certain level innovation into their investigations, but
also prepared them for the tedious, yet successful,
resolution of a relatively complex mathematical and
mechanical problem. [fig.5]
Inspired by Theo Jansen‘s kinetic sculptures,
students investigated the design possibilities of
parametrically defined adaptive systems that mimic
rigged or skeletal systems used in character animation software tools. Unlike the constraint-based
systems used in VFX software, BIM and parametric
packages allow for more direct and precise numeric
operations, including operations that can both input
and output numeric values.
Using a similar approach to that of Jansen, students
focused on developing individual design components and testing them with parametric tools. They
focused on resolving individual assemblies and on
the ways these simple assemblies could be scaled
up to form larger interoperable structural systems.
BIM parametric capabilities were again an effective
software tool to study and evaluate adaptive designs.
One student team started by creating an exact
replica, both physical and digital, of Theo Jansen’s
Strandbeest kinetic sculpture mechanism. They investigated the parametric possibilities of this constrained-based kinetic system. In this particular case,
students looked at how specific dimensions and radii impact the kinetic behavior of the system. The final deliverable was an adaptable vertically climbing
mechanism. [fig.6]
The presently available architectural BIM and
parametric software were not optimal tools for this
kind of investigation as compared to engineering
tools such as Inventor. A combination of both as a
single fully integrated tool would provide a better
design environment.
Figure 7 (left)
Testing cloth-tensile behavior
with a Kangaroo component
in Grasshopper.
Figure 8 (right)
Final installation.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 73
Explorations focused on parametric constraint systems without the ability to understand acting forces.
However, it was still a meaningful and knowledgebuilding experience for students involved in the
Depending on the team size and individual student abilities, some teams also developed a physical
mock-up to interrelate between digital and physical
designs. This was the case with the digital-versusphysical mock-up project.
While parametric design is a potent and creative approach, it reaches its full potential when combined
with physically based behavior. When parametric
definitions address not only expressions of inert
geometries but also, or perhaps primarily, material
properties and physical behavior, architecture responds to actual design drives and acquires broader
relevance. In a number of projects, students experimented with computational form-emergence derived through performance simulations [fig.7]. They
explored material behavior with computer analysis—designing—and later fabricated their designs
using CNC machines—making. This combination of
simulating-designing-making mirrors the traditional
“learning by doing” approach.
Students investigated a number of designs by
parametrically manipulating their geometry. This is
the point where many design studio projects end.
However, in this case, considering the requirements
of a building technology course, students continued
their investigations by bringing a model geometry
into Kangaroo, a dynamics-based component in
Grasshopper. Students used a Kangaroo component
for form-finding and developing a form that considers material properties and physical forces. Since this
approach combines parametric functionalities with
physical behavior, it allowed students to practice the
interactive form-making that mimics and extends
that done in a traditional context. Students could
parametrically fine-tune their designs and instantaneously observe how their designs are reshaped by
the impact of physical forces [fig.8].
74 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
With parametric analysis, designers can immediately trace design changes and see how they impact
other components in the assembly. Combining or
nesting parametric components not only allows for
an ease of modeling and a greater flexibility, but also
allows understanding of how individual changes
impact an overall design. Once a single parameter
was changed in an overall, often complex, assembly of individual components, students were able
to trace the propagation of changes throughout
the database model and immediately evaluate the
consequences of this particular change. Also, they
could propose new designs through interactive manipulations of parameters and see changes propagated through the entire assembly. This dual use
of parametric digital models—for understanding of
a significant architectural precedent (construction
knowledge building) and for speculative explorations of design propositions—allows for greater integration between building science courses and the
design studio. This is particularly applicable in the
upper-level comprehensive studios where generative and implemental aspects of design need to be
reconciled. In parametrically defined BIM environments, students can explore designs that are native
to the world of construction—that do not have to
be translated or reinvented as a result of the progression from a conceptual idea to a real product.
As a result of new digital tools and developments in professional practices, students increasingly develop designs that exceed their technological
knowledge. This has the potential to further fragment expertise and weaken design practice by driving it toward paper-based architecture. It also has
immediate implications for the education process
and specifically for changes in technology teaching
Parametric design follows an interesting paradox. A common argument for BIM, and for digital
design in general, is that it allows for early decision
making. Thus, BIM facilitates effective design progression from the conceptual to more concrete development and implementation stages. The other
argument that is often put forward is that BIM allows
for deferral of design decisions exactly because of its
parametric properties. This paradox can be solved
with real bidirectional interoperability of BIM software. However, the real answer may lie in the way
designers use software, not in its capabilities. Are we
able to commit to early decision making, or would
we rather procrastinate and delay thinking about
While both arguments are reasonable in their
particular rationales, they also seem to exemplify
both blessings and impediments to the design process. Depending on circumstances, early decision
making may limit the procrastination and idle versioning common in architectural production, where
a lack of direction or infinitesimal small variations in
design alternatives effectively loop a designer into a
closed design circle. Early decision making allows an
experienced designer to validate his or her scenarios
by introducing the constructability component into
At the same time, it is evident that the parametric capabilities of digital models allow for deferring
specific design decisions while still considering a
parametric component as an interdependent element of an overall system. In this application, parametric objects serve as intelligent placeholders for
design. These placeholders can be changed if necessary, but, independent of the accuracy of their numeric values, they still function effectively as active
elements of a larger interdependent system.
This property of parametric objects becomes a
critical characteristic of BIM construction models,
not only in understanding the models’ assembly but
also in applying them as explorative and generative
tools for architectural design. This dual ability of BIM
models—allowing designers to introduce constructional considerations in the early design stages, and
later, due to the components’ parametric definition,
to develop variations and generate alternatives at
the very end of the design process—reunites the
act of conceptualizing with the act of making. It also
renegotiates the boundary between design generation and design implementation. This renegotiated
boundary will impact architectural practice and de-
sign team dynamics by increasing the requirement
for each team member to contribute equally to the
design and constructability of the project. Since
design and implementation in BIM become more
tightly intertwined, the separation into designer and
detailers becomes meaningless. The next level of
the design production integration removes architectural drafters from a design team structure.
Digital tools provide a unique capability to speculate creatively and simulate physically within a single design framework. Creativity is seen as both an
abstract proposition and an actual implementation with a problem-solving value. Simulation and
analysis tools allow for contextualizing design with
real-life physical and construction considerations.
While often criticized for its overemphasis on formal
expressions and its pursuit of the spectacular, digital creativity begins to account for a multiplicity of
design factors that define architecture. These factors
relate to performance simulation and analysis, fabrication, and BIM. Usually associated with the back
end of the design process (implementation), BIM
could also redefine the way design ideas are generated by bridging formal creativity with design and
technological innovation. This is achieved through a
close integration of generative tools with parametric
capabilities, through the introduction of digital materiality with physical behavior, and through intelligent database-enriched digital objects.
The introduction of parametric thinking into
building technology and design courses promotes
qualitative and analytic thinking in lieu of the descriptive or metaphorical. Transcoding conceptual
design into highly interdependent and parametric
sets of relationships confronts us with the need to
understand design in a comprehensive way. While
there is still a space for the imaginary, unknown,
and unspoken, these are often predetermined by
initial design assumptions in discrete ways defined
by performance expectations. This not only allows
for understanding the interdependencies between
various elements of a building assembly, but also
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 75
opens doors for “What if...?” speculative exploration.
This second aspect of parametric thinking encourages students to bridge technical knowledge with
creativity. These new creative factors reflect technical, functional, programmatic, or code knowledge
as necessary competencies feeding into the design
With bidirectionally interacting parameters and
dependencies, the cause-and-effect sequences can
be reversed and tested for new possibilities. The initial design criteria (ideas) can be defined in the context of the ultimate design goals and performance
values. Design becomes a logical, cause-and-effect
sequence that can be executed in both didactic
(general to specific) and inductive (specific to general) ways.
Parametric definitions of architectural components become fluid modifiers that facilitate exploring designs and testing design assumptions against
established validation criteria. BIM in conjunction
with physically based parametric design allows for
the alternative design process that parallels traditional creating/making processes.
These new tools create opportunities to expand
the conventional design process characterized by
the hierarchical (didactic) thinking that starts with
the general and gradually progresses towards the
specific. With the parametrically defined BIM, broadened by physically behaving components and materials, there is an opportunity to establish the interoperability of data, or a bidirectional design process
with designers simultaneously working on the general and the specific, within all phases and scales of
the project.
Ambrose, M 2006 ‘Plan is Dead: To BIM or Not to BIM, That
is the Question.’ Computing in Architecture / Re-Thinking
the Discourse: ASCAAD 2006.
Ambrose, M 2009 ‘Agent Provocateur—BIM and the Design
Studio: Questioning Roles of Abstraction and Simulation in Design Education.’ ACSA 2009 Annual Conference: The Value of Design, p.85.
76 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Ford, E 2003, The Details of Modern Architecture, Cambridge:
MIT Press.
Fisher, T 2004, ‘The Past and Future of Studio Culture’. 2004,
accessed November 28th, 2011 http://www.archvoices.
Leatherbarrow, D 2005, ‘Architecture’s Unscripted Performance’, Performative Architecture—Beyond Instrumentality, New York: Spon Press, 2005.
Otto, F and Rasch, B 2001, Finding Form: Towards an Architecture of the Minimal, Edition Axel Menges, 2001.
Hannu, P 2007, ‘Early Architectural Design and BIM’, A.
Dong, A. Vande Moere, and J. S. Gero (eds), CAADFutures’07, Springer, pp. 291-302.
Wallick, K and Zaretsky, M 2009, “Fragmentation and Interrogation as an Approach to Integration.” ACSA Proceedings, Value of Design, Annual Conference.
Educating New Generation of Architects
Leman Figen Gül
TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Department of Architecture, Turkey
[email protected]
Abstract. Recently the developments in and the extensive use of digital design
technologies have brought about fundamental changes in the way architects design
and represent. As a result of the changing architectural design practise, there have
been significant changes in architectural curricula to accommodate new demands,
opportunities, processes and potentials provided by advance digital design tools and
fabrication-based design techniques. Based on this new demand in design education, a
number of additional subjects have been introduced in architectural curricula facilitating
the experimentation of free-form /complex design artefact, building components and
material attributes. Reported in this paper is the experience of the students as well as
a commentary on the quality of the outcomes they achieved whilst confronting this new
learning experience. Based on the analysis of collected questionnaire answers, this paper
will document the issues that the students experienced during digital design development,
the modelling and assembling level as well as in the process of fabrication.
Keywords. Digital architecture; fabrication; design teaching and learning.
Emergent modes of computer aided design and
manufacturing technologies have transformed the
current processes of architectural design practise
into a new understanding of the design realm by facilitating the creation of complex geometries, with
greater accuracy, faster finishing and increased automation. The potentials of algorithmic programming, generative design and parametric design
for architecture have been demonstrated through
the works of some of the well known designers of
our time. A unique and innovative approach to the
process of delivering complex building projects
(Shelden, 2002) and design artefacts have been developed such as in Gehry Partners, Greg Lynn and
Herzog de Meuron. CAD/CAM (Computer Aided
Design / Computer Aided Manufacturing) tools and
CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) technologies which started to be used in design profession,
provide many new possibilities for the development
of industrial manufacturing, creating free-form /
complex design artefact and building components.
In particular, CNC technologies have the capacity to
significantly alter and enhance the relationship between architect and material through the means of
digital fabrication (Booth, 2009).
As a result of the current scene of architectural
design practise, there have been significant changes in architectural curricula to accommodate new
demands, opportunities, processes and potentials
provided by the advance CAD technologies (Kvan
et al. 2004) and the fabrication-based design techniques. Based on this new demand in design education, number of additional subjects have been
introduced in architectural curricula facilitating the
experimentation of free-form / complex design artefact, building components and material attributes,
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 77
as well as experiencing the digital design processes
and production. We offered students a new subject
to facilitate the understanding of digital design processes including experimenting on parametric, algorithm, morphology, form and the material attributes of designing. We advocate the digital design
studio which includes both components of solving a
design problem such as in a design studio and software learning focusing on the implementation of
the skills on a design task.
Reported in this paper is the experiences of
the students as well as a commentary on the quality of the outcomes they achieved whilst confronting this new learning experience. A comprehensive
questionnaire were developed and used at the end
of the course for students to reflect and evaluate
their design and production experiences. Based on
the analysis of collected questionnaire answers, this
paper documents the issues that the students experienced during digital design concept development
and 3D modelling as well as in the process of fabrication. Our observations and the outcomes of the
studio show that the students managed to learn the
modelling software, to design the artefact and construct the models during the course in a satisfactory
level. The paper also considers how this initiative will
prepare the new generation of architectural design
students to learn digital design processes and to
develop skills of using CAD/CAM technologies and
fabrication techniques as the new kind of design
Following the concerns above, an elective course
is offered as an undergraduate subject in a newly
established Architecture Program in International
University of Sarajevo (IUS), Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010 and 2011. The weekly studio included
one-hour theoretical, 3 hours computer-based and 3
hours fabrication-based studios in the Architectural
FabLab at IUS for 14 weeks. The course served as an
introductory subject in teaching digital architecture,
CAD/CAM tools, rapid prototyping and fabrication-
78 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
based design techniques. The course attracted 25
architectural design students who are in their final
year of the graduation.
Course aim and setup
The aim of this course was for students (1) to understand and develop the essential skills and knowledge of digital design and fabrication; and (2) to
develop the understanding and hands-on experience of fabrication technologies. The course content has two major components: (1) understanding
of the principles of digital fabrication in relation to
material’s properties, and (2) understanding of the
digital design processes. In order for students to develop the understanding of processes and production, firstly, relevant techniques and concepts such
as sectioning, contouring, tessellating, folding and
forming based on (Iwamoto,2009) were introduced
and discussed. Secondly, students are provided
intensive tutorials and home works in terms of understanding of form generation in Rhinoceros 4
and scripting in Grasshopper (learning operation of
commands, 3D surface making commands, NURBS,
solids, surface manipulation and analysis, scripting
etc.) in the computer-based studio. In the computerbased studio, the students acquire the necessary
skills and knowledge to create and manipulate the
models. Since the students do not have the previous
scripting experience, they started to learn the basic
knowledge of scripting and they altered / edited
several existing scripts in Grasshopper. Finally, the
students are given the opportunity to experience
CNC milling and laser cutter in the Architectural
FabLab of IUS with the supervision of a technician.
In the fabrication-based studio, a design project was
used as the major assessment item.
In order for the students to develop and practise
the digital design skills in Rhinoceros and Grasshopper, they experimented several fabrication techniques and materials through several assignments.
Skate park design project
With weekly supervision in design development
supplemented by tutorials for technical skill devel-
opment, the digital design project titled “Skate Park
Design” provided opportunities for students to (1)
experience and practice design in Rhinoceros 4.0
and Grasshopper, and (2) develop and apply assembling principles and technical skills for production.
The design brief requires students to use a ‘rib’ structure [1] to model the park and then to finish it with
covering the surface materials with the following
restrictions: (1) the park will be in a diameter of 30m
or should fit in 35m x 35m square; (2) the maximum
height is 3m; (3) the park should be a combination
of curved surfaces; and (4) the park should be in a
closed loop.
Matrix of modules
The major assignment, named as ‘matrix of modules’ provided opportunities for students to (1) create a design object using tessellating techniques,
and (2) experience chosen material’s attributes, and
(3) hands-on experience of fabrication in the Architecture FabLab. ‘Matrix of modules’ assignment includes designing and fabricating a Lattice in the giving specifications that should fit in a prism: 40cm x
40cm x 10cm. The size of the lattice module in a cell
should be 10cm x 10cm x 10cm. To produce the matrix, the lattice module should repeat itself for four
times in each direction. A pattern could be linear,
quadric, sinusoidal, gestural etc.
To understand the effectiveness of digital design
learning, this study collects and analyses the evidences from students’ perception, and reflects on
our own experiences in planning, conducting and
evaluating the digital architecture and fabrication
studio. We adopt a quantitative research approach
to study students’ perception using a comprehensive questionnaire. At the end of the studio, students who successfully completed the fourteen
weeks studio were asked to answer the questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of two parts of 45
questions in total.
Technical features (answered on a five-point
Likert scale): the questions of part one aim to evalu-
ate the performance of various technical features of
digital design tools and production.
Open questions: the second part of the questionnaire continues with a set of open questions
in order to develop more in-depth understanding
of students’ perception and expectation of digital
design and fabrication tools in design learning. Students reported and discussed issues ranging from
the design representation and documentation, creativity, process, to the production and the materialisation of the design ideas.
The sample size of the study is quite ideal with
25 from a class of 24 students responding. 36% of
the participated students are female. 45% of the
students have four years CAD experience. However,
100% of the students experienced digital design
and fabrication tools such as Rhinoceros and Grasshopper for the first time. 100% of the students have
a personal computer and only 13% of them do not
have internet connection at home, which implies
that the students are quite well computer literate.
The students can be therefore considered as both
expert designers and CAD users.
We summarise the questionnaire results indicating the students’ evaluation of the digital architecture and fabrication studio for design learning in the
following sections.
Design support
Students thought, overall the subject is worthwhile: 27% of the students rated their experiences
as strongly agreed, and 45% of the students were
agreed. 73% of the students satisfied/very satisfied
with the design decisions and solutions that came
out of the digital design session in Rhinoceros. Students divided about comparing digital design tool
(Rhinoceros) to parametric design tool (Grasshopper). 36% of the students rated their experiences
with the digital design tool as superb, 45% of them
as neutral. 63% of the students rated their experiences with the parametric design tool as neutral,
36% of them as not very effective.
Although, 54% of the students rated their performance of thinking in 3D increased, they largely
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 79
divided regarding the usefulness of the digital
design tools. As indicated in the following direct
quotes from the students, their opinions are often
conflicting, reflecting on both the strength and
weakness of digital design and fabrication tools and
in relation to features of general CAD applications
that are familiar to them.
“...Rhinoceros is easy to use, but I am not sure about
its efficiency. Do we really need to know this program
in our future career? It is for so abstract forms. ...maybe
good for industrial design but, not architectural design. I am happy to know it. I hope it will be useful. But
Grasshopper is hard to understand. General idea of it is
understandable. But I do not understand how to know
what I need next to achieve my task”.
“I like to design with curves in Rhino, because it is not
possible in Sketch-up. Computer programs is perfect
when I do not need to model –psychical model which
I draw. Sketch-up is very useful to understand the volumes at the beginning of design process. And it is easy
to use, and quick. AutoCAD is also good to draw, because of its simplicity, and let you decide everything
about your design by yourself”.
“We learned ArchiCAD but I do not prefer to use ArchiCAD because of its failure, especially when we take
section and it is not a fast way to design, it is not simple
program. In ArchiCAD we need to consider everything
in the beginning of the design process. ...with Rhinoceros, I was able to design very complex forms, I like that”.
Figure 1
Used medium for the design
80 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Modelling support
63% of the students considered the model making with the CNC machines as “effective/very effective”, as a tool to realise design ideas. The comments
agreed on the comparison of the effectiveness of
the CNC machines with the conventional model
making tools. 45% of the students rated “not effective/not very effective”, 45% of them rated as neutral
regarding the effectiveness of the model making
with hand-tools such as knife- blade. 68% of the
students rated as very satisfied/ satisfied with the
outcome that came out of the fabrication process in
As indicated in the following direct quotes from
the students, their opinions are on the strength and
weakness of CNC cutter and Laser cutter in relation
to features of conventional model making tools:
“...I found it amazing how the laser cutter operates,
as it cut the timber. I also like very much the colour of
the burnt timber, you cannot achieve that look using
knife and blade”.
“I think the assembling is a little hard and time
“I improved my digital model using several scripts
which I borrowed from different resources...the possibilities of the process seems endless...but I have to construct it a point using sectioning technique”.
The above results of the questionnaire indicate
consistency in the user perception and tool preference during the digital architecture and fabrication
studio. The results together with our observation on
and discussion with the students reveal some challenging characteristics, especially the issues related
to the affordance of new design and production
technologies. The fabrication and design process
have directly impacted on the overall satisfaction
of students. The outcomes of the digital design and
fabrication studio as illustrated in the next session
clearly indicate that the students are able to design,
develop, assembled and fabricated the design idea
to a satisfactory level. However, the questionnaire
result and our observations show that students have
been frustrated with various issues emerging during
the digital architecture and fabrication studio including: lack of programming and scripting knowledge, lack of understanding the assembling procedure, lack of understanding the material’s properties
and difficulty of transferring an abstract design idea
into a concrete form.
The following section includes snapshots of the outcomes of the studio.
Skate park design
Students are encouraged to use variety of media for
the design of the skate park, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Most of the students started to design by sketching
using pen-paper. With the completion of the sketches and deciding the layout of the skate park they
modelled it in Rhinoceros. The key element of the
task is to fabricate the park using the cardboard, so
making the curve surfaces stands as a challenging
task. The sectioning technique is applied for making the model, as illustrated in Figure 1. Rather than
construct the surface itself, sectioning uses a series
of profiles, the edges of which follow lines of surface
Since students do not have programming background, they tend to employ existing scripts in their
design. We also encouraged them to find an existing
script, modify / alter and use it in their design process. The students investigated Rhinoceros’ wiki, and
forum pages to find out the possible ways of modelling, assembling and fabricating the curved surfaces. Some students applied the RhinoScript as provided on the rib structure tutorial to form the base
surface of the skate park, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Some students also used the graphical algorithm
editor, Grasshopper, tightly integrated with Rhinoceros’s 3-D modelling tools, to form and create the assembling layout of the skate park.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 81
Matrix of modules
Using a matrix of modules to create a lattice wall is
the major assignment item, as illustrated in Figure
2 and 3. The task requires students to think in 3D
space elaborating the spatial adjacency of the elements, the connection of each module, assembling
and fabricating.
The tessellating technique is used for making
the lattice wall which is a common architectural design element to provide sun shade and visual separation of spaces. The tessellating which exists since
the ancient Roma and Gothic architecture is a collection of pieces that fits together without gaps to form
a plane or surface. In architecture, the term refers
to both tiled patterns on buildings and digitally defined mesh patterns. The task requires elaborating
on the joints and the relationships of each module.
This design task does not only include the form
generation based on a module which will come together and form the lattice wall, but also it requires
the understanding of types of materials and their attributes. Students are given opportunity to explore
several materials such as PVC, timber and cardboard,
as illustrated in Figure 2 and 3. Each studied material
has its own values in terms of the hardness, softness
and the combustion degree etc. and behaves differently during the cutting process.
Many design schools around the world have been
adapting digital design concepts in their curricula.
In relation to design education and pedagogy, the
theoretical, computational and cognitive approaches of design computation and digital design have
been studied by researchers (Knight, 1999, Oxman
2006, Cuff 2001). Oxman (2008) stated that “in design theory, the decline and transformation of root
concepts such as representation, precedent-based
design, typologies, and other principles of the past
generation are in the process of being replaced today
by a new body of design concepts related to models of
generation, animation, performance-based design
and materialization. These are design concepts deriving from the synergy between emergent technologies,
82 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
design and architectural theories”. In relation to those
new design concepts, the design pedagogy requires
further investigations.
In general, there are two views of teaching digital design; a course adjunct to a design studio (Oxman, 2008), or a course offered independently of a
design studio (Marx, 1999). Our approach of digital
design teaching is based on an approach which
combines those two views. In the digital architecture and fabrication studio, students are offered new
learning experiences including learning new skills of
using software - prototyping tools and implementing this knowledge and skills on a design task at the
same time.
Based on the above results and our observations, advance digital design and prototyping tools
as the emerging design teaching platform for the
new generation of architects remain to be challenging. As indicated in the questionnaire results,
students are overall satisfied with the digital design
and fabrication experience. In addition, the students
commented on the quality of the design outcomes.
Besides the above findings regarding students’ perception on the digital architecture and fabrication
course, the paper concludes with the following remarks.
Framework of the course
In terms of the structure of the digital architecture
and fabrication studio, the content of the course
comprised (1) teaching the digital design concepts
(generative design, computing, parametric design
etc.), (2) operation skills of the modeling software
and prototyping tools, and (3) implementing those
skills and knowledge on the design tasks. Our previous teaching experience showed that a course offered independently of a design studio would only
benefit on the development of the technical knowledge of using particular software. Thus the lectures
in which students would be exposed to several fabrication and digital design concept related issues
should be used as the grounding for integrating the
knowledge. Following the building up of digital design concepts, the development of various skills is
Figure 2
Lattice design examples, the
material is soft timber.
necessary. Thus, a set of tutorials in which students
would gain knowledge of and practice in using the
CNC technologies should be formed. These technical
tutorials should provide the basic knowledge about
how to operate a particular piece of software. Finally,
students should be given opportunities to apply the
knowledge and skills that they have developed during the course, so different sets of design and fabrication tasks should be given.
Digital design process
Working with the digital medium requires a different kind of thinking. Different from the basic principles of design teaching such as typologies, graphical
representation, contextual and conceptual design
explorations, digital design requires algorithms,
computing, morphogenesis, form explorations, materialization and production techniques. Students
should be exposed to those concepts and techniques by giving a chance to explore design artifacts
in digital and in physical form.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 83
Figure 3
Lattice design examples, the
material is card board.
Required skills
Interdisciplinary working becomes essential. Thus
the generation of architects should develop a variety of skills that include architecture-related skills
(place design, formation, generation and performance), digital design skills (modelling, imaging,
fabrication, scripting and programming), and generic design skills (problem-solving, decision making).
Model making
Models have a fundamental role in the practice of
84 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
architecture. Within the process of architectural design, models are suggested as an essential tool in
the realisation of habitable built form. Making the
model represents the concretization of ideas, by
getting as close as possible to the actual construction of a design idea. By using 3D scanning and rapid prototyping techniques, the designers are able
to go back and forth between digital and manual
mode, thus taking advantage of each one during
the design process. The design task should have the
component of model making including the explo-
ration of fabrication techniques such as sectioning,
forming, folding, tessellating and contouring.
The author would like to thank all students who
participated in the digital architecture and fabrication studio and the tutor, Ms. Lamila Simisic, for their
contributions and permissions to include images of
their designs in the paper.
Booth, P 2009, ‘Digital Materiality: Emergent computational
fabrication’ in 43rd Annual Conference of the Architectural Science Association, ANZAScA2009, University of
Cuff, D 2001, Digital pedagogy: an essay in Architectural Record, vol. 9, pp. 200–206.
Shelden, DR 2002, ‘Digital Surface Representation and Constructability of Gehry’s Architecture’, PhD Thesis, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Knight, T 1999, ‘Shape grammars in education and practices: History and prospects’ in International Journal of
Design Computing (IJDC), vol. 2 (MIT Press).
Kvan, T, Mark, E, Oxman, R and Martens, B 2004, ‘Ditching
the dinosaur: Redefining the role of digital media in
education’ in International Journal of Design Computing, 7.
Marx, JA 2000, ‘Proposal for alternative methods for teaching digital design’ in Automation in Construction, vol. 9,
Issue 1, pp. 19–35.
Iwamoto, L 2009, Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques, Princeton Architectural Press; ISBN:
Oxman, R 2006, ‘Theory and design in the first digital age’ in
Design Studies, vol. 27 (no 3) pp. 229–265.
Oxman, R 2008, ‘Digital architecture as a challenge for design pedagogy: theory, knowledge, models and medium’ in Design Studies, vol. 29, Issue 2, pp. 99–120.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 85
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4D Modeling and Simulation for the Teaching of
Structural Principles and Construction Techniques
Towards modeling and visualization guidelines for high-rise buildings
Sylvain Kubicki , Annie Guerriero , Pierre Leclercq , Koenraad Nys and Gilles Halin
CRP Henri Tudor, Luxembourg, LuciD-ULg, Belgium, D-Studio, Belgium, MAP-CRAI,
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected],
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. 4D CAD is more and more used in construction education curricula. The main
interest of this technology is its ability to simulate real sequencing of construction tasks in
order to confront the student with real-life construction management issues. This article
presents a course for architects and construction engineers. It describes the teaching
of the structural principles of high-rise buildings, using 4D simulations as a support to
the analysis of the characteristics of existing projects. The pedagogical interest of 4D
CAD is described in the article through assessments of students and the teaching team.
Particular feedback is given about modeling and visualization guidelines for the purpose
of the pedagogical use of 4D CAD.
Keywords. 4D CAD; 4D modeling and visualization; High-Rise Building; Structural
Principles; Pedagogy.
The University of Liège in Belgium offers curriculums
for the initial training of engineer-architects and
construction engineers. Specific Master courses are
developed for the teaching of organizational issues
in large construction projects and the management
of teams in charge of complex projects. Some issues
could be noticed regarding particular types of construction projects or management techniques:
The design principles of high-rise construction
projects are not really tackled in the current
curriculum. Moreover, the necessary multi-expertise of project management methods during the design and construction phases is not
part of usual architects/engineers trainings.
When it comes to the teaching of planning
methods, traditional planning courses sometimes appear to students as disconnected from
reality. Indeed, they are not really aware of the
“in-situ” conditions of construction projects.
From these statements we proposed an original
pedagogical scenario inspired by the recent advances related to 4D technologies in the Construction IT research community (Hartmann et al. 2008)
and their application in pedagogy, e.g. (Russell et al.
2005; Sampaio et al. 2006).
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One can recognize that it is usually difficult to address 1) the issue of high-rise design, 2) the technical aspects of tall buildings structures and 3) the
characteristics of high-rise construction processes,
within a single and short-duration course. Then, 4D
CAD appears as an interesting technology to help
students better analyze the design and construction
of high-rise buildings, and especially their structural
State of the Art
Construction projects management courses are
very diversified in architecture, engineering or construction curricula (Dietz et al. 1976). In architecture
curriculums, it is usually stated that architecture
students do not gain much practical knowledge of
construction management and methods (Clayton
2002). With the emergence of computer-supported
3D building modeling, innovative methods are being more and more explored in order to improve the
construction education experience. (Clayton 2002)
described a virtual construction exercise experience
with students using 3D CAD and simulations. He
concluded that virtual construction is very interesting to teach construction management to students
more easily through many learning situations or
projects examples. (Perdomo et al. 2005) presented
a study in collaboration with the Virginia Tech architecture and building construction department that
was investigating the educational advantage of 3D
representations over 2D drawings in terms of understanding construction assemblies and details. The
results were very positive.
But, in curricula addressing complex “construction environments”, like bridges, towers or the construction of high-rise buildings, it is important to address technical issues while taking into account the
various topics to be included in short-term courses.
Indeed, such projects require treating a vast scale
of parameters, working at multiple levels of detail,
dealing with design variability, and realistic representation of the work (Russell et al. 2009). Students
88 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
have to understand the difficulties related to the
steering of such projects, as well as the nature of design decisions that have to be taken. Therefore, it is
important to include the temporal dimension related to the scheduling, in order to explore and analyze
the constructability of working methods. 4D simulations appear to be an innovative solution and some
teachers already have implemented them in their
courses. (Kang et al. 2004) presented a web-based
interactive 4D block tower model for construction
planning and scheduling education and showed
4D visualization interests for education. (Sampaio
et al. 2006) demonstrated through many examples
that virtual reality, including 4D CAD, can be useful
in teaching material elaboration. (Wang et al. 2007)
described a study to assess the value of using 4D
modeling in construction engineering courses and
compared results from two different 4D processes
that are traditional 4D and virtual construction simulators. Both processes were found valuable to improve the learning experience of students.
Moreover, the usefulness of 4D models to support collaboration in the construction industry has
been demonstrated in some research works. Indeed, using 4D simulations can increase collaborative scheduling (Mahalingam et al. 2010; Zhou et al.
2009), site coordination (Dawood and Sikka 2007)
and communication (Heesom and Mahdjoubi 2004).
Course description
The pedagogical scenario retained for the course
consists in both theoretical courses and practical
works. Practical works are themselves divided into
two stages: single-student work and teamwork.
Theoretical courses aim at providing students a
basic knowledge in the fields of high-rise buildings and project management. Structural constraints and common solutions are the main
topics of the courses. A typology of construction principles is presented. Vertical transportation systems, as well as façade techniques, are
also dealt with. The second part of the course
introduces project management, especially in
terms of organizations of actors, coordination
mechanisms and finally IT-supported collaboration. BIM and 4D modeling/simulation is the
final theoretical input.
Practical works consist in analyzing high-rise
building projects. In a first stage (4-5 working
weeks), each student is expected to analyze
various aspects of a project. Then in a second
stage, students are grouped in teams of 3 to 4
students. Each team chooses an existing building and has to realize a complete analysis of
the structural principle and construction process. Then, they have to propose a 4D simulation “scenario” which aims to provide a “didactic
understanding” of building structures and construction. 4D modeling and simulation themselves are the final part of the teamwork.
This course has been taught three times, during the
fall semesters of the following academic years: 20092010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. 14 students were
involved in 2010, 12 students participated in 2011
and they were 15 in 2012. In 2010, 3 teams worked
on New-York Times Building (New-York), Sears Tower
(Chicago) and Debis Tower (Berlin). In 2011, 4 teams
worked on Caja Madrid, Opernturn (Frankfurt),
Shard London Tower and the World Financial Center
(Shanghai) towers. And in 2012, 6 teams analyzed
Puerta del Europa (Madrid), Bligh Tower (Sydney),
John Hancock (Chicago), Tower 0-14 (Dubaï), Triangle Tower (Köln) and Heron Tower (London).
3D modeling is realized with Google SketchUp™,
and 4D modeling and simulation is enabled thanks
to the courtesy of the D-Studio company, providing
its 4D Virtual Builder© for Google SketchUp™ plug-in.
Teaching team’s feedback
The course presented above is experimental in the
engineer-architect and construction-engineer curriculums of the University of Liège. It was designed
in the continuity of the previous course of project
management, which was dedicated to the understanding of particular constraints related to the
planning and design of large-scale projects. The
main hypothesis is to benefit from 4D modeling and
simulation technologies. The feedback of the teaching team is the following:
Firstly, the use of 3D modeling tools like Google
SketchUp™ is possible and valuable, also when
students are not familiar with 3D modeling (it
is the case of the construction-engineers students). SketchUp™ is rapidly understood and usable by all of the students.
4D modeling of high-rise buildings (although
the aim is not to provide a very fine-grained
planning) requires a deep understanding of
structural principles, because it impacts the
skeleton of the construction planning (i.e. the
Work Breakdown Structure). The pedagogical
team can better appreciate the completeness of
students’ analyses. This is due to the need of
clearness when modeling the buildings’ main
structural 3D elements as well as the schedule’s
Finally, as documentation on high-rise construction is usually difficult to obtain (planning
as-realized, detailed plans, etc.), students have
to infer both structural principles and construction planning. It requires that they make
hypotheses on the design and that they find
evidence of construction procedures (photos,
webcam, or TV documentary). The exercise then
becomes original compared to classical “planning” or “structure” courses and students get
more easily involved and motivated.
Students’ feedback
The feedback of students is related to their use and
appropriation of 3D/4D technologies and is supported by the results of a survey carried out on 2012
Students appear to be very interested in the opportunity offered by 4D technologies for the simulation of construction projects. They particularly
understand the interest of construction planning
analyses supported by 3D visualization. Compared
to other courses, 4D models help them to better
understand what really lies behind the planning of
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 89
a task. They also appreciate learning about high-rise
design and construction, which is not a usual topic
in their curriculums.
However, we underline the limits of their understanding of the utility of 4D modeling in professional practice. The structured surveys described in the
next section highlight this issue.
Survey carried out at the end of the 2011
course session
In the last session (2011), we decided to carry out
a survey analysis in order to evaluate the students’
feedback on the use of 4D tools, as well as to assess their understanding of the utility of 4D CAD in
the professional life. Indeed, this particular exercise
helps students understand the principle of 4D CAD,
and lets them experience it on the analysis of structural principle and construction process of a single
project. Therefore, the application is quite different
than most of the usages of 4D CAD in real construction projects, for constructability analysis in the design phase or construction progress monitoring in
the construction stage.
The first part of the survey consisted in an evaluation of the satisfaction of users, based on the SUS
scale (Brooke 1996). Although the SUS score is quite
low (39,82/100), the principal aim of the survey is
then to finely assess how students understand the
utility and applicability of this technology for their
future professional activity. A more detailed questionnaire is based on a set of questions targeting the
assessment of utility and usability of 4D CAD.
Table 1 summarizes the results obtained through
the survey. 14 students answered the questionnaire.
The analysis of the students’ feedback demonstrates
that they have difficulty imagining that the 4D simulation can contribute to improve their future professional work, to make it easier and globally allow
them to gain time (see part “productivity” on Figure
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1). We think that we can mainly explain this nature
of feedback (fundamentally different from professionals that make use of 4D simulation) by the fact
that they have a partial view of the mission that will
be theirs in the professional environment. Moreover, during this experiment the students have to
manipulate three tools: 1) Microsoft Project for the
scheduling of the construction tasks, 2) SketchUp
to model the building, and 3) xD Virtual Builder for
4D simulations. At the beginning of the course, they
have already studied Microsoft Project but have no
experience in modelling softwares. Therefore, they
have to assimilate SketchUp as well as xD Virtual
Builder. The exercise appears complex for the students who are less skilled with this type of software.
Consequently, their vision about the time required
for the 4D modelling is relatively biased. We can
consider that it is one of the limits of the proposed
pedagogical device.
About the 4D model functionalities, the students’ feedback is more positive (see part “4D model
functionalities” on Figure 1). It appears they feel that
4D simulation contributes to the communication
between actors and improves collaboration.
Beyond introducing 4D simulation, this feedback from the students justifies our aim to improve
visualization in the applications of 4D-CAD. Moreover, as students do not really have to convince clients, we consider that the role of visualization in the
particular case of our exercise is to communicate the
analysis of high-rise structural principles. Then, each
group of students has to develop its own “visualization framework” to carry out the messages of their
structural analyses.
Communication and collaboration-support are wellknown benefits of using 4D-CAD in construction
projects. As demonstrated by the survey results,
described in the previous section, it is essential to
sensitize the students to the visualization while they
are using 4D modeling software tools. Moreover,
Figure 1
Survey results.
visualization choices can help them in expressing
their theoretical analysis of a building project. The
research that we develop in the field of 4D visualization leads us to propose a matrix for the analysis
of visualization and some results about particular 4D
visualization for high-rise buildings.
Modeling of the construction of high-rise
The projects of four students’ groups were analyzed
in a previous paper (Kubicki et al. 2011), both in
terms of modeling and visualization. Concerning the
modeling, our analyses showed that:
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 91
The modeling of architectural projects is generally simplified for the aim of simulating the
construction process. Indeed, with the aim of
establishing the links between 3D objects and
schedule’s entities, the level of detail is usually
lower than for architectural modeling and visualization (rendering).
The principal variables in modeling, in the
case of high-rise buildings, are the type of floor,
standard or non-standard, as well as the elements shown in the model, and highly dependent of the construction material (steel, mixed
steel-concrete or armed concrete).
4D visualization of the construction of
high-rise buildings
The concept of multi-visualization is generally used
for visualizations where data are represented by
using multiple windows. Such views can be independent and isolated, or tightly coordinated. Coordinated multiple views (CMV) describe two or more
distinct views tightly coordinated and used to support the investigation of a single conceptual entity
(Roberts 2007). In construction, 4D simulations can
be considered as CMV systems since they suit these
rules. Indeed, 4D visualization usually makes use of
different views (i.e. 3D view and temporal view) and
data sets displayed in the views are logically linked.
Figure 2
4D multivisualization
composed of two coordinated
views for each date.
92 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
In a parallel research effort (Boton et al. 2011), we developed a classification of attributes of 4D visualization enabling to describe both the content, structure
or graphical characteristics of the 4D views and the
coordination mechanisms that logically link the various sub-views.
In the students’ works, one can distinguish the
characteristics related to the visualization properties
of the 4D model, and the final presentation of the
4D simulation. The visualization properties of the 4D
models are:
The semantic of colors. Usually 4D-CAD software tools propose standard sets of colors
to visualize 4D models: red=task in progress,
transparent=task not started, etc. In this course,
we encourage the students to give significance
to the colors they used. Beyond the state of
tasks, the students use colors sets to distinguish
the structural status of 3D objects, i.e. variations
of colors depending on the load-bearing role of
objects, transparency for non-structural objects
(e.g. facades) enabling to visualize the primary
structure inside the building, etc.
The representation of schedule information.
Schedule is an important component of 4D
models. It is usually mentioned as a date, milestone, or step in the planning of tasks. Then, the
representation of time can take various forms in
the models of students, but it usually is a simple
display of the ongoing date, highlighted above
the 3D model. In some cases, a dedicated Gantt
View is used. But it should be mentioned that
the exact date is not capital information in the
framework of our 4D models. Indeed, the sequence of construction tasks is more important
to understand the construction process, and
can be represented with colors associated to
the 3D objects.
The camera principles. The visualization of
large-scale buildings is a remaining question in
the CAAD community. Moreover, in the case of
construction simulations, tasks can happen at a
given date, in many locations. Then the use of
camera principles is different in each particular
case. We can notice the following approaches.
Zoom is used to show a particular object or
group of objects, and can present particular
works in a given space. Extended zoom shows
the entire building and can be used to give
an overview of the construction principle (e.g.
core/primary structure/secondary structure/
facades). Sections or interior perspectives were
also used by the students, e.g. to show construction details inside the building. Finally
orbit enables the widest view on the building
construction progress.
4D multi-visualization of high-rise
buildings construction.
The SketchUp plug-in that was used allows to define
colors/transparency properties of the 4D objects, directly in SketchUp. It also allows the user to export
the 4D simulation in the form of a Powerpoint presentation, enabling to personalize the multi-visualization layout. Two interesting layouts are described
In the first example, the aim is to represent parallel tasks that are performed in different areas of the
3D models. While analyzing the construction of the
“0-14 Tower” (in Dubai), the students were confronted to the parallel sequencing of “facade construction” (double skin concrete façade, with holes) and
a “podium construction” which is connected to the
main building. The use of a two-window multi-view
representation (Figure 1) enables, for each date, to
focus on both global construction of the skin (left
part) and the detailed steps of the podium edification and its connection to the skin (right part).
In the second example, the Heron Tower (in London) has been analyzed. The main findings of the
students’ analysis showed that the particularity of
this building was the multiple structural systems of
the façades. Indeed there are three types of façade
systems in this project: 1) “small windows” façade, 2)
glass wall façade, and 3) bracing system over glass
wall. Moreover, their work addressed the question of
visualizing multiple areas of a large-scale construction project (i.e. high-rise). As same-time scheduled
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 93
tasks can be executed in distant locations, there is a
real issue for the visualization of these locations.
The proposed multi-visualization firstly distinguishes the areas represented in the simulation: for
a single date, the students proposed to visualize two
sides of the building (two representative façades) as
well as one extended view and two detailed views.
Moreover, they divided the vertical representation
of the façades using four camera principles (four different zoom settings) to better represent the targeted areas. Figure 2 illustrates this 12-view representation (note that the 12th view was not active at the
date displayed) for a single date.
The article describes a course dedicated to project
management in construction. The particular subjects of teaching are the structural principles and
construction processes related to high-rise build-
ings. 4D CAD assists the work of students, who have
to analyze a particular existing building during the
The article highlights the feedback of both
teaching team and students, based on a survey
carried out at the end of the course. The main result is that 4D CAD seems to be useful to the work
of students but that it remains difficult for them to
understand its added value in real professional life.
An important challenge is the visualization of the 4D
simulations. A relationship is then established with
research work about the design of multi-visualization interfaces. Some conclusions are provided on
the basis of simulations involving two students, and
they allow to envisage prospects towards the elaboration of guidelines for 4D CAD visualization, which
could be useful for other curriculums.
Figure 3
Multi-visualization of the
construction sequence of the
Heron Tower (London).
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CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 95
96 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Building Performance Modeling in Non-simplified
Architectural Design
Procedural and cognitive challenges in education
Max Doelling , Farshad Nasrollahi
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The building technology class “Parametric Design” simultaneously teaches
thermal and daylight performance simulation to novice users, usually Master of
Architecture students. Own buildings are created, analysed and geometrically modified
during the design process, resulting in structures that are energetically pre-optimized. It
is shown that energy demand and daylight utilization can be significantly improved while
taking into account formal considerations. Departing from a design process model that
gives preference to either engineering or design thinking, multi-modal decision-making is
diagnosed to be mediated by hybrid or multivalent representations, necessitating a shift
in how inter-domain design knowledge flows might be understood. Opposed to purely
linear or iterative process assumptions, a fluent state model of interconnected domains of
analytic inquiry is proposed.
Keywords. Sustainable design; daylight simulation; thermal simulation; architectural
education; design epistemology.
Digital, parametric model-based design workflows
offer many opportunities to integrate performance
simulation into the architectural design process, but
as a relatively novel practice, no proven set of design methods or cognitive framework has yet been
established. Many traditional simulation classes
consider simplified design parameters and produce
results that stream towards clear performance indicators. While entirely appropriate, and possibly even
reflects a large aspect of the built environment’s formal reality, an increasing tendency exists to strive
towards forms that are not intended as mere aesthetic experiments but to enrich the lives of inhabitants through enhanced comfort. In this context, our
ongoing seminar “Parametric Design” investigates
the integration of multiple building performance
simulation techniques into the early stages of architectural design. Master of Architecture students with
minimal or no knowledge of building performance
simulation are tasked with expressing a functionally diverse spatial programme, using daylighting
and thermal assessment tools as continuous design
decision benchmarks. One of three sites (Berlin: Germany, Hashtgerd: Iran, Ft. Lauderdale: Florida, USA)
has to be chosen, yielding designs specific to the local climate but related through their shared design
brief. Basic lectures on sustainable building and
simulation principles are given, while workshops
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 97
introduce students to the interlinked usage of DIVA
(Jakubiec and Reinhart, 2011), a daylight simulation
plugin for Rhinoceros3d, DesignBuilder, an interface
for the simulation engine EnergyPlus, Rhinoceros3d,
a NURBS modeler, and Grasshopper3d, a parametric
geometry tool.
Various different models of building performance
simulation classes are described in the literature, as
are approaches that deal with integrating simulation into the architectural design process in general.
The following selection is not intended as a comprehensive classification of previous studies, but
instead serves to position our own endeavor within
this developing field.
Many simulation classes cater to architecture
students and contain a design component, the
analysis of which can then also be related to tool use
considerations (Palme, 2011). Alternatively, unconstrained architectural design activity is frequently
not part of a class (Strand, Liesen and Witte, 2004;
Madsen and Osterhaus, 2005). Epistemological
workflow considerations are discussed from various
angles, usually contrasting engineering and design
working methods, or attempt to establish intermediate ground (Batty and Swann, 1997; Hetherington
et al., 2011; Venancio et al., 2011). Most case studies
acknowledge the importance of early-stage architectural energy optimization through design, yet
our review indicates that it is the norm for only one
simulation domain to be detailedly taught per class,
unlike in our own, which introduces both daylight
and thermal simulations in an integrated manner.
In this paper, we touch on tool use implications, but
assume the chosen software applications to be reliably useable in the design process due to advanced
interfaces, precise results display and their use of the
validated simulation engines EnergyPlus and Radiance. In essence, we attempt to understand possible
modes of simulation-assisted cross-domain decision-making by architectural designers performed
from the very first creation steps to the end of the
98 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
schematic design phase, since in this time frame
fundamental, difficult to reverse choices affecting
form and energy use are made (Brown and DeKay,
2001). No normative workflow recommendations
will be stated; instead, analyzing various process
representations in conjunction with describing decision chains will lead us to an alternative integrated
design process model.
The following sections introduce the curriculum employed by us, present two class results from summer
2011 and relate them to the challenge of integrating
building simulation into early-stage architectural
design. The guiding research questions are:
1. Are simulation activities easily effective in decreasing a design’s primary energy demand if
they are to be positively correlated with making desired formal decisions, in a process that
acknowledges functional and geometric complexity?
2. How are design decisions made in a multi-representational domain that includes parametric
performance models?
3. What consequences might the results and the
modes of their making have for architectural
education and design theory?
The seminar investigates design-simulation process
interaction by posing a “real-world” problem. There
are no rules concerning the building shape, albeit
we ask students to consider the task realistic in the
sense of a limited budget and apparent constructa2
bility of the 804 m community center. Spaces are
a mix of offices, seminar rooms and a small auditorium. By having students design in different climate
zones, they experience how buildings that share the
same design brief are morphologically influenced
by adapting to the local climate.
The course assignments are modeled after the hier-
archy traditionally found in design studios, with energy optimization primarily to be achieved through
architectural instead of technological means. Hence,
formal and performance decisions are closely related (Nasrollahi, 2009). Our following process narrative is a temporally linear approximation of groups’
design thinking at various advancing stages, as interpreted by the authors based on tutoring, results
data evaluation and representation analysis.
Heuristic and initial simulation phase
Figure 1
Natural Ventilation and Massing Sketch, Florida Design.
Figure 2
Design Development Sketches
(Plans roughly oriented north),
Figure 3
Summer / Winter Irradiation Images (South to left of
frame), USA.
Assignment 01 asked students to start design work
and to especially consider early stage performance
rules of thumb, requiring them to document key design concepts relating to the intended environmental performance in principle sketches that should
relate to the local climate. Group 01 chose Ft. Lauderdale as the project site; group 02, chose Hashtgerd, Iran. The climates of both sites are very different:
Florida’s low latitude, low elevation and proximity to
the Gulf of Mexico lend it year-long high temperatures, mostly uncomfortable in summer due to high
relative humidity, while Hashtgerd’s more northern
latitude, higher elevation and greater distance from
the ocean yield a continental climate with both
summer and winter discomfort extremes. The goal
of performance design strategies was to minimize
the primary energy demand of heating, cooling and
lighting equipment required to achieve thermal and
visual comfort.
In the initial phase, a massing approach (figure
1) and response to site conditions was defined, with
most groups departing from and modifying the basic principles thus discovered throughout the class.
Design rules of thumb were recommended to be
followed from various publications (e.g. Brown and
DeKay, 2001) and Climate Consultant, a climate analysis package. The very earliest design stage, articulated by sketches (figure 2) and arrays of incomplete
models, featured too little information to enable
simulations that require defined geometries. Only at
its end was a base layout established, on which first
analyses were performed. This marked the transition
from purely heuristic to partially evidence-based
modes of thinking.
Assignment 02a dealt with running climate-based
daylight simulations (Reinhart, Mardaljevic and Rogers, 2006) and a seasonal cumulative solar irradiation
analysis, achieved with DIVA. The reason for considering insolation images and daylighting first was our
intention to have students visually experience solar
gains, with the hope that they would tweak their
assumptions on solar geometry and arrive at an improved building layout before constructing thermal
simulation models.
Group 01 correctly identified horizontal as well
as east and west facing surfaces as major receivers
of insolation (figure 3). This was in part caused by
the massing strategy chosen due to wind patterns
and spatial organization considerations, which were
also related to assumed daylighting benefits tested
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 99
through simulations and found to be promising
(figure 4). The design process in all coming phases
then evolved towards a systematic evaluation of different facade structures, many of which were not
iteratively related but formal experiments and performance assessments in unison. Aesthetic requirements of retaining vertical fins to visually balance
the horizontal massing scheme were expressed by
the group throughout the class, setting a formal parameter space within which most explorations were
achieved. The authors found that this happened
in the case of most groups; the final solutions frequently showed an expression of ideas developed
during the heuristic design development phase.
The Iran team ran site-level irradiation simulations via Ecotect and chose a site patch with maximum insolation to receive their design, intended as
a compact volume tilted towards lower sun angles
(figure 5). Despite at first glance promising, it later
became apparent that this systematic initial approach yields no guarantees that building performance will actually be superior to rule of thumb
only approaches, since when site-level analyses
are performed without preconceived ideas on the
structure to be designed, no relationship between
measured site phenomena and building geometry
yet exists.
Interior spaces were arranged into a dense layout situated under a slanted roof perforated by skylights. The handling of these apertures was the key
geometric element affecting design performance;
they developed from simple horizontal openings
to complex solar scoops, their behavior parametrically defined by flexible Grasshopper3d-definitions.
Insolation analysis performed on various scoop tilts
resulted in the group choosing an angle that caused
greater gains in winter and relative prevention of
direct sunlight penetration in summer (figure 6). In
that sense, the irradiation images played a greater
role in meshing thermal optimizations with formal
considerations, and thus acted more as a useful
tool than they did for group 01, who argued from
a different set of constraints, especially wind patterns and projected daylight demand. Group 02’s
100 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
approach can hence be understood as having been
more driven by thermal performance concerns; the
observed useful daylight utilization of the first iteration was indeed sub-par (figure 7).
Figure 4
Variant 01 (Florida), Useful
Daylight Illuminance, 100 –
2000 lux, % of occupied hours,
fixed louvers.
Figure 5
Site Irradiation Analysis & Volume Derivation, Iran Design.
Figure 6
Summer / Winter Irradiation Images (North to top of
frame), Iran.
Figure 7
Variant 01 (Iran), Useful Daylight Illuminance, 100 – 2000
lux, % of occupied hours, no
Figure 8
Detailed simulation phase
DB Model, Variant 01, USA.
Assignments 02b and 03 required students to adapt
their designs through DesignBuilder (DB) and further DIVA simulations. Alternate massing strategies
had to be considered in step 02b; in assignment
03, the best performing massing variant in terms
of primary energy demand and daylight utilization
was to be chosen and several design factors systematically varied to arrive at a final proposal, its energy
and daylight performance to be fully analyzed. By
keeping simulated physical building materials, occupancy information and assumed best-practice HVAC
templates constant throughout the class and concentrating on changes on the level of orientation,
massing, glazing ratios and fixed shading geometries, the direct influence of form on performance
was studied; yet in practice, initial decisions usually
overrode the possibility of fundamental changes.
Most groups found it hard to divorce their thinking
from the version already created and to define an alternate massing scheme.
Expressing the desire to retain the initial design,
group 01 departed from an unshaded base design
(figure 8) and especially studied the effects of sidefin shading geometries and ventilated double-roof
structures (figure 10) on total energy demand, reducing it by 30%. Gross daylight utilization was improved 15% by using light shelves and modifying
fin spacing (figure 11). Light shelves were used for
all but the North orientations and additionally acted
as overhangs (also see figure 20). Simulation results
are summarized in figure 15, clearly showing an increase in overall design performance. The required
alternate volumetric scheme of variant 02b (figure 9)
did not have an impact on subsequent design decisions, possibly due to its negligible performance improvement and seemingly improvised layout.
Group 02 did not produce an alternate massing scheme, but instead focused on the spacing,
arrangement and glazing area of the skylights, also
starting from a base design (figure 12). The number
of aperture rows in the final iteration was reduced
by three and the total glazing area more than halved
(figure 13), which lessened total energy demand
Figure 9
DB Model, Variant 02b.
Figure 10
DB Model, Variant 03.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 101
by 25% and almost doubled useful daylight utilization (figure 14). An increase in skylight row spacing
meant a reduction of winter overshadowing effects;
this change was stimulated by knowledge gained
from the previous irradiation image analysis.
There was considerable geometric drift between the individual design and simulation models,
as well as strong abstractions present in the thermal models. The most pronounced difficulty lay in
how to port the light scoop geometries between
daylighting and thermal models; this was solved by
synchronizing the glazing area and building custom overhangs in DesignBuilder, which imitated
the scoop tilt as used in the Grasshopper definition.
Opposed to the Florida team, who performed intermediate daylighting tests on singular geometric expressions and generally kept DB and Rhino models
parallelized, group 02 used several thermal geometry variants independently. Two series of models
with a stepped decrease in scoop glazing area were
compared and the results fed back into the original
parametric geometry definition (figure 16). As such,
an iterative workflow was contained within a formal
parameter space, which was itself dynamically encoded and eventually updated to reflect the final
analysis step.
Naturally, the groups’ results in both simulation
domains could be improved, yet by limiting material
choices to elucidate the effects of form and being constrained by what simulation novices can accomplish in
a single semester, more detailed optimizations had to
be deferred. Furthermore, the final absolute numbers
are not the primary result; rather, it is the comparative
evaluation of geometric influences on performance
that makes up the value of the simulations. More developed models would likely yield different results,
since more precise interaction effects of daylight quality, which is not readily described by bulk UDI values,
and window shading would modify design performance, as would further thermal comfort and natural
ventilation considerations. Group 01 again improved
design performance leading up to the rapid prototyping stage, during which final models were printed
with daylight metrics embedded (figure 17).
102 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Figure 11
Variant 03 (Florida), Useful
Daylight Illuminance, 100
– 2000 lux, % of occ. hours,
fins only.
Figure 12
DB Model, Variant 01, Iran.
Figure 13
DB Model, Variant 03.
Figure 14
Variant 03 (Iran), UDI 100 –
2000 lux, % occ. hours, no
From a process perspective, workflows that meshed
iterative tests with the concurrent exploration of
other related but singular design variants appeared
as the norm; while we provided extensive instructions on how, in our opinion, to best structure an
analysis workflow, the oft-articulated “conflict” between design and engineering thinking came into
play, but without inhibiting a measurable decrease
in energy demand and a general increase in daylight
utilization. Group 02’s systematic, iterative approach
did not automatically produce a design that performed better than the Florida team’s building.
Figure 15
Iteration Performances.
Figure 16
Parametric Roof Scoop Geometry of Iran Design.
Most students accomplished a positive interplay
of geometry and performance factors. The feasibility of a mixed design-simulation process in achieving efficiency improvements was demonstrated,
however it is not only through raw data that such a
practice must be evaluated. More than the sum of
its parts, it becomes an activity of mediation, complicating both epistemes by collapsing them into
the same space of thinking and evaluating. If carefully managed, and to begin answering the first
research question, quantitative improvements can
be achieved in an integrated manner and through
iterative evaluations accompany and even inspire
formal experimentation. On the other hand, synergy
breakdowns can also occur, experienced by a minority of groups that failed to connect the domain
of analysis with the domain of creative production,
usually caused by a lack of basic building science
knowledge. For if epistemes are to intersect, they
need to be at least rudimentary developed, independent of how knowledge is actually produced in
science versus design methodologies.
Apart from concerns of principle feasibility, we
implied the question of whether a combined design-simulation process would “easily” increase performance. This can only be answered in conjunction
with the core question of how design decisions were
made in general and specific instances. Since design
is often understood as a goal-oriented activity, decisions cannot be evaluated in isolation, but need to
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 103
be seen in relation to the perceived whole. Design
intent is frequently articulated in a nonlinear and intuitive manner striving towards synthesis by accommodating possibly clashing goals, and thus bears
conflict potential with rationalist engineering procedures. Intent encapsulates the always current totality of ideas on how a building should be (N, figure
18), but due to its complexity and intersubjectivity
has no holistic representation. It includes all design
assumptions, also the ones related to performance,
and at any given moment can be understood as a
fluent total state of ambivalent interconnections,
exemplified by Christopher Alexander’s chart of
design factor interdependencies (figure 19). Alexander’s chart predates the availability of digital design
and simulation models, but nonetheless deals with
material and social performance interdependencies that form a wicked problem (Rittel and Webber,
Architects, especially since their separation
from manual construction activities (Davis, 2000),
have developed a tradition of dealing with problem
subset permutations of different domains that still
relate to the same object, e.g., how to marry structural requirements with space flow demands. These
different subsets are traditionally encoded by a multitude of space-related drawings and models that
refer to the same object but are still unique epistemes. As process models, they can act as “machines
for thinking” (Smith, 2004) and enable associative artistic leaps. Given that in our case study most projective representations and performance datasets were
derived from multiple digital models, strong clues
exist that model families may in fact be used by architects within a contemporary continuation of said
historic framework, which has been perpetuated by
educational design studio practices situated in the
lineage of Modernism. Yet since its heyday, developments in simulation and its space-related representation have moved numeric evaluations much
closer into architectural planning practice. Still in
an apparent conflict with design nature, analysis
necessitates clear steps in a rational procedure and
relies on steady benchmarks during simulation, oth-
104 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Figure 17
Printed Daylight Model, UDI
100 - 2000 embedded, USA
Figure 18
Domains of Inquisition /
Representation in Design
Figure 19
Field of Design Factor Interdependencies (Chermayeff and
Alexander, 1963).
Figure 20
Principle Performance Section:
Multivalent Representation,
Figure 21
Principle Performance Section:
Multivalent Representation,
erwise invalidating comparisons. Yet creative reality
is prone to upheavals questioning the very stability
of the contained analysis paradigms. How, then, was
their interplay managed?
The design observations show that a combination of heuristics, to establish an initial formal seed,
and iterative schemes was usually employed, the
latter of which predominantly revolved around performance evaluations of building components and
were strongly related to prefigured intent; as such,
they were encapsulated by and inseparable from
the heuristic context. Models that dealt with different design aspects drifted apart, were abstracted
to explore isolated performance behaviors and
later synchronized with master design models, as
shown by group 02. Parametric encoding can be
understood as a process analogue to the creation
of myriad manual test models and was used to similar design refinement ends. Other groups exhibited
related behavior; a multiplicity of independent but
related digital models was used to generate analytic,
form-related and, most importantly, hybrid or multivalent representations concerned with the formperformance interface and acting as design catalysts. We observed that most beneficial performance
decisions were made when students either achieved
a parallel presence of design intent across multiple
representations belonging to different domains of
inquiry, or created multivalent representations that
directly combined validated assumptions from multiple domains. To extrapolate a model:
Individual domain-specific types of knowledge
(A etc., figure 18) are synthesized by utilizing the
semiotic flexibility their multivalent representations
(e.g. derived from digital models) enable, and thus
continuously update global design intent (N, figure
18). In return, the field of intent, newly enriched with
additional cross-domain knowledge, permanently
influences the originally contributing domains,
forming a nonlinear knowledge flow framework
that relies less on direct hybridization of design and
engineering methods, but instead draws potential
from the synergistic possibilities rooted in the multivalence of their respective models’ representability.
This model neither invalidates the presence of
engineering procedures nor the validity of grown
design methods, but in part shifts the discourse
onto the level of understanding the mediating
role of multivalent representations (e.g. figures 20
& 21), which by virtue of their properties encode
quantitative descriptors spatially, relate form to
projected performance and should be regarded as
articulating one possible state of synthesis among
many. The shown sections, daylight plans, radiation
images and printed daylight models all partially
fulfill these requirements. In a process model that
is perceived as a field of possibilities managed by
definitions achieved through representations, all
contributing domains constantly interact. Representations stimulate processes, can be their result
and by feedback effects cause shifts in their respective knowledge source domains; as an example, we found that by running many consecutive
simulations, students became increasingly good
at without further tests predicting how glazing ratio changes would impact combined thermal and
daylighting performance. Yet in order to establish
that relationship, it in most cases had to be previously encoded in either conceptual drawings or
numerical representations that clearly meshed
performance and geometry descriptions. From
that perspective, we posit that heuristics and design analysis are complements and enact a process
of transforming “tacit” into “explicit” knowledge
(Friedman, 2003) of objective performance phenomena that are later used to generate new design
seeds through additional representations; if these
are then used as active design artefacts, new associative leaps and continuous design synthesis can
be achieved.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 105
As a possible consequence for education, designers’ knowledge of the contributing domains, especially building science, needs to be improved
by linking it with geometry effects through novel
teaching formats, as well as research into visual semiotics and their relationship to underlying methodologies combined with the testing of integrated
design frameworks. A steady accretion of validated
form-performance interfaces allows the concurrent
expression of engineering and design epistemes;
both need to be acknowledged, regarded in their respective traditions and newly combined to achieve
playful precision. Only then will performance increases appear easily from within the design process
Batty, WJ and Swann, B 1997, ‘Integration of Computer Based
Modelling and an Inter-Disciplinary Based Approach to
Building Design in Post-Graduate Education’, Department of Applied Energy, Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, England.
Brown, GZ and DeKay, M 2000, Sun, Wind & Light - Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd. ed., John Wiley & Sons,
Chermayeff, S and Alexander, C 1963, Community and Privacy: Towards a New Architecture of Humanism, Doubleday Anchor Books, New York.
Davis, H 2000, The Culture of Building, Oxford University
Press, Oxford.
Friedman, K 2003, ‘Theory construction in design research:
criteria: approaches, and methods’, Design Studies, vol.
24, no. 6, pp. 507-522.
Hetherington, R, Laney, R, Peake, S and Oldham, D 2011, ‘Integrated Building Design, Information and Simulation
Modeling: The Need for a New Hierarchy’, Proceedings
of Building Simulation 2011, Sydney, Australia, pp. 22412248.
Jakubiec, JA and Reinhart, CF 2011, ‘DIVA 2.0: Integrating
Daylight and Thermal Simulations using Rhinoceros
3D, Daysim and EnergyPlus’, Proceedings of Building
Simulation 2011, Sydney, Australia, pp. 2202-2209.
Madsen, M and Osterhaus, W 2005, ‘Exploring Simple Assessment Methods for Lighting Quality with Archi-
106 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
tecture and Design Students’, paper presented at the
ANZAScA Conference, Wellington, New Zealand.
Nasrollahi, F 2009, Climate and Energy Responsive Housing in
Continental Climates, Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin,
Palme, M 2011, ‘What Architects want? Between BIM and
Simulation Tools: An Experience Teaching Ecotect’, Proceedings of Building Simulation 2011, Sydney, Australia,
pp. 1410-1430.
Reinhart, CF, Mardaljevic, J and Rogers, Z 2006, ‘Dynamic
Daylight Performance Metrics for Sustainable Design’,
LEUKOS, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-20.
Rittel, HJW and Webber, MM 1973, ‘Dilemmas in a General
Theory of Planning’, Policy Sciences, vol. 4, no. 2, pp.
Smith, A 2004, Architectural Model as Machine: A new view of
models from antiquity to the present day, Architectural
Press, Oxford.
Strand, RK, Liesen, RJ and Witte, MJ 2004, ‘Resources for
Teaching Building Energy Simulation’, Proceedings of
SimBuild 2004, Boulder, USA.
Venancio, R, Pedrini, A, van der Linden, AC, van den Ham, E
and Stouffs, R 2011, ‘Think Designerly! Using Multiple
Simulation Tools to Solve Architectural Dilemmas’, Proceedings of Building Simulation 2011, Sydney, Australia,
pp. 522-529.
How to Deal with Novel Theories in Architectural
A framework for introducing evolutionary computation to students
Ethem Gürer , Sema Alaçam , Gülen Çağdaş
Istanbul Technical University, Graduate School of Science Engineering and Technology,
Department of Informatics, Turkey, Istanbul Technical University,
Faculty of Architecture, Turkey
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. Evolution of/in artificial systems has been discussed in many fields such as
computer science, architecture, natural and social sciences over the last fifty years.
Evolutionary computation which takes its roots in computation and biology has a
potential to enrich ways of thinking in architecture. This paper focuses mainly on
the methodology of how evolutionary computation theories might be embedded in
architectural education within the theoretical course in graduate level.
Keywords. Evolutionary design; evolutionary algorithms; computational theory;
architectural design curriculum.
Over the last fifty years, evolutionary concepts and
methods have been examined related to varoius
fields. Especially in design domain, as Rosenman
(2006) pointed out, there has lately been a considerable increase in the use of evolutionary methods
(Holland, 1975; Heylighen, 1989; Koza, 1992; Poon
and Maher, 1996; Fasoulaki, 2003; Rosenman, 2006
etc.). In order to resize the pool of design solutions,
various studies were based on adapting notions and
systems from biological models to computational
design area. However, evolution paradigm has not
been embedded enough to the architectural education. In other words, works including evolutionary concepts remarkably focus on one hand on the
structure analysis of specific computational systems,
on the other hand on the large population of design
solutions or on the externalized design object itself
rather than on what/how is going on the designers’
part in terms of design thinking and learning. Some
other studies exploring the integration of digital design models and techniques with design pedagogy
deal with the problem in a general range (Oxman,
At this juncture, the scope of this paper is limited with introducing only evolutionary design
paradigm to the students in a determined course.
Related to evolution paradigm, it is supposed that
the vocabulary/terminology of different disciplines
requires thorough descriptions, excavations and discussions in order to develop architectural students’
understanding through these practices.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 107
In this study, we particularly focus on the methodological analysis of the course in Architectural Design
Computing Graduate Program at the Faculty of Architecture in Istanbul Technical University, titled
“Evolutionary Approaches in Architectural Design”
(EAAD). The EAAD is a PhD course of 3 hours per
week and is conducted since 2009. General purpose of this theoretical course is to take advantage
of evolutionary approaches and processes encountered in nature as a source of inspiration, while solving problems in the field of architecture during one
academic semester.
In Fall semester of 2011-2012, the contents and
the timeline of the course were divided into five
main activity groups including lectures, literature reviews, discussions, presentations and term projects
(Figure 1). As an essential part of the course, the
lectures were driven both by instructors and guests
having expertise on the related topic of the week
during first 9 weeks. Literature reviews part, as a
direct support for theoretical explanations detailed
during lectures, concerned books, papers and articles meticulously chosen by the instructors not only
to be aware of the state of the art approaches but
also to enrich vocabulary domain used in various
studies. The content of the lectures and literature reviews can be listed as:
Evolutionary processes encountered in nature
as an inspiration, while dealing with problems
in the field of architecture.
How genetic algorithms and evolutionary approaches are used in architectural design.
Biomimesis, lindenmayer systems, cellular automata and emergent systems in general and
particularly in architectural design.
Evolutionary computation and using computer
as a partner in pre-design phases.
Although participation of the students were always
encouraged, these two parts (such as lectures and
literature reviews), show instructor-centered learning motivation of EAAD course. On the other hand,
it is supposed that term projects part totally reflect
a student-centered learning motivation aiming to
develop an evolutionary design model in general
terms with a final report in an article format. In project development phase, students were expected to
concentrate on combining the evolutionary theories
with a particular design problem they did choose
or to develop ideas through experimental embodiment of the abstract concepts via physical and digital models. Although the term projects went on in
a regular timeline (for the last 5 weeks) similarly to
lectures and literature reviews, they were situated
Figure 1
Timeline of the EAAD.
108 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
on opposite sides in terms of subject/object relation
(the subject was instructors in lectures and literature
reviews while it became students in term projects
part). In order to bridge the gap between these two
opposite learning motivations, two different collaborative activities were engaged within partial frequentations in timeline: discussions and presentations
parts help to include students more in the course
(Figure 1).
During discussions, students were encouraged
to have a critical distance to examples and theories
as much as possible (hence, these parts had been divided in three sub-parts for different weeks) in order
to enable development of their own insight and ability of interpretation. Discussions also provided faceto-face feedback from each student to others and
to instructors. Finally, another activity bridging the
gap between two opposite learning motivations was
presentations. They were separated into three subparts with different weights per week like discussions (Figure 2). The tasks consequently were to present a review of an evolutionary design model from
literature, to introduce their very initial ideas about
term projects of students and to gather final critics.
In the long run, such a part-based distributed division in the course had been concluded related to
experiences and feedbacks gained since 2009. During and at the end of the semester, we observed that
these partitions enriched the general vocabulary
of designing via transitions from theory (lectures
and literature reviews) to practice (term projects)
through discussions and presentations parts.
Evolution of what? Epistemological
excavation in different disciplines
One of the main difficulties while the theoretical
topics are being discussed is that there are pre-determined vocabularies belonging to different disciplines. For example, not only the evolution concept
itself but also the related vocabularies refer to a
variety of different meanings, connotations and relations in Darwinian terminology of biology, in economics or in computational theory.
We use the ‘epistemological excavation’ in terms
of a series of research, discussion and re-thinking
process about the epistemological origins of the
existing terminology. In archeology the ‘excavation’
term literally refers to a dynamic digging process
Figure 2
Distribution of the course
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 109
involving the actions of exploration, recording, recovery of different relations and interpretation. The
excavation usually begins at a defined area, while in
the beginning what you look for is not so clear. Subsequently, other series of connected areas or other
layers from different time zones should be evaluated
in an interrelated manner. The methodology, the
techniques, the type of tools might differ according
to the specific requirements. Regarding the theories
and in particular the evolutionary theory, each discipline has been accumulated different semantics of
their own terminology. At this point conducted with
deconstructive thinking, epistemological excavation
is required in order to explore new findings with
new relations.
Other problem is grounded on the nature of
theories which creates reduction and a gap between
the reality and the idealized theory. Liddament
(1999) defines this gap as on one hand methodologies, techniques and vocabularies and on the other
hand “the subset of the wider spectrum of human cognitive activity”. Especially in theoretical courses we
had observed in the previous years that, students
had the tendency to deal with the theories given
as they were. Similar to the Polanyi’s (1966) bicycle
example, theoretical courses concern bicycles instead of the experience. Within 3 hours per week of
a theoretical course it is not possible to teach the experience of riding a bike. However it is possible to
trigger the curiosity of the students and discuss at
least different ways of riding a bike.
During the EAAD course in the beginning of
the 2011-2012 fall semester we asked how we
could stimulate/trigger students keeping a critical
distance to the varying concepts of the evolution
instead of accepting them without interpretation.
Other issues that we concerned about were the interrelated theories of evolutionary computation,
embedding the evolutionary approaches in architectural design process, questioning the limitations of methods/vocabulary such as optimization,
selection, search in solution space, dependency to
the initial assumptions, genetic algorithms, natural
systems, shape evolution, and evolutionary model
110 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
examples of creative design. Besides these, we were
interested in how “evolutionary computation by designers” paradigm- which not only occurs in computers but also physical environment and designers’
There are always risks related to how to introduce these theories. Keeping this in mind, we tried
and encouraged an open-ended epistemological
excavation in different disciplines regarding evolution paradigm. Instead of thinking only within the limitation of these ready-given concepts, we motivated
to explore semantics of the vocabulary
to gain a better understanding of relations/
interactions among the concepts of evolutionary computation
to represent and to externalize their own understandings from the abstract concepts via
digital and physical models
From analyze to interpretation
Students were expected first to analyze examples
focusing on evolution paradigm accompanied with
readings and then to explore some of the algorithms shared in the literature review part. In order
to reveal an interpretational skill in design process,
students were encouraged to visualize concepts via
physical and digital models.
In the analyze process, students were expected
to be not only a translator but also an interpreter
between their minds and the computer. We observed the advantage of visualization process of the
abstract concepts. On the other hand this process
has been occurred two sided. Physical environment
- natural and/or artificial - was also used as a source
of inspiration and was converted to the abstract
Different from conventional theoretical courses
supporting only students’ reading and writing skills,
in EAAD we let the student sto explore their own
way of understanding of the abstract concepts and
to deconstruct the ready-given concepts within
their semantics and connotation.
In this paper, we defined the listed criteria in order
to evaluate the process of the term projects’ belonging to the 8 students with different backgrounds:
Level of predictability: The end product can be
predicted by the initial assumptions of the student or there are emergent outcomes during
the project development process.
Level of internalization: This includes level of
adapting both concepts and techniques to
their own projects. If the student used one of
the existing evolutionary methods as it is, this
is defined as ‘repetitive’. If the students met
new vocabularies/rules while dealing with the
present ones, this is defined as ‘explorative’.
Finally if he/she developed his/her own methods, we define it as ‘interpretative’.
Type(s) of the media: Which type(s) of representational model(s) was/were preferred (Physical/digital/both).
Evaluation of the student projects
In this part, the process of 8 term projects is evaluated depending on the pre- defined criteria. As it is
shown in the Figure 3, there is a variety of analysed
methods and each student focused on different topic for the term project. 5 Master and 3 PhD students
have attended to the course with different backgrounds and different computational experiences.
Although, the scope and the scale of the term projects were so different from each other, all students
used 3 dimensional modelling programmes and
scripting environments. 2 out of 8 students experimented with physical models, besides digital modeling (Figure 4).
It is seen that (Figure 3, Figure 4) since there
are two students who experimented with physical
models had also explored emergent outcomes. One
of these students (Figure 5) started with poems as
a generative algorithm input. At the same time she
made a large number of physical models. Symbolic
representation of Haiku poem, verbal representation of algorithms and visual representation of study
models were developed simultaneously. Other stu-
dents (Figure 6) started with observation of natural and artificial environment including analyses of
pomegranate patterns, frosted glass patterns. She
set up a series of experiments with bubble plastic
and iron. The second student also tried to understand the logic of existing algorithms such as voronoi diagrams and delaunay triangulation. She additionally developed her own algorithm and explored
new relations and forms via parameter change
(Figure 6). Depending on these two examples it is
possible to assert that interaction with the physical
material might provide a better understanding of
the abstract concepts. However, in this assumption
other coefficients such as the effect of symbolic and
mathematical thinking are excluded.
Another student who explored emergent outcomes worked in digital environment (Figure 7). Although he was examining existing algorithms of
voronoi, he focused on mathematical equations and
developed his own assumptions. In this sense, we evaluate his study as interpretative and explorative. After
these experimental studies he integrated his findings
into structural optimization of surfaces.
A dynamic approach in terms of divergent and convergent thinking is evaluated via a theoretical graduate course and student projects. One of our initial
finding is that, using physical models in the analysis
process might both improve student’s understanding of the abstract concepts and support emergent
explorations besides defined solution domains of
the design process.
The part-based distributed division curriculum
of EAAD was built up depending on experiences
and feedbacks gained since 2009. This structure is
considered to be reconfigured each year. According to the balance of theory (lectures and literature
reviews) to practice (term projects), we planned to
re-evaluate the ‘lectures’ part via spreading out the
lectures over the whole semester.
Moreover, we think that in order to gain intellectual understanding, beyond limitation of only one
discipline the concepts should be epistemologically
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 111
Figure 3
Correlation between predefined criteria and project
Figure 4
Level of internalization
and level of predictability
112 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Figure 5
Sample of an explorative and
interpretative student work by
Tugce Darcan.
digged. Besides grammatical items, it is also important to discuss semantics of existing vocabulary of
different disciplines. At this point, we think that the
syllabus types developed for new language learning
might provide pedagogic advantages/clues in terms
of teaching approach and methodology. Particularly
the pedagogic potentials of notional-functional syllabus type is considered to be examined for the following semester of EAAD.
In addition it is observed that collaborative learning
environment including face-to-face feedback (especially tried in discussion and presentation parts)
provides positive reflections in understanding abilities; however we did not make qualitative research
about it within the scope of this paper. Correspondingly, the influence of the literature review and the
example search (presentations) parts on students’
way of thinking might be examined within scope of
another study.
Figure 6
Sample of an explorative and
interpretative student work by
Benay Gursoy.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 113
Figure 7
Sample of an explorative and
interpretative student work by
Yekta Ipek.
The authors would like to acknowledge Zeynep Akküçük, Mehmet Emin Bayraktar, Tuğçe Darcan, Bahar
Esen, Benay Gürsoy, Yekta İpek, Burcu Özdemir, Betül
Tuncer who are the students involved in the course,
as well as Yazgı Badem for her participation and
presentation during a lecture part.
Bentley, PJ and Corne, DW (ed.) 2002, Creative Evolutionary
Systems, Academic Press, San Diego.
Brumfit, CJ and Johnson, K 1979, The Communicative Approach To Language Teaching. Oxford: OUP.
Heylighen, F 1989, ‘Self-organization, Emergence and the
Architecture of Complexity’,Proceedings of the 1st European Conference on System Science, AFCET, Paris, pp.
Holland, JH 1975, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems, the University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
Koza, JR 1992, Genetic Programming: On the Programming
of Computers by Means of Natural Selection, MIT Press,
Cambridge, Mass.
Liddament T 1999, ‘The computationalist paradigm in
design research’, Design Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 4156(16).
114 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Polanyi, M 1966, The Logic of Tacit Inference. Philosophy,
41(1): p. 1–18.
Oxman, O 2008, ‘Digital Architecture as a Challenge for Design Pedagogy: Theory, Knowledge, Models and Medium’, Design Studies, 29 (2), pp. 99-120
Poon, J and Maher, ML 1996, Emergent behaviour in coevolutionary design, in J. S. Gero and F. Sudweeks
(eds), Artificial Intelligence in Design ‘96, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp.703-722.
Rosenman, MA 2006, An Exploration into Evolutionary Models for Non-routine Design, University of Sydney, Australia, pp.69-86.
Schön, DA 1983, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, Temple Smit, London.
Evaluation System for Content And Language Integrated
Learning in Architecture Using Immersive Environments
Matevz Juvancic , Tadeja Zupancic
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of architecture, Slovenia
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. Based on the experience from EU project ARCHI21 (Hunter et al, 2011)
and long-term commitment to research of architectural presentations and educational
approaches to expert and non-expert public (i.e. Juvancic, Mullins & Zupancic, 2012), the
paper aims to clarify the terms used in CLIL-architecture context, identify the variables
that have, in practice so far, proven to influence the learning outcome and learning
experience both in architectural and language sense, and systematize the findings into
the useful system. The result can be envisioned as the potential ‘ladder of the CLIL &
architecture integration‘. The system would be of help to anyone trying to integrate
language learning at different stages of architectural education, pointing out the required
fundamentals, predicting the possible learning outcomes or benchmarking them after
the experience. The basic terms/variables divided into three major influencing groups competence, work environment and course settings - are described first, proceeded with
the scheme connecting them into the system and two actual examples ‘run’ through the
matrix for illustrative purposes. The paper also looks specifically into the use of different
immersive environments and digital communication tools for teaching the architecture/
design–other language combination and adapts the system to this segment, while also
briefly comments on learners and teachers responses to CLIL-architecture integration.
Keywords. Architecture; immersive environments; CLIL; evaluation; teaching; Archi21.
While the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has been tried out and implemented
in the first and second level of education (Coyle,
Hood and Marsh, 2010), the higher level education
of CLIL approaches are yet to be developed and tested. The introduction of architecture as the content in
this symbiosis and its special affinity to its own visual
language can serve as an interesting counterbalancing act, enhancing and advancing the learning
of spoken and written languages. Introducing the
digital communication tools and immersive virtual
environments into the architecture-language equation offers additional opportunities for distance collaboration and language learning but also increases
the number of variables influencing the learning
outcomes adding to the uncertainty in results prediction.
In the paper we argue that some fundamental
conditions need to be met to provide the minimal
effective learning environment in which CLIL can
take place as too much new learning experience
threatens to overshadow either the learning of the
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 115
Figure 1
Different environments
tested for distance CLIL
in architecture – ‘on-site’
students’ presentations and
mentoring in Second Life
(left) - synchronous audiovisual collaboration; students
presenting their work and
communicating by means
of Wiki and Skype (right) synchronous audio-visual
presentations. The immersion,
contents or the learning of the language, resulting in
undesired poor learning outcomes on all fronts.
Architecture and urban design as subjects are
very particular not only because they are concerned
with complex matters such as buildings and towns
but because they require the knowledge of special
language – the visual language – that students need
to learn and be proficient in it as well. On top of that
we are describing and analysing situations in which
the learners are dealing with the advanced communication tools, computer aided, practice specific
tools and persistent digital worlds, all demanding
and competing for the attention and burdening
the learners with additional potential, sometimes
steep, learning curves. On the other hand the visual
language, if mastered, can be of help as a constructive mediator and translator between two different
CLIL is a relatively unfamiliar term in architectural education circles. Whereas the notion itself might not
be widely used in architectural context, its concept
and idea are not new - namely, teaching architecture
and urban design through the medium of a language
other than normally used [1]. The expression language other than normally used is in text shortened
to the other language and can be equally substituted
with non-mother tongue language. The principles
have been practiced in architecture and urban design on many occasions, especially in international
116 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
learning settings that involve students and teachers
of different country/language origin. We could argue
that visual language used in architecture is the other
language for students used to written language thus
making the whole study a CLIL experience but in this
paper we will stick to the notion of spoken and written language in a traditional sense. Beside the evident benefits of learning the other language on the
go and being able to use it professionally, there are
other beneficial factors as well [1]:
Building of intercultural knowledge and understanding.
Development of intercultural communication
Improvement of language competence and
oral communication skills.
Development of multilingual interests and attitudes.
Provision of opportunities to study content
through different perspectives.
It allows learners more contact with the target
Language learning does not require extra
teaching hours.
It complements other subjects rather than
competes with them.
Diversification of methods and forms of classroom practice.
CLIL increases learners‘ motivation and confidence in both the language and the subject
being taught.
collaboration, presentation,
tool integration, competence,
etc. can achieve various levels
but still be effective and have
a significant influence on the
learning experience as well as
the learning outcomes.
The paper uses two terms that need further explanation: mode and level. Whereas levels denote settings where the subjects or notions can be followed
through different inter-related stages, advancing or
descending on the scale, the modes denote conditions that are independent and cannot be perceived
or compared among themselves as higher-lower,
more advanced-less advanced, etc.
In this paper we understand the mode of CLIL as
the other language(s) of choice and the number
of them. The ARCHI21 project includes several languages: Slovene, French and English, at least two
of them representing the other languages to each
partner and in some cases even all three of them (i.e.
Erasmus students coming from abroad). As modes
of CLIL we had combinations of Slovene-English,
Slovene-English-French in our courses, and the
school of Paris Malaquis had French-English, FrenchEnglish-Slovene combinations, etc. The modes can
be thus classified as:
Mother tongue - first other language.
Mother tongue - first other language - second
other language.
First other language - second other language.
The modes of CLIL are usually not uniform for participants involved, particularly in cases where there
is a mix of regular and exchange students (i.e. native
students in Slovenia speaking Slovene as a mother
tongue and English as first other language, Erasmus
students speaking English in Slovenia as first other
language and Slovene as a second other language,
while participating in the same course).
When defining immersion of dislocated participants
the ultimate immersion would be the face-to-face
experience with other participants, being able to
communicate, interact, work collaboratively and, in
architecture also, experience the space and the surroundings as actually being there. Anything less is an
approximation of this ultimate immersion through
modes that associate the learners’ presence, his in-
teracting abilities and environment.
We can distinguish between the following
modes of immersion where the presence of the user
and his interaction possibilities play the part:
Mental presence (third person observer, i.e.
movie watcher in the cinema), limited to the
passive role of the observing – cannot interfere
with the action, but can mentally immerse himself into the virtual world.
Presence through the symbolic representation of
oneself - the user is transposed into the multidimensional pervasive digital worlds through the
avatar, used as an interpreter of action between
digital and physical world – the user can interact with the virtual world but needs to mentally
immerse himself into his alter-ego (avatar) to
be in-world.
Telepresence – the presence in digital worlds
with the help of VR technologies, that actuate
and simulate the (total) in-world immersion
and allow ‘direct’ interactions; one of the characteristics is also a first person point of view.
There are different levels of immersion, the presence representing only one of the aspects. Manovich
(2002) distinguishes between illusionism, combining traditional techniques and technologies that aim
to create a visual resemblance of reality, and simulation, recreating reality through other aspects, beyond visual appearance (i.e. freedom of movement).
Not only that but being also able to use such environments through individual’s experiential apparatus, use of logic and past experience. The notions
which can be best summarized with the term environment or medium in which the learner is operating.
By defining the levels of affordances that the viable
‘classroom’ media/environment supports in terms
of recreating the experience of space and presence
(and also having the currently available software/
hardware in mind), we can derive the following levels of immersion regarding the learners:
Asynchronous audio-visual presentations and
posted replies (i.e. Knovio, VoiceForum, Wiki,
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 117
Synchronous audio-visual presentations and
discussions (i.e. Skype, GoToMeeting, shared
whiteboards, etc.), usually limited to 2D presentations.
Synchronous audio-visual collaboration in pervasive worlds not limited to planar presentations (i.e. Second Life - SL, TelePlace - currently
known as 3DICC).
Face to face discussion (f2f ), allowing all types of
presentations and the ultimate immersion.
Whether they are used to their full potential is another question, i.e. use of SL for presentations on boards
in-world would suggest an advanced mode but is in
fact not that different from audio-visual presentation
There are three fundamental levels of competence
that need to be addressed: the competence of developing architectural and urban design projects individually or in a team, the other (first or even second
foreign) language competence level, and the competence of using particular digital and communication
tools for professional purposes (an advanced notion
of digital literacy). They can be further explained as:
1. The competence of developing architectural and
urban design projects – the levels:
Students proceeding to bachelor’s degree (or
equivalent in years).
Students proceeding to master’s degree (or
equivalent in years).
Licensed architects considered in the long-term
view of lifelong learning process.
The first two are defined through curricula usually
distinguishing between the ground level of achieving basic professional knowledge, later developed
into the independent professional individual on the
second level, while the third is more elusive of clear
definitions and refers to the in-field working experience and specialization.
2. Other language competence level is easier to
measure by common international standards,
i.e. Common European Framework of Reference
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for Languages (CEFR) [2] – using levels such as
A1, A2, etc. denoting the language competency
Competence of using the particular communication and digital tools for the professional
purposes is harder to measure but can be described in terms of skills the learner is capable
of doing on his own:
Rudimentary – the learner is capable of using
the common writing, visualization and publishing software tools along with the use of professional suites in 2D (of his choice); he/she is also
able to use social and common digital communication tools; the student is capable of using
and moving in the pervasive 3D environment;
he/she is able to follow steps of instruction for
achieving intermediate goals but is unable to
do them on his/her own.
Intermediate – the learners are capable of using
different writing, visualization and publishing
software tools and are able to use professional
suites across platforms and across different
providers (in 3D). On top of that they possess
skills to construct and work collaboratively in
3D (pervasive) worlds; the learner is able to find
and combine the social and digital communication tools to his advantage in pursuing professional purposes; the student grasps the logic
behind the digital tools and is able to adapt to
changing and fast developing conditions in the
digital domain on his own.
Advanced – the learners have the intermediate
level of skills upgraded with the scripting and
programming skills; they are able to modify and
merge existing (open-source) applications into
new ones or create their own if the ones available are not suited for the professional tasks
they are faced with.
The working objectives and type of work affect the
learning outcomes, opportunities for the CLIL, suitability of digital tools used and required or desired
immersion. Depending on the task and type of work
there is a high possibility that learners will be bur-
dened with learning curves in several presented variables (i.e. language competency, communication
tools’ skills, etc.). The four envisioned types of work
in courses cover the most frequent settings when architectural and urban design learning is in question,
regardless of the type of learning (distance or f2f ):
Lectures/discussion – the usual setting for traditional ex-cathedra lessons or, more contemporary, teacher-students interactive lectures and
ensuing discussions that happen either f2f or
through distance learning (Mason and Rennie,
2006); they involve synchronous or asynchronous means of communication
Presentation/discussion/critique – the prepared
presentation of work in progress, work finished,
historical material, description on topic, etc.
done in any manner with the ad-hoc discussion and critique following the presentation in
which either presentation itself or the subject
of the presentation is discussed and criticized;
on this level the learners can i.e. present their
projects done collaboratively but without CLIL
Collaboration on a project/workshop settings –
with envisioned CLIL component in all stages,
including actual work on the project
Expert – non-expert public participation – the
collaboration of experts and non-experts (also
a simulation of such situations) with all of the
specifics of communication issues that ensue
The stages in architectural production and their
characteristics differ greatly and span from initial
first ideas, conceptual work on abstract levels proceeding towards detailed proposals and plans for
the execution. The discussions about- and critique
of- the projects accompany the process but can also
span the part or the whole range when the main focus of the course is aimed towards analysis (devoid
of designing), i.e. analysing the architecture historically, stylistically, functionally, etc:
Initial concepts - defined by abstract, rough ideas and input data; (has or has not Project Based
Learning - PBL - characteristics).
Intermediate level between concepts and details
– the ideas and concepts get more definitive
form and dimensions; the functionality demands, tectonics, building and legislation constraints are taken into an account; the viable
plan for execution is taking shape; (has PBL
Detailed project or similar project-like exercise
level – all the factors are dealt with (or simulated) supported by thorough plans for the
design to come into its existence; construction
and execution are the logical next steps; (has
PBL characteristics).
With the design of objects for the digital worlds, the
description of levels would differ slightly but would
still follow the similar path. For example, the tectonics considerations are perhaps not necessary due
to the different medium and the functionality can
represent a different notion – behaviour of an object, but the detailed project remains a reasonable
description of the design process level as the object
can be produced in different levels of detail (textures, behaviour scripts, programming, etc.).
The level of CLIL integration into the architectural
and urban design education is tightly connected
with the language competence level of teachers and
students participating but also with other variables
discussed in this article. It spans the range from basic
to advanced integration in the architectural courses
and can be seen both as a variable and as an expected output of the presented system:
Basic – expected learning outcome: fundamental, basic vocabulary and phrases not necessarily related to professional topic; students use
single words and phrases interwoven with their
main language of use in their work/presentations to illustrate/emphasize specific notions,
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 119
hear onomatopoetic sound of words, discuss
the meaning of words used in different cultural
and language contexts, etc.
Intermediate – expected learning outcome:
rudimentary professional architectural vocabulary on the specific topic, use of phrases,
forming of elementary sentences; students
can present their work and collaborate using
the combination of main language of use and
the other language, using the other language
for the emphasis or demonstration of their language abilities; the amount of other language
use is no less than one third.
Advanced – expected learning outcome: using
the other language for professional purposes
during courses; students are able to argue,
present, express opinion and collaborate in the
foreign language, while also learning the language details and finesse.
The system itself implies the variables that affect the
learning outcome and learning experience when
considering CLIL in architecture. Depending on the
variable levels and modes the final integration can
vary from basic to advanced. The model has not
been designed to provide an exact number or percent of the integration, but it gives an overview of
the complexity of interconnected factors. It does
that on the basis of actual experience with known,
but not lab-controlled, inputs and known outcomes.
Being designed from deductive perspective, the CLIL
integration can be best presented through the proposed scheme (see Fig. 2) on the basis of two actual
examples from the Archi21 experience.
Two courses were introducing the CLIL – Space
& media [3] and Workshop: Lighting guerrilla [4]. In
Space & Media the students had to deal with and
re-design the Square of the republic in Ljubljana,
using pervasive worlds and integrate Slovene and
Figure 2
The system implies the variables that affect the learning
outcome and learning experience when considering CLIL
in architecture. Depending on
the variable levels and modes
the final integration can vary
from basic to advanced. The
recommended minimums are
120 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
English language. In the Workshop, the students
had to design the light installation on the topic of
movement and actually build it on site in the most
physical sense, while also integrating the language
of Slovene and English into their learning experience. The courses were fundamentally different in
terms of variable levels and modes although they
seem similar at first glance. The conditions are best
represented by the mark-ups in the schemes (see
Fig. 3 and 4) and they can also be compared. The final
outcomes – the integration of CLIL and architecture
– are different but following the variable settings the
reader can have a better insight in why and where
the differences stem from.
Discussing the hierarchic order of variables and
their significance for the final integration of CLIL
in architecture, we can establish that competence
levels are the unavoidable base on which the CLIL
can be developed. Certain levels of technological,
architectural and language competency are necessary in order to have any integration expectancies.
For example, the CLIL-architecture integration is very
limited without sufficient command of other language, particularly when the other language is not
widely used, is unfamiliar to the learner, or the learner has just began learning it. The same is valid for the
learners coming from general education, only starting to get the knowledge and expertise in the field
of architecture – the lack of sufficient competency in
the field hinders CLIL attempts, which become unwanted and unnecessary distractions, drawing the
much needed attention away from the contents. The
argument from the beginning of the paper still applies - fundamental conditions, especially in terms
of competencies, need to be met to provide the
minimal effective learning environment in which
CLIL can take place. The course settings and work
environment also affect the learning experience and
outcomes but can be seen as modifying rather than
restraining factors of CLIL-architecture integration.
The responses of learners and their teachers to
CLIL-architecture integration have been positive.
Figure 3
The integration of CLIL in the
course of Space & media [3] is
shown as an illustration of the
input variables and final outcomes. The course was part
of Archi21 project and done
in collaboration with partner
institutions in WS 2011/12.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 121
While not surveyed statistically, the qualitative responses from teachers emphasized benefits of spicing up the topics, widening the architectural vocabulary and adding cultural richness through the use
of other languages and expressions. They also stated
the disadvantages: the additional burden and learning for the teachers themselves, allocating the time
and attention from contents to language and taking
care of their interplay add the complexity to- and demand on- their job. While students did not talk about
disadvantages, during their work, they un/intentionally focused to the contents – architecture – more,
sometimes forgetting or ignoring the language aspect and they had to be reminded by the teachers to
bring some of their attention back to the language.
Based on the experience described above it can be
said, the integration does not happen naturally or effortlessly on this (higher) level of education. It has to
be nurtured and focused upon constantly. With specialized tools, developed for CLIL-architecture purposes, such as learning objects (Watson, 2010), the
integration can be helped and can happen on multiple levels from the start; however the hindrance of
such tools is the very same specialization, the need
to prepare them on case to case basis and time they
take to prepare.
It seems that architecture and urban design as
visually oriented fields are in a better position to
bridge the language - in-field expertise divide, occasionally resorting to the different, visual language
when faced with an obstacle in communication. In
this way they can be beneficial to learning English
and wide variety of other languages on the go and in
parallel while learning and gaining expertise for the
profession (learning by doing or learning while doing). The comparison of the expressions and notions
in different languages also brings new meaning, new
insights and fresh discussions into the architectural
(dis-) courses.
Figure 4
The integration of CLIL in
the course of Workshop:
Lighting guerilla [4] - part of
the international initiative - is
presented with its variables
and demonstrates one of the
possible uses of the evaluation
system. With the inputs as
shown, you can expect or even
predict similar integration
results. The course was part
of Archi21 project and done
in collaboration with partner
institutions in SS 2011/12.
122 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Coyle, D, Hood, P, Marsh, D 2010, CLIL: Content and Language
Integrated Learning, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Hunter, M, Chase, S, Kligerman, B, Zupancic, T 2011, ‘ARCHI21: Architectural and Design based Education and
Practice through Content and Language Integrated
Learning using Immersive Virtual Environments for
21st Century Skills’, in Zupancic, Juvancic, Verovsek and
Conference Proceedings, University of Ljubljana, Faculty
of Architecture (Slovenia) 21-24 September 2011, pp.
Juvancic, M, Mullins, M, Zupancic, T 2012, ‘E-learning in
architecture: professional and lifelong learning prospects’ in Pontes, E et al (eds) E-learning - organizational
infrastructure and tools for specific areas, InTech, cop.,
Rijeka, pp. 180-182.
Manovich, L 2002, The language of new media, reprint ed.,
MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Mason, R and Rennie, F 2006, E-Learning: the Key Concepts,
Routledge, New York.
Watson, J 2010, ‘A Case Study: Developing Learning Objects
with an Explicit Learning Design’, Electronic Journal of
e-Learning, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 41-50.
[3] secondlife://ARCHI21/158/246
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 123
124 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Cyber­gogy As A Framework for Teaching Design Students
in Virtual Worlds
Scott Chase , Lesley Scopes
Aalborg University, Denmark, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. In recent years, 3D virtual worlds have been explored for design teaching,
yet it is unclear whether a specific pedagogy is used or adapted for such activities.
Here we describe the pedagogical model of Cybergogy of Learning Archetypes and
Learning Domains, developed specifically for teaching in 3D immersive virtual worlds,
and its application to introductory building classes in the virtual world Second Life for
architectural design students and teachers as part of the ARCHI21 project.
Keywords. Architectural education; Cybergogy; language learning; virtual worlds;
Second Life.
The adoption of new technology often involves the
use of that technology to replicate previous usage,
e.g. the early automobile considered as ‘horseless
carriage’ and the use of CAD in its infancy (and even
by many today) for simply reproducing 2D paper
drawings (Knight and Dokonal, 2009). Similarly,
we often see online virtual learning environments
(VLEs) initially used for teaching and learning in a
manner that replicates face to face teaching but
does not take full advantage of the affordances of
these environments. Kapp and O’Driscoll (2010,
p.27) state that the primary challenge for today’s
educators in the light of disruptive new technologies is to “think outside of the classroom”. Further,
they argue that trainers appear to be entrapped in
the classroom paradigm, and thus rendered oblivious to the potential of what they term the ‘webvolution’ (the evolution of the World Wide Web from its
2D roots towards 3D media) and the kinds of teaching and learning realisable by 3D disruptive technologies. The immersive nature of 3D virtual worlds
al­lows participants to engage at deeper levels than
the standard 2D VLE embedded into most institutional strategies.
Virtual worlds such as Second Life [1], OpenSim
and ActiveWorlds have been used in design teaching, both as an environment for modelling real
world designs and as ex­plorations into the creation
of virtual architecture (e.g. Angulo et al., 2009; Mortice 2009; Gu et al., 2009; Brown et al., 2007). These
of course need to adapt traditional design teaching
methods for the online environment, and in general
take advantages of the af­fordances of 3D virtual
worlds (e.g. immersion, collaboration features), but
none use teaching methods formulated specifically
for virtual worlds.
This paper describes the use of a specialised
pedagogical model—Cybergogy (Scopes, 2009)—
for teaching design students in a 3D immersive virtual world (3DiVW) environment. As part of the EU
project ARCHI21 [2], which investigates language
learning integrated with design learning in immersive virtual environments (Hunter et al., 2011), we
undertook a number of teaching activities with ar-
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 125
chitecture and design stu­dents. Some of these were
held in the virtual world Second Life (SL). We use as a
case study some of the teaching activities occurring
between June and December 2011. The teaching of
building skills in SL was necessary as a precursor for
both students and teachers of design and architecture, to enable them to be sufficiently prepared to
complete their local institutional collaborative design projects as required by the project consortium
as a whole.
These included induction classes for SL that focused
on the teaching of skills required to interface with
the virtual world, followed by classes on how to
build 3D objects in SL (for those interested). The first
ses­sion of classes was for teachers of design, most
of whom had no previous virtual world experience,
with design students following in a second session
of classes.
Figure 1
ARCHI21 Second Life islands.
The ARCHI21 project (Architectural and Design
based Education and Practice through Content &
Language Integrated Learning using Immersive Virtual Environments for 21st Century Skills) is a twoyear project funded by the European Commission
as a part of the Education and Culture DG Lifelong
Learning Programme. One goal is to provide insight
into a thematic focus on fragility in physical and virtual places. The primary participating institutions
include schools of architecture and design at École
Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais,
University of Ljubljana, Aalborg University and the
Open University; language and education partners
are from the University of Southamp­ton and Centre
International d’Études Pédagogiques (France).
ARCHI21 promotes awareness of the potential
of immersive virtual environments in architectural
and design education using a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) [3] approach to
reach Higher Education students and educators,
adult learners, language professionals, practising architects and the wider community. While a key aim
of the project is investigation of language learning,
the activities described here focus on the use of virtual environments for design education, in particular, the development of building skills within such
an environment. To that end, two co-joined Second
Life is­lands were purchased by the project for these
activities (Fig. 1) [4].
In order to provide students with appropriate
skills to operate in this environment, a num­ber of
introductory teaching activities were established.
126 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
Unlike game-centric virtual worlds such as World of
Warcraft, the virtual world of Se­cond Life is primarily a social-centric environment. Although it can
be seen to have some game-like qualities such as
customisable avatars, the environment provides no
game sce­nario and is open ended with no story narrative. Some degree of social interaction is al­most
inevitable, given that there are multiple channels
for communication. These include public and private VoIP (voice) conversation, local public text chat,
private and group instant messaging (IM), as well as
features that provide an awareness of the presence
of others, e.g. names of nearby avatars with viewable
profiles and lists of friends online. As noted by Gu et
al. (2009), Second Life supports collaboration in design learning by providing an obvious connection
between a designer’s avatar and the virtual object
being manipulated as part of the design process.
They found that co-designers benefited from the
instantaneous nature of collaborative modelling, in
that changes to objects could be seen by all present,
with the ability to discuss them synchronously.
Figure 2
Cybergogy components.
The model of Cybergogy is underpinned by a Social
Constructivist epistemology in which knowledge is
constructed and internalised by the learner and is
sustained by social processes. The notion, therefore,
is that knowledge and social interaction are inseparable and—when the circumstances are optimal—
can lead to collaboration. The model is com­posed of
two interacting components: Learning Archetypes
and Learning Domains (Fig. 2).
Learning Archetypes are categories of learning
activities that capitalise on the af­fordances of the 3D
environment, and are crafted at the instructional design stage to elicit learning outcomes that engage
four Learning Domains. Originating from concepts
first expressed by Kapp and O’Driscoll (2007) and
later revised (2010), Learning Archetypes are the
fundamental building blocks of educational activities whose locus is the plasticity of possibilities afforded by 3DiVWs. It is the game-like qualities that
serve to enrich the virtual environment, setting it
aside from the physical world by delimiting activities
per­formed there.
The five categories of Learning Archetype are:
Role Play: to assume a role in an alternative
form (living or inanimate), with the ob­jective
of undertaking aspects of action, interaction or
portrayal of emotions.
Simulation: to represent real or virtual conditions for the purposes of enactment, ex­
ploration, rehearsal or evaluation.
Peregrination: travel to locations, or the very action of journeying to destinations provides the
circumstances under which learning can occur
Meshed: creation of opportunities to combine
and interconnect individuals and groups in
various ways to achieve desired purposes and
Assessment: execution of appropriate methods
of assessment, evaluation and feed­back as part
of the learning process.
Learning Archetypes are inherent to the instructional design process in providing a con­ceptual framework to support learning activities, thus serving as
a vehicle toward attain­ing a condition of immersion
of the learner. They are tools for the instructional designer and activities for the learner. The categories
of Learning Archetype are further delineated into
frames and sub-frames, which serve to steer activities toward specific Learning Do­mains (beyond the
scope of this paper).
The second intrinsic component of the model of
Cybergogy is comprised of four Learning Domains
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 127
that focus on learning outcomes: Cognitive, Emotional, Dextrous and Social. These domains represent strands drawn from the physical world and an
under­standing of pedagogy, assimilated to form a
new taxonomy of established paradigms, and designed to draw forth all of a person’s available sensibilities into the avatar mediated virtual environment. The Blended Taxonomy (Fig. 3) is based upon
desired learning out­comes across all four learning
domains at differing levels of implementation.
For exam­ple, in a building class such as discussed
here, the primary learning domain targeted is the
Dextrous domain, in which the learner has to both
operate the user interface with the 3DiVW and manipulate 3D virtual objects within this environment.
The lowest level (1) of implementation of the Dextrous domain is the learning outcome ‘Imitating’.
The learner is required to imitate the actions of the
instructor, supported by verbal, visual and/or text
based cues. However, in order to attain this level 1
dextrous learning outcome, challenges in the Cognitive domain may need to be set much higher, i.e.
levels 1, 2 and 3 (Remembering, Understanding and
Applying). In essence, when all four Learning Do­
mains are addressed, deeper learning and retention
of information are expected to be at­tained.
This model of Cybergogy essentially acts as a structure for teachers using virtual worlds to conduct
teaching and learning, enabling them to demonstrate stringent planning and benefit from the
execution of imaginative, reflective practices that
are felicitous for the 3DiVW, and not to simply create a virtual replication of face to face teaching
methodolo­gies or to be constrained by 2D e-learning techniques.
The classes were all held in Second Life (often referred to as being ‘in-world’), facilitat­ing distributed
synchronous collaboration, with participants connecting from their indi­vidual computers at partner
institutions. They included:
a one hour induction class for SL itself;
a ten hour class on building (modelling) in SL
for ARCHI21 project teachers of ar­chitecture
and design;
Figure 3
Blended taxonomy of Learning Domains, revised from
Scopes (2009).
128 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
a four hour class on building and presentation
skills in SL for students from Slove­nia participating in a traditional design studio with face
to face instruction;
a two hour class on lighting techniques in SL, in
conjunction with a traditional lighting design
course centred on the Slovenian design studio.
The class sessions (with the exception of the SL induction class) were taught by one of the co-authors,
a project design teacher familiar with SL. The structuring of the sessions was informed by the model of
Cybergogy, with the other co-author (a Cybergogy
expert familiar with SL) acting as consultant.
For each class session, the instructor developed
a rough session plan and passed this to the Cybergogy expert, who then developed a detailed lesson
plan (Fig. 4), suggesting additional activities and
strategies to incorporate more fully aspects of the
model of Cybergogy, with a view to enhancing the
learners experience and improving the transfer of
skills from instructor to learner. This lesson plan was
passed back to the instructor, who used it to further
develop the teaching activities and content. The lesson plan con­sisted of
aims and objectives, e.g. the session objectives
for the lesson plan in Figure 4 were “Learners
will acquire knowledge and skills regarding
prim linking, object permissions, textures, scale
and requirements that support presentations
in Second Life”;
a list of activities, each with an allocated time;
the category of Learning Archetype (with possible additional resources required);
analysis of the Learning Domains addressed by
the activity;
the Assessment archetype (evaluation and
feedback as part of the learning pro­cess); and
associated real life activity (what the learner was actually required to be doing sim­
ultaneously in the physical world, e.g. reading
a web page, discussing with other online learners, using SL building tools).
Figure 4
Extract from a lesson plan.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 129
A summary provided by the Cybergogy expert
provided feedback on how well the lesson plan addressed all of the Learning Domains at required levels of implementation (as de­scribed in the Blended
Taxonomy via the selected Learning Archetypes),
and how both learning outcomes and learner immersion could be improved.
Language and subject expertise of the participants were varied. The teacher was a teacher of
architecture and computing, with English as first
language. The Cybergogy expert (also a native English speaker) had a background in computer based
learning. The medi­ators were primarily native English speakers and had technical expertise. One of
the class sessions, for students in Slovenia, also had
a mediator in Slovenian language in attend­ance. The
student cohorts were quite mixed: the first class series (June 2011) was for teachers of design. All were
fluent in English, but as an additional language for
most. The second class series (October-December
2011) was for students of architecture in Slovenia (all
of whom had good skills in English, but as an additional language).
The sessions (conducted in SL) usually consisted
of an instructor led presentation, in­corporating some
aspects of traditional pedagogy (e.g. still slides, written instructions) alongside adaptive Cybergogy
strategies such as synchronous demonstrations, with
stu­dents experientially imitating the instructor’s activity, accompanied by real time verbal instruction
and feedback (Simulation archetype / Dextrous domain, Level 1).
A site on the project island was established for
the building classes (Fig. 5). Although this area was
publicly accessible, only members of the building
class group had permis­sions to build there. Features
of the site included
a presentation and demonstration area with
boards for display of PowerPoint, web pages,
video and an interactive whiteboard;
building tips, tools for learners’ personal use,
and examples around the borders of the class
an immersive lighting chamber, allowing live
130 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
demonstrations and experimenta­tion (Fig. 6);
room for learners to practice (during lecture/
demonstrations and afterwards). There was
also a general public ‘sandbox’ area on the island, which allowed building (practice or otherwise) in an environment without risk of damaging ex­isting built objects.
Toolkits were available for students to take at class sessions. These included a) links to online versions of the
session content (class information, PowerPoint slides,
links to re­sources including tutorials, places to visit in
SL, building aids); b) modifiable sample objects and
scripts, which demonstrated learning objectives for
each session); and c) SL building tools for student use.
Structured class sessions were usually followed by
independent practice, where mentor­ing was available when required. On occasion, using the Peregrination archetype, there were planned expeditions
to relevant sites in SL (e.g. virtual places of architectural inter­est).
As the technology can be tricky to learn and occasionally unreliable, we adopted a ‘belt and braces’
approach to dissemination and communication, i.e.
multiple ways of viewing the lecture slides and be•
Figure 5
Building class, showing
presentation boards, toolkit
boxes, learners’ experiments
and immersive instructor
texture demonstration.
Figure 6
Class demonstration in the
lighting chamber.
ing present in the class (e.g. in-world, web based
screen sharing, web streaming and whiteboard sharing). Several communication channels were available, including SL voice and text chat, with Skype as
a voice fallback. A brief ex­cerpt of a typical text chat
discussion during a lighting tutorial is shown here:
Student: how can we put a light on a surface
without glare something like a LED?
Tutor: If I understand correctly, you want the
light source to appear sharp. To make the light
source look like a light is coming from it, you can
go into the texture setting for the PRIM itself, and
set Full Bright on. Glow would also give it a varying
glow, which is perhaps what you may or may not
Student: we want to use for illuminate the pavement.
Screen sharing proved very effective, as it allowed
learners to view the instructor’s screen from his
point of view and follow as he performed a sequence of actions using the fairly complex SL interface. This also allowed those unable to sustain an
in-world presence (due to technical issues) to follow
the live class proceedings.
The strength of the model of Cybergogy is in its ability to engage the four major sensibilities of the learner by means of the Learning Domains. By catering
to these major domains, the teacher can create compelling holistic experiences to transport the learner
into an immersed condition of learning. As seen in
the lesson plan (Fig. 4), the session objectives were
to ‘acquire knowledge’ (in the Cognitive domain)
and ‘acquire skills’ (in the Dextrous domain). The
fundamental learning outcomes, in essence, precluded learning outcomes in the Emotional and Social
domains. The Social Constructivist nature of Cybergogy provided an opportunity for the mediators to
facilitate an atmosphere of collaboration to engage
the Social domain at level 3 (communicating). The
Meshed archetype has a direct relationship with the
Social domain and should be utilised in order to establish group cohesion and foster collaboration.
The classes described here focused on an introduction to the 3DiVW and building within it. Had
these sessions been design (as opposed to building) classes, the Emotional domain could have been
more effectively engaged, at level 1 (perceiving
emotion) and perhaps level 2 (attending to emotion), e.g. in discussing and reflecting upon design
sions. As it was, the sessions planned were
weaker in both of these domains, simply be­cause
the implementation of Cybergogy became overshadowed by the essential learning outcomes, coupled with time restrictions and other problematic
logistics. In order to strengthen the inclusion of the
Emotional domain, learners were asked to reflect
upon their experience along with their perception
of the learning outcomes.
Language acquisition was not a major aspect
of these classes (as was the case in other project
activities), but it was supported by the provision of
language and technical medi­ators. The English language skills of all participants were of a high enough
level that there did not appear to be any comprehension problems. However, there were issues that
arose, e.g. users’ software with different language interfaces. This leads one to consider the need to map
technical terms between languages in multi-lingual
In early class sessions the mediators tended
to take an observer’s role, for use in anal­ysis of the
project activities. During the course of the sessions,
mediators began to take on a more active role providing technical assistance, but the language aspect
was ad­dressed only through observation (as there
appeared less need for active language media­tion).
Consequently, one should consider how language
mediators might perform an ac­tive, facilitating role
in alignment with the Cybergogy framework for
such project ac­tivi­ties.
Some class sessions were very busy, with many
participants in different roles: in­structor, students,
mediators and observers. While an effort was made
to make these roles easily distinguishable (e.g. titles
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 131
above an avatar’s head, special headgear), in one
session it was difficult to identify avatars in a crowded virtual space that lacked any structure to avatars’
locations. One unresolved question is whether this
had a detrimental effect on knowledge transfer and
learning. This is an example where real world situations trans­posed into a 3DiVW might utilise solutions analogous to those in the physical world (e.g.
breakout sessions, which were used on one occasion).
Body language is often a common way to obtain
feedback from students, e.g. are they paying attention? In a virtual world this is not possible; one must
often rely on more di­rect means. If there is not an
ongoing dialogue between instructor and student,
it is neces­sary to periodically stop and conduct an
evaluation addressing each individual, which could
be as simple as asking if there are any questions.
Although a stated prerequisite for the classes
was some basic knowledge of SL (a few hours acclimatisation and exploration), this was not the case
for many of the participants (both learners and mediators). As a result there were very mixed cohorts
of learners and mediators, with many technical
problems encountered by those with less SL experience. This contributed to delays in the class sessions:
for example, presentations were often halted while
learners’ technical problems were being addressed,
occasionally resulting in the discarding of part of the
lesson plan.
We have reached a number of conclusions based on
the outcomes of the teaching ses­sions.
We have learned which technologies work well
and which don’t (e.g. through steep learning curves,
instability, high resource requirements, or inadequate outcomes).
The ‘belt and braces’ approach to teaching with
technology served us well, with sev­eral occasions
where participants needed to switch tools (e.g. voice
to text chat, use of screen sharing for better learner
comprehension, viewing of external web pages).
A switch was often the result of a need to address
132 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
either a technical problem or learner comprehension. This indicates that a broad, flexible approach is
important, and that the instructor should be able to
switch between multiple tools with ease.
The learning curve for SL and similar 3DiVWs
tends to be considerably higher than a novice typically anticipates. We believe the amount of time
required for both induction and building classes
needs to be greater than that allocated for our activities; this includes time for students to explore independently, thus giving participants an adequate
skill foundation to participate in the building classes
and experience the social and cultural diversity of
virtual worlds. The limited amount of contact time
for the classes and many participants’ lack of prior
experience in-world were factors that led to insufficient ac­complishment of some of the desired learning outcomes. The result was that the students’ subsequent use of SL for their design projects was not
as extensive as anticipated. The use of the 3DiVW
environment should be tightly integrated into the
curriculum (with tangible support and participation
of the design teachers) and not considered as an op­
tional ‘add-on’.
The use of detailed lesson plans mapping Learning Archetypes and Learning Domains to the learning activities is paramount to the adoption of this
model and should be priori­tised when developing
a curriculum. Given the likelihood of technical mishaps and the diversity of the learners’ initial skill
levels, these lesson plans should be highly flexible
and adaptable, particularly with regard to activity
We are using what we have learned to aid in
the development of the learning activi­ties for the
project’s final stages in mid-2012. These will also be
incorporated into a number of project deliverables,
including a) packaged content for delivery of these
courses in Second Life and similar 3DiVWs; b) ‘learning objects’ for Cybergogy and architectural lighting
design (focusing on the virtual world); and c) best
practice guide­lines for architecture and design students and practitioners in 3DiVWs. By being freely
available to design educators, students and profes-
sionals, these resources add to the body of knowledge for teaching and learning in virtual worlds.
Angulo, A, Fillwalk, J and Vásquez de Velasco, G 2009, ‘Collaborating in a Virtual Ar­chitectural Environment: The
Las Americas Virtual Design Studio (LAVDS) populates
Second Life’, in From Modern to Digital: The Challenges
of a Transition, Proceedings of the 13th Congress of the
Iberoamerican Society of Digital Graphics, SIGRADI, São
Paulo, Brazil, pp. 363-365.
Brown, A, Knight, M and Winchester, M 2007, ‘An Architectural Learning Environ­ment’, in JB Kieferle and K Ehlers
(eds), Predicting the Future, Proceedings of the 25th Conference on Education in Computer Aided Architectural
Design in Europe, eCAADe, Frankfurt, pp. 671-675.
Gu, N, Nakapan, W, Williams, A and Gul, L 2009, ‘Evaluating
the use of 3D virtual worlds in collaborative design
learning’, in T Tidafi and T Dorta (eds) Joining Lan­
guages, Cultures and Visions: CAADFutures 2009, Presses
de l’Université de Montréal, Montréal, pp. 51-64.
Hunter, M, Chase, S, Kligerman, B and Zupančič, T 2011,
‘ARCHI21: Architectural and Design based Education
and Practice through Content & Language Integrated
Learning using Immersive Virtual Environments for 21st
Century Skills’, in T Zupančič, M Ju­vančič, Š Verovšek
and A Jutraž (eds), Respecting Fragile Places, Proceedings of the 29th Conference on Education in Computer
Aided Architectural Design in Europe, eCAADe, Ljubljana, pp. 725-733.
Kapp, KM and O’Driscoll, T 2007, Escaping Flatlands: The
emergence of 3D synchro­
nous learning, E-Learning
Guild Research, 360’ Report on Synchronous Learning
Sys­tems, pp. 111-153.
Kapp, KM and O’Driscoll, T 2010, Learning in 3D: Adding a
New Dimension to Enter­prise Learning and Collaboration, Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
Knight, M and Dokonal, W 2009, ‘State of Affairs - Digital
Architectural Design in Eu­rope: A Look into Education
and Practice – Snapshot and Outlook’, in G Çağdaş and
B Çolakoğlu (eds), Computation: The New Realm of Architectural Design, Proceedings of the 27th Conference on
Education in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe, eCAADe, Istanbul, pp. 191-196.
Mortice, Z 2009, ‘Architecture in Second Life Is a
World All Its Own’,
Scopes, LJ 2009, Learning Archetypes as tools of Cybergogy for a 3D educational land­scape: a structure for eteaching in Second Life, MSc dissertation, University of
South­ampton, School of Education, UK, http://eprints.
[1] Second Life is a trademark of
Linden Research, Inc.
[3] ‘Content and language integrated learning’, http://
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 133
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Developing Online Construction Technology Resources in
Tectonic Design Education
Jeremy J. Ham , Marc Aurel Schnabel , Sambit Datta
Deakin University, Australia, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong,
Curtin University, Australia
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. We outline issues of importance in relation to tectonic design within the
architectural profession and the relationship to architectural education in Australia.
Twelve years of research and curriculum development at Deakin University is discussed,
involving the creation of online resources and case studies, digitally-integrated projects
relating to building construction and design studio education. The ethos behind the
Construction Primer of engaging students as ‘amateur researchers’ in a way that ensures
‘that student research work is worth more than course assessment’ forms the pedagogical
foundation of much of this work. A model of Socially Networked Construction Technology
education has been developed that integrates social networks and the Internet to engage
students in tectonic design within and outside the classroom through authentic curricula.
Through the use of Virtual Galleries, Blogs, YouTube and social networks, a culture of
peer learning and sharing has ben developed. Through shared knowledge facilitated
through social networks, great potential lies for expanding the synergies between higher
order learning and online resource development for design decision support.
Keywords. Construction technology; social network; online learning; design decision
Tectonic design and the architectural
According to Bernard Tschumi we are in a stage of
history where ‘the architect becomes more and
more distant from the forces that govern the production of buildings today’ (Tschumi 1995). These
dissociations have led to the increase in generalist
and the ‘sloughing off constituent skill areas, which
(have) subsequently become professions in their
own right’ (Cuff 1991). Although design continues
throughout the process, the majority of the architects’ work is based on the need to translate design
concepts into real buildings and conversely, the
need to understand how real built environments
can inform design. Understandings of tectonic design principles are required to ensure buildings
meet performance requirements, remain weatherproof, support loads and cope with movement and
degradation of integrity. Indeed, a major cause of litigation between clients and architects is the failure
of buildings due to ‘design shortcomings, particularly in the area of detailing’ because architects did
not spend enough time checking technical issues’
(Caulfield 1990). Architects have a responsibility to
society as professionals to obtain and maintain the
knowledge required to address tectonic design as a
core competency.
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 135
Tectonic mastery occurs when dedicated architects
incorporate highly developed understandings of
tectonics into the craft of architecture, independently of practice size, design approach or building size.
The notion of tectonics as employed by Frampton
(Frampton, 1995) places architecture within the craft
of construction, arguing that modern architecture
is as much about structure and construction as it is
about space and abstract form. Much like the master composer, the architect as tectonic master must
strive for virtuosity (McGilvray 1992).
Tectonic design in architectural education
The conscious cultivation of the tectonic tradition in
architectural education is of critical importance as
the primary means of developing the skills and attitudes of future practitioners. The development of
appropriate “repertoires of knowledge” and skills is
undertaken through a succession of design projects
and technical courses throughout the architectural
programme governed by accrediting bodies.
Although all registered architecture courses are
obliged to meet the required standards for registration, the methods and the degree to which they prepare graduates for practice may be variable. Studies
in Australia (Caulfield 1990) and America (Vasquez
de Velasco 2002) have found that architecture graduates are often deficient in their knowledge of building construction. Deficiency in this important aspect
of education is put down to ‘the insufficient technical undergraduate training of architects’ (Caulfield
1990). Although most courses dedicate a significant
proportion of their course to building construction
and other technical subjects (Padamsee 1991), the
method of separating technical and design education may not be the optimum. As Abel states, ‘all of
the factors have to be brought together somehow
in the design process. That is of course where the
design studio plays its part and where students are
supposed to synthesise all of his specialist teachers’
different kinds of expertise’ (Abel 1995).
The integration of aspects of tectonic design
into the design studio provides opportunities for the
consideration of building construction as a design
136 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
issue. Tectonics, when taught in subjects outside the
domain of design may lead to competency in problem solving, ‘through the selection, from available
means, one of the best (systems) suited to established ends’ (Schön 1983).
In order to address the concerns raised by Caulfield (1990) and Vasquez de Velasco (2002), and anecdotally by local practitioners, there are significant
opportunities for design educators to further learn
from the unique environment of the design studio.
The translation from developing building construction knowledge to tectonic design knowledge may
address more fully the requirements of competency
for practice, and may help form the next generation
of tectonic masters. This may occur through the integration of tectonic design into the design studio,
or by integrating unique elements of the design studio into building construction subjects.
The teaching of tectonic design and construction
technology has evolved over the last twelve years
at Deakin University across a range of units. Major
impetus in the area was triggered by the 2000–2002
Deakin University- Adelaide University nationallyfunded (CUTSD) teaching and learning grant entitled ‘Reflective Making: Higher Order Learning in
Early Tertiary Architectural Education’. This project
enabled the creation of curriculum and resources
to support design education that involved early
inclusion of reflection-in-action, road inclusion of
designing construction in architectural design and
the ability to adapt computer-aided design and related computer systems within a design process”
(Radford et. al. 1999). Digital ‘Games’, and ‘Digital
Projects’ were introduced into units in design and
technology, resulting in the submission by students
of thousands of digital files, including web pages,
PowerPoint shows, movies and digital images relating to building construction (Challis 2002, Ham et. al
2002, Ham 2003).
Primary to this project was the building, by
students, of an online virtual Gallery site (www., which hosted a large
number of online resources, student projects and
images. The a+b/online Virtual gallery was used ‘by
students primarily as an online gallery of student
work for peer review and benchmarking and as an
information source on construction technology for
design projects. For staff, the Virtual Gallery served
as a repository of student work for assessment, for
inspiration, comparison and benchmarking, to assist
in the ongoing development of academic programs
and as evidence of high-quality output for several
University and national teaching excellence awards’
(Ham, 2008).
Online resources include the Construction Primer (CP), initially developed at University of Wellington as an ‘online resource that looks at all aspects
of building construction information. The resource
contains an array of information varying from generic interactive 3D descriptions of how buildings
go together, the standards and building control
laws that regulate the built environment, and access to the professional bodies and manufacturer’s
databases that influence practice’ (Burry et. al 2000).
Digital content is created as part of project work in
construction technology units, wherein students
undertake research into construction elements, submit work for assessment and retain the work initially
in print form, then online for reference and use in
design decision support in students design projects.
The founding ethos of the CP, of engaging students as ‘amateur researchers’ in a way that ensures ‘that student research work is worth more
than course assessment’ (Burry et. al. 1995) formed
a profound influence on the development of tectonic design teaching at Deakin University and has
formed the pedagogical basis of much of the work
outlined below- even though the implementation
differs greatly across a wide variety of projects.
The Deakin University Woolstores Multimedia Case
Study (WMCS) was developed in 2001 as an online case study of a University campus converted
adaptively reused from wool storage buildings. The
WMCS was designed ‘as a case-based primer for the
study of design and construction technology, as a
structured case-study container for the addition of
student digital construction projects and to benchmark student digital construction projects. The online case study utilizes 3D CAD models and multimedia in concert with physical connection with the
actual building to generate holistic understandings
of the transition of an idea to a constructed reality
(Ham et. al 2002). Through second year construction
technology projects interfacing directly with the
WMCS, digital media was been utilized to unlock the
construction knowledge embodied within the case
study building, with deeper understandings of construction technology achieved through direct proximity to the building itself.
Furthering the idea that University campus itself
can provide excellent case studies for complex, integrated buildings, the Learning Constructs case study
of Deakin University’s Building T was hosted online
and used as a learning resource for tectonic design
education. This case study, developed primarily for
construction management students, brought together a range of video interviews with stakeholders, documentation drawings, images of construction process and other multimedia resources. This
case study was fully integrated into the construction
curriculum in an authentic learning environment
(Challis and Langston 2003). The Construction Primer, Woolstores Multimedia Case Study and Learning
Constructs form the core of online resources hosted
on the Virtual Gallery site.
Significant further developments in online tectonic design teaching have evolved in conjunction
with case study and resource creation since 2001.
Direct integration between design and construction
technology units was achieved through the ‘Discovering Construction through Architecture’ project
(2001–2005). This curriculum achieved direct integration between construction management and architectural design units through the selection of architecture students’ digital design projects for teams
of construction managers acting in a role-play environment as developers charged with realising the
design intent.
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Developer teams used web-authoring software
(Dreamweaver and Flash) to develop websites hosted on a School server that recorded the research
and development process, including construction
detailing in 3D CAD and 1:1 model form, flow charts,
risk analysis and constructability analysis. The programme was an exemplar of a way in which IT may
be used to facilitate integration between units in a
practicum based on role-play’, with ‘significant peer
learning opportunities provided through collaborative work, peer review and online websites’ (Ham
1:1 Modelling has been integrated into the design studio at Deakin University as a means for architecture students to understand relationships
between design conceptualisation and making, and
between physical and digital modelling (Newton and
Burry 2001). Through design ‘Games’, students firstly
composed a piece of music or soundscape, then designed a “Music Room” that related to the composition in some way. Projects were selected and developed into full-scale in teams of ten over a two week
period. ‘Games, digital project and 1:1 construction
projects work together to reinforce the integration of
music and architecture within an authentic learning
environment (Ham 2005). The full-scale Music rooms,
destined for destruction following their exhibition
on-campus, were retained virtually in the a+b/online
Virtual Gallery.
1:1, Or real-scale construction was determined
to provide the ultimate learning experience for architecture students in relation to the development
of tectonic knowledge in the design studio. Learning
outcomes for physical models, drawings (CAD and
manual) and 3D CAD, although valuable tools in the
development of design through the stages of design
(limited mainly to schematic and design development within the studio context), did not compare to
the value of learning experiences inherent in 1:1 construction (Ham 2010a).
With the advent of the Web 2.0 technologies of
blogs, YouTube and social networks around 2004,
further opportunities arose to teach tectonic design
in ways that lowered the ‘overhead’ on both staff and
138 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
students. Ham and Dawson (2004) and Ham (2008)
discuss problems of technical literacy, management
and infrastructure that limit the development of
online resource creation in design and construction
technology. Ham (2010) also discusses the limitations of University-based LMS, and the need to ‘work
outside the system’ where appropriate to achieve
learning outcomes. The ‘overheads’ of requiring students to learn web-authoring programmes in order
to create digital projects that are then posted online,
as well as the management of digital information
were found to be major limitations in the expansion
of the site.
The answer to these problems was the engagement in blogs for students to post their work, reflect
on the process and outcome of design projects, encourage peer learning and review and for design
decision support hosted on the Virtual Gallery site.
The a+b/online site still serves as the primary linkage point for the blogs, however all digital information is hosted off-site. Through password-controlled
access to their site, students
have full control to either delete work or retain the
project online after assessment, thus solving issues
of ownership and permissions.
The result of twelve years of development is the
vast range of online resources that have been created by students, for use by students in design decision support for design studio projects.
The SNCT comprises a logical formation of the evolving streams of 1:1 construction and resource creation for design decision support within the ethos
of the Construction Primer. These streams were
brought together within a social network through
engagement in online blogs, YouTube and FaceTM
Book (FB) (Schnabel and Ham 2011). Social networks were used as a means of engaging students
in construction education socially outside of the
limitations of the University’s LMS, which include
the development of silos of knowledge, lost opportunities for students to engage with each other and
industry sources and limited sharing of resources for
design decision support (Ham 2010).
The SNCT was developed in the second year
construction Technology unit, SRT251 from 2009.
This unit, core to both Bachelor of Design (architecture) and Bachelor of Construction Management
students, is centred on the development of understandings of long span, low rise, commercial and
industrial construction technologies in concrete,
timber and steel. The unit combined theoretical
studies of building construction and structures,
learning through student-led research projects and
the hands-on making and breaking of beams and
The unit comprised a twelve week series of 2
hour lectures on building construction and building structures with weekly tutorials and workshops,
taught to a cohort of 152. Assessment was through
two projects worth 25% each and a three hour examination worth 50%. Whereas the examination is
based on the theory-driven lecture series, the two
projects are designed to engage students in authentic learning connected to ‘real world’ construction technologies and processes and the physical
process of making in construction. These distinct
learning approaches are designed to complement
each other, allowing students with different learning
styles opportunities to engage in the subject.
‘Making and breaking’ blogs
Project 1 required teams of ten students to competitively construct a beam or truss structure that will
span 4800mm, with a maximum structural envelope
of 4800 x 600 high x 150 wide using 4 sheets 6mm
plywood and 20 linear metres of 70x35 MGP10 pine.
Students designed and built a variety of structurestrusses, fabricated beams and stressed skin structures in their teams, the challenge being enhanced
by the limited material set available. Structures were
tested using a point load compression-testing rig.
Students were required initiate and develop blogs
hosted on which was linked to the
Virtual Gallery site. Weekly posts utilised multimedia
including text, images and YouTube videos to record
the process of design, development and testing of
the structures, and also to monitor the activities of
team members for assessment. This project was
founded on the integration of physical making at
1:1 scale for the learning of structures- encompassing the complete experience of thinking, theorizing,
designing, making and breaking, followed by reflection, to calibrate students’ structural intuition.
Outcomes for the project were widely variablewith groups variably constructing structures that
were completely incompetently designed and fabricated to those that demonstrated complete tectonic
mastery. The ‘winning’ group fabricated a laminated
stressed skin plywood beam-truss that remained
unbroken at 27kPa, whilst other structures failed at
only 1-2kPa.
The project design allowed equal learning opportunities through both success and failure. The
initial learning experience of building a 1:1 structure was reinforced by further self-directed learning
through comparing make and break outcomes online in the blogs, thus completing the cycle of learning through the addition of ‘reflection-on-action’
(Schön 1983).
Youtube construction videos
Project 2 furthered the agenda of authentic learning through the engagement of students in the ‘real
world’ of construction technology outside of the
university environment. Students were required to
form groups of three, then visit buildings under construction and research three construction assemblies or processes. Students variably obtained working drawings, interviewed engineers, architects and
construction managers and undertook background
research into theoretical aspects of the case study
Research information was then compiled in the
form of a ten minute video, utilising sound and music, video, still images and voice over (as well as humour) to communicate their research in a way that
to overcame the traditional ‘dryness’ of the construction technology topic matter. Outcomes for this project were typical of the wide range inherent in any
CAAD curriculum - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 139
large cohort of students, ranging from basic presentations to interesting and informative, professional
quality construction case studies.
Projects were uploaded by students to YouTube
with embed links emailed to the unit chair as the
formal means of submission for assessment. From
these 50 digital submissions, a Virtual Gallery page
was created for purposes of use as a shared learning resource. As the list of construction assemblies
and processes closely matched the course content,
these videos made the perfect resource for revision
for the examination, which was worth 50% of the
unit marks.
The model for this project realises the core ethos
of the Construction Primer. The vast resources and
energy of the cohort of 152 students was used to
gather a large amount of up-to-date and highly relevant information based on case studies of over 40
buildings in the area. The importance for students of
this resource is realised in both the immediate need
for study material for the examination, but also as a
student-created resource for design decision support within the studio.
Facebook as learning management system
The two projects for the SNCT outlined above, are
contingent on the use of a FB group as the substitute for the University’s LMS. The key to the SNCT is
the foundation within the real world of construction
technology (on the job site and in the workshop) but
within a parallel environment of the social network.
FB operated as the interface between students and
staff and formed a core facilitator of the peer learning principles behind the unit.
The FB group was used by students to communicate ‘out of hours’ with staff to enhance and clarify
project information and to answer questions directly. Significant peer-to-peer learning occurred within
the group when students answered questions posted by others, with some students forming offshoot
FB groups to facilitate their project work. The Blogs
and YouTube sites were linked to the FB group and
individual exemplars posted to the FB wall to reinforce key points in the course. Activity within this
group generally underwent the stages of ‘induc140 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - CAAD curriculum
tion’, ‘socialisation’ and ‘maturity’ outlined in Ham
and Schnabel (2012), with an intense period of use
during the final week and the revision period prior
to the examination, where the need for information
We refer to research undertaken in Ham and Schnabel (2012), wherein key attributes of the Social Network Virtual Design Studio (SNVDS) were outlined.
These attributes are core to both the SNVDS and the
The nomadic device generation
Architecture and Construction Management students in this cohort are approaching a state of ‘nomadic ubiquity’ (Attali, 2006), where optical fibre,
Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G mobile technologies are used in
conjunction with a range of nomadic devices such
as Smartphone, tablet- and laptop-computers. Online sources such as FB, MySpace, Twitter, Skype and
the various Google Apps enable unprecedented
connectivity (Schnabel and Ham 2010). Potentially,
students were able to take in information for both
examination revision and to assist in tectonic design within their studio projects anywhere they had
access to a Smart Phone, tablet device and 3G or
wireless networks. This attribute of the SNCT holds
enormous potential for the future of construction
technology and other elements of design education
and professional interactions (Howe and Schnabel
Facilitating social engagement
Social engagement occurred in the SNCT across a
wide spectrum, including face-to-face social interactions in group work, tutorials, engagement with
industry personnel in the case study and contact
with the unit chair and tutors. Parallel social engagement occurred in the FB group, in YouTube through
comments on videos and in interactions in the Tumblr sites. These interactions reinforce the Barkhuus
and Tashiro (2010) finding that students’ use of FB
facilitated a variety of student-to-student interactions, including ‘casual interaction online, leading
to casual interaction offline’. The SNCT enabled the
Network Generation an appropriately wide variety of
channels to learn in a way that responded to their
learning needs (Oblinger and Oblinger 2005).
From collective to social intelligence
Collective intelligence in architectural design invites
anyone to contribute to a design process through
crowd sourcing even if each of the design processes
is individual. In the case of the SNCT, Web 2.0 technologies are used to enable students to become
participants: engaging in discussion forums, creating their own social and knowledge networks,
taking part in polls and building communities and
portals of knowledge. This provides opportunities
for information to be shared among social groups,
extending beyond the traditional construction technology unit setting, allowing for opportunities for
collective intelligence to rise. This enabled through
the social networks, the next step along the social
and collaborative interaction, in which knowledge
is generated and collected lays the collective social
Flat hierarchies
The SNCT unit is founded on Alison King’s prediction
that future educators must undertake the transition
from being ‘the sage on the stage to the guide on
the side’ (King 1993). In the SNCT, students themselves are a primary source of articulate and intelligent information on construction technology, in
addition to material provided by the unit chair in
lectures. The founding ethos of the Construction
Primer, where the students are transformed from
passive learners to amateur researchers actively
contributing to the construction of knowledge is
contingent on educators encouraging the flattening
of hierarchies. By flattening hierarchies in this way,
we argue that students engage in project work in
a way that supersedes the immediate needs for assessment. This results in outcome potentials that are
greater than traditional construction educational
The need to embrace tectonics in combination with
digital technologies presents several opportunities for rethinking the role of construction units in
architectural education. We have outlined the development of a model of “Socially Networked Construction Technology” education that integrates the
freely available technologies of the social networks
and the Internet. This is founded on twelve years of
educational development and research in the establishment of online resources and the creation of
authentic learning curricula. We find that in order
to engage students in tectonic design within and
outside the design studio, authentic curricula can
be developed that allows students access to the real
world of construction technology whilst utilising
digital media and the Internet to enhance the process. Through the use of Virtual Galleries, Blogs, YouTube and social networks, the ethos that students
can become amateur researchers, and complete
project work for more than just assessment can
be realised. Through shared knowledge facilitated
through social networks, great potential lies for expanding the synergies between higher order learning and online resource development for design
decision support.
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City Modelling
City Modelling- Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 143
144 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Cities and Landscapes. How do They Merge in Visualisation?
An Overview
Emine Mine Thompson
Northumbria University, England, UK.
[email protected]
Abstract. Tools and technologies are developing to help us to simulate the cities and
landscapes for visualization, analytical and information modeling purposes. This paper,
as well as offering an overview of the issues with regards to merging virtual city and
landscape models in order to visualize the urban environment as a whole, is investigating
various stakeholder requirements in relation to the Virtual NewcastleGateshead (VNG)
Keywords. 3D City Models; 3D Landscape Models; Virtual NewcastleGateshead; level of
Strategies for sustainability and regeneration in cities primarily concentrate on the built components
of the urban environment but awareness of the
green space in an urban context is less apparent.
Although Schmid (2011) outlines that the interest
in the public green areas is increasing with the inner
city living becoming popular again in Europe, the
role of public green areas as urban ecosystem contribution to public health and to the quality of life of
urban citizens is becoming increasingly difficult under growing development pressure (Wissen Hayek
et al., 2010). Although the visual characteristics of
the urban environment are greatly valued, “each
city whether in the form of a small conurbation or a
megalopolis, is confronted with specific and intense
transformation prospects” (Mambretti, 2011). The
decisions that alter the city have a lasting influence;
consequently, it is vital to understand the effects of
planned changes either on the built components of
the urban environment or on the urban green space
before they are realized.
Tools and technologies are developing to help us
to simulate the cities and landscapes for visualization, analytical and information modelling purposes.
These tools are helping decision makers to understand and communicate the change which the built
and natural environments go through constantly.
This paper offers an initial and ongoing investigation of the issues involved in merging virtual city
and landscape models in order to visualise the urban environment as a whole. It will constitute as preliminary and limited exploration which will establish
a foundation for further study in this area.
In real-life urban context buildings, urban structures and green space go hand-in hand. They co-exist in the environment, where different levels of details are observed seamlessly. However, in a virtual
model, being able to represent these different and
demanding features with diverse characteristics is
not easy.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 145
Cities and landscape are part of the built environment that we live in. There are several components
of the built environment and Bartuska (2007) classifies these in to seven different categories: products,
interiors, structures, landscapes, cities, regions, earth.
City is the most complex and celebrated expression
of human creativity, culture, and civility at best or a
manifestation of human neglect at worst. The city’s
human/social, environmental and technological aspects combine and form the most complex component of the built environment. A city with its various
qualitative and quantitative dimensions is a place
created or built for people to live, work, visit, and
play. (Bartuska, 2007).
According to the European Landscape Convention Report in 2000 “landscape is an area, as perceived
by people, whose character is the result of the action
and interaction of natural and/or human factors.”
Similar to cities, “landscapes are highly complex structures often covering large areas” (Lange and Bishop
2005); however “most aspects of most landscapes are
not static; they move and change at time scales varying from seconds to centuries” (Ervin, 2003) and unlike
buildings or other urban structures, landscapes are
growing and evolving rather than finished products.
‘Urban landscape’ is a term that can be used
for various urban related subjects. It can mean the
shape of the city representing all aspects of that specific geographic area or the collection of all the green
spaces in and around the city boundary that is overall part of the urban structure. In this research we will
be using the latter definition. Urban landscape consists of all urban parks, gardens, avenues, squares,
playgrounds, recreational areas and other forms of
greenspace within and surrounding the city such
as urban forestry and urban agriculture areas. And
in this sense the green space as described by Mambretti (2011) is the ‘not-built urban open space’. This
green space can be either in the form of remnants of
nature that survived in the dense city or in the form
of planned and designed areas for amenity and recreation.
146 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Visualization is the action of forming a mental image
or becoming aware of something through graphical
aids (Blaser et al., 2000). From the computing point
of view and scientifically, visualization is a method
of computing. It transforms the symbolic into the
geometric, enabling researchers to observe their
simulations and computations. Visualization offers
a method for seeing the unseen (McCormick, DeFanti, Brown, 1987). It often involves the use of more
than one medium; such as text, still graphics, sound,
animation, computer models, and video (Lai et. all,
2010). However, according to Carneiro (2008, p 631),
Neilsen (1993) explains that the acceptability of any
visual exploratory system is strictly related to its utility (feasibility of the information to be visualised)
and its usability (cognitive visual interpretations of
the 3D urban models proposed).
Visualization of an urban environment, from the
aerial view maps of medieval times to the more accurate city plan projections of the Renaissance and
to the inexpensively produced-standardized, printed 2D maps of 19th Century is not a new concept.
Over the centuries, these 2D plans, representations
and maps made for different purposes have helped
develop our cities (Thompson, Horne, Fleming
2006). The information that exists about a metropolis is hard to comprehend in its totality therefore
good representations allow rapid understanding of
the relevant features of a data-set (Whyte, J., 2002).
Three-dimensional (3D) and Virtual Reality (VR)
city models can be simply described as computerized graphical representations or visualizations of
any city and their components (Thompson, Horne,
Fleming 2006). It is believed that 3D Visualization
is expected to present improved cognitive understanding of spatial relationships and this improved
understanding will enable decision makers to utilize
resources sustainably.
Similar to their real life equivalences, city models
are never a finished product. Cities with ever changing and developing urban formations, trends and
citizens’ needs, require a dynamic platform where
Figure 1
The complex data structure of
Landscape Models (Thompson, Horne, 2006).
these modifications are possible with ease. The advances of information and communication technology, powerful hardware and software availability and accessible 3D data are making it possible to
create these platforms (Thompson, Horne, Fleming
2006). Nowadays it is easy to get almost an off-shelf
city model from data suppliers.
Research in the digital representation of environments, either urban or rural, has been in development since the 1990s. Researchers from different disciplines - such as geography, landscape and
environmental planning, urban planning, architecture, geo-information science, computer graphics
science- have focused on the creation and usage
of digital models and data-sets required for 3D and
VR representations, and the sharing of these data
sets (such as: Abdul-Rahman, et al., 2006; Batty,
1997; Batty, et al., 1998; Baty et al., 2000; Bishop and
Lange, 2005; Bourdakis, 1997; Day, 1994; Delaney,
2000; Dokonal, Martens, 2001; Döllner et al., 2006;
Ervin, 2001; Lange, 2001; Lange, 2011; Peng et al.,
2002; Pettit, et al., 2008; Pittman, 1992; Pleizier, 2004;
Pritchard, 2005; Sinning-Meister, et al., 1996; Skauge,
1995; and many others).
As Lange (2011) summaries, 3D landscape visualization has developed from an expensive technology requiring specialized equipment into an
essential tool for landscape design, planning and
management, accessed in the field on small tablet computers and mobile phones. Sophisticated
2D and 3D software is even available for free. Also
within the last few decades, digital landscape representations have developed from abstract and static
representations to highly realistic visualizations capable of being explored through dynamic spatial
movement, with the potential to provide an immersive experience in multiple spatial and temporal
scales. In terms of content, landscape visualizations
still focus on the final product of a planning and design process. Moreover, many researchers put their
ideas forward in this area. The following list is just a
small sample of the literature where 3D Landscape
Visualization as a tool or in itself, has been the main
research subject: Bishop, 1994; Bishop et al., 2001;
Bryan, 2003; Bourdakis, 2001; Cavens et al., 2003; Danahy, 2001; Discoe 2005; Elsner and Smardon, 1979;
Ervin 2001; Ervin and Hasbrouck 2001; Ervin, 2003;
Wissen Hayek et al, 2010; Wissen Hayek, 2011; Wissen Hayek and Grêt-Regamey , 2012; Lai, et al., 2010;
Lange, 1990; 2001; 2002; 2005; Lindemann-Matthies
et al., 2010; Mambretti 2011; Myklestad and Wagar,
1977; Orland, 1992; Orland et. al., 2001; Paar 2003;
Paar 2005; Parr, Rekittle 2005; Shiode, 2001; Sheppard, 2001; 2005; Smardon, 1988; Werner, et al.,
2005; Zheng et al., 2011; and may others.
Before the digital age and the use of computers
in design and design representation, visual communications such as paintings, plans, sections and
perspective drawings were used to provide the opportunity to observe the proposed developments in
landscapes. The landscape gardener Humphry Repton, (1752-1818) (Daniels, 1999), can be seen as the
true ancestor of today’s landscape visualizes. Repton
gave his clients the opportunity to interactively evaluate his design by flipping between before and after
perspective drawings in his famous “Red Books”.
The creation of space and context in landscape
design is highly dependent on the time element
and thus being able to merge the spatial-temporal elements into a model become fundamental.
Landscape modelling encompasses a range of
techniques, disciplines, styles, and scales. The term
landscape itself may be used to refer to a complex
cultural construction; a simple aggregation of elements, e.g. landform, water, vegetation; or to a
complex interaction of dynamic forces at work
over time-scales ranging from seconds to centuries
(Ervin, 2003) (Figure 1).
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 147
Furthermore visualizing the big picture, large biodiverse and relatively untouched ecosystems or
endangered areas, species etc. has been the main
concern of landscape and geo-visualization over the
years. However not much has been done in respect
to urban green space visualization where there is a
direct connection to sustainable urban living. It is
believed that, in many instances, both virtual landscape models (VLM) and virtual city models (VCM)
have been created for improved understanding of
both existing situations and future developments.
In order to capture and analyze the relationship of
these two built environment categories, for example
to understand and react to urban sprawl, the two
features need to be considered together in a visualization. However, the question is, in what detail and
complexity should these two competing elements
be represented - or whether they should be represented together at all in similar details.
Current visualization tools for urban and
landscape development
Current visualization tools for urban and landscape
design and planning provide a wide range of possibilities for practitioners and researchers. These are
used for environmental impact assessment studies,
reclamation studies, planning applications, design
approval applications, plant growth assessments,
construction management/cost analysis, user satisfaction studies, urban regeneration proposals, public participation sessions etc.
From an urban planning point of view, CityGML,
the international standard set by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), established the rules for
representing and exchanging 3D objects for 3D city
models. CityGML defines classes and relationships
between most relevant topographic objects in city
models. CityGML describes the logical spatial and
semantic modeling processes and generalizes hierarchies between thematic classes, aggregations,
relations between objects, and spatial properties
(Kolbe, 2007). CityGML sets out level-of-detail (LOD)
protocols, from LOD0 to LOD4, and these different
predefined levels provide preferences to illustrate
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the city model at various LOD. It is usually not feasible to try what-if scenarios and possible solutions
for a design problem by experimenting in situ, but
by using current digital tools such as digital photographs, 3D modeling techniques, animations,
flythroughs, and simulations etc., an effective decision-making process can be facilitated. As Ervin
and Hasbrouck (2001) point out “The power of digital
models is that from a single model, multiple views can
be rendered, at will. Not only various different perspective viewpoints be tried out, but also different drawings
altogether: plans, sections, axonometrics, as well as
non-graphical views like parts lists and cost estimates
can be produced.”
Many researchers (Appelton et al., 2002; Ervin,
Hasbrouck, 2001; Griffon et al., 2011; Wissen Hayek,
Grêt-Regamey, 2012; Herwig, Paar, 2002; Kramer,
Houtkamp, Danes, 2011; Mach, Schork, 2011; Paar,
2006; Sherren et al., 2011; and many others) have
focused on the appropriate tools to use in landscape visualizations over the years. Some evaluated
the currently available off-the-shelf software which
can be used for landscape visualizations and some
developed new ones (Autodesk products -3DSmax,
AutoCAD, LandExplorer, Infrastructure Modeler, etc.;
Biosphere 3D, CityScape, Esri’s CityEngine, LandSim3D, Lenné3D , SketchUP, specialized landscape
design tools such as-Artisan SL, LANDCADD, Lands,
etc.; Visual Nature Studio, and others). Some conducted tests on the over all suitability of some of
these softwares examining the accessibility, data interoperability, file format, data import data export/
output capabilities, 3D representation capabilities,
atmospheric affects capabilities, changes through
time capabilities, capability of storing additional information, usability, help and support that the software provider supplies etc. Some also applied some
of these softwares to test the perception of the real
landscape and its surrogate, and used them in public participation sessions.
Challenges of visualizing the urban and
landscape charaters
Spatial information is crucial in any planning activity and this information can be used in a number of
ways to assist decision-making processes. Any sort
of visual communication, where the experience is
enhanced by presenting a combination of reality
and the intended reality, would improve not only
the lay persons’, but also the experts’ understanding
of the effects, implications and opportunities of the
proposed scheme” (Thompson, Horne, 2006).
Previous research, on VCMs and especially in respect to the Virtual NewcastleGatehead (VNG) model, has discussed issues emerging in the creation of
a shared, multi-use digital city model, highlighting
a need to address issues pertaining to model management, update and remote access to model data.
There is also the issue concerning representing the
urban environment and its vicinity in its entirety.
Although in real-life moving from the built component of a city to a green space can be seamless,
in visualization, all the different components that
make the model, do require individual considerations for their diverse characteristics. It is believed
that the LOD plays a major part in this issue.
Table 1, shows the attributes of city and landscape models which need to be considered during
the modeling process. It is still difficult, if not impossible [nor necessary in all cases], to duplicate the
total character of an environment with its wealth
Table 1
Attributes of city and landscape models (Information
is gathered from Appleton,
Lovett 2003; Bryan 2003,
Dollner, Jurgen 2007, Dollner
et. al., 2006, Ervin 2001, Ervin
2003, Wissen Hayek 2011,
Kolbe, 2007; Lang 2002,
MacFarlane et. al. 2005, Ross
et al, 2009; Thompson and
Horne 2006).
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 149
Figure 2
Different levels of detail
used in Appleton and Lovett
(2003)’s research, all at low
and high levels of detail.
of information in a computer (Nothhelfer, 2002).
Moreover, from a model management point of view,
in general, lower LOD models can be updated more
easily than those with higher LODs and a more upto-date model has a better chance to serve it purpose longer.
Appleton and Lovett (2003) split the landscape
elements that need to be visualized, into two sets
according to requirements of the relevant decisionmaking process: main elements, and auxiliary elements. Main elements are the ones that usually
directly related to environmental decision making
such as: ground surface, foreground vegetation,
building faces and the auxiliary elements are the
ones that help viewer’s perception of space such as:
sky, water, shadows. Afterwards they applied these
rules on specific views to show the differences (Figure 2).
In order to visualize the landscapes, whether
in rural or urban context, a different level of representation than the built environment modeling is required. As Appleton and Lovett (2003) represented
in their work even the low level of detail for a landscape model can be classed as a high level of detail
for a city model.
It is very important to have a realistic model and
the right levels of details at the right time for the
different types of viewers, since different viewers
might be focusing on different details. Furthermore,
the appropriate levels of representation might help
clients to become involved with the design; this will
150 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
provide opportunities to investigate and explore the
design with the user groups and/or clients in a consultation process. Wissen Hayek (2011) highlights
this by pointing out that the application of 3D visualizations influences the workflow of planning processes and affects participants’ perception as well as
their decision-making.
Newcastle upon Tyne (north of the River Tyne) area
of 115km and Gateshead (south of the River Tyne)
and area of 143km are neighboring urban centers
in the North East of England. VNG, covering 30km , is
a collaborative joint venture between Northumbria
University, Newcastle City Council and Gateshead
Council to create a 3D digital model of the city centres of both Newcastle and Gateshead. It can be said
that it is significantly more precise than alternative
global visualization engines and provides an appropriate tool for planning related activities. Both local
authorities have accepted the accuracy of the model
data for the purposes of urban planning. The School
of the Built and Natural Environment, Northumbria
University, hosts this virtual model.
The aims of the VNG project, defined from the
outset, were to support the urban planning process
for both local authorities, currently challenged by
significant levels of regeneration activity (Horne M.,
2009). The coverage of the model will be extending
to approximately 102 km in order to accommodate
the city’s future development targets to the north
and north-west of Newcastle including land around
Newcastle International Airport and northeast towards the Port of Tyne.
The types of green space within NewcaslteGateshead range from man-made green spaces
such as parks, sports and recreation areas, to seminatural green space, such as Jesmond Dene and
the Ouseburn Valley. Looking more broadly it can
be seen that these urban greenspaces form a network which connects, or can be connected, with
the wider countryside. This is one of the aims of the
NewcastleGateshead Green Infrastructure Strategy
that the both councils agreed upon and published
in 2011. Green infrastructure provides ecological
services for the human population. It is a “network of
multi-functional green and undeveloped land, urban
and rural, which supports the activity, health and wellbeing of local people and wild life” (GI, 2011).
This document also identifies the key green infrastructure sites in NewcastleGateshead. Although
there are fifty-two parks within this conurbation,
seven major green spaces are identified as the key
green infrastructure sites: (1) Chopwell Wood, (2)
Gibside, (3) Derwent Walk Country Park, (4) Saltwell
Park, (5) Bill Quay Park and Farm, (6) Leazes Park, (7)
Town Moor/Exhibition Park, (8) Jesmond Dene (including Paddy Freemans and Heaton parks). Figure 3
Figure 3
Spatial context and strategic
green infrastructure links
(NewcastleGateshead Green
Infrastructure Strategy , 2011).
shows how some of these sites are linked into wildlife networks.
These seven areas, starting from inner core of
the cities, are part of the ongoing research that will
be assessing different software and data options in
terms of compatibility and required level of detail issues on the VNG model.
Although at its current state VNG terrain represents small and large grassy areas, wooded areas,
main and minor roads, pathways, rivers and other
water bodies, trees, these are not in sufficient detail for visually complex landscape visualization.
The extension to the VNG model and recent green
infrastructure strategy developed by the two local
authorities postulate the requirement of a more specific landscape modeling approach for the model.
It is the aim of the ongoing research to visualize
these seven key sites mentioned on the green infrastructure strategy. It is important to note that, being able to visualize these seven key green areas, as
part of the VNG, will facilitate the strategic planning
initiatives for the city authorities. It will also help
communication between different stakeholders and
public during public participation meetings.
Currently data capture for VNG is based upon
aerial photogrammetry and laser scanning survey
techniques and an initial context model has been
created in .dwg, and 3dsMax and VR4Max, SketchUP
etc. formats used for detailing and interactive presentation purposes. However it is believed that with
the model extension a more flexible modeling technology might be required to handle the model due
to extending model size and different LOD requirements.
Initial discussion within the VNG team resulted
in the investigation of other software and modeling
technologies where large data sets can be handled
at ease with the required level of detail for the necessary parts. Initially LandSim3D (2009) software will
be tested because of its procedural modeling capabilities, and it can be linked to geographic source
data as well as to the current 3D model. It can also
produce outputs in the form of animations, still images; and model can be shared over the internet.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 151
This paper has outlined some of the advantages and
some of the difficulties that are involved in including
appropriate landscape modeling in a visually complex city model. It has indicated some of the directions which show promise, though the research is
still at an early stage and it is too soon to say which
technologies will prove to be the most useful.
As in its real life counterpart, the VNG project
is continuously developing and changing. In their
recent paper, Pettit et. al (2012) have presented a
multi-scale visualization framework to support various phases of the planning and decision-making cycle. We believe this type of approach will be widely
used. Our aim is to achieve a multi-scale, multi-LOD
visualization for Virtual NewcastleGatehead. However it is known that merging different characteristics
of a city -both landscape and urban structures- in
a virtual model where different levels of details observed is a challenging task.
This is an ongoing study where different technologies and tools will be tested in order to keep
VNG as up-to-date as possible while offering different functionalities and responding to the stakeholders’ requirements for a virtual city model. Since this
new approach might require an overall technology
change, careful considerations on software, hardware, skill sets, data requirements etc. will be taken
into account.
Future work
The next step will be to merge the seven main green
infrastructure areas identified in the NewcastleGateshead Green Infrastructure Strategy into the
VNG model. As indentified previously initially the
city centre ones will be tested. Communications
with both local authorities will prioritize their need
for using VNG in landscape planning and strategy
activities and the VNG team will respond to these
Acknowledgement is made to Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council to data provider Zmap-
152 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
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A Parametric Approach to 3D Massing and Density
Greg Pitts, Mark Luther
Deakin University, Australia.
Abstract. This paper addresses the current void between social agendas, environmental
criteria and design methodology in urban planning through the implementation of new
computational systems. It considers the application of digital design tools such as GIS
and parametric systems towards more efficient and effective design solutions. The digital
design methods have been developed and tested within Grimshaw Architects Design
Technology Group on both Australian and international urban development projects.
A methodology for the use of parametric design for urban design development is
suggested for defining, simplifying and categorising planning and design strategies. The
following tools are a means of generating urban design concepts as digital forms in order
to better inform the designer during the design process. Keywords. Parametric; Urbanism; Sustainability.
Our population is exponentially growing at an unprecedented rate. Despite this trend, the housing
market is struggling to keep up with increasing demand. There is currently a yearly shortfall of 40,000
houses Australia wide. Alarmingly, this shortage is
expected to increase to 6 million by 2056. [1] This
demand is placing an extraordinary strain on our
urban centres with half of the country’s population
now living in cities. (Weller 2009) Higher density environments have long been recognised as a means
of achieving more effective and sustainable cities.
(Batty 2003) More efficient use of space and resources along with more integrated amenities and community are sustainable goals that are not currently
met in Australian cities. As a result of this opposition,
the sprawling, high consumption suburbs continue
to radiate away from our urban centres. How we
respond to these contemporary urban problems
through our planning and design approaches will
ultimately define the quality of life within our growing cities.
The inadequacy of traditional urban design techniques and standards is widely recognised as insufficient for creating successful urban developments.
(Lowry 1965) In order to effectively manage our
built environment, we first need to address the
growing misalignment between current social aspirations and the working methods of urban designers. There has always been a divide between practiced design methods and social agendas, (White
2007) but at the same time the two are symbiotically
and cyclically linked. A cultures milieu can impact
on technological development (Mumford 1934) as
new methods are formed around those aspects of
ideology that can be quantified, analysed and applied within practice constraints. By the same token,
these working methods often transfer certain stylistic qualities that, when applied to a built fabric,
can influence the way in which a community operates and interacts. The problems we face today are
not new in this regard, but are merely exacerbated
by the increasing scale, population, economy and
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 157
governance in our built environments. When compared against contemporary understanding of the
immensely complex relationships that exist in our
cities as well as the multitude of ideological urban
theory it is clear that our current methods of design
are no longer adequate for addressing the required
information at hand. This inadequacy can be addressed through the defragmentation of the working methodology to identify key steps in physical
planning relationships and urban governance that
can be positively informed by emerging digital information and design systems.
This paper aims to address the current void
between social agendas and design methodology
through the introduction of digital design tools such
as GIS and contextual data bases along with discrete
parametric analysis applications. All of the digital
design methods have been developed and tested
within the Design Technology Group in Grimshaw
Architects on Australian and international urban development projects. The following tools are a result
of this imbedded research and have been developed as a means of generating urban design concepts as digital forms in order to better inform the
designer during the design process.
The initial phase of masterplan design is a crucial for
setting the correct balance between built mass and
open space as envelopes to define the subsequent
detailed design stages. The answer to this balance
is contextually specific and therefore has to be well
informed by existing conditions, potential opportunities and future aspirations for the design. In order to meet these varied needs, the initial planning
phase needs to be defragmented into manageable
design deliverables that can address different contextual drivers. These can then be tested through
parametric modes of information driven design,
built form analysis and iterative optimisation tools.
By simplifying the process into deliverable sets, the
process can be managed more efficiently so that
both computational and analogue design methods
can be utilised more appropriately. The solutions
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to several of these functional problems have been
sought through the application of digital tools such
as GIS data and parametrically defined modelling
systems. However, there appears to be a significant
discrepancy in understanding what these tools can
positively provide to the designer and the design
process within practice constraints.
This paper considers several contextual issues
in a massing and density scheme and outlines the
resulting parametric design tools, methods and
outcomes of the process. The computational tools
are not intended as a way of generating urban designs, but are a means of sorting large quantities of
data to find what is relevant for informing a designer’s contextually specific vision. The later stages of
detailed urban design still suffer from serialisation
and standardisation when parametric definitions
are used for the models generation. (Vincent 2010)
Parametric Urbanism should not be viewed as a
means of designing on behalf of or replacing the
architect or designer. Instead, parametrics should
be viewed as a support tool that can help to inform
the designer in the decision making process. For
this reason the following research focuses on the
initial phase of design that deals with site, massing
and density through the use of GIS and parametric
This paper will report on the design methods
that have been developed to produce initial 3D
massing and density diagrams. These methods have
been developed in two distinct phases of digital
processing in order to optimise both designer and
computer input. Each of these phases contains a set
of sub categories that have been identified as common problems that are encountered in traditional
design workflows. These problems are generally
defined by their high level of complexity, labor time
and their ability to be refined into simple principals
that can be expedited through the use of digital
processing. In order to ensure a constant workflow
through these design phases the initial GIS information has been converted into formats that can be
used by Adobe Illustrator, Rhino and the parametric
plug-in Grasshopper.
Figure 1
Parametrically generated
massing diagrams.
The first phase design methods are a simple means
of compiling and extracting relevant contextual
data and using this as a foundation for diagramming
initial conceptual ideas for a given site. The Second
phase design methods utilise custom parametric
scripting to translate the concept diagrams into digital massing models. (Figure 1)
These models can be generated with variable
massing, density, height and other relevant planning
restrictions as parameters to test multiple variations
of a design diagram very quickly. Visual analysis,
gross floor area values and land use percentages are
all generated directly from this model. This level of
impact analysis at this initial planning phase is crucial to the communication and validation of a design
The first phase involves the compilation of existing
site information and the process of analysing and
responding to this data through a set of design responses. The following process has been developed
in order to offer the designer flexibility to defragment the process into discrete problems that can be
solved through parametric means while still allowing
for intuitive and manual design responses. The key
to this method is in the interface between ubiquitous digital data, human interpretation and response
back into a digital representation. This process results in a more informed means of diagramming conceptual design aspirations in a form that can be later
tested and critiqued through other digital systems.
Site information and analysis
Through the development of new recording software
and sensor hardware, design teams now have the
ability to collect or access huge amounts of data for
specific tasks and fields of interest. (Bourke 2006) The
resulting databases can record prevailing environmental conditions as well as track the movement of people, measure consumption of resources and pollution.
These and other relevant contextual influences can be
recorded over multiple timescales to accurately map
out information in a number of different formats. The
sheer quantity of some of these data sets has accentuated the need for new means of mining and utilising
relevant information for architectural application.
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are a
management system for data that is gaining prevalence in urban design. (Gröger 2007) GIS offers a
high level of data control for existing conditions
which can set up a very strong framework for models demonstrating opportunities and constraint. The
quality of the final 3D massing diagram is directly
linked to the quality of this contextual data.
For the purposes of this case study a relatively
manual process was used in order to extrapolate
site information from the GIS database. This process involved selecting the desired information and
exporting layers from the native GIS format into a
master CAD file comprising of the layers of project
data. This technique suited the level of information
used in these tests but more automated data mining
techniques are now being explored for extrapolating relevant information form larger databases.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 159
In order to process the information in the master file,
it was necessary to develop custom parametric tools
capable of interrogating the model. Two of these initial strategies are the gradient analysis and the network path optimisation tools.
Gradient analysis was used analyse existing topography for its angle of incline. This was helpful in
assessing the future potential for automotive, tram
and train accessibility as well as planting zones and
disabled access. An individual map could be produced to identify specific gradient range to flag
problem zones for each of the studies. (Figure 2) This
aided in developing planning strategies that imposed as little resistance to the site as possible.
The Network optimisation tool was used to
compute minimal path networks between a set of
key points in and around the site. This digital tool
is inspired by the analogue wool thread models by
Marek Kolodziejczyk which looked at optimising detour path networks. (Schumacher 2009) As a digital
model, these networks are calculated through the
use of different line attractions between primary
Figure 2
Gradient mapping results
across varying terrain. (Image
courtesy of Grimshaw).
Figure 3
Desire lines deforming into
optimised detour paths.
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and secondary desire lines. When animated, this
attraction deforms the lines towards each other
relative to proximity and attraction strength of surrounding lines. In this manner, an average rout between desired points can be calculated. This method
is not applied to determine road layouts in a literal
sense, but instead is used as a means of extrapolating intersections between networks of paths that
have been connected across the site from surrounding fabric. These intersections can be used to identify optimum positions for future hub development
and higher density focal points of the masterplan
layout (Figure 3).
These digital tools have been developed specifically to aid a single, discrete problem in the design process in order to give the designer freedom
of choice in their application. These and other tools
are still in development for the analysis of existing
site conditions. Further research is being conducted
into refining these digital data extraction and analysis tools and cut down the laborious processes of
sorting and analysing data. The aim of this is not to
eliminate human intervention through automated
site analysis but to more effectively feed relevant information to the designer as the key decision maker.
Digital diagramming
Parametric systems have been programmed to recognise certain areas for analysis and then generate
predefined responses that are dependent on the results. Although engaging from a technical perspective, this approach is inappropriate for addressing
a broad spectrum of design issues and can often
stray into the realm of geometric mastery rather
than focusing on the issues that can have a direct
and positive benefit from the application of digital
tools. For this reason, Illustrator sketches overlaid
onto the previously developed information model is
still the preferred method for translating ideas into
The reason Illustrator has been chosen as the
platform for digital diagramming, as opposed to
Figure 4
2D Design diagram demonstrating street networks, block
definitions and initial typology
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 161
more freeform sketch programs, is its ability to retain object identity and perform advanced manipulation such as Boolean operations and offsets. This
setup allows for objects to be created under layer
definitions which can be used to map out building
typology. Colours and layers are later used in parametric massing generation (Figure 4).
The resulting line work can then be converted
into CAD format. This is considered to be the diagram output as it is used as the basis for informing
the parametric generation systems. This process
can very quickly test a number of different ideas
by producing a pictorial representation as well as
simultaneously creating quality data for continuing
the workflow. These detailed design diagrams are a
hybrid representation based on a construct of existing conditions, parametric analysis and design aspirations. At each point in this process the decision
making process is facilitated and accentuated by the
digital tools as opposed to being lead by them.
In order to create any form of massing model, there
first needs to be a well defined set of control parameters. Percentage of open space versus density, range and type of public amenity compared
to population volume and demographic are some
such considerations that require some value range
in order to define the scope of a development. This
range is impossible to define introspectively or speculatively without data that has been derived from
existing developments. The new design is therefore
validated against ongoing development and success. To facilitate this need, a range of benchmarking
exercises has been developed in order to tabulate
the design aims and physical composition of a range
of urban projects around the world. These statistics
are then classified against the measureable success
of their application and ongoing habitation. This
benchmarking includes physical attributes of the
developments, environmental performance as well
as certain quantifiable elements of social aims and
contributions (Figure 5).
Figure 5
Segment of the benchmarking
tool demonstrating some of
the physical values of each of
the developments.
(Image courtesy of Grimshaw).
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Figure 6
Diagram outline conversion
to street networks and block
From this database, a range of defining attributes
can be extrapolated and applied in order to give the
intended model a more carefully informed physical
presence. A tool such as this can be very useful for
comparing relative values or percentages in order
to classify design decisions and their potential outcomes in a new development. It is important to remember that the differing scale of the benchmark
developments is an important factor in the habitation and use of a design, so all figures still require a
measure of interpretative analysis and design translation to be of use in a speculative design. This is not
a definitive set of rules that can guarantee a directly
comparable quality of urban space, but is intended
to narrow the field of applicable solutions within
the endless potential of a site. This, along with intuitive or aspirational goals for the development, the
designer can begin to define a range of different
parameters that warrant further testing at a more
detailed resolution.
Plot diagrams
Now that a series of design diagrams have been
created and along with a range of defining parameters, it is possible to start mocking up a series of
block and street networks. This process uses the
boundaries created in the diagramming phase and
converts them into usable block areas. This is where
the benchmarking parameters can influence the
design and define the attributes that will govern different typology zones. Each of the footprint types
are automatically collected by the parametric script
and fed through the appropriate chain of massing
control that correlates with the desired typology
governance. The types are defined by the initial diagramming phase and can be used in this form with-
out any further manipulation of layers and types if
desired. This initial division of footprint geometry
is then carried through for the rest of the script for
each of the subsequent functions.
This process passes the diagram object outlines through an iterative loop to refine the object
footprints into usable block footprints. An iterative
loop is a means of performing an action, validating
it against desired values and then repeating the
process with any negative results until all elements
fall within the desired range. In the case of the block
division, a control value is set in order to define the
area of an ideal block size. The shapes that fall above
this area value are then divided once through preset
algorithm and compared back to this initial value. If
the new blocks are still outside this range, they are
fed back through the loop until they reach the defined value. All successful results are saved and fed
through to the next definition at whichever loop
they return a positive comparison (Figure 6). Values
to control the block area, offset and street size can
be independently controlled in order to achieve the
required density and grain for each zone type.
Site massing
After the conversion of sketch shapes into building
block outlines, another process can be applied to
create 3D building masses. The final building envelope that is created in this stage is an offset of the
initial block. The building height can then be extruded up from the new footprint. Once again, the offset
and height ranges are defined by the benchmarking
parameters and can be specific to each typology
zone. The height of the mass is defined by a random
number generator which gives the massing model
a varied height. This generator is limited within a
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 163
mix/min range of overall heights and only generates
integers of a variable floor to floor height value. The
heights are therefore generated as full floors within
a height range that is specific to its building typology. This tool gives the designer the control to set all
types as a fixed height value or give any degree of
variation between floors depending on the application. The random height is more for visual analysis
and is not something that affects the area figures to
a significant degree. The final product of this phase
is a 3D diagrammatic massing and density model
that simulates street networks, block subdivisions
and open space as well as an indicative building
mass (Figure 7).
In this instance, the script has been arranged to
generate the massing model from building defined
parameters such as street width, building to block
offset and height ranges. As a result, the overall site
figures such as Gross Floor Areas (GFA), Floor Space
Ratio (FSR) and Site coverage are the outputs. This
process can easily be reversed to suit whatever input parameters have been determined as important
during benchmarking phase. The main aim of this
massing process is to use known parameters that
correlate with desired design outcomes to inform
the model and generate a 3D form that can be interrogated on performance at multiple levels of scale.
The benefit of this method, as opposed to manual
techniques, is that at each phase of development
and design variation, both the input and output figures are tabulated (Figure 8).
The 3D model produced by this process can
then be used as the basis for other forms of computational testing that are specific to the schemes design intent. This is intended as a feedback loop in the
design method to continually test and validate ideas
untill a solution is agreed upon and continued into a
more detailed design phase.
Figure 7
3D massing diagram
demonstrating three types of
parametrically generated high
density massing.
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Figure 8
Script excerpt showing a selection of possible output figures
from a single typology and the
total sit.
This paper considers a method for approaching
design through the use of new computational systems. This method has been developed in response
to the increasing complexity in urban scale design
and the inadequacy of traditional design techniques
to produce a rigorous design response. The process
is focused around the definition of parameters that
can drive the design and support better design outcomes. This is intended to encourage design exploration while still maintaining a focus on a desired
goal that meets environmental, economic and social
Advantages of this computational approach
include reduced design and build time, real time
visual analysis with 2d planning and 3d visual representation as well a continuous automated output
of relevant building figures. At each point in this
design method the designers decision making process is accentuated by the digital tools as a means
of addressing design outcomes such as contextual
awareness, social betterment, economic viability
and environmental stability. Without due diligence
in understanding new technologies potential and
developing new techniques for design development, rapid software development will continue to
lead the design industry by the nose.
Batty, M Besussi, E and Chin, N 2003, ‘Traffic, Urban Growth
and Suburban Sprawl’, Working Paper. Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London, UK.
Gröger, G, Kolbe, T, Czerwinski, A 2007, ‘Candidate OpenGIS
CityGML Implementation Specification: City geography markup language’, Open Geospatial Consortium
(OGC), 07-062.
Lowry, I 1965, ‘A Short Course in Model Design’, Journal of
the American Planning Association, 31:2, 158-166.
Mumford, L 1938, (1996), The Culture of Cities, Secker & Warburg, NY, NY, US.
Vincent, C, Nardelli, E, Nardin, L 2010, ‘Parametrics in Mass
Customisation’, SIGRADI Conference Proceedings, Bogota, Colombia, November 17-19.
Schumacher, P, 2009 ‘Parametricism: A new global style for architecture and urban design’, Neil Leach (ed), AD Digital
Cities, Architectural Design Vol 79, No 4, July/August.
Weller, R 2009, Boomtown 2050, UWA Publishing, Perth, WA
White, M 2007, ‘The Plan is an Inadequate Tool for Planning:
Enhancing the Urban Design process through the use
of 3D+ digital tools directed towards sustainability’,
Forum on the application of sustainable theory to urban
development practice, University of Cincinnati, OH, pp.
[1] National Housing Supply Council.: 2011, ‘State of Supply
Report’, thtp://
The authors wish to acknowledge Peter Liebsch
and Daniel Fink from Grimshaw Architects for their
participation in the development of the first phase
parametric design tools.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 165
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Parametric Urban Design
Joining morphology and urban indicators in a single interactive model
José Beirão , Pedro Arrobas , José Duarte
TU Lisbon / TU Delft, Portugal / The Netherlands TU Lisbon, Portugal
123 /,
[email protected] / [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. A parametric urban design system integrating GIS data in a CAD environment
is proposed as a platform for discussing urban plans providing flexibility and information
access in an interactive fashion. The proposed system links calculations of urban
indicators with the parameter manipulation of the layout geometry, therefore allowing
for a systematic update of indicators according to design modifications. Hence, design
may be fine-tuned in an informed manner enhancing the quality of design decisions.
Keywords. Parametric urban design; density studies; design methods.
The design of urban plans is based on decisions beyond their morphological characteristics. Moreover,
the design of urban plans is also informed and constrained by larger scale plans. In urban plans, density
indicators and indices, as well as other co-related parameters are used to bound design within the scope
of a target vision. This practice is common in many
countries. This is due to the fact that density indicators bound construction expectations within values
that although not restrictive in morphology still
convey some qualities to the urban space. The issue
in consideration is not the discussion of relations
between density and urbanity but to consider that
urban designers confront their designs with constraining indicators whether they need to do it for
following higher level regulation constraints, achieving stakeholder expectations or other theoretical or
practical purposes. Furthermore, most stakeholders,
including the final users, do not have the experience
to understand with enough accuracy the meaning
of the values expressed by density indicators. They
need to confront alternative solutions and known
examples against their indicators to grasp what
those numbers might mean in terms of the qualities
foreseen for the urban environment (or vice-versa).
In this paper we show a parametric urban design tool that allows the confrontation of alternative
designs with indicators. The parametric features of
the tool provide a very dynamic design environment where the designer can continuously explore
solutions by changing parameters and the primitive
input geometries. Whilst adjusting and fine-tuning
the design, density indicators are automatically updated.
The research shown in this paper was developed
in the context of a wider research project aimed at
developing tools for formulating, generating and
evaluating urban plans (Duarte et al. 2012). This paper focuses on the generation component showing:
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 167
how it can be used to design; how it can respond to
a given set of goals; and how it uses and produces
density based data that allow qualitative indicators
to be determined.
The main concept stems from the principle that
urban design decisions may be improved by providing more (and more accurate) information about the
design in its context and along the design process.
The idea is that changes in form imply changes in
analytical results of the evolving design in the context. Considering that design is a reflective practice
based on continuous analysis of progressive design moves (Schön, 1987), improving interactivity
between the design model and analytical tools will
certainly enhance the designers’ perception on the
consequences of his/her design decisions. Such improvement may allow the establishment of a more
adequate framework to support the reflective structure of design workflow and simultaneously improve the information supporting decisions.
The tool imports existing data from a database
containing information about a site and its context.
The formulation component defines a set of goals to
achieve. They can be expressed in terms of density
measures to fulfil a description and preferential location of public open spaces and required facilities. On
this base, the designer starts defining the composition of the urban plan by organizing a set of primitive elements represented by points, lines (curves)
or polygons. The design environment is defined in
a parametric design platform in such a way that it
can be readjusted at any time during the design process allowing for a refinement of design goals and
the design itself. We may consider this an interactive
and intuitive process of reflective optimization.
The urban design tool was planned considering
the following goals:
1. The tool should be prepared to deal with a
regular design process fulfilling the typical designer expectations regarding its usability.
2. The tool should be easily applicable to different
design contexts.
3. The tool should provide means to enhance the
designers’ awareness on the consequences of
168 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
design decisions and consequently improve
the quality of urban plans.
4. The tool should be able to use interactively
all existing supporting data during the design
workflow, meaning that the tool should be able
to deal both with data and geometry manipulation.
5. The tool should be able to provide design alternatives including measures or indicators that
may inform an objective comparison between
The tool was developed on a NURBS CAD design
environment (Rhinoceros) and programmed using a
visual parametric programming interface (Grasshopper). This environment defines a design with many
available parameters that can be changed to produce variations in a predefined geometrical structure. In a way, every generated plan is unique with
a unique code. Variations are obtained through the
manipulation of parameters and changes made to
the geometrical model. In this design environment
every urban plan is the result of a particular arrangement between a set of geometric primitives and a
particular set of variable parameters.
Considering that we can find operations in
urban design which are frequently used by practitioners, such operations can be encoded into
modular and reusable algorithms. These algorithms
performing recurrent urban design operations
can be called design patterns (Gamma et al. 1995),
(Woodbury 2010) specialized in urban design. They
have a reasonably high level of abstraction and a
common meaning that designers refer to when describing their designs. Sometimes the professional
community has even agreed to use specific names
for such typical design moves. Placing a landmark
building at the top of a main street or defining a
main axis connecting two landmarks, for instance,
are common concepts among urban designers.
The tool presented in this paper uses such urban design patterns developed as parametric design
components to build up its flexibility. The idea is to
use modular codes replicating typical urban design
actions and build up complex designs combining
and arranging the codes according to the needs of
the design context. In other words, the Grasshopper code is structured into modular pieces of code
with a particular meaning in terms of urban design
which are repeated and combined according to the
tation are shown in (Beirão, Nourian & Mashhoodi,
2011) and (Beirão, Nourian and van Walderveen,
In the translation of grammars based design patterns to parametric design patterns the components
of the grammar are adapted to a parametric format.
In detail, a formal parametric grammar contains an
initial shape, a set of shapes, a set of symbols and a
set of transformation rules (Stiny, 1980). In a parametric shape rule schema α >β a specific values can
be attributed to all the variables defined in α and β.
For instance, in a particular urban grammar and for
specific conceptual reasons a designer may bound
the width of main streets between 15 and 40 meters.
If a rule transforms a composition axis (defined by a
line, polyline or curve) into a main street as shown
in Figure 1a., we can clearly identify the set of elements that we need to turn the rule implementation in to a parametric design pattern, for instance
in Grasshopper. These elements are: (1) an initial
shape represented by a line, polyline or curve drawn
in Rhinoceros design interface and an initial symbol
labelling the shape as an axis a ; (2) a set of transx
formations that transforms the initial shape into the
main street surface and the label a into a label m ,
which identifies the surface as a main street; (3) and
the variable w (street width) which varies between
15 and 40 meters and is defined in Grasshopper with
a slider Figure 1b.
Generically speaking, a urban design pattern in
Rhinoceros + Grasshopper environment generates
a typical and meaningful urban design move and
is composed of an initial shape which can be either
drawn in the Rhinoceros drawing interface or obtained from any previous design operation, a set of
clustered Grasshopper components that transform
the initial design into a partial but meaningful urban
design, and a set of sliders that allow an input of parameters considered as variables of that specific design move. In principle, any shape that can be drawn
The design patterns used in the implementation
of the parametric design model shown in the next
section were adapted from the previous research
developed in the context of the City Induction project (Duarte et al., 2012). This adaptation follows a
translation of grammar based design patterns called
urban induction patterns (Beirão et al., 2011) to
parametric urban design patterns. Urban induction
patterns (UIPs) are generative urban design patterns based on parallel discursive grammars (Duarte,
2005). The details about UIPs can be read on (Beirão
et al., 2011) and (Beirão et al., forthcoming). The authors identify six sets of thematic UIPs that complete
an urban plan. The six themes are: (A) the creation
of composition guidelines like main axes, landmarks
and other kinds of initial composition elements;
(B) the creation of urban grids such as rectangular,
regular or radial grids; (C) transformations in the grid
network; (D) the creation of public space like different types of squares and plazas; (E) the generation
of urban units such as neighbourhoods, blocks or
building clusters; and (F) others like the management of land use distribution, building intensity or
simple details like street design and urban policies
regarding material finishes. Within these thematic
sets several UIPs have been developed following a
discursive grammar structure such as the latter mentioned papers. A reasonably accurate implementation of that structure was previously implemented
in AutoCAD (Beirão et al., 2010) using the VBA and
VLisp application programming interfaces (API) but
the implementation proved to be slower and less
interactive than initially desired. This was the main
reason why an adaptation of the same structure was
later started using the NURBS CAD + Visual Programming environment. The first steps of this implemen-
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 169
Figure 1
Left: a parametric shape rule
transforms a composition axis
a into a main street m with
width w.
Right: the same transformation using a parametric design
in Rhinoceros and read by Grasshopper can be used
as an initial shape, but for guaranteeing interoperability with GIS only points, lines, polylines, curves
and polygons are considered. To distinguish them
from initial shapes in shape grammars, we shall call
them design primitives.
Let us consider that we obtain reliable geographic
data about a particular site from a local provider. A
regular workflow will comply with the following procedures:
The data is stored in a PostgreSQL database (see
Figure 2). The database (DB) can be accessed both
by a GIS and a Visual Programming Interface (VPI), in
this case Grasshopper. The VPI imports the data using a database query component, Slingshot (http://,
provides an SQL query interface that enables a selective access to the data stored in the DB. This includes the shape files of pre-existing constructions
and thoroughfares as well as an identification of an
intervention boundary – the site area represented
through its boundary, a polygon. If required, all data
can be edited and replaced in the DB. Previews of
the existing data can be visualized the design interface by querying data from the DB and connecting
them (e.g.: extruding building height from building
footprint – Figure 3).
170 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
The site can be subdivided in many sub-areas
represented by smaller polygons. Depending
on the design problem and design context
these polygons can be defined either by scripting in the VPI or drawing.
The main guidelines of the plan or main streets
can be drawn in the CAD interface adding
curves to the drawing environment using a design pattern such as the one shown in Figure
The design process flows by adding design
primitives to the CAD drawing environment.
Curves can be associated with street parameters – a street width for each street hierarchy
(See Figure 1a. and Figure 4a.). Polygons are
associated with an intervention area to which
a grid and respective parameters are assigned.
Additional geometry may be used to filter areas for different rule attribution or even to define landmark buildings. Points can be used to
place exceptional buildings in a grid – public
buildings and other facilities – or to locate public open spaces (see Figure 4b, c and d). Points
can also be used to filter particular instances in
the model to which one may later apply different rules. This functionality allows fine-tuning
locally the overall plan adjusting it to very detailed conditions.
Equal or separate parameters can be attributed to the design primitives depending on
the plan’s needs. This can be managed by using
one or multiple design patterns taking advantage of modularity of the design pattern concept.
The model built in this manner is continuously
adaptable due to the parametric structure provided by the design environment. Polygons
can be changed by pulling the grip points. The
same applies to curves allowing reshaping and
relocating streets. And points can also be relocated. The fact is: the design can be always in
Figure 2
Design system structure.
the uneven distribution, all blocks can have different densities but managing this diversity is easy because all data is available and editable at any time.
Using this information support and the model’s
geometrical flexibility the designer can continuously fine-tune the design adjusting it to the goals predefined in a pre-design programming phase (Montenegro et al., 2011).
Additionally, following similar premises as for
density distribution, the model provides a simulation of a land use programme throughout the plan
Figure 5. The designer may interpret the results
through the visual and data interfaces and use the
results to set regulations for the plan.
All the data generated by the model can then
be sent to the database from which other evaluation
tools can perform several evaluation routines checking other indicators against predefined reference
cases (Gil et al., 2011). These procedures can consolidate a tangible meaning to the proposed solution.
However, the evaluation procedures are performed
considering a single solution. In any case once the
evaluation is concluded the design can be reviewed
by further fine tuning the model and adjusting it to
new intended goals.
As soon as the geometric model defines construction within an area, the calculation core of the software provides accurate measures of the model. The
measures are density based indicators following the
calculation model defined in Berghauser-Pont and
Haupt (2010). These density indicators are expressed
visually in the model using a colour code (see Figure 4e and f), and numerically in the data interface
(Figure 6). The density distribution in a plan can be
equal, linear or uneven following a parabolic function that redistributes density according to a set of
urban attractors previously defined by the designer.
The calculations are updated at each change of the
geometrical model allowing for a continuous feedback on design decisions. The density indicators are
calculated at district level and block level. Due to
Quoting Schumacher (2010): “Parametricism implies
that all architectural elements and complexes are
parametrically malleable”. The approach of this definition is limited to a formal viewpoint; it is simply
presented as a matter of style. Schumacher extends
the concept to urbanism, coining the term parametric urbanism but again simplifies urbanism to a matter of formal style. The concept viewed this way is
highly questionable. It could even be reasoned that
in urbanism form does not really matter. Some authors support such argument by showing that traditional organic urban tissues, where form emerges as
a naturally self-organized order, provide some of the
best known and appreciated urban environments
(Alexander 1979), (Jacobs 1961), (Barton et al. 2003).
More recently, and more accurately pinpointing
where the misunderstanding of the term parame-
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 171
tricism lies, Mehaffy (2011) calls Schumacher’s approach as “morphogenetic urban design” and interestingly suggests more objectively valid approaches
to the concept by relating how Alexander’s patterns
(1977) or Duany and Plater-Zyberk’s smart codes
(2005) may relate to an algorithmic approach to urban design. In this paper we argue that parametric
urbanism must involve other kinds of parameters
than formal ones and rather integrate dynamically
Figure 3
Data import components and
its visualization in the CAD
interface. The existing buildings within the study area are
using information about the
number of floors, also available in the DB, to generate the
3D preview.
Figure 4
CAD interface. Workflow.
(a) existing buildings and
(b) exception areas;
(c) landmark buildings and
open spaces; and
d) landmark buildings. Density
visualization –
(e) perspective and
(f) plan.
172 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Figure 5
Distribuition of residential use
according to a set of predefined attractor weights.
all available information to support design decision.
The goal is not to produce malleable forms, but to
relate changes in form with information related with
all kinds of urban dynamics. This may be obtained
by connecting form, topology and every kind of
social data in an interactive design platform where
meaningful indicators may be calculated and updated in relation with design trial proposals.
Form may not be the essential aspect of urbanism, however, the practice shows that decision is
mainly done based on layout proposals and designs
definitely propose territorial transformations that
somehow reshape or extend the urban environment. The important issues though, rely on relations
between form and other kinds of data, namely on
what those transformations mean in terms of densification, connectivity, traffic flows, people’s flows,
parking needs, as well as other less objective qualities like integration or economical impacts. Decision-making is essentially supported on information
gathered on several of these aspects pondering the
pros and cons of trial solutions. As in any design process, the design problem formulation is informed
from trial solutions as much as from analysis (Lawson, 2006), and therefore an efficient design system
should provide ways of assessing an evolving solution rather than simply a final layout. The tools and
methods proposed in this paper provide an intuitive
reflective optimization process which is likely to im-
prove the quality and sustainability of urban design
decisions. Furthermore, urban design decision involves many people who have different understanding and different views of the problem; consequently, a dynamic platform where the design model may
be easily manipulated and data may be constantly
updated can provide a good comprehensive platform on which different stakeholders may reach an
objective discussion protocol. Such process may
also be considered as more suitable for supporting a
democratically acceptable decision process.
Our idea of parametric urban design is concerned
with the exploration of urban morphology and
simultaneously generated calculations on which
decision is supported. Such kind of information allows also that other stakeholders may easily grasp
the relations between specific formal approaches
and density goals. In the end, the tool provides not
only formal solutions, but also a discussion platform
upon which a set of stakeholders may discuss urban
concepts and support their decisions. From the designer viewpoint it provides continuous fine-tuning
in a reflective optimization process.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 173
Figure 6
Density indicators at block
level and district level (according to Berghauser-Pont and
Haupt (2010).
Figure 7
Pie charts indicating the
distribution of land use
programme at district level
and for block number 109. The
block information is selected
by the designer as needed. A
sphere flags the selected block
in the CAD interface.
This research was developed in the context of
the City Induction project funded by Fundação
para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal (PTDC/
AUR/64384/2006), hosted by ICIST at TU Lisbon, and
coordinated by José Duarte. Beirão was funded by
FCT, grant SFRH/BD/39034/2007. The authors would
like to thank N. Montenegro, J. Gil, and P. Nourian for
their essential contributions to the research. Parts
of the implementation shown in the paper were coauthored with P. Nourian. Beirão would like to thank
R. Stouffs, H. Bekkering and S. Sariyildiz for their supervision at TU Delft.
Alexander, C et al. 1977. A pattern language, Oxford Univ. Pr.
Alexander, C 1979. The timeless way of building, Oxford University Press, USA.
Barton, H and Grant, M and Guise, R., 2003. Shaping neighbourhoods: a guide for health, sustainability and vitality,
Beirão, J et al., forthcoming. Designing with Urban Induction Patterns - A methodological approach. Environment and Planning B, accepted Nov. 14th, 2011.
Beirão, J et al., 2010. Implementing a Generative Urban Design Model. In eCAADe 2010 Conference: Future Cities.
pp. 265.
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Beirão, J., Nourian, P. and Mashhoodi, B., 2011. Parametric urban design: An interactive sketching system for
shaping neighborhoods. In Proceedings of the Conference eCAADe 2011. Ljubljiana.
Beirão, J., Nourian, P. and van Walderveen, B., 2011. Parametric ‘Route Structure’ Generation and Analysis: an
interactive design system application for urban design.
In IASDR 2011. Delft.
Beirão, J.N., Duarte, J.P. and Stouffs, R., 2011. Creating Specific Grammars with Generic Grammars: Towards Flexible Urban Design. Nexus Network Journal, pp.1–39.
Berghauser-Pont, B. and Haupt, P., 2010. Spacematrix.
Space, Density and Urban Form, NAI.
Duany, A. and Plater-Zyberk, E., 2005. Smart Code, Version.
Duarte, J.P., 2005. A discursive grammar for customizing
mass housing: the case of Siza’s houses at Malagueira.
Automation in construction, 14(2), pp. 265–275.
Duarte, J.P. et al., 2012. City Induction: formulating, generating, and evaluating urban plans. In Digital Urban
Modelling and Simulation. CCIS Series Communications
in Computer and Information Science Series. SpringerVerlag.
Gamma, E. et al., 1995. Design patterns: elements of reusable
object-oriented software, Addison-wesley Reading, MA.
Gil, Jorge, Almeida,, J. and Duarte, J.P., 2011. The backbone
of a City Information Model (CIM): Implementing a spatial data model for urban design. In Proceedings of the
Conference eCAADe 2011. Ljubljiana. pp.143-151.
Jacobs, J., 1961. The death and life of great American cities,
Lawson, B., 2006. How designers think, Architectural press.
Mehaffy, M.W., 2011. A City is Not a Rhinoceros: On the
Aims and Opportunities of Morphogenetic Urban Design. Built Environment, 37(4), pp.479–496.
Montenegro, N. et al., 2011. An OWL2 Land Use Ontology:
LBCS. In Computational Science and Its Applications
ICCSA 2011 Lecture Notes in Computer Science. ICCSA
2011. pp. 185‐198.
Schön, DA 1987. Educating the reflective practitioner, JosseyBass.
Schumacher, P., 2010. The Parametricist Epoch: Let the Style
Wars Begin. Available at:
Stiny, G., 1980. Introduction to shape and shape grammars.
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 7(3),
pp. 343 – 351.
Woodbury, R 2010. Elements of parametric design, Routledge.
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176 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Schizoanalytical Digital Modelling for Urban Design
Incorporating the indexed keys methodology into the anthropological
analyses of urban structures
Małgorzata Hanzl
Technical University of Lodz, Poland
[email protected]
Abstract. Schizoanalytical digital modelling serves description of processes occurring
in urban settings. Schizoanalysis serves to ‘meta-model’ the everyday world around
us, where ‘meta’ means inclusion of different perspectives. The paper formulates
few hyphotheses concerning the relation between the crowd of people representing a
specific culture and the urban settings, which constitute their habitus. The methodology
of analysis of urban structure is proposed, which is based on the urban closures
cross-sections analysis with the use of Line of Site method (LOs), as complimentary to the
Space Syntax methodology of pedestrian simulation and analysis of field of sight, based
on isovists. The paper presents the results of the descriptive analysis of the former Jewish
district in Lodz, research on which is to be developed with the methodology proposed.
Keywords. Anthropology; schizoanalyses; geomatics; urban design; urban morphology.
Schizoanalytical digital modelling serves to describe
processes occurring in urban settings (McGrath
2008, p.198). Guattari defines the analytical aim of
schizoanalysis as a shift away from prescribed ways
of thinking within disciplinary structures of representation, by instead ‘fashioning new coordinates for
reading and for “bringing to life” hitherto unknown
representations and propositions’ (Guattari 1998,
p.433, after McGrath 2008, p 201). “Each stratum, or
articulation, consists of coded milieus and form substances. Forms and substance, codes and milieus are
not really distinct. They are the abstract components
of every articulation.” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987,
p.502). Schizoanalysis serves to ‘meta-model’ the
everyday world around us, where ‘meta’ means inclusion of different perspectives (Guattari 1989).
The human presence in social spaces may be divided into flows and concentrations: flows are connected with movement/traffic and are related to
space, following the definition by Yi Fu Tuan (2001).
Concentrations enable contact and communication
processes. They are static rather than dynamic, thus
place related. Both types are closely interrelated,
they inseparably interpenetrate each other. Whenever the human flow stops for a moment concentration occurs, though interrelations require more
comfortable conditions to take place, among others:
time and spatial arrangement. The development of
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 177
methodology, which may allow for understanding
how urban spaces are formed, through interaction
of various forces and flows, acting at different intensities and speeds, requires incorporating research
of several specific disciplines. In terms of the theory
formulated by Lynch (1960) flows may be treated as
paths and concentrations as nodes.
Anthropological concept of situation.
In anthropology situation is defined as a theatre of
human activities (Perinbanayagam 1974). Goffman
(1963, p.18) refers to a situation as to “the full spatial environment anywhere within which an entering
person becomes a member of the gathering that is (or
does then become) present”. Anthropologists developed elaborated theory on ways how a site is converted into a meaningful ‘place’, by inscribing human
activities into the surroundings. The relationship between people and sites encompasses both: attaching meaning to space and “recognition and cultural
elaboration of perceived properties of environments
in mutually constituting ways through narrative and
praxis” (Lawrence and Low, 2009, p. 14). Schumacher
(2011) states that the role of architecture is to frame
social communication and “to continuously adapt
and re-order society via contributing to the continuous
provision and innovation of the built environment as
a framing system of organised and articulated spatial
relations”(Schumacher 2011, p. 414). Thomas, who
introduced the concept of situation in the 1920s, defined it as a “constellation of the factors determining
the behaviour” (Thomas 1937, p.8 after Schumacher
2011, p.420). The morphological approach (Panarais
et al., 2009) refers this concept to the urban structure introducing the not oncept of spatial logic of
space. A comprehensive set of features allowing for
making characteristics of physical structures, including the culture related ones, was developed, among
others, by Rapoport (1990, pp.106-107).
Perception of city scapes
Direct contact with the environment allows for observation and validation. The development of theories referring to urban perception started with Lynch
178 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
(1960, 1994) and Debord (1950). The theoretical
body for the studies is derived from Lynch’s theory
of perception (1960), Rodwin and Lynch (1991) distinguish two types of urban structures: spaces of
flows and by the British Picturesque School (Cullen
2008), concentrating on elements of urban scapes
presented in detailed scale, allowed to enrich this
methodology. Currently, concentration on the human perception of cityscape became a common approach along with the development of postmodernism and postFordism and it is also often connected
with the psycho-geographical examinations of the
urban settings.
The perception and evaluation of urban scapes
express the spirit of the particular era and remain a
subject of the beauty canons (Lotthian 1999). During the 20th century, this process occurred mostly in
the case of modernist transformations of downtown
areas, where former structures, particularly from
the 19th century – perceived as obsolete – were replaced. The changes and differences in beauty canons follow the mental interpretation of perceived
images (Adorno 2011), (Strzemiński 1974). The important issue, which influences the perception of
city structures, is the cultural background of citizens
and designers. Proxemics, constituting a part of the
anthropological approach, relates the human environment to the behavioural patterns proper for distinguished cultures. The differences in personal distances influence both the perception of space and
its production (Hall 1966; 2009).
The paper seeks to develop the methodology for
the analyses of the former Jewish district in Lodz. In
the 19th century the district served as a habitat of
the multiethnic society, in which Jews constituted
a majority (Hanzl 2011; Hanzl 2012a). The transformation processes, which started during the World
War II and continued during the socialism period,
prove the presence of utterly different approaches,
as a result of both civilisation changes and cultural
differences. The numerous studies concerning the
culture of Jewish emigrants from the areas of Eastern Europe deal with the characteristic features of
the life in small towns, villages and districts of bigger cities defining them under the same notion of
‘the shtetl’ (Zborowski and Herzog, 1962; Ertel 2011;
Wirth 1962).
Former analyses of urban morphology of
The analyses of urban morphology in Poland was
based so far on the methodology of MRG Conzen
and was developed for Lodz by Koter (among others:
1979, 1984). Conzenian research (2004), developed
further by, e.g., Whitehand et al. (2000), concentrated on examination of the urban structure mostly
in its plan aspects, against the economic and social
background, looking for relations between the city,
its inhabitants and the dynamics of city construction
(Vernez Moudon 1997, p.4). The lack of analyses of
the physical form pointed by Bandini (2000, p.133)
doesn’t allow for examination of the appearance of
urban scapes, which constitutes an element of culture. The character of constructions in the given area
was characterised in Hanzl (in press).
The descriptions, frequent in literature, indicate
at the presence of narrow, “circulating” back- streets
of the downtown part of Bałuty district and of the
Old City as at an example of spontaneous development (Friedman 1935, p.94). An attempt has been
made to define a certain set of features proper to
the area, describing its morphological structure
(Hanzl 2011, 2011a), which is repeated in most Polish towns and neighbourhoods populated by Jews
(Dylewski 2003; Hanzl in press a). The case study re-
Figure 1
Non-existing appearance
of the central part of the old
Jewiash district contrasted
with the contemporary figureground map:
1. buildings in 1939,
2. buildings in 2010,
3. parcels in 1939,
4. parcels in 2010,
5. lines of frontages – 1939,
6. distant landmarks – 1939,
7. landmarks – 1939,
8. locations of different activities – 1939.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 179
fers mainly to the areas of the Old Town and of the
central part of Nowe Bałuty. Some features proper
for Jewish concentration concerned also the area
of Nowe Miasto, established in 1821-1823 by Rajmund Rembieliński, though the level of assimilation
processes of the society living there, the mixing of
different groups and the character of spaces represented different stages of urbanisation processes
(Wirth 1938).
The juxtaposition of various spatial traits within
the neighbouring areas as well as the comparison
of planned transformations allow to distinguish features proper to each period and some of the cultural
differences. The analyses of chosen places within
the district – the index keys, basing, among others,
on archive photographs, provide important data on
how spaces were used; the characteristic of relations
between the types of activities and forms of spaces
allows to formulate the conclusions indicating at a
culture-specific character of the urban spaces. The
basic assumptions to the description of the character of space may be defined basing on the analyses
of the main elements of urban structure as defined
by Lynch: landmarks, paths, districts, nodes and
edges [Fig.1]. The characteristics of public spaces of
streets, alleys, nooks and squares – paths and nodes,
according to Lynch’s terminology, where the most
important flows and encounters take place, may
provide the basics for the description of the situation-dependent context.
Theory of seeing – index keys concept
Like in paintings of Van Gogh, the seeing is concentrated around few key points, which define the
way, how a scene is perceived (Strzemiński 1974),
the analyses should provide the observation of processes: flows and forces, and concentrate on their
key points. The situations, which are the most important for definition of cultural character, thus the
moments of human interactions, particularly attract
the researcher attention (Hall 2009). The clue activities important for the specific cultures remain often
180 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
unnoticeable for foreigners, that is the reason why
photographs and pictures effectuated by native observers are indispensable. The methodology of key
points, analogue to the anthropological method of
making photographs by native observers, who are
able to notice the clue activities important for their
cultures and often unnoticeable for foreigners, allows for observation of socially meaningful activities, responsible for cultural specific environments’
The implementation of the key points’ methodology as an addendum to the method of analysing
the urban scapes with the use of isovists proposed
by Benedikt (1979). assumes the choice of the most
obvious perspectives when observing the environment, which for urban spaces means choosing these
view axes, which provide cross-sections perpendicular to the main axe of a given path. The analyses of
the cross-section and of the silhouettes may, e.g. use
the highly efficient methodology proposed by Gal,
Doytsher (2012), which allows to extract the Line of
Sight (LOS) of groups of buildings.
The proposed methodology of path analysis
assumes examination of the cross- sections, which
may obviously change along the path providing the
street silhouette. The points of change of cross-sections as well as the points of change of axe direction
– as in the axial analyses developed as part of Space
Syntax methodology (Hillier and Hanson, 2003; Hillier 2007) provide an interesting insight defining the
space. Their distribution along the path axe as well
as the range of changes (e.g. of height) shows the
variety of streetscape, allows to identify the width
of frontages, etc. The regularity of key points distribution confirms the presence of rhythms in urban
space. Their clusters evidence the presence of nodes.
The proposed methodology provides addit
ional analysis of public/ social spaces in their most
important/ key points and may be complimentary
to the Space Syntax – a method of examination
of physical spaces provided by Hillier and Hanson (2003) and further developed by Hillier (2007)
and researchers all over the world. The basis of
the method is derived from the traditionally used
Figure 2
Drawing analysis - first
verification of the assumed
methodology. Photos from
State Archives in Lodz.
method of description of urban closures (Jacobs
1995). The method itself answers to some points of
the critics of the Space Syntax methodology as provided by Ratti (2004), among others tries to answer
the question of geometrical description of buildings
as forming urban settings, including their size, shape
and distribution. It also remains complementary
to the method of space partitioning and recording
properties of the isovist fields associated with paths
proposed by Batty (2001). The depth of space, as defined by Benedikt (1979) may be analysed as an additional resource.
Crowd assessment
The analysis of the key points distribution associated with paths should also follow the methodology. The thesis is made that there is an observable
correlation of the distribution of key points in the
urban settings and the distribution of people, who
are everyday users of the given settings, forming a
pedestrian flow. Thus te proxemics distances as described by Hall (1966; 2009) find their reflection in
the streets and squares walls’ shape. According to
Strzemiński (1974) artistic creation, including the
architectural one, uses the apparatus of perception
which is being developed when watching people’s
distribution, and it is where he looks for the explanation of this adjustment. Groups of people forming a
crowd are usually described as clustered, spaced or
scattered (Fridman, Kaminka, 2007). The interpersonal distances are related to the cultural conditions
of a given community. The hypothesis is made that
the consistency of urban pattern discussed by Hillier
(2009) are a consequence of the rules of crowd behaviour constituting part of a given culture.
The use of linguistic variables, as referred by
fuzzy logic (Berthold 2007, p.323), to define the
features, which may be described as belonging to a
given population allows for analysis of lay notions. In
the analysis of flow systems the clear cut edges between the flows – paths of movement - and nodes
- places of encounters - are usually not applicable.
Thus the description of the schizoanalytical process
may use the fuzzy logic methodology. The features
distribution may also use the GIS continuous data
Shape of public spaces, sequential analysis
- General features
The examination of the character of public spaces
as they are perceived by observers, in the case of
scapes, which do not exist in their original form, includes mainly the analysis of archival photographs.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 181
The subject of analysis is first the shape of the public realm itself – in 2D plan, cross-section and street
silhouette. Moreover the sequences of views in time
and character of buildings itself should be analysed.
The essential features of the outdoor space,
characteristic for the given area refer to the issues of
scale and dimensions. The narrowness of streets and
presence of numerous slight turns and directional
differentiation, providing the notion of concavity, thus closing the perspective and assuring perceived and felt closure, are factors favouring direct
physical interaction. Gehl (2009) indicates at small
dimensions of spaces as favourable for establishing
relations. The irregularity of enclosures of streets,
their broken line, the apparent lack of precise form,
which enlarged the amount of border space, where
people stop more willingly than in the centre of an
open space, facilitates transactions, presentations
of goods, etc. The abundance of such spaces enabled the location of numerous outdoor, commercial
furniture: stalls, kiosks, stands and presentations
encouraging buying. Furthermore, purchase was encouraged by the merchants’ activity; by the way, not
all methods were upright . The aforementioned behaviours are also the most successful in narrow and
intimate places; even in the comparably wide streets
such as Zgierska or Łagiewnicka the pavements remained narrow.
Whyte (2009) defines the set of features of
outdoor space favouring contacts and fostering
relations pointing at the location inside of the human flow. Gehl (2009, p.150) underlines the role of
the corrugation of the edge of space (through the
presence of elements of urban equipment and the
shape of walls themselves) as a feature important
for enhancing communal life. In the case of the discussed area the tightness of some places, the complication of wall shapes, the apparent chaos could
hinder concentration and easiness of perception by
persons from outside, which could in turn facilitate
transactions profitable for sellers (not necessarily
for buyers). Attracting passers-by, was fostered by
the presence of numerous small size elements in
the outdoor space, providing sham shelter – Cullen
182 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
(2008, pp.103-105) describes this phenomena using
the example of a street „cross”, the main function of
which was to stop pedestrians. Here such role, less
formal, was fulfilled by outhouses and stalls. Whyte
(2009) confirms the observation concerning the attractiveness of elements freely distributed in the
outdoor space.
The ubiquity of commerce
The basic character of the area of concern may be
defined as the ubiquity of commerce. The space of
commerce was not restricted to the main square, it
was present in the neighbouring streets and passages. The assortment of goods covered all branches.
Frequent protrusions of buildings, especially of commercial and service use (gastronomy, etc) additionally influenced the presence of service in the public
sphere, and thus improved the effectiveness of sale.
Very rational management of space, lack of space
without prescribed use, frequent overlapping and
synergy of different uses of the same space completed the above picture. Limited scale both of streets
and squares, which on the one hand facilitated the
development of commerce, and on the other was
related to the smaller interpersonal distances, than
in case of other nations. Jews often choose the settlement location in the direct proximity of commercial places. After settling, they usually redeveloped
their environment introducing enhancements with
regard to the requirements of commerce.
Analyses of the sociometric layout
The physical structures, in the Jewish period, due
to the breaks in the lines of frontages surrounding most of the blocks, allowed for enriching of the
initial network of streets with numerous passages,
small squares, nooks, completing the official sociometric layout with the possibility of informal circulation in the area. The actual network of passages was
thus richer than the layout of streets, laid out as part
of the initial parcellation. Hillier and Hanson (2003,
pp.53-66) indicate at the relation between the characteristic of a given society and the sociometric layout, which is created by the group.
The dense network of curvy streets, alleys, nooks,
passages and pedestrian ways, including informal
passages through private properties is a feature
characteristic for the whole of the discussed area –
also in the part of Nowe Miasto inhabited by Jews
the number of such junctions is higher than elsewhere. The density of the street network is a feature, which Jacobs (1992) qualifies as facilitating
the development of all kinds of services, especially
commerce in the ground floor of buildings, as it
stimulates pedestrian movement. Most of the connections remained mostly pedestrian, which fostered the presentation of goods and making deals.
Issues related to proxemics
The proxemics approach, presented by Hall (2009)
and his successors, examines the relation of spatial
patterns of usage of space in different cultures with
the material environment. The differences between
morphological structures representing various cultures are particularly apparent in cities, which like
Lodz had become a melting pot of many cultures.
Hall (2009) identifies direct relationships between
interpersonal distances and other characteristics
specific to individuals and communities and the way
they shape their own physical environment. Hillier
and Hanson (2003, p.27) refer to the usage of space
and the patterns of behaviour appropriate for different communities and ethnic groups as the determinants of the final shape of urban structures. According to Hillier (2009) city is seen as a system of visual
distances, which is strongly influenced both by perception and personal distances.
In nomadic tribes, the members of which are
accustomed to residing in small spaces, social distances are usually smaller than in other groups. Assessment based on the descriptions of the crowd in
literature, e.g.: Singer (2010) or photos of the Ashkenazi Jewish population, which once used to live in
Lodz, correspond to that characteristic. The typical
for the most of former Jewish towns and districts
limited scale of outdoor spaces, narrowness of the
passages and nooks, often even narrowed because
of introduction of additional trade facilities also fit
into this characteristics.
The analyses of crowd basing on the methodology proposed by Siddiqui and Gwynne (2012),
and with the use of the archive photographs, allow to distinguish apparent clusters of people, who
grouped also when moving. Thus the narrowness of
sidewalks. The network analysis of pedestrians allows to characterise crowd as clustered.
Perception as a factor influencing the creation of space
Strzemiński (1974) pointed at the evolution of the
visual awareness along with the development of
civilisation. The visual awareness was transformed
together with the changes of the socio-cultural settings. He noticed the result of economic and technical factors as well as the social structure proper for
the given group of people, in the defined historical
context. The notion of visual awareness, understood
as the “cooperation of seeing and thinking” emphasises the role of cognitive absorption of perceived
visual stimuli. Strzemiński (1974) identifies two ways
of development of the visual awareness. In the rural cultures, it is the observation of the interior of
an object, which finds its expression in the studies
of nature. The second form was a silhouette vision,
which developed from the primitive contour observation in economies based on hunting and breeding
animals, that is in tribes accustomed to vast open
spaces. The derivative of the silhouette vision was
the perspective of simple parallel projection, and,
in the further stage, the development of rhythm,
including architectural rhythmisation, as a consequence of inclusion of the afterimage phenomena,
natural for the perception processes taking place
in vast open spaces. Another form of seeing, which
was particularly apparent in communities, whose
main occupation was commerce was seeing concentrated on ware attributes, with the emphasis on
the texture and weight of objects, usually devoid
of larger perspective. The preserved iconography,
mainly paintings by Jewish artists contemporary to
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 183
the development of the ‘shtetl’ culture, confirms the
assumption on their belonging to this group. The
shape of urban settings analysed above also confirms the thesis about concentration on the content
rather than on external appearance of activities and
environment itself.
Adorno (2011, p.5) points at the role of artworks
as medium reflecting the unconscious aspects of
culture: „Artworks are afterimages of empirical life
insofar as they help the latter to what is denied them
outside their own sphere and thereby free it from that
to which they are condemned by reified external experience.” The same refers to the urban settings, which
perceived by a group of users answer their needs,
including the aesthetic criteria.
Lévi-Strauss (1954, pp.137-8) describes the city as
“the most complex of human inventions, (…) at the
confluence of nature and artefact”. The subject of
investigations are the tangible results of social and
economic forces, the outcomes of ideas and intentions expressed in actions, which are themselves
governed by cultural traditions (Vernez-Moudon
1997, p.3). Experiencing of culture may be effectuated via examination of its influence on the physical
form of the city: spaces of flows and built-up places.
The everyday uses of space constitute the most
important part of activities analysed (Lawrence, Low
1999). Hillier (2009) defines the term of ‘spatial emergence’ as “the network of space that links the buildings together into a single system acquires emergent
structure from the ways in which objects are placed
and shaped within it”. An important factor influencing the creation of social spaces is the way, they are
perceived. The seeing awareness is an unconscious
mental process, which allows for filtering out of
what is seen including the culture-related setting.
The perception of images and the beauty canons
remain culture specific, which refers also to the urban settings, directly influencing their shape. At the
same time pedestrian behaviour remains influenced
both by behaviour of other people – thus analysis of
crowd behaviour is necessary as well as the analysis
184 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
of the perceived space in the field under observation. In this the analysis of LOS (Light of Sight), which
may refer to the cross-section studies, seems the
most important. The paper proposes the methodology for analysis based on LOS studies and crowd
behaviour assessment and provides some initial
observation confirming the influence of culture and
everyday usage of space for shaping the settings referred in this study. Further research is planned with
the aim to develop the proposed methodology for
the chosen case.
Panerai et al (2009) propose a concept of habitus, which seams significant for the present considerations, and which assumes that urban structure, as
reflecting the repetitions of social practices of everyday life, becomes the form of record of these practices. With time, the recorded layout may become a
contribution to the further continuation of the former way of use of space – and this case takes place
in Lodz. In a globalising world man must find out
how “basic cultural systems such as time and space are
used to organise behaviour.” (Hall 1989, p.55) – this
conclusion starts to influence contemporary urban
design thought as numerous studies show (Schumacher, 2011; Jones, 2007). The thread of cultural
studies imports a viable resource to the proposal
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Parametric Building Typologies for San Francisco Bay
A conceptual framework for the implementation of design code building
typologies towards a parametric procedural city model
Antje Kunze , Julia Dyllong , Jan Halatsch , Paul Waddell , Gerhard Schmitt
Chair of Information Architecture, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Department of City and
Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley, US
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
edu, [email protected]
Abstract.This research paper concentrates on a conceptual framework for the creation
of high-level procedural city models. A workflow is presented, which enables users to
create city models in an intuitive way by using design-code-driven building typologies.
This drastically advances traditional procedural city modelling where usually low-level
implementations of city model components take place. New planning methods and
instruments have to be developed for the growing demand of the rapid environmental,
social and economic changes in cities and agglomerations. The presented method allows
for quick visualization and iteration by using urban planning typologies.
Keywords. Procedural Modeling; Design Codes; Urban Planning; City Modeling;
Decision-making process
The goal of the presented framework is (a) to provide a better way of communication between decision-makers such as planning experts, urban designers, policy makers and lay people and (b) to develop
an instrument that supports interactive prediction
of urban plans. With the presented method experts
and residents are enabled to exchange opinions on
presented urban scenarios and use design codes for
intuitive iterations during design charettes. In the
presented examples, building types of the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA), US will be analyzed in relation
to the public and private structures, the transportation network and the urban design aspects. Further-
more, urban design parameters and guidelines will
be generalized and implemented into a rule-based,
high-level typology catalogue for procedural city
models (Dyllong, 2012). Finally, this paper will give
practical insights on procedural city modeling concepts for advancing curricula as well as researchers
and practitioners.
For sustainable urban planning, system-engineering
approaches are needed to create a shared and holistic view on urban scenarios. The development of
high-level abstraction techniques can support the
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 187
Figure 1
Final visualization of the
building type co cllection
for San Francisco Bay Area
(Bingyi Li).
structuring of planning proposals as well as the resulting city model visualizations. Up to date, design
codes are commonly used to simplify abstract legal
rules. Those only exist as figurative descriptions in
drawings of a specific planning regulation problem,
e.g., the distance spaces on a lot within a zoning
plan. On the other hand, parametric and procedural
city models are becoming more and more important
in urban planning and design (Kunze et. al, 2011).
Solutions from Autodesk, McNeel and Esri are setting the industry standard for city modeling. However these tools are still not intuitive enough and
especially switching scenarios or single typologies
cannot be easily performed within design charettes.
In our work, we present a first approach on how
design codes can be efficiently used to steer and refine generic procedural 3D city models in order to
easily arrive at detailed urban scenarios. The created
3D visualization models of urban planning scenarios
can be then used as an interface for an improved
dialogue between stakeholders (Urban Vision, 2012,
Kunze and Schmitt, 2010). The approach will be presented using Esri CityEngine as an implementation
example. Procedures are described of how existing
zoning laws are analyzed and then converted into
structured CityEngine language scripts – CGA – to
build a typology catalogue that can be then composed into digital urban visualization models.
188 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
The San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) has been selected
as an example for a proof-of-concept implementation. Design codes play a historical role in SFBA since
the well-known ‘Queen Anne’ houses (Weingarten,
2004). However, more recent design codes – a.k.a
‘form-based codes’ – are commonly used to associate building laws with development scenarios. In
order to detect the most relevant typologies in the
SFBA, the main building types of the Bay Area were
categorized with a design code mechanism. The result has been a typology classification consisting of
the building typologies, which mostly influence the
SFBA. These detected typologies are transferred into
parametric models inside CityEngine on four levels:
Building, parcel, urban block, and street canyon. Using this structure, the typologies can be combined
and easily modified, e.g., to probe densification
scenarios. In addition, they can be transferred to
related planning applications in other cities. Since
the resulting 3D city models are easily adjustable, it
is possible to create a variety of high quality urban
scenarios using the parametric building typologies.
Design codes in urban planning
Design codes represent a set of design and planning regulations including zoning rules, density and
open space standards, building and street typologies to different local characteristics, building height
and materials and rules (Carmona et al., 2006). Design codes relate to urban design quality aspects,
like accessibility, connectivity, legibility and identity.
Codes give a conceptual vision like a common language and a set of instructions for the development
of urban settings. There are several contemporary
design codes available worldwide, especially in the
UK, driven through the ‘Sustainable Communities’
growth program of the UK government to deliver
better designed and more sustainable built environments and in the North America, where within the
New Urbanism initiative new developments were
built on the basis on form-based codes and particular based on design codes. A main advantage of
design codes to the standard written zoning laws is
the visual 3D representation of the developments
(Carmona et al, 2006). Beyond that, strong synergies
can be identified between planning practices using
design codes and applications in real-estate development, e.g., standardized housing units, increase
marketability (Adams et. al, 2011).
Geometric modeling in urban planning
Some initial decision support tools have been developed as urban simulation models and implemented
in regional planning processes (Waddell, 2002; Borning et. al, 2008). A further development is an environment supporting the interactive design of urban
spaces that includesbehavioral and geometrical city
modeling (Vanegas, et. al, 2009). Urban design varia-
bles can be more intuitively accessed and visualized
within such an environment, resulting in urban scenarios that consider proposals for highways, accessibility studies, population and projected employment distribution.
Müller et al. (2006) introduced an attributed
shape grammar, called CGA shape grammar, suitable for architectural design – it is the current base
of the Esri CityEngine System. CityEngine can rapidly
produce and visualize 3D urban environments of
any size. Integrating shape grammars into the urban
planning process offers unprecedented opportunities to understand and encode urban patterns and
to generate and visually assess urban design variations (Halatsch et. al, 2008; Schirmer and Kawagishi,
The San Francisco Bay Area is a metropolitan area
in Northern California. The Bay Area is defined in
11 counties (including San Benito, that is not part
of this work because it has no border to the San
Francisco Bay). The main cities are situated around
the bay of San Francisco. The largest city in this region is San Jose, Santa Clara County. But the most
culturally dominating city is San Francisco, the historic center of this region. The area of San Jose, San
Francisco, Oakland and its surrounding area cover
approximately 7.15 million inhabitants. For this reasons the Bay Area is the fifth-largest metropolitan
Figure 2
Design process of quantitative
single house building patterns
into a procedural model.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 189
Figure 3
Design rules and guidelines
plus generation of multi house
building patterns.
Figure 4
Parametric building typology
of a multi-family house for SF
Bay Area.
Figure 5
Form-based code survey with
design parameters for the
SFBA, Half Moon Bay, singlefamily detached house.
area in the United States and number 53 worldwide.
The south bay is more populated than the North Bay
and in general public buildings are located next to
the Bay and private buildings are orientated more
to the coast. Offices are more situated inland and
close to big cities with their airports and business
districts. The single-family houses are more often in
the countryside and close to the Bay, such as multifamily houses. The most similar type, which could be
found almost everywhere are the schools (Weingarten, 2004).
190 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
In this section a workflow will be presented, which
enables users to create city models in an intuitive
way by using design-code-driven building typologies. The presented method allows for quick visualization and iteration by using urban planning typologies.
The workflow of the adaptation of the formbased codes and building types into a procedural
urban model is visualized in figure 2.
Figure 6
Form-based codesurvey
Collection of derived
On the basis of 14 major typologies for SFBA (Urban
Vision, 2012) the most common types were determined, such as typical single houses, multi-family
houses, offices and schools. The quantitative parameters of the urban and building patterns of the SFBA
were specified and documented in a survey based
on the SmartCode (CATS, 2009). Design parameters
of the block and lot dimensions, the public and private frontages were derived (Fig. 5).
guidelines for the major
building types: single houses,
multi-family house, offices
and schools.
Rules and guidelines
In a first step the urban and building patterns of the
SFBA were analyzed to identify and evaluate existing
building typologies based on the standardization
of form-based codes. Using a survey, 14 major typologies for the SFBA have been detected. The most
common types were determined, such as typical single houses, multi-family house, offices and schools.
The parametric design parameters were specified.
The design parameters were then used to develop design rules and guidelines for each typology
(Fig. 3). These building patterns were visualized in
isometric diagrams.
The rules of the different building types were
digitalized into a CGA building typology catalogue,
which will be used in succeeding steps to drive the
3D city models (Fig. 4).
The design process that was presented in the method section (Fig. 2) was applied in the case study
Design parameters for the major SFBA types for
street profiles, blocks, building geometries, facades,
open spaces and vegetation were transformed in
design rules and guidelines (Fig. 6). These guidelines
were visualized in isometric diagrams.
The isometric diagrams of the four building
typologies are summarized by their construction
quality and usage. The low standard building lots
arealways smaller and the green areasincrease with
the better standard. The school typologies are not
characterized by their building standard, but rather
by their usage.
Parametric building typologies for the San
Francisco bay area
Based on theguidelines each building type was implemented with the CGA grammar into a procedural
urban model in Esri CityEngine (2012).
The derived models were used as a high-level
typology catalogue for procedural city models (Fig.
7).The typologies are divided by their building quality and usage. The higher the standard, the more
versatile and more elaborate the construction of the
The presented work described a conceptual framework. The implemented building typologies of
the case study SFBA serve as an example for using
digital design codes to drive procedural city models.
The resulting typologies (Fig. 8), e.g., building types,
might be integrated in geometric modeling and
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 191
Figure 7
Overview of the procedural
model of the four major
building types of SFBA.
connected with behavioral simulations for evaluating urban planning scenarios.
The resulting city models are used to provide
generalized and simplified views on urban scenarios
to experts and laymen and to therefore encourage a
design-problem driven dialogue.
The complete collection of all presented building types for the SFBA will be found in Dyllong
Future work will cover case study areas in Europe or Asia to prove the generic adaptability of the
presented approach and will be linked with local aspects of the individual urban setting. In addition, the
building typologies will be extended to the application of parametric building regulations and zoning
192 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
We would like to thank Bingyi Li, Lukas Treyer andDaniel Aliaga for their continuing support. This work
was supported by the SNF Grant 130578 of the National Research Program NRP 65 ‘Sustainable Urban
Patterns (SUPat)’.
Figure 8
Four main building types of
the SFBA.
Adams D, Croudace R andTiesdell S, 2011, Design codes, opportunity space, and the marketability of new housing,
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City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 193
194 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Supporting Urban Design Learning with Collective
Memory Enhanced Virtual City
The virtual Jalan Malioboro experiment
Sushardjanti Felasari , Chengzhi Peng
School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, UK
Department of Architecture, Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University, Indonesia
[email protected] or [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The paper reports on the observation of how students can be supported in
urban design learning through the use of an experimental collective memory enhanced
virtual city - Virtual Jalan Malioboro. This study focuses on how instances of people’s
collective memory of the Malioboro Street could be digitally represented and connected
with the 3D models of buildings and places of the street. An evaluative study was
conducted in a real university educational setting to test how it can support urban
design learning. The results show that by enhancing 3D models with collective memory,
students are facilitated to become more engaged with the urban site and knowledgeable of
historical contextual issues. Keywords. Urban design; virtual learning environment; collective memory.
The use of virtual learning environment to support
learning in design education context is continuously
improved and have shown potential in supporting
design processes and discussions (Vecchia et al,
2009). This paper investigates on how students can
be supported in urban design learning through the
use of collective memory enhanced virtual city.
In urban design learning, urban context is something that a student has to be aware to gain comprehensive knowledge about buildings, a site or places
before creating a new design. A more context sensitive design could be created by investigating the
social and architectural history of buildings or places
and connecting the memory of the past urban form
and current needs (Blundell Jones et al., 1999). However, historical data and memory of the city in the
past are not always easy to be found.
This study focuses on how instances of people’s collective memory could be digitally represented and
connected with 3D models of virtual city as well as
how this assembly could be used to support students’ urban design learning in a university level.
Scholars have studied memory for decades in
many disciplines. This has brought the increasing
elusiveness of memory as meanings, concepts, and
phenomena of memory could be diverse (Brockmeier, 2010). Sometimes metaphors and analogies are
used in order to understand phenomena in a more
or less appropriate way. And there is no way to
prove a metaphor wrong or right (Magnussen and
Helstrup, 2007).
In media and technology studies, combining
multimedia and multimodal facilities such as text,
graphic, image, film and audio, multimedia computCity Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 195
ers and the Internet can be employed to produce
digital collective memory (Brockmeier, 2010).
The concept of collective memory was first introduced in the 1920’s by the French philosopher and
sociologist Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945). He
defined collective memory not as a socially constructed idea about the past, but rather as a socially
shared notion, a way that a group conceptualized
the past while in the present (Halbwachs, 1992). In
his concept, monuments and other topographical
features are central in the formation of a collective
More recently, in her book The City of Collective
Memory (Boyer, 1996), M. Christine Boyer, Professor
of Urbanism at the School of Architecture Princeton
University, described collective memory as the way
the urban public compose their images of the city.
In the city of spectacle, she described that computer-simulated visual environment has transformed
the material world – the bits and pieces of the city
– into an ephemeral form. Global electronic media
have changed the relationship of collective memory, history and the city spaces and the process of
remembering the past is enacted as a set of reconstructed images.
The Library of Birmingham conducted “People’s
Archive” project [1] in 2010, in which the city community is involved to share knowledge or memory
related to particular places. In this project, a website hosting hundreds of photos taken from the
Birmingham Archive is used as an interface for the
public to add information relating to the images
selected from the Archive. The information could
be about the dates, names of buildings or personal stories. According to Kuhn (2010), a repository of
memories such as a photograph album can act as
reminders of persons, places, or events in the past
and can function as substitutes for remembering
and used as by their compilers/owners as prompts
for performances of memory in private, interactive,
collective and sometimes even public context.
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In review of the collective memory concepts, we approach collective memory for this study as a digital
album containing all kinds of digital records of the
history and story of buildings and places of a city
that is either elicited from or produced directly by
the city’s residents or visitors. 3D models of a virtual
city become an interface through which process of
remembering can be mediated.
The idea is that initial instances of people’s
memory associated with a particular segment of a
city could be gathered into a repository (ie. a collective memory bank) as ‘seeds’ to grow further
contextual and historical information contributed
by others. In representing collective memory of
buildings or places digitally, we interlink virtual 3D
models to these memory instances and to other
historical resources found from many different websites to become what we call a collective memory
enhanced virtual city (CREATI) (Felasari and Peng,
2010). Through CREATI, registered users could add
and share the content of the collective memory.
Connecting collective memory and virtual
To develop a virtual city enhanced with collective memory, we have been experimenting with a
Google site as an implementation tool. The site is
designed to support urban design learning. According to Boeykens and Neuckermans (2009), A Virtual Learning Environment has the characteristics of
both content and learning management. In terms of
architectural education, it might incorporate interactive 3D worlds (Vecchia et al., 2009). We designed
CREATI as a virtual learning environment through
which students can access 3D models of a virtual
city linked with records of collective memory and
urban design course information.
Our study used a historical street at the centre
of Yogyakarta city in Indonesia called Jalan Malioboro (Malioboro Street) as a case study site. About
1.2 km of the street with buildings and places along
the side have been digitally modeled and hosted in
a website. The 3D models required the students to
have the Google Earth installed in their computer so
as they can be displayed [Figure 1].
Figure 1
A website hosting 3D models
and a collective memory bank
(a) 3D models displayed using
Google Earth (b) (Source:
In generating a collection of memory records we
used the ‘placemarks’ menu of the Google Earth to
write or to link the information to the 3D models
and save them as kmz files. The ‘placemarks’ have
coordinates embedded (latitude, longitude, and altitude) so as a memory record will visually appear at
specific location inside the 3D Google Earth model
[Figure 2]. Nevertheless, the ‘placemarks’ have limitations such as they cannot be associated with a large
area/region such as a building complex, street, or a
district in a clear meaningful way.
We organized the structure of the collective memory
repository into different formats (image, text, video,
and audio). In each format we divided the memory
records into several sections based on the locations
of buildings and places in the urban context. At present, this structure of the repository is specific to the
study site and may not be applicable to other locations in Yogyakarta or to other cities.
Figure 2
An example of memory record
consists of photographs showing building facades in the
past. (Source: photographs
taken from http://www.kitlv..
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 197
We conducted a pilot experiment in a real educational setting at university level to evaluate the effectiveness of CREATI in supporting urban design
learning. We invited 30 students grouped into four
to take part in the experiment. As a part of urban
design assignment, students were given an urban
design project in which it consists of both a group
task and an individual task.
In the experiment, Jalan Malioboro was used
as the project site and was divided into 4 sections/
sites. Each group had to choose one site where each
member will collaborate to author memory records
related to buildings and places on that particular
site either in text, graphic, video or audio format. In
producing the records, a student could use existing
sources found available digitally and connecting
them with the relevant 3D models, or they can produce their own memory records to be shared with
each other. Besides the individual task, the students
were also required to submit a joint design proposal
for their site. We then compared the content of the
collective memory from each student and that of
the design proposal.
Based on the assignment guideline, students
were expected to propose design concepts based
on the analysis of findings, which should be based
on theories for analyzing urban spaces. For instance,
the theories of urban space quality derived from
Gordon Cullen’s Townscape design (Cullen, 1961)
and Raymond J Curran’s Urban Experience (Curran,
1983) are the two main references were introduced
to the students among many others.
Table 1
Participation of group’s member in developing the content
of collective memory records.
198 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Student participation in developing the
content of collective memory record
It is expected from the experiment that the content
of collective memory composed by students are
complement to each other. Using 15 parameters of
urban space quality derived from Gordon Cullen’s
Townscape design and Raymond J Curran’s Urban
Experience, the content of collective memory were
classified and analyzed for the purpose of urban design learning.
Table 1 shows an example of how each member of a particular group (a-g) has contributed to
the development of collective memory record and
to which parameters or themes. From the table, it is
known that some aspects of urban quality have not
been written such as ground treatment and furnishing, expressive quality of spatial form, exposure and
enclosure, and building skyline and visual continuity.
This opens an opportunity for other participants to
continuously develop the collective memory records
in a particular topic. The accumulation of such information related to buildings and places in the repository will benefit students in understanding historical
contextual issues. Furthermore by classifying the
content in such parameter, the result might show
how the urban quality in the past is remembered.
Content of collective memory records for
supporting urban analysis
Using the same parameters of urban quality, we investigated whether this content of collective memory composed from individual members of a group
have contributed to the development of a group’s
design proposal.
Figure 3a revealed that content in collective
memory has contributed to the content in design
proposal regardless the number of content recorded. However, the table also shows that there is collective memory content i.e. optical viewpoint/serial
vision, which students didn’t use at all as an idea to
generate/develop their proposed design. This might
generate questions whether students are not aware,
ignored, or might think that it is not particularly
related to their intended proposal. Further study is
needed to discuss the circumstances.
Using a frequency word inquiry, we also looked
into the content records from both students’ individual task and group’s design proposal to find
what kind of topic or idea has the students mainly
discussed [Figure 3b]. Initially we explored the frequency word used by each group in their design
proposal as the group worked at the different sites.
We mapped these findings and found that a word
can be proposed either only in a particular group/
site, simultaneously used by two or three groups, or
Figure 3
Content recorded in collective
memory and design proposal
(a) word frequency appeared
in the collective memory
records and design proposals
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 199
used by all groups. Frequency words such as building, street, Malioboro, parking area and pedestrian
are the primarily words used by all group, of which
the three former words are founded in the collective
memory records too. Using the frequency words,
historical contextual issues might be able to be triggered either in a specific site or in a wider location.
From observations on the final outcome, content
of collective memory might contribute a significant
influence on the quality of design proposals. Figure
4 shows that the highest average of final mark was
achieved by group 4 which having the highest number of collective memory records. It could be understood that the more historical information collected,
the more students become knowledge about contextual issues. From the tutor’s feedback, collective
memory is very beneficial for students at the analysis
stage as students can compare the past and existing
condition, so as it could help students to determine
what the next development will look alike.
Visual references for developing design
Among many format of collective memory records,
students expressed that picture or photo is the most
favourite one. Some photos have been used several
times by students in their records. Sometimes the
photos were not pointed directly to the site’s location, but described the district in general. Several
photographs show the building’s facades in a historical time sequence.
In design process point of view, the photos
gathered in the collective memory repository can
be connected as visual references for the group’s design [Figure 5].
Collective memory enhanced virtual city seems
promising to support students in urban design
learning. Besides facilitating students to engage
more with urban sites by developing the content
Figure 4
Content recorded in collective memory and in design
proposal and average of final
marks achieved by students in
each group.
200 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Figure 5
Examples of photos from
the record and design proposal (Source: assignments
submitted by students for
Urban Design Module, Spring
semester 2011).
online, the continuation of the content growth can
be extended to future semesters for new student
participants. The richness of the digital collective
memory records contributed by others can help students to understand the importance of urban spaces
as emphasized in the course’s learning objectives.
In terms of urban design learning, the CREATI approach can help students at the site analysis stage,
as students become more knowledgeable of historical contextual issues. Students can also explore the
general ideas for proposing a new design from the
frequently words used in the content records.
However, our current structure of the collective
memory repository could be further developed to
facilitate organizing memory records in a wider and
more complex area or region. More advanced features with better graphical interfaces are required
to support students’ communication and interaction
while developing urban design proposals.
The first author would like to thank Directorate General of Higher Education, Ministry of Education and
Culture of Indonesia and the Atma Jaya Yogyakarta
University for their supports and students of Department of Architecture for their participation in the
experiment reported in this paper.
Blundell Jones, P, Williams, A and Lintonbon, J 1999, ‘The
Sheffield Urban Study Project’, Architectural Research
Quarterly, 3(3), pp.235–244.
Boeykens, S and Neuckermans, H 2009, ‘Content Management Systems Versus Learning Environments’, Available
Show?caadria2009_103 [Accessed January 21, 2011].
Boyer, MC 1996, The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical
Imagery and Architectural Entertainments, New ed., MIT
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 201
Brockmeier, J 2010, ‘After the Archive: Remapping Memory’,
Culture & Psychology, 16(1), pp.5 –35.
Cullen, G 1961, Concise Townscape, New ed., Architectural
Curran, R.J 1983, Architecture and the Urban Experience, Van
Nost.Reinhold, U.S.
Felasari, S. and Peng, C 2010, ‘Enhancing A Virtual City with
Collective Memory: A pilot study of Jalan Malioboro in
Yogyakarta’, In Future cities: proceedings of the 28th Conference on Education in Computer Aided Architectural
Design in Europe, September 15-18, 2010, Zurich, Switzerland, ETH Zurich. vdf Hochschulverlag AG.
Halbwachs 1992, On Collective Memory, Chicago University
Kuhn, A 2010, ‘Memory Texts and Memory Work: Performances of Memory in and with Visual Media’, Memory
Studies. Available at:
early/2010/05/24/1750698010370034 [Accessed May
24, 2012].
Magnussen, S and Helstrup, T eds 2007, Everyday Memory
1st ed., Psychology Press.
Vecchia, L.D, Silva, A. da and Pereira, A 2009, ‘Teaching/
learning Architectural Design based on a Virtual Learning Environment’, International Journal of Architectural
Computing, 7(2), pp.255–266.
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Integrated Multi-Criteria Modeling and 3D Visualization
for Informed Trade-Off Decision Making on Urban
Development Options
Noemi Neuenschwander, Ulrike Wissen Hayek, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
ETH Zurich, IRL - Institute for Spatial and Landscape Planning, PLUS - Planning of
Landscape and Urban Systems, Switzerland.
{neuenschwander, wissen, gret}
Abstract. Cities all over the world are faced with growing population pressure and are
challenged by decreasing environmental quality. Development strategies and planning
processes often fail to involve local environment knowledge. We present an approach to
integrate environmental aspects into a two-step urban modeling framework, generating
3D visualizations from GIS-based and procedural modeling. The dynamic nature of this
approach provides considerable support for transdisciplinary communication processes in
urban planning.
Keywords. Procedural modeling; generic urban pattern design; understanding ecosystem
services; multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA); GIS-based modeling.
Growing urban areas and increasing populations
in suburban zones confront urban planning with
increasingly complex problems in securing an economic, ecologically and socially sustainable development (UN-Habitat 2009). At the same time green
spaces are declining in the urban areas, which even
increases the challenges. Large sealed areas for example induce urban heat island effects, higher air
pollution or extreme wind regimes (Gälzer 2001).
Shortage of green spaces leads to a wide range of
further deficiencies, such as lack in recreational
spaces and outdoor leisure activity opportunities
(Whitford 2001). All these effects impact the residents’ well-being (MA 2005). The costs for resolving
these impacts are not properly taken into account in
urban planning, yet.
The concept of ecosystem services (ES) is very
suitable to demonstrate these environmental costs
and to make them negotiable. ES are “the benefits
people obtain from ecosystems” (MA 2005), for example the ability of trees to regulate microclimate
by evapotranspiration and shadowing, rain water
infiltration of unsealed areas decreasing storm water peaks and supporting ground water renewal,
habitat provision for diverse species, or provision of
space for recreation in form of urban green spaces
and parks. Even if provision of most urban ES generally decreases with increasing urban density, there
is significant potential for optimizing the quality of
ES provision in the urban area at any given density
(Tratalos 2007).
In urban planning processes, the heterogeneous
actor groups’ diverse demands and requirements
are unequally taken into account (Buchecker et al.
2003). Today particularly political and economic
demands rule these planning processes. However,
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 203
in consideration of continuously decreasing urban
qualities, it is very urgent to account for the environmental aspects in order to secure livable cities. Neglecting these aspects can have impacts on the economic viability of settlement areas in the long term.
For example, families with small children or old people require sufficient recreational areas in a walking
distance from their home. If those recreational areas
are not available, they might move to another place.
This leads to a shift in household types living in an
area and in extreme cases to segregation. Quarters
with very low living quality, which cannot attract
well-situated households, might face decreasing
apartment prices.
Therefore, considering stakeholders’ knowledge
and interests is essential to address their specific
needs adequately and maintain or increase living
quality on quarter level. In this way not only locally
relevant factors for urban quality can be identified
but also robust solutions can be developed that the
participants accept and support. Thus participation processes are important for sustainable urban
landscape development (Mabelis et al. 2009). In
this context, the difficult and as yet poor transfer of
ecological knowledge is problematic. Not only communication from science to stakeholders and from
project leaders and stakeholders to the concerned
public has to take place but also the local actor’s
ecological knowledge has to be integrated into
planning and scientific processes. The central challenge is the effective integration of the relationships
between ecosystem changes and their services’
quality into communication and participation processes. GIS- and rule-based 3D visualizations offer
high potential to enhance interdisciplinary communication.
the Swiss alpine region integrates the concept of ES
and economic valuation methods in a GIS platform
to compare the impact of different scenarios on the
ES’ value in order to demonstrate consequences of
different developments to a region (Grêt-Regamey
2008). A shortcoming of this approach is that only
prepared scenarios can be compared. In order to
cope with urban development that does not follow an all-dominant master plan, an interactive
decision-support tool is required that interactively
can combine hard factors, for example house prices,
urban density or available green space per person,
with soft factors such as recreational quality or
scenic beauty. For a creative and iterative trade-off
process of these factors, the tool should generate
concrete images of possible urban development
patterns and link these with further calculated indicators of their qualities. In this paper we present a
concept for a modeling framework integrating criteria for ES’ provision into urban land use modeling
and allowing stakeholders for weighting and tradeoff decision-making based on generic 3D urban patterns and linked indicators.
We suggest a two-step modeling framework, combining a GIS-based spatial land use modeling approach with integrated 3D modeling and detailed
visual output of urban pattern design.
The GIS-based modeling allows the integration
of quantitative indicators like green space supply
rate. The visual modeling part allows the assessment
of soft indicators, for example the attractiveness of
developments in a district for different actor and
stakeholder groups.
Modeling environmental aspects in urban
In the last years different approaches have been
presented to integrate the concept of ES into planning processes aiming at enhancing policies that
prevent the disadvantages caused by loss of ecological quality (Salles 2011). For example, a study in
We introduce a new approach for linking land use
modeling in ESRI’s ArcGIS with a procedural urban
3D modeling, implemented in ESRI’s CityEngine.
While ArcGIS allows an exact and spatial explicit
modeling of optimal land use distributions, the main
204 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
advantage of the procedural approach with CityEngine is the ability to efficiently generate 3D urban
models of any size based on a set of rules and conditions (e.g. Ulmer et al., 2007; Wissen et al., 2010). The
two approaches are linked by the GIS-output Shapefile (file format of ESRI’s ArcGIS) used as basis input
for the procedural model.
The exemplary implementation of the modeling concept presented in this paper demonstrates:
(1) the generalization of ecological knowledge, (2)
its integration into land use modeling incorporating different thematic maps, and (3) its integration
into procedural modeling and 3D visualization with
Computer Graphics Application (CGA) shape grammar rules (file format of ESRI’s CityEngine), as well as
(4) the mutual interaction between land use modeling and procedural visualization. The latter is illustrated with a set of indicators.
Linking procedural visualization and GISbased multi-criteria decision analysis
An existing integrated ecological and design based
3D urban visualization approaches (Neuenschwander et al. 2011) is supplemented by a GIS-based land
use modeling approach (Figure 1). To this end, an urban green space typology is implemented that combines design and ecological aspects in urban design
rules for specific green space types such as semi-private gardens or public parks. These rules are encoded to CGA shape grammar rules. Further, land use
data is linked with spatial parameters of ecosystem
service’s provision and used for the GIS-based land
use modeling. Output of this land use modeling is
an altered land use Shapefile in which each polygon
(=parcel) is attributed an optimized land use. This
output Shapefile is used to define in the procedural
urban 3D visualization the spatial structure on the
broad scale. Firing the procedural CGA rules with
Figure 1
Workflow of the integrated
multi-criteria modeling and
3D visualization generation.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 205
design specifications on the land use data, the procedural machine generates a 3D visualization of the
urban area. It then can be used as communication
tool in public participation processes. The stakeholders’ definition of the urban pattern’s quality is
then iteratively used in the GIS-based modeling to
generate a feedback model optimization process.
Integrating generalized ecological knowledge into modeling and visualization taking into account different spatial scales
The concept of ES allows identifying ecological
processes and indicators relevant to the urban patterns’ quality assessment from economic and social perspectives (de Groot, 2006; Grêt-Regamey et
al., 2008). To apply the rules and specifications of
ES’s provision in modeling processes, this complex
knowledge has to be generalized, categorized and
relatively weighted to local relevance.
We chose the urban green spaces’ habitat function as an exemplary ES in order to analyze local
ecological quality. Quality specifications and needed landscape features of the habitats comprise, for
example, vegetation, habitat size and structures
connecting different habitat patches (Opdam et
al., 2007). These specifications are derived from literature and used to define rules of adequate urban
pattern design. However, the fulfillment of these
ecological rules can conflict with the demand for
settlement density. An increased urban density is,
however, required to prevent urban sprawl and
green areas, which are essential for ES provision, to
be transformed in built-up areas.
Spatial features like the required distances or
structures of green space types as well as the required settlement density are implemented in GISbased modeling at municipality up to regional scale.
The implementation in GIS allows mapping and
analyzing complex spatial structures and linking the
relevant data such as urban parcels for example with
household characteristics or population density figures. It also allows for regional context analyses like
the spatially explicit demand and supply of inhabitants with regard to recreational area.
206 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
The goal of our simulation is the maximization of
potential ES provision and therefore the optimal
distribution of the different land uses in the area.
A thorough weighting of the different aspects and
possible tradeoffs between ecological aspects and
urban density allows for modeling optimized urban
structures. A multi criteria decision analysis (MCDA)
implemented in ArcGIS conjoins the different spatial conditions, aspects and trade-off specifications
by combining different weighted condition-maps.
It generates a spatially explicit land use map, presenting an optimized urban pattern distribution according to ecological and density rules (Malczewski
The distribution and concrete visualization of
the structural features, design requirements and
needed vegetation patches on local scale, that is the
parcel level, is performed with the procedural visualization tool CityEngine. The optimized land use
map is imported into the procedural model. It defines the spatial distribution of the green space type
polygons. Applying the procedural rules with the
local ecological requirements on the green space
type polygons, 3D urban patterns are rendered. In
combination with the implemented indicators, this
visual output allows for an integrative assessment of
the impact of alternative urban pattern designs on
an urban landscape’s quality.
Based on an application example, we demonstrate
how existing GIS data can be linked to further ecological information and improved to a high-end 3D
model, that benefits participative planning processes.
Case study site
The modeling framework is developed for the case
study of Altstetten, a district of the city of Zurich,
Switzerland. Altstetten links Zurich with the Limmattal, one of its suburban regions. Altstetten as a city
district comprises an area of about 7.5 km2 with a
population density of about 3’965 inhabitants/km2
(Statistik Stadt Zürich 2010). It combines local recre-
Figure 2
Example of relevant factors
for habitat potential of water
frogs (Pelophylax).
The two images show two
relevant factor examples
in the case study area: the
distances to water elements
a) and the land use b). In both
illustrations: the brighter the
blue, the more attractive it is
for water frogs.
a) The nearer a water element,
the more suitable is the area
for water frogs’ habitat. In this
illustration we chose buffer
distances of 5m, 10m, 30m
and 100m.
b) Different land uses are of
different attractiveness for
water frogs.
ation, residential and industrial areas in tight space.
As the Limmattal region is currently in an intensive phase of urban development, the proper
elaboration of an adequate development strategy is
essential for future landscape structures. This makes
this region interesting for modeling urban development and assessing policy strategies. Altstetten is
the most densely populated part of the city and as
well as of the region. Therefore it is qualified to illustrate specific urban difficulties as well as general
problems in growing agglomeration sites.
Applying ecosystem services in GIS-based
Figure 3
The integrated suitability of urban green space in
Altstetten as habitat for water
frogs. The habitat potential is
calculated based on different
relevant factors implementing
MCDA methods.
ES provision generally depends on multiple factors.
For example, the function of urban green spaces as
habitat for the species Water Frog (Pelophylax) depends on the available vegetation, microclimate,
available water elements and last but not least on its
connectivity with other habitats suitable for water
frogs in order to provide an ecological network. Not
all factors are of equal importance: the availability
of water elements is crucial while others like specific vegetation elements are compensable. In order
to model the requested ES potential, a weighted
combination of the relevant factors is necessary. As
application example we present the model for the
potential provision of habitat for the water frog in
In a first step, we assessed the relevant factors
and identified appropriate datasets. The second step
simplifies the complex data information by creating
classes of interests.
We demonstrate the modeling workflow with
two example factors: the distance to water elements
that is essential for water frog habitat (Figure 2a) and
the land use types (Figure 2b) describing the current
spatial landscape structure. The bigger the distance
to water, the less an area is appropriate as water
frog habitat. A buffer zone with adequate distances
around the water elements models this behavior. As
a second example factor, different land use types are
of different quality for frog habitat. While settlement
and flowing waters are unattractive, meadows and
wetlands are suitable. We represent the suitability
with cost factors as a supplementary attribute in the
GIS data. To enhance the habitat model’s complex-
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 207
Figure 4
Example of the urban green
space typology used in the
case study: an urban green
space type consists of two
entities, the spatial pattern
structure (left) and the pattern attributes (right) with
additional information like
constraints of building regulations, occurring species or
potentially provided ES.
ity, we amend several further factors like street network, buildings and green space types. The model
is user-defined and extensible to address additional
To guarantee the compatibility of the different
factor maps when merging, they are all transformed
in raster data with similar extents.
Some factors like the existence of standing water
bodies is essential for the frog’s existence, while high
quality in other factors can valorize the land use
type. Even in industrial areas for example are water
frog habitats of high quality possible if adequate
green spaces exist in spite of high disturbances by
industry. The different factors have to be weighted
relative to each other to compute the habitat potential by merging the different maps. This multi criteria
decision analysis (MCDA) is a suitable means for the
calculation of the frog’s habitat potential in an urban
208 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Applying ecosystem services and design
specifications in procedural modeling
For the implementation of environmental needs we
supplement the approaches of automated urban
3D modeling (e.g. Beirão et al., 2008; Halatsch et
al., 2008; Wissen Hayek et al., 2011) with a systematic and locally relevant urban green space typology
(Figure 4).
To take advantage of 3D models for planning
processes, exact modeling of relevant local spatial
structures is important, but to assess the potential
ES provision it is essential to also consider required
spatial structures, modes of management and
modes of functioning of affected ecosystems. A locally relevant land use typology, categorizing land
uses of certain homogeneity, enables linking the
concept of ES to settlement structures. Regarding
ES, we propose a local relevant urban green space
typology that defines 14 general and 4 special land
use types: semiprivate and private housing; play-
Figure 5
The CGA code is organized
into two parts. The header
part (left) contains all attributes and model specifications
like occurring vegetation
elements and its detail
information like tree height
or potential ES provision.
The main code part (right)
describes the pattern structure
and 3D form.
ing fields; cemetery and parks; public spaces; traffic green; copse and waterside; allotment gardens;
fallows; forests; grassland and fields; industry; trade
and as special types: market garden; farm; church
and track area. The types are site specific and they
suffice to picture the green spaces in the case study
area of Altstetten.
For procedural modeling with CityEngine, the
typology is implemented in rule files in a proprietary
programming language, the CGA shape grammar
(Figure 5). A rule file consists of two parts, analog to
the typology structure. While the header defines all
the model’s attributes, the main rule part describes
the geometric pattern structure and spatial element
distribution per parcel.
Linking GIS-based and procedural
modeling approaches
To unify the two modeling parts we linked the typology and the GIS model using the CityEngine Shapefile import function (Figure 6). The ground parceling
and further information of complex GIS analysis is
imported into the procedural model and is referenced as the basic structure. Thus every parcel is
linked with information of its green space type and
the rule file describes how to generate the 3D model
of this specific green space type.
The habitat potential information is used to
identify the relevant regions for maximal effectiveness and efficiency. In our example we define where
to support ponds to enhance the water frog’s habitat connectivity.
We provide a generic 3D urban modeling and visualization tool, allowing stakeholders in participative processes to iteratively analyze their different
desires’ and decisions’ consequences on the urban
patterns’ quality. Besides spatially explicit land use
modeling, considering different regional and local
land use conflicts, our framework enables the generation of detailed 3D visualizations based on different local aspects like design guidelines and ecological requirements. The impact of different policies
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 209
Figure 6
Linking of detailed GIS-based
land use information with
green space pattern type
design rules implementing
ESRI’s CityEngine system
results in 3D visualizations
of urban patterns suitable
for collaborative stakeholder
and development strategies on landscape and ecological aspects can be modeled, illustrated and assessed in one workflow.
The generic approach based on a set of ecological and design rules allows for model adaption
for any case study by rule adaption. The procedural
model’s power is its vagueness by modeling environmental potentials that facilitates scenario and
policy assessment. This may support the elaboration
of concepts for the development of municipalities
or districts, e.g. by testing proposed designs in early
stages. The interaction between the GIS-model and
the procedural visualization tool is still realized by
static Shapefiles. The taking over of CityEngine by
ESRI promises the realization of closer connection of
these complementary modeling concepts.
To reproduce the urban environment in an adequate manner, the considered criteria should cover
at least the three fields of sustainability: economy,
society and environment. A certain number of criteria are required for model’s representativeness while
the applicability depends on manageable complex-
210 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
ity. Thus the proper identification of significant criteria is crucial for model’s quality.
A learning process can be initiated by support
of the GIS-based generic 3D urban model. Asking
stakeholders to weight the different demands as
input to the multi criteria decision analysis shows
them the impacts of their specific demands on the
fulfillment of all other demands. This guarantees
local and topical relevance and increases the modeling results’ significance. Combining quantitative
indicators and the intuitively readable visualizations
provides a powerful tool to understand and assess
the relationships between land use change and urban pattern quality. This tool has high potential to
facilitate better communication between experts of
different fields as well as laymen and thus enhance
participation processes. This will be validated in future experiments and empirical research.
Beirão, J, Duarte, J, Stouffs, R 2008, ‘Structuring a Generative
Model for Urban Design: Linking GIS to Shape Grammars’, Proceedings of eCAADe 26 Conference, pp.929938.
Buchecker, M, Hunziker, M and Kienast, F 2003, ‘Participatory landscape development: overcoming social barriers to public involvement’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 64(1-2), pp. 29-46.
De Groot, R 2006, ‘Function-analysis and valuation as a tool
to assess land use conflicts in planning for sustainable,
multi-functional landscapes’, Landscape and Urban
Planning, vol. 75, Issue 3-4, pp. 175-186.
Gälzer, R 2001, Grünplanung für Städte, Ulmer.
Grêt-Regamey, A, Bebi, P, Bishop, ID and Schmid, WA 2008,
‘Linking GIS-based models to value ecosystem services
in an Alpine region’, Journal of Environmental Management, 89(3), pp. 197-208.
Halatsch, J, Kunze, A, Schmitt, G 2008, ‘Using Shape Grammars for Master Planning’, In J.S. Gero (ed), Design Computing and Cognition DCC’08, Springer-Verlag, Berlin,
pp. 655-773.
Jean-Michel, S 2011, ‘Valuing biodiversity and ecosystem
services: Why put economic values on Nature?’, Comptes Rendus Biologies, 334(5–6): p. 469-482.
Mabelis, AA and Maksymiuk, G 2009, ‘Public participation
in green urban policy: two strategies compared’, International Journal of Biodiversity Science & Management,
5(2), pp. 63-75.
Malczewski, J 1999, GIS and multicriteria decision analysis,
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) 2005, Ecosystems
and Human Well-Being: Synthesis, Island Press, Washington, DC.
Neuenschwander, N, Wissen Hayek, U and Grêt-Regamey, A
2011, ‘GIS-based 3d urban modeling framework integrating constraints and benefits of ecosystems for participatory optimization of urban green space patterns’,
Schrenk, M., REAL CORP 2011, Peer-reviewed Proceedings, Essen, Germany.
Opdam, P 2007, ‘Deconstructing and reassembling the
landscape system’, Landscape Ecology, 22, pp. 14451446.
Statistik Stadt Zürich 2010, ‘Statistisches Jahrbuch der Stadt
Zürich 2010’.
Tratalos, J, Fuller, RA, Warren, PH, Davies, RG and Gaston, KJ
2007, ‘Urban form, biodiversity potential and ecosystem services’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 83(4), pp.
Ulmer, A, Halatsch, J, Kunze, A, Müller, P, Van Gool, L 2007,
‘Procedural design of urban open spaces’, Proceedings
of eCAADe 25 Conference 2007, pp. 351-358.
UN-Habitat 2009, Planning sustainable cities: global report
on human settlements 2009.
Whitford, V, Ennos, AR and Handley, JF 2001, ‘City form and
natural process – indicators for the ecological performance of urban areas and their application to Merseyside, UK’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 57(2), 91-103.
Wissen Hayek, U, Neuenschwander, N, Halatsch, J, GrêtRegamey, A 2010, ‘Procedural modeling of urban green
space pattern designs taking into account ecological
parameters’, Proceedings of FUTURE CITIES 28th eCAADe
Conference, ETH Zurich (Switzerland), 339-347.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 211
212 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Virtual City Models: Avoidance of Obsolescence
Peter James Morton , Margaret Horne , Ruth Conroy Dalton , Emine Mine Thompson .
Northumbria University, United Kingdom.
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. This paper offers an initial and ongoing investigation into the research
area of Virtual City Models (VCMs). It builds upon previous research carried out
by the VirtualNewcastleGateshead (VNG) team by providing an overview of VCMs
multifunctions and emerging issues but specifically investigating the obsolescence
factors and obsolescence-prevention strategies. This paper is part of a PhD research and
provides a preliminary exploration of the issues described above. The study will conclude
by identifying the progress of VNG thus far and the strategies employed by the VNG team
to tackle the obsolescence factors identified in this paper.
Keywords. Virtual City Models; Applications; Services; Obsolescence Factors;
The visual seduction techniques of a 3D virtual city
are clear, but datasets of this type, often involving
a range of invested stakeholders, can become entwined in debates of ownership, responsibility, legal
access to data and IT issues (Horne et al., 2007). This
paper offers an initial and ongoing investigation into
the research area of VCM obsolescence factors and
obsolescence-prevention strategies; it constitutes a
preliminary and limited exploration, establishing a
foundation for further study.
Research in the production, maintenance, usage
and distribution of VCMs has been widely published
since the early 1990’s from a range of disciplines including; geography, landscape and environmental
planning, urban planning, architecture, geo-information science and computer graphics science (Abdul-Rahman and Pilouk, 2007; Batty et al., 2000; Bodum et al., 2006; Bourdakis, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2008;
Brenner, 2000; Capstick and Heathcote, 2006; Coors
and Ewald, 2005; Delaney, 2000; Dokonal and Martens, 2001; Dokonal et al., 2000; Dokonal et al., 2004;
Dollner et al., 2006; Ewald and Coors, 2005; Forstner,
1999; Groger and Plumer, 2011; Guercke et al., 2009;
Haala and Brenner, 1997; Haala et al., 1997; Horne,
2009; Horne et al., 2007; Mao, 2010; Mao et al., 2009;
Nomden et al., 2009; Parish and Muller, 2001; Quinn
et al., 2009; Sadek et al., 2002; Shiode, 2001; Smart et
al., 2011; Stadler and Kolbe, 2007; Takase et al., 2003;
Thompson and Horne, 2008, 2009; Thompson et al.,
2006; Thompson et al., 2011) and others.
Real life cities have been represented in many forms
over time; from two dimensional maps, 3D physical
scale models for city planning and the digital representation in the form of VCMs. VCMs can be sim-
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 213
ply described as a digital graphical representation
portraying any real world city or specific parts of it
(Thompson et al., 2006). These digital representations of real life cities have, in recent years become
a topic of interest in both research and professional
communities primarily due to the advancements
in the technologies and practices used for data acquisition, reconstruction and maintenance of VCMs.
Recent innovations in computing, technology and
sensor systems have provided a new base line for
the construction of VCMs. Higher powered computers have enabled the production and storage
of more complex models with larger file sizes than
ever before. Advancements in computer graphics
cards have also enabled the viewing of complex 3D
models electronically. The recent advancements in
Augmented Reality (AR) have opened up new ways
to view and interact with 3D city models for professionals and members of the public alike. Much like a
real city, a VCM can be seen as an organic entity that
continually grows changes and adapts due to either
environmental factors, trends or change in end user
requirements. VCMs have been created for a variety
of different applications, either singular or multifunctional. Batty et al. (2000); Groger and Plumer
(2011); Kolbe and Groger (2003) list several different
Emergency Response/ Disaster Management
Urban Planning, Architecture and Property
Telecommunications, Infrastructure, Facilities
and Urban Management
Tourism, Entertainment, E-commerce and City
Environment and Traffic Simulation
Education and Learning
The concept of multiple 3D city models existing for
a single real life city, each with separate desired applications has been challenged by the possibility of
creating a single city model which could be utilized
for many applications (Bourdakis, 2008). This single
multifunctional city model would seek to prevent
the disjointed ‘jig-saw’ 3D city model with the risk
of incompatible computer platforms, diverse scales
214 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
and differing levels of detail (Bourdakis, 2008; Horne,
2009). The risk of incompatibility between different
models would be the main driver for the creation of
a single model.
The number of VCMs being created by municipalities, local and national councils, surveying agencies,
educational institutions and other organisations is
steadily increasing due to the significant advancements in 3D reconstruction methods (Ross, 2012).
This paper has identified over one thousand VCMs
worldwide (Table 1), information has being gathered
from a variety of sources such as research papers
(Araby and Okeil, 2004; Batty et al., 2000; Dokonal
and Martens, 2001; Hadjri, 2003; Ishida, 2002; Peng
et al., 2002; Thompson et al., 2006) and others[1],
and from VCM production companies Arup, Blom[2],
Bluesky[3], CASA[4], Computamaps[5], CyberCity
3D[6], GeoSim[7], GTA Geoinformatik[8], Planet 9
Studio[9], PLW Modelworks[10], UVM Systems[11],
Vertex Modelling[12], virtualcitySYSTEMS[13], Virtual Viewing[14] and Z-mapping[15] and others.
At this stage, it is clear which continents are
actively producing VCMs with Europe and North
America leading the way. It is envisaged that this
list of VCMs will be utilised for future investigation
into VCM obsolescence factors through detailed
case studies of individual VCMs. This list will develop
over time increasing in number as new VCMs are introduced, the limitation to the current list is the difficulty of sourcing data regarding VCMs which are
insufficiently marketed and embody reduced online
Historically, the primary application of VCMs has
been a means to visualise the urban landscape for
interested parties. Batty et al. (2000); Groger and
Plumer (2011); Kolbe and Groger (2003) indicate
there are other applications being investigated/implemented most of which have been successfully
integrated into a useable single function VCM. The
future looks to streamline and combine all possible
Table 1
VCMs by continent
North America
South America
Australia and Oceania
applications in to a single multifunctional city model. Horne et al. (2007); Podevyn et al. (2009); Podevyn
et al. (2008) identified emerging issues relating to
the management, update and access to model data.
Bodum et al. (2006) identified the focus for VCMs
should be on interoperability rather than it’s similarity to the real world. For the evolution of VCMs to
occur and to safe guard investment, minimize VCM
obsolescence and promote a future proof VCM, several key issues need to be resolved.
In digital environments, there are vast arrays of
file formats available with varying levels of support
available from providers, therefore careful consideration must be undertaken to utlise a suitable file
format that is usable in its native environment and
interoperable with other environments but also
supported in both legacy and future releases. This
can also be said for hardware and software requirements. Insufficient support for file formats, slow or
limited up take for supporting hardware and software or file format being superseded by another
may all contribute to the potential risk for file format
The ability to exchange and use information between software platforms and database structures
independent of their file formats (interoperability)
is extremely important to maintain flexible VCM environments. Reduced levels of interoperability will
decrease the potential applications and increase the
risk for the VCM becoming unused and obsolete.
In every aspect of life trends develop and
change over time, what once was desirable and required can soon become undesirable and surplus
Total VCMs
to requirements. The same can be said with the applications VCMs are used for; the possible required
applications can evolve over time. If a VCM does not
carry out periodic requirement capture exercises
a VCM runs the risk of not providing what is really
needed, this will ultimately produce a VCM of no use
to anyone, driving it to a state of obsolescence.
A VCM needs to be accessible and useable (data
sharing) by a variety of users, from the specialist
down to the lay user. Reduced accessibility and usability will decrease overall interactivity by users and
ultimately increase the risk of VCM obsolescence.
The production, maintenance and usage of
VCMs require personnel with specialist skills and
knowledge. It is important to maintain sufficient
personnel to cater for the VCM, should certain personnel leave the project there should be procedures
in place to make sure that the VCM is sufficiently
staffed to avoid downtime. Staking the success of
the VCM on a single person is not best practice, a
team must be developed to share the experience
and maintain constant cover for the VCM. If a VCM is
left without sufficient cover it will fall into problems
and eventually become out of date, unusable and
therefore obsolete.
The development of most large scale VCMs will
undoubtedly involve more than one stakeholder;
someone with an invested interest in the project;
whether the source data suppliers, the author of
the model itself or the funding body and the end
users. The question of who owns what, and more
importantly who is liable for what, (intellectual
property rights) is a topic that has yet to be greatly
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 215
researched. This may be due to the lack of case
history and insufficient data to draw conclusions
from. VCMs designed on a non-collaborative legal
framework ultimately prove troublesome when/
if legal disputes arise, if this happens the VCM will
become unsustainable. The Level-of-detail (LoD) a
VCM is produced at can determine its eventual applications. Problems arise when the classification of
LoD differ from model to model. Even though there
is an international standard (CityGML) produced
by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), many
VCMs have been produced with differing LoDs and
scale classifications. Producing a VCM at either a too
low or high LoD will limit its eventual applications,
which over time will increase the potential for the
VCM becoming unused and obsolete. Financial sustainability is extremely important for any venture
which aims to provide a service for a fee. A business
model must be developed which takes into consideration ultimate VCM requirements, risk analysis and
full support of the team. Failure to do so will create
an unsustainable product which will have a limited
shelf life. There are no accepted classification criteria
of what constitutes a city model (Kolbe and Groger,
2003), this causes problems. Anyone can create a 3D
representation of a city or part of a city and make it
available to the world via personal website or blog.
The LoD, accuracy and standards adhered to could
be well below the accepted norm, which has yet to
be determined, but there is no audit process to determine what is sufficient for a model to be classed
as a city model. There needs to be standards implemented so city models produced go through an
evaluation process and are awarded ‘certified city
model status’, thus maintaining LoD, accuracy and
standards across all city models produced worldwide. VCMs affected by the any of the above issues
have the potential for the VCM to become obsolete.
These issues need to be addressed and strategies
developed and implemented in order to safe guard
investment, minimize VCM obsolescence and promote a future proof VCM.
216 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Obsolescence is a process that affects almost everything we interact with and use in this increasingly
technology driven digital world and it is a major risk
threatening the sustainability and ultimate life span
of any given service, product or function. General
definitions of obsolescence differ from field to field
but ultimately describe the process of the aforementioned service, product or function ceasing to be
usable, relevant or required (Aryee, 1991; Pangburn
and Sundaresan, 2009; Pearson and Webb, 2008;
Rosenthal, 2010; Sandborn, 2007).
Obsolescence can be separated into four distinct categories: Software/Format; Hardware/Physical; Product/Data; and Personnel/Skilled Professionals.
Software/Format obsolescence may not affect
the casual users of digital data but can cause potentially major problems for professional data users and data managers (Pearson, 2007). The process
of managing, reducing and preventing Software/
Format obsolescence has evolved over decades
and become a discipline in itself, this being ‘digital
preservation’. There are several reasons for Software/
Format obsolescence including: upgrades, the new
version of the software no longer works with legacy
versions; supporting software being bought out and
withdrawn by a competitor; format falling into disuse or support is discontinued; format is no longer
compatible with modern environments. Hardware
has developed a symbiotic relationship with software, where improvements are driven by the leading manufacturers and developers pushing older
hardware and software to obsolescence (Sandborn,
Similar to the use of printed text such as journal
articles, usage declines with the passage of time. As
each year passes the information is typically seen as
less and less up to date and relevant. The expected
uses are seen to decline from year to year, this can
be identified as the constant obsolescence rate
(COR) (Coughlin, 1988). Products and data need to
be updated to current versions to maintain its usability and prevent the eventual decline in usage.
Due to the development of the above categories
personnel must maintain a level of expertise to operate the software, hardware and product, periodic
requirement capture exercises must be carried out
partnered with applicable levels of training for personnel to maintain the required skill levels. Attention
should also be drawn to the concept of planned obsolescence, typically associated with a monopolistic
undersupply, where the service, product or function
is intentionally developed to be incompatible with
previous versions to induce consumers to upgrade
(Miao, 2011). Strategies developed for dealing with
technological obsolescence include the migration
of digital information to accessible technologies, the
emulation of obsolete systems and the preservation
of obsolete systems.
Typically when newer goods or technologies are
introduced that supersede previous versions, that
version becomes surplus to requirement and is not
used. However this does not happen with VCMs,
multiple VCMs are available for the same city at varyTable 2
Proposed strategies for obsolescence factors.
Obsolescence Factor
File Format
Data Interoperability
no longer required
VCM being superseded
by newer version
Loss of skilled
ing LoD, accuracy and data age yet none have been
classified as superseded. This could be due to the
VCMs not being appropriately marketed and readily available to industry professionals and researchers alike. This theory can be directly applied to the
data and 3D representations in a VCM. When first
constructed the VCM will use up to date data and
if made accessible, will be used by industry professionals. As the years pass the similarity of the data
to the real city reduces and the data becomes out
of date, maintaining the currency of a VCM is a key
The creation of a VCM would be possible through a
significant investment of time and money by project stakeholders, including commissioning bodies,
clients and/or indeed data acquisition providers.
Processes should be identified and implemented to
safe guard the investment being fuelled into the initial creation and subsequent maintenance and up-
Maintaining widely used file format which can be imported and
exported to common software applications.
A periodic approach to testing interoperability between VCM and
other applications. Aligning VCM with international standard
such as CityGML.
Yearly upgrade cycle to maintain current releases of software.
Hardware typically upgraded every two years. Use standard offthe-shelf software. Use open source software.
Periodic requirement capture needed to ascertain what industry
professionals require from a VCM.
International register to be developed including all data
attributes of each VCM. Giving potential users. An update
strategy/cycle to maintain up-to-date data.
The VCM needs to be accessible and usable by specialist
professionals and the lay user with varying requirements.
Numerous personnel to be trained to create, update and
maintain the VCM.
A structured business model to be developed prior to the VCM
project being started.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 217
date of a VCM and prevent the possibility of model
obsolescence. VCM obsolescence can be identified
as being the point in which a VCM has achieved its
original creation goal or requirements and is seen to
be of no further use, or the VCM has reached a point
in which it has become unusable due to hardware/
software requirements or outdated similarity to the
real life city. Several factors drawn from the emerging issues previously identified may contribute to
the potential obsolescence of a VCM. Table 2 indicates preliminary proposed strategies for tackling
the various obsolescence factors identified.
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city in the North East of
England. The city is situated on the northern bank of
the River Tyne which is also shared on the southern
bank by the city of Gateshead. Virtual NewcastleGateshead (VNG) [16] is a collaborative joint venture
between Northumbria University, Newcastle City
Council and Gateshead Council to create a 3D digital model of the city centres of both Newcastle and
Gateshead. These two city models have been combined to create the ‘Virtual NewcastleGateshead’.
The aim of the VNG project is to seek ways to create
one definitive, accurate, interactive model of NewcastleGateshead with the potential to be used for
multifunctions. VNG has recognised that in order to
be successful and sustainable, a digital model needs
to be effectively managed, regularly updated and
integrated into existing working practices and processes. These organisational requirements are as important as having appropriate technical solutions in
place. Furthermore, the ability to access, present and
communicate the information in VNG to the lay user
is of paramount importance to the sustainability of
the model and the potential of a future proof VCM.
Thompson et al. (2011) reports Northumbria University have been working to establish a relationship
between the two local authorities (Newcastle City
Council and Gateshead Council) in order to achieve
one single collaborative authoritative city model.
VNG is a 3D model of two urban areas, covering
30km at present, with a view to extend the cover2
age approximately to 102km (Table 3). Aerial photogrammetry and 3D modelling technologies were
used to create this model the initial focus of which
was to be used for public planning, education and
research. This alignment with the research requirements of the university has resulted in a recent expansion of VNG to support research (Elbanhawy et
Details of VNG Model
Data captured in 2012
Data capture
Aerial photogrammetry and laser scanning survey techniques (with the
future model to be based upon a database structure to facilitate regular
update procedures and efficient management).
Terrain accuracy 0cm-25cm for 70% of points.
Presenting small and large grassy areas, wooded areas, main and minor
roads, railways, pathways, bridges, car parks, rivers, water bodies, trees
and vertical embankments.
Building detail
Initially high detail with features (roof structures, chimneys, pitched roofs,
flat roofs, parapets, dormer windows, separation of individual buildings,
etc) Facades, textures added to achieve higher LoDs when required.
Initially .dwg for the context model, 3dsMax and VR4Max formats used
for detailing and interactive presentation purposes. Other formats such
as SketchUp etc provided for the councils and general public when
218 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Table 3
Details of VNG model
as updated from May 2012.
Figure 1
Extents of Virtual NewcastleGateshead (different colours
indicate the historical expansion of the model).
al. 2012) which is exploring the strategic use of three
dimensional modelling and simulation to support
electric mobility. This research will utilize VNG to
incorporate agent based modelling and to support
geographical analysis to simulate the behaviour of
users of electric vehicles. The study is part of an EU
Interreg IVB funded project to develop a North Sea
Region Electric Mobility Network and will endeavour to bring together people working in related emobility projects to explore common-ground areas
of research. The extended geographical areas will
enable the creation and testing of a VR environment
involving port/airport/city centre “traffic corridors”
with the greatest number of potential electric vehicle users. It has been agreed with Newcastle City
Council that the area should include as much of the
Tyne Corridor as possible as well as strategic routes
for increased transport resulting from future development sites to the north of the city and towards
the airport (Figure 1).
VNG is approaching the end of a three-year
business programme by the end of 2012. The origi-
nal business model predicted income derived from
major planning applications (estimated 60-80 per
annum for Newcastle and 56 per annum for Gateshead). The global economic recession has resulted
in reductions in the number of major developments
in Newcastle and Gateshead, but VNG has managed nonetheless to be successfully utilised for a
number of major developments and has assisted
decision making in the planning process for both
local authorities. An experienced city modeller has
been appointed and strategic links with the Royal
Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Northern Architecture and other regional bodies have been made
to raise awareness of VNG’s future activities and vision. By linking VNG to the research requirements
of Northumbria University, it is currently procuring
additional 3D model data, extending its geographical coverage to over 100 sq km. Over the course of
the three years VNG has conducted pilot studies on
interoperability with other software, including VISSim, Legion Studio, CadnaA, Star CCM+, Townscope,
LandXplorer and others. Discussions are ongoing to
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 219
explore other income generating opportunities and
how these can be approached in a strategic and systematic way.
A case study was carried out on the VNG project
to ascertain the strategies employed to counter the
previously identified obsolescence factors (Table 4).
This shows the VNG team has developed strategies
for the majority of the obsolescence factors indentified; this upfront effort planning will undoubtedly
have contributed to the success of the project. The
factors showing less strategic development are
those that are yet to arise. As indicated in this paper, a reiterative requirement capture exercise must
be carried out to determine any changes in the requirements for the VCM in all of the obsolescence
factors identified. These cycles will inform the VCM
team of any areas that require attention and further
development to maintain a VCM that is up-to-date,
embodying functionality required by potential users
and in a format that is readily accessible and usable
by potential users.
It is clear that obsolescence is an issue that has
blighted a plethora of industries, products and services for decades, with each industry developing
strategies for preventing or minimising obsolescence. Whether implementing digital preservation
techniques to extend the life span of file formats,
periodic requirement capture to maintain up-todate skill sets of industry professional or simply
planning for the eventual obsolescence of a product
or service. Based on research carried out on VCMs,
it is evident that although much research has been
carried out on the creation process and applications of VCMs, limited work has been carried out on
the identification of obsolescence factors and the
strategies implemented to counter these. Currently
each obsolescence factor identified in this research
has been weighted equally; however, this may not
actually be the case. Some factors may hold more
importance and ultimately be more critical in the
promotion of obsolescence. This issue will be further investigated in the ongoing research. The VNG
220 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
project has demonstrated its continuing success
through completing its initial three year business
plan. The obsolescence factor strategies implemented clearly reiterate the fact that consideration
has to be made and strategies developed to counter
the risks of VCM obsolescence. A ‘what if’ scenario
should be carried out for the obsolescence factors
not fully strategised and a theoretical strategy developed.
Future work
As stated, this paper offered an initial and ongoing
investigation into the research area of VCM obsolescence factors and obsolescence-prevention strategies; future work will involve individual detailed investigations into the separate obsolescence factors
identified and how to sufficiently provide strategies.
This process will be carried out through statistical
data analysis, literature reviews and case studies of
selected VCMs worldwide. This list will develop over
time increasing in number as new VCMs are introduced, the limitation to the current list is the difficulty of sourcing data regarding VCMs which are
insufficiently marketed and embody reduced online
presence. Data from this will ultimately be used in
the process of identifying the ranking and weighting of the obsolescence factors, defining which are
the critical factors which need addressed first. As
indicated in this paper, there are no accepted classification criteria of what constitutes a VCM, future
work is planned to identify the minimum percentage of real city size that constitutes a VCM.
Acknowledgement is made to Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council who have given their time
and support for the VNG project, Z-mapping Ltd,
BlueSky International Ltd and Arup for VNG model
data supplied to date and to VCM data providers for
supplying information regarding their 3D city models.
Table 4
VNG obsolescence strategies.
Obsolescence Factor
File Format
Data Interoperability
Functions no longer
VCM being
superseded by newer
Loss of skilled
.DWG for compatibility with industry software.
VNG have conducted pilots on VISSIM (vehicle simulation), Legion
Studio (pedestrian simulation), CadnaA (Noise mapping), Star CCM+
(Wind Analysis), TownScope (Solar access and Temperature Analysis)
and LandXplorer.
Hardware updates usually on a three-year cycle.
Not yet arisen with VNG as only focusing on urban planning,
education and research.
From the beginning, VNG always aimed to be an authoritative model
by working with the City authorities closely and by updating with
information on major planning applications. VNG is aware of other
versions but none that are as closely aligned to the urban planning
requirements of both Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council.
VNG was originally created for urban planning related issues and
therefore data is shared with the councils; a future requirement is to
be able to offer information to the general public via public
VNG is hosted by the university who make available certain parts of
the model data to Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council for
urban planning purposes, via File Transfer Protocol (FTP). VNG has
been brought to the attention of local architects via strategic
collaborations with the RIBA and Northern Architecture and a range
of services are offered to architects to provide them with strategic
views from a wider urban context. VNG has been brought to the
attention of property developers by attendance at developer forums
hosted by the local authorities. Other interested parties, such as
English Heritage, and organisations with regional responsibilities
have been made aware of the model by individual meetings. A
quarterly newsletter is circulated to over two hundred companies to
update them on developments. An optimised model of VNG was
made available to the general public during the summer of 2011.
VNG is hosted by a Northumbria University in collaboration with
Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council, each organisation is
large enough for responsibilities to be transferred to, or covered by,
other experienced members of staff.
The three organisations (Northumbria University, Newcastle City
Council, Gateshead Council) formed a working group to produce a
business proposal which included an analysis of requirements,
business case, three-year financial model, risk analysis,
recommendations and letters of support. A Steering Group was then
formed to direct the initiative over the initial three year programme,
and set up the necessary procedures and processes
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Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 225
226 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Interpretation Method for Software Support of the
Conceptual Redesign Process
Emergence of new concepts in the interpretation process
Jakub Jura1, Jiří Bíla2
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, CTU in Prague, Department of Instrumentation
and Control Engineering.
1, 2http://
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. This paper deals with the process of synthesizing the innovative concepts,
and especially with software and methodological support of this process. Our approach
emphasizes the importance of the interpretation of the suggestions, which are generated
by the system of software and methodological support of conceptual design. Just an
interpretation is in this systems usually missing. Herein described method is based
on the interconnection of the contexts in which the solution lies. For this context’s
interconnection a psychological approaches are used (especially the mind mapping). The
core of this interpretation method is creating of the interpretation map.
Keywords. Conceptual design; redesign; interpretation; interpretation map;
Human-Computer Interaction.
Design can be conceived of as a purposeful, constrained, decision making, exploration and learning
activity (Gero 1996). The design process is possible
to divide into three phases (Bila and Jura, 2007):
1. Early design phase - the aims of design and
properties of the designed object are defined
in this phase.
2. Conceptual design phase - the basic principles
of the function are draw up in this phase.
3. Detailed design phase - the implementation is
perform in this phase. The shapes, dimensions,
materials and the like are projected here.
Conceptual phase is very important, because the
consequences of the decisions made here are difficult to correct in the following phase. Conceptual
phase of the design takes the statement of the pro-
blem and generates broad solutions to it in the form
of schemes (French 1999). This broad solution incorporates the basic principles of function. The terms
schema and principles of function are for the conceptual design fundamental. The schema expresses
the essence of the designed object and simultaneously considers apart from its particular realization.
In a redesign process some old solutions or designs
(which we call vetera) are usually known and we are
looking for an innovation (which is called novum).
The aims and properties of designed object (from
early design phase) are encompassed in the old solutions. And from this reason the early design phase
is substituted by the vetera’s analysis.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 227
There are many algorithms, methods and procedures (like a TRIZ/ARIZ or Morphological analysis)
for the facilitating of the synthesis of the innovative
concepts. Some of these methods work on computer platform and use means of artificial intelligence (e.g. AIDA, GALILEO, ARCHIE or CEADRE). This
software is usually called CACD (Computer Aided
Conceptual Design) or CAI (Computer Aided Innovation). One of them is CRDP (Computer ReDesign
Process), which was developed on Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the CTU in Prague (Bila and
Tlapak, 2006).
CRDP - Computer ReDesign Process
Inputs to the CRDP software system (algorithm
CRDP on the Figure 1) are 1) three old solutions (vetera), 2) criterions for a new solution and 3) formation
parameters (fields of activities and principles which
form a new solution). The output is a set of suggestions to an innovation (novum). The old and new
solutions are described in a specification language
GLB (Bila and Tlapak, 2004; Bila, Jura and Tlapak,
Specification language GLB
GLB is a language, which conceptualizes the domain
of the conceptual design and represents semantic
properties of knowledge elements by means of preformed semantic structures like fields of activities
(FAct) and principles (Princ1 and Princ2). Basic grammatical form is: FAct <Princ1 <Prin2>> and its combination formed by AND connector. (see the dashed
rectangle on Figure 1). Mentioned fields of activities
are fields on which the design is realized – e.g. ME …
Mechanics, PNU … Pneumatics, TCS … Technological Constructions, ELS ... Electromagnetic and Electronics, Materials, Structures, Environment etc. The
GLB Principles 1 are the principles of function – e.g.
Trns … Transformation, Contr … Control, Cnstr …
Constructions, R-Eff … Relative Effects, Aggregation,
Embedding, Production etc. And these Principles 1
are specified by the Principles 2 (described in the
Table 1).
Software CRDP and others systems of the software support of Conceptual Design is short of the
interpretation of their outputs. The proposed method is concentrated to the process of the interpretation of symbolical formations to the conceptual
designs, which are generated by the CRDP system.
The main thing here is the process, in which the new
conceptual solution emerges.
Figure 1
Description of designing
process with CRDP software
and methodical support.
228 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Table 1
Princ 1
Princ 2
Name of Princ 2
Description of selected ele-
Trns (Transformation)
Change of Carrier Variables
Trns (Transformation)
Change of Energy Carriers
R-Eff (Relative Effects)
R-Eff (Relative Effects)
Generalized Bearing
Contr (Control)
Support of an effect
Contr (Control)
Repression of an effect
Contr (Control)
Logic control of an effect
Cnstr (Constructions)
to Fix
Cnstr (Constructions)
to Bear
Cnstr (Constructions)
to Shape
Cnstr (Constructions)
to join
ments of GLB language.
The term interpretation means an explanation or understanding in general. This article creates a context,
which is possible to call the context of conceptual
design. And in this context the word interpretation
means a process of connecting contexts and this
process leads to the emergence of new solutions
on the field of conceptual redesign (Jura 2012). The
contexts – which are interconnected here – are 1)
the context of innovation thinking of the user and
2) the context of the description of the conceptual
design, which is expressed in the specification language GLB.
Figure 2
Schema of the interpretation
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 229
Preparation phase – the first fusing of the
The core of the proposed interpretation method is
the interpretation map (Jura 2012) and its production. The interpretation method is constructed on
the base of psychological items of knowledge e.g.
Buzan’s (2005) Mind Mapping method, Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory, Tolman’s Cognitive Maps,
psychology of creativity or the Deep neurobiology
of E. Rossi.
Note: The mind map is Tony Buzan’s mean of visualization of mental contents of a given (usually in the
center of the map placed) theme (Jura 2012).
The interpretation method is also based on the
principles of emergence and emergent synthesis,
computer ontology and the theory of interpretation. These principles and pieces of knowledge are
incorporated into the structure of an interpretation
method, which facilitates synthesis of the new
concept by the user of the computer support.
The whole interpretation method consists of
two phases (see Figure 2), which are divided into a
partial interpretation steps:
A. Preparation phase (first fusing of the contexts).
Interpretation phase (makes more explicit
the interconnection of the contexts).
Preparation phase (A) includes learning the GLB language and incorporating the GLB principles to the
user’s semantic network. This phase is divided into
the two steps:
A1 – first interconnecting of the contexts –
learning of the meanings of the elements of GLB
from the list (something like a Table 1 extended to a
meaning of the GLB’s elements and examples).
A2 – finding out old solutions (Figure 3), their
specification in a natural language, their translation
into GLB language and backward translation (from
GLB to the nature language). The context of the user
is connected to the context of GLB in this step. The
innovation of the speed regulator from the branch
of fine mechanics is used as an illustration of the
redesign process with proposed software and methodological support.
Three vetera (Figure 3) are x1) Foucault’s regulator, x2) regulator of phonograph machine and
x3) regulator based on the power supply switching
off principle. The Foucault’s regulator works on the
mechanics, pneumatics and technological constructions fields of activity. Regulator of phonograph machine works on the mechanics field of activity and
at the field of technological constructions. And the
Figure 3
Illustration of redesign process
– input to the CRDP system –
three old solutions.
230 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
third device works moreover on the electromagnetic and electronics field of activity.
The Foucault’s regulator (x1) uses the construction (Cnstr) principle of the shape (Shape) and control (Contr) principle of the support of the effect
(Supp) by the centrifugal force and repression of
the effect (Rep) by the spring on the mechanics (ME)
filed of activities. And next there are the two types
of transformation at the pneumatics (PNU) filed of
activities. First is called the change of energy carrier
(ChCarr) and second is called change of the carrier
variable (ChVVal). And final there is used the knuckle
joint principle (Joint) on the field of the technological constructions (TCS). The complete description of
all devices in GLB language is:
x1 = PNU
<Trns <ChCarr> AND <ChVVal>> AND
ME <Cnstr <Shape>> AND
<Contr <Rep> AND <Supp>> AND
TCS<R-Eff <Joint>>
x2 = ME <Trns <ChCarr> AND <ChVVal>> AND
<Contr <Rep> AND <Supp> AND
<Analog>> AND
TCS <R-Eff <Joint>> AND
<Cnstr <Bear>>
x3 = ELS<Trns <ChVVal> AND
<Contr <Logic> AND <Rep>> AND
ME Trns <ChVVal>>
TCS <R-Eff <Joint>> AND
<Cnstr <Bear>>
Figure 4
Example of complete interpretation map.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 231
The design process continues by the input of these
descriptions (x1, x2, x3) into the CRDP software and
generation of suggestions of a new conceptual solution. The suggestions have a form of sign chains.
Interpretation phase – creating the
interpretation map
Next phase is called the interpretation phase. This is
the phase in which the interpretation map is build
and a new solution arises. This phase consists of
eight steps:
B1 – selection of the suggestion for interpretation
(from the set of suggestions which is generated by
the CRDP software). For example:
ME <Trns <ChVVal> & <Contr <Logic> & <Rep>> &
TCS <R-Eff <Joint>> & <Cnstr <Bear> & <Join>>
B2 – decomposition of the selected suggestion
to the basic form, which is called triplet (<FAct
<Princ1 <Princ2>>>). Previous sign chain after the
decomposition has a form:
B6 – an addition of free associations to the meanings of the GLB elements. Any ideas, images to the
GLB are written or draw.
B7 – an addition of interassociations (associations
between the map’s elements). These interassociations should be plotted by dashed line and entitled.
B8 – the final reorientation to the solution, for
which the space in the middle of the map is designated. If the new solution does not arise it is possible to continue with adding associations and
thicken the interpretation map or select another
suggestion (step B1). Since this process is creative
and emergent, the reach out of the new solution is
impossible to guarantee, but this method creates a
suitable background for the emergence of the conceptual innovation.
This interpretation method makes explicit
the interconnection of contexts and also facilitates the process of emergence of a new conceptual solution on the intersection of these contexts.
B3 – the plotting of these triplets into the map (this
is the first step of drawing interpretation map – Figure 4). The triplets are draw into the circles.
The functionalities and specifics of the proposed
methodology have been tested. On the basis of
these tests has been formulated a qualitative model
of performance of the solution. The CRDP system is
an adviser system, which renders the emergence at
the level of sign chains. The proposed interpretation
method supports the emergence of a new solution
in the user’s mind (at the level of images).
B4 – an addition of first associations to the triplets
into interpretation map. Any first ideas, images,
brainwaves etc. are draw in the map and are linked
with their source triplets.
The development of this paper has been supported
by Research Grant SGS 161-821770B/12137. This
support is very gratefully acknowledged.
B5 – connecting the GLB meanings (as it is represented in user’s mind) to the GLB elements (as it is
represented in the interpretation map). User writes/
draws his own meanings of the used GLB triplets in
the form of verbal and graphical description. This
description is also linked to the draw GLB triplet.
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Buzan, T 2005, The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps, Harper Collin Publisher, London, Great Britain.
French, MJ 1999, Conceptual Design for Engineers, SpringerVerlag, 3rd ed., London, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Gero, JS 1996, ‘Creativity, emergence and evolution in design: concepts and framework’, Knowledge-Based Systems, vol. 7, no. 9, pp. 435-448.
Jura, J 2012, Interpretation process in conceptual re-design of
systems, PhD thesis, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering
of the CTU in Prague, Prague.
Jura, J and Bila, J 2007, ‘The Grammar for the Description
of Artifacts in the Conceptual Redesign of Systems’,
Proceedings of 13th International Conference on Soft
Computing - Mendel 2007, Brno, Czech Republic, pp.
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Design Optimization in a Hotel and Office Tower Through
Intuitive Design Procedures and Advanced
Computational Design Methodologies
Façade design optimization by computational methods
Subhajit Das , Florina Dutt
W2 Architects P LLC, China, Vast United Enterprize P LLC, China
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The research topic of this paper exemplifies design optimization techniques of a
hotel/office tower in Central China (Nanjing city), which faces subtropical humid climate
throughout the year. The main intent of the project is to find optimized design solution
with the aid of parametric design tools and Visual Basic Scripting techniques (in Rhino
Script and Grasshopper) combined with intuitive design process. In any urban context, we
firmly believe that architectural design is a responsive phenomenon, which faces diverse
interaction with the user and the local climate. The building design of the proposed
tower acknowledges these responsive factors of the design with the environment along
with building users or residents. Consequently, we strive to develop a sustainable design
solution, which is ecologically efficient and psychologically conducive to the wellbeing of
the user. We developed our intuitive design product with complex computational design
toolsets to leverage design and energy efficiency. In this procedure, we draw major design
concepts and geometrical typologies from natural systems in the form of bio mimicry or
biologically inspired design process. Overall, this research paper outlines the significance
and relevant benefits of the combination of intuitive design (from experience, expertise
and architects skills) with parametric scripting tools.
Keywords. Sustainable Building Façade; Parametric Architecture; Intelligent building
skin; Solar Architecture.
To study the site and neighbouring ecological
conditions with local data and 3d energy analysis platforms.
To form conceptual design strategies with intuition and experience.
To develop the conceptual design with design
computing methods and scripting techniques,
considering the intent to develop a sustainable
design solution to enhance building performance.
To analyse the computational framework’s result with quantitative tools.
Combine the results with design intuition to
make innovative design strategies.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 235
Site location
Concept design
The site is in Central Business District of an upcoming major city in China, called Nanjing. It is considered to be one of the largest economic zones of
China. It is 300 kilometers (190 mi) west-northwest
of Shanghai and 1,200 kilometers (750 mi) southsoutheast of Beijing. Building program usage is
mixed type having an office cum hotel tower as one
of the primary spatial requirements of the client. The
location of the site is of highest importance for both
the client and city government due to its landmark
nature and strategic position at the corner of two
major retail streets having high density traffic flow.
As per Government’s urban planning report for the
city, the proposed tower is expected to have a landmark hotel cum office tower in the site, which not
only would be an aesthetic pride to the historic city
of Nanjing, but shall also be an exemplary model in
performance driven sustainable architectural design
for other major projects in the region.
The initial program requirement from the client
and the local rules of Nanjing municipality fixed the
tower height to be of 100m each floor spanning 4m
(comfortable habitable height for an office building).
The first four floors were occupied by hotel and office
podium with entry lobby, retail shops of big brands
to add revenue to the project. Initial concept design
included tower form and shape analysis as its one of
the rigid design move, which would control the subsequent building performance for energy efficiency
and indoor comfort conditions. Keeping in mind the
aforementioned interpretations from the ecological
analysis of the site and the region, the tower shape
formed was a L shape building mass set little towards
back of the site (leaving site frontage for retail podium and public plaza). Refer Fig. 2 and 3.
The building form achieved constituted of two
longer faces facing towards the south and north
side respectably. Intuitively with experience and
Site ecology and climate
Figure 1
Relevant inferences from all of the ecological studies
of the site could be enumerated as below:
1. Summer south east winds should be welcomed
inside the building and hence a mixed mode
ventilation system would be more apt in these
conditions considering the high potential of
the tower to harness the incoming comfortable
summer breeze.
2. During winter, extremely cold and chilly breezes from north east direction should be essentially neutralized and the building should be
adequately insulated or the form should be
such that it protects the user from these cold
3. As Nanjing is considered one of the most hot
destinations in China from May till Sep each
year, adequate measures needs to be adapted
in building design to minimize solar direct radiation and insolation gains on its façade especially towards the south and west direction
from 11 30am till 3 30pm in the afternoon.
The above diagram explains
236 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
the results obtained from
Ecotect weather analysis of
Nanjing showing wind flow
direction, pressure, relative
humidity annually.
Figure 2
The conceptual design form
obtained of the tower and the
3-floor height podium in front
of the site. The blue form represents 100m office tower. The
edges are rounded to impart
smooth flow and continuity to
the building facade.
Figure 3
The section explains the
inclined façade on the south
and west direction which
reduces solar insolation level.
The computer model on the
right shows the south and
west façade facing a 70m residential building on the back.
knowledge, west and east facades of the sites are
minimized as much as possible to grossly cut down
on building incident solar insolation level, which
essentially is the major component in adding to the
building cooling load during summer months (Schittich, 2004). The tower corner conditions or edges
were filleted/ rounded to leverage the possibility of
smoother wind flow in and around the building. It
also accentuated the desired aesthetics to the tower.
With a little research on scientific principles in building solar incident insolation level, it is established
that this value predominantly depends on the building angle from the tested point or façade or object
under consideration to the current location of the
sun. With research and probe on solar insolation
formulae, it was confirmed that more the building is
at 90 degree to the sun, more would be the subsequent value of the building solar gains. This is very
Figure 4
The colored building block
diagram shows the design
changes adapted from conventional building mass. The L
shaped form screens the tower
from North East winter wind.
Figure 5
It shows the comparative
study of an animal skin study
and proposed building façade.
It reflects how the building
façade simulates the behavior
with the help of smaller
façade panels.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 237
Figure 6
The diagram above shows
the variably rotated panels
and how their aggregation
together generates a fabric
of smart components as the
façade design.
much explained by the projection effect, which outlines that the insolation into a surface is maximum
when it directly faces the solar object or sun. Quoting from Wikipedia, “As the angle increases between
the direction at a right angle to the surface and the
direction of the rays of sunlight, the insolation is reduced in proportion to the cosine of the angle.” Thus in
response to adverse summer conditions in Nanjing,
the façade of the tower facing towards the south
and west is tapered outwards towards the top most
point, which reduces the angle of the panels of the
facade towards the sun. Refer Fig. 3.
To sum up, the building volume has a straight
geometrical wall on the north and east façade, while
the south and west façade reflects inclined wall
which is tapered outside to reduce the solar insolation value incident on the south and west panels.
The cause of this effect can be deduced from the
idea that the panels are now less directly facing
the sun, which is very much conducive to attain
more efficient energy consumption. Adding to this,
the L shaped tower form where the L projection is
towards the North East direction helps protect the
tower from extremely cold wind flow from North
East direction in to the site. Refer Fig. 4.
Advanced design
The first phase of the project as described above
essentially comprised of conceptual design of the
form and shape of the proposed building. This pro-
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cess of design was largely based upon design expertise, design intuition, quantitative information of
site condition (from Ecotect) and design experience.
After setting up the preliminary form into the site,
the next phase comprised of design development of
the tower in advanced digital modeling, simulation
and computational platform to apply advanced sustainable design procedures exemplifying innovative
design strategies. The conceptual form model was
analyzed in Autodesk Ecotect and tested for preliminary incident solar insolation gains on the site both
with the tower and without. One stark observation
revealed exceptional potent of the south and west
façade to mitigate energy consumption in summer
months. The observation was supported by the recording of very high values of solar gains on these
facades. Towards the south adjoining the site, is a
70m high residential tower, which provided some
relief from its shadow during the late mornings and
early afternoons, but this was more towards the
ground floor reaching not more 3 floors. The remaining 20 floors of our building were exposed to the
extremely hot and glaring sun radiation. So to optimize the glare and solar insolation levels, essential
design objective was to add significant protection
to the tower against south side solar gains without
compromising on building aesthetic levels.
Bio mimicry and design intuition
The design intent to save relevant cooling load on
the building by minimizing incident solar gains
while preserving porous visual accessibility from the
building to the outside, was the next challenge for
us. In depth research, study was conducted where
animal skins of various species were the focus of
study (Benyus, 1997; Wright,Young and Hobbs,
2009). This study was very conducive for the sustainable development of the project as it delineated the
following logic and design principle in these natural
1. The skin system of each of these organisms,
were composed of much smaller subdivided
units or components, which integrated coherently to form a whole system, which we observe as the skin.
2. These components add flexibility and porosity
to the skin while maintaining relevant insulation levels from the exterior adverse climate
and ecological conditions. Refer Fig. 5.
3. The components enhanced the aesthetics of
the species manifolds and thus provide intriguing and ambiguous visual sensation to the beholder. We understood that subdivision of the
skin into intelligent components (which aggregates and self organizes), leverages the functional behavior of the animal skin. The skin is
remarkable to protect itself against all external
conditions. Its efficient performance is crucial
for the organism’s survival among many others
over the years of evolution.
4. These intelligent components depicted individual transformation potential at local level,
giving rise to diverse possibilities in flexibility and elasticity at the same time maintaining
their design logistics with the whole part and
geometry, to preserve integrity and structure.
5. These design patterns of vivid shape, size and
color composition, were unique and organic in
aesthetic quality.
From the research observation following major conclusions and desired design objectives were set,
which further was evaluated with the aid of scientific performance simulation and computational
methods to add credibility and feasibility to the
design process- The preliminary building block is
treated as one long continuous building façade having edge conditions rounded for smoother flow. The
façade of our tower is treated as north, west, south
and east faces respectively.
1. The model has to be setup with the simulation
of real sun as a component in computational
framework to govern behavioral response from
the skin with the respective gradual change in
the sun as an external attractor.
2. Each face of the skin would behave unique performance behavior with respect to the external
weather condition and internal space usage
and program behavior.
3. The façades in each direction are subdivided
into rectangular panels of 4m by 1.5m (4m is
floor-to-floor height). This is established to enable optimized construction workability and
apparent cost reduction.
4. Each of the subdivided panels holds the potential to be trans-formed, scaled and rotated
independently while being connected to the
overall façade system, thus enabling parametric design intent. Refer Fig. 6.
5. Considering cost and client limitations, each of
the façade panels would be completely static
or fixed and would not in any way depict transformational changes by any induced kinetic
system. The idea is to test different pattern and
behavior of their transformation by programing a simulated environment with embedded
logics and behaviors having sun act as an external attractor.
6. The façade panel’s centroid is calculated to
know its precise coordinates. It essentially acts
as the key point for making further calculations
especially with the simulated sun component
and other relevant assertions to escalate behavior significantly. The behavior of the panel
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 239
Figure 7
The screenshot above explains
the VB Script interface and
Grasshopper Sun component
depicting the basic script
framework. Axonometric
Diagram of the tower shows
different building material
used to minimize use of glass.
East and west façade are
shielded with concrete wall,
which are considered as thick
thermal mass.
with respect to the sun is obtained, by calculating the angle, between the lines from the centroid to the sun with the surface normal of the
panel itself. This is a crucial quantitative value
which further provides inter related ecological
performance parameters derived with scientific formulae and logistics.
7. The sun is assumed as a point in the 3D space
and its behavior is simulated by coding the
mechanism in computational framework.
8. Grasshopper, VB script component in grasshopper and Rhino script is chosen as the computational platform. Rhino 3d nurbs modeling
platform provided extensive digital modeling
tools and scope for the parametric design of
the tower.
9. After the simulation, different results from the
script were tested quantitatively with the help
of Solar Insolation analysis, indoor CFD modeling to measure efficiency achieved in wind
flow and Shadow Analysis indoor and outdoor
to test the potential of the skin as a sunscreen.
10. Design Algorithm
The algorithm was very basic yet followed precise
functions and procedures to enable accurate results.
This essentially formed rightful decision making in
design and performance domain. The key steps followed were as below:
240 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Each of the subdivided facade panels were
connected to the sun point with their respective centroid.
The line of connection between the centroid
and the sun was compared with the surface
normal of the subdivided panel facing outwards. The angle between the connected line
and surface normal was recorded in radian for
each of the facade panels.
This angle changed in value as the sun starts to
move in its trajectory over the course of the day
from morning until evening for each façade
panel respectively. This angle also changed
over the course of different season and months
in a year, i.e. it also changed annually
This angle is the key component to calculate incident solar insolation value. The formula used
to calculate the desired result is obtained from
research data.
The respective values of solar insolation levels
of each panels are recorded in an excel sheet
(by exporting the data from the VB Script interface to the excel chart).Moreover, it was further coded to display the data in a RGB color
diagram from blue (showing lowest values) to
yellow (showing highest solar gains areas overlaying on the panel itself.
This graphic color distribution diagram on the
panels clearly marked the key areas on the facade with uncomfortable solar gains value,
which should be minimized. It also clearly
outlined the sun position and time of the day,
which are most uncomfortable due to excessive solar gains incident on the façade panel
(Hermannsdorfer and Rub, 2006).
Time: From 12noon until 2 30pm or 3 pm, the sun
showed extreme solar gains on the façade.
Location: The façade panels in the center between south and west direction facing most directly
to the sun highlighted very high solar gains which
needed to be neutralized (Koster, 2004).
Thus, the color diagram reflected the objective
to maximize blue or green zones on the façade while
neutralizing areas of yellow or orange on the graphical overlay of solar gain values. Refer Fig. 7.
7. As established beforehand the panels showing
higher solar gain values in a day were directly
facing the sun during afternoons. Therefore,
the key idea to reduce the solar gains was to
identify key panels whose orientation could be
changed, enabling them facing away from the
sun to reduce the insolation values. However,
this also needed to coordinate with the visual
connectivity desired from the inside space to
outside, so the change in the orientation was
an optimization between all of the following
interconnected agendas:
Solar gains.
Visual connectivity.
Construction feasibility.
Wind protection from North East in winter.
Wind harnessing from South East in summer.
Aesthetic quality achieved due to change in
panel orientation.
Construction Cost and local building fenestration rules.
Construction techniques known to local construction engineers.
8. Custom written script in Visual Basic component in grasshopper created angular values
with respect to each of the key identified panels. The values were restricted in number keeping in consideration above core issues of construction and project viability. For Example the
panels at the corner, where the façade is changing in topology is restricted to rotate within 15
degree, to protect excessive overhang and vision impairment from the inside of the tower to
outside. These design intuitions clubbed with
computational scripting potential gave rise to
a generative architectural design syntax which
is performance based and achieved unique
aesthetic quality, local to the specific site and
ecological conditions.
While calculating the rotational values, the
time duration from morning 6am until evening 7pm was divided into three distinct zones
(Morning – 6 am to 11:30 am, Afternoon - 11:30
am to 4 pm and Evening - 4 pm to 7pm). After
the Boolean confirmation which time zone of
the day, the sun is currently at, the for loop in
VB script runs through each of the façade panel
and creates rotational values based on custom
written function to calculate desired solar insolation levels restricted within feasible panel
orientation level. Thus, the script gives credibility to the time zone of the sun and takes
active decision to set the panel at the desired
orientation. It is of utmost importance to note
that these dynamic rotational arrangements of
each panel are not changing on site, but rather
a continuous simulation system. Out of the
simulation, each frame or moment could be a
viable design solution and can be installed as
the building skin. Therefore, all these different frames or static points in the simulation
are analyzed and compared before choosing
the final option. The most optimized output
with reference to afore-mentioned priorities
is picked as the most viable building skin for
the tower. Since the entire setup of the computational model and VB Script is written in
parametric form, thus the end output obtained
can be grossly changed by change in parameters and variables. Thus vivid combinations of
variables and constants gave rise to vivid possibilities and output façade topography. Each of
the options so achieved are having same log-
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 241
Figure 8
Solar Insolation Analysis done
in Ecotect. Also shows different design option obtained
and their comparative study
The results were compared
showing blue color as the low
insolation level, while yellow
reflects very high insolation.
Figure 9
Solar Insolation analysis
results of another design
scheme on all facades.
ics but varied panel rotational orientation and
minimized solar gains level from conventional
benchmark model.
10. Glass is considered highly non-sustainable
building material used in landmark high-rise
high performance buildings, especially if used
without adequate protection and screening
systems from the sun. However, at the same
time, in a rapidly developing economy of china
conventional design procedures believes that
modern landmark office or hotel building must
be designed with high content of glass and
steel. General impress ion of a glass cladded
building is accepted to be modern and iconic.
Thus the intent and objective was to minimize
and re-strict usage of glass in the building if
not it can be negated completely ( Knaack et al,
2007). The following were practiced to obtain
the result:
West and East façade were completely blocked
from solar gain by providing fly ash enriched
concrete. This acted as a strong thermal mass
for thermal insulation. For the winter, the
strong thermal mass enabled heat storage during day hours which could be used at nighttime.
The pockets of space so created on the façade
due to panel rotation is blocked with perforated masonry wall, which selectively allows
wind flow but insulates solar gain and heat ra-
242 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
diation significantly. Thus, it caused substantial
reduction of the percentage use of glass in the
Considering the north to be free of significant
solar gains and having possible dissipation
of diffused day lighting( which is very much
welcomed in an office work environment), the
subdivided panels on this zone are kept free
of rotation and thus remains unchanged. The
glass used in the North façade is clear and
transparent to accentuate desirable visual and
ventilation possibilities from both inside out
and outside in.
As established and mentioned beforehand from
Ecotect climate analysis of Nanjing, cold wind from
North East direction in the winter should be blocked
to insulate the building from extreme winter breeze.
The subdivided panels in the northeast direction
are variably rotated away from the northeast winter
breeze. Consequently it enabled placement of masonry wall (with operable perforations) sandwiched
between panel-to-panel open space (Zaretsky,
2009). This cuts down incoming winter cold breeze
significantly and enhances building indoor air quality and flow rate specific to season. For the summer
the same has been practiced towards the southeast
direction, but this time the panels are positioned
facing southeast (instead of facing away). Thus, the
above arrangement of selective façade panel treatment made indoor spatial conditions comfortable in
all seasons annually.
However that being said, the above selective
façade re-arrangement was achieved parametrically
by selective façade panel recognition in a customized and manually calibrated VB script. The script
placed two attractor points respectively in southeast
and northeast zone of the façade on each floor. Each
of those attractor points have a threshold distance
which was parametrically calibrated for each simulation run , to observe effect on the whole façade.
Those façade panels on the same floor, whose distance was lesser than the threshold distance, were
transformed to a desired rotational value to achieve
the aforementioned façade panel positioning.
The research paper clearly outlines the objectives
of a practical office cum hotel tower project. In that
process, new technologies in the form of parametric
design tools and programming capability in VB script proved to be instrumental in asserting hypothesis and testing their credibility and feasibility in real
life construction scenario. The following important
conclusions were drawn:
1. Intuitive design skills and expertise is still of
exceptional potency and value to frame the
solution in the form of early design conceptualization. The intuitive solutions could be very
well tested with parametric and building information modeling tools for their scientific and
mathematical viability.
2. After fixing the building form or shape, building façade/ skin should be analyzed to reduce
building energy usage and enhance indoor
and outdoor user comfort level.
3. At these stage new tools like grasshopper parametric components, rhino script and VB Scripting component in grasshopper is instrumental
in testing façade design performance and construction feasibility, with the aid of simulation
4. Solar insolation values on the façade should
be calculated to understand what geometrical form changes and modifications could be
adapted to escalate significant reduction in
solar gains specifically on the south and west
Benyus, JM 1997, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
William Morrow, New York.
Hermannsdorfer, I and Rub, C 2006, Solar Design: Photovoltaics for Old Buildings, Urban Space, Landscapes, Jovis,
Koster, H, 2004, Dynamic Daylighting Architecture: Basics,
Systems, Projects. Birkhauser Architecture, Munich.
Knaack, U et al. 2007, Facades: Principles of Construction.
Birkhäuser Architecture, Munich.
Schittich, C, 2004, In Detail: Solar Architecture : Strategies, Visions, Concepts.
Birkhauser Architecture, Munich.
Wright, D and Young , D and Hobbs, D 2009, Discovery of
Design: Searching Out the Creators Secret, Master Books,
Green Forest , USA.
Zaretsky, M 2009 Precedents in Zero-Energy Design: Architecture and Passive Design in the 2007 Solar Decathlon.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 243
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On Creativity and Parametric Design
A preliminary study of designer’s behaviour when employing parametric
design tools
Sheng-Fen Chien , Yee-Tai Yeh
National Cheng Kung University, Tainan Taiwan
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. This research explores the relationship between unexpected outcomes
generated through parametric design tools and the design creative process. We conducted
an empirical study to observe how designers behave while encountering unexpected
outcomes using parametric design tools as well as other kinds of design tools. From
our study, there are some indications that the space of possible design solutions of the
participants was expanded with the existence of unexpected outcomes. The preliminary
result is encouraging. Further studies may need to address experience designers and
novice designers separately.
Keywords. Parametric design; unexpected outcome; creativity; protocol analysis.
Parametric design is a recent trend in computeraided architectural design. Around the world, there
are more and more amazing buildings achieved
through parametric design methods. However, discussions about the creative process in parametric
design are limited. Using parametric design methods, architects can rapidly generate design alternatives, which in turn may promote reflections and reexaminations of design problems. This process may
help novice designers to broaden their understanding of design problems and foster their creativity.
This research explores the relationship between unexpected outcomes generated through parametric
design tools and the design creative process.
For designers, unexpected outcomes bring
possibilities of new ideas. From our anecdotal observations of undergraduate students learning to
use parametric design tools, unexpected outcomes
are often caused by complex parameter settings
and mistaken links between input and output data.
Complex-parameter induced unexpected outcomes
are mainly resulted from the lack of understanding
in computer programming. Mistaken-link induced
unexpected outcomes are mainly resulted from the
lack of understanding in Mathematics and Geometry. Nevertheless, the unexpected and sometimes
totally out-of-context outputs ignited design discussions.
Gero (1990; 2000) postulates the model of creative design process and describes routine designs,
innovative designs, and creative designs (Figure 1).
Innovative designs are designs with “familiar structure but novel appearance because the values of the
defining variables are unfamiliar” (Gero, 1990: 31)
whereas creative designs are achieved through introducing “new variables producing new types” (Gero,
1990: 31). Cagan and Agogino (1991) demonstrated
that although parametric design tools were primar-
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 245
ily used to generate routine designs, they could be
used to create innovative designs as well. Mitchell
(1993) illustrated creative designs may be produced
by emergence in the design process. Gero (2000)
further elaborates the process of innovative design
and creative design in computational terms: innovative designing activity occurs when “the context that
constrains the available ranges of the values for the
variables is jettisoned so that unexpected values become possible” (Gero, 2000: 187) and creative designing activity occurs when “one or more new variables
is introduced into the design” (Gero, 2000: 187). However, Gero (2000) cautions that creative designing
processes may help, but not guarantee, to produce
creative artifacts.
More recently, Kilian (2006) demonstrates
through multiple case studies using parametric
Modelling, combined with other computational
principles, to support explorations of innovative
design. Barrios Hernandez (2006) presents a new
approach to parametric design and illustrates a
creative designing process. Jones and Sweet (2010)
teach parametric design through innovative designing and creative designing activities. From our
observation of students learning to use parametric
design tools, it seems that outputs from parametric
models, especially the unexpected ones, help the
students to broaden their space of possible designs.
This, in turn, may achieve creative designs.
may trigger many changes of other parameters according to the relations. At times, some relations are
inherent and thus the resulted changes may not be
easily understood. This appears to learners of parametric modelling as a phenomenon of “complex parameters” (see Figure 2, top 2 rows).
Creating a parametric model is a process to formulate and organize constraints. Some constraints
may govern the overall volume of the design solutions. Some constraints may concern the minimal
length of a wall so that it may allow for a door on it.
The modelling process requires a designer to establish a structure, which is usually hierarchical, of associative constraints so that solutions may be achieved
(Woodbury, 2010). The dependencies of constraints
have to be managed through matching number of
parameters and matching data type in each parameter. If a constraint concerns three input parameters
but gets only two input values, it cannot produce
any result. On the other hand, a constraint may produce partial solutions so that it cannot appropriately
trigger its associated constraints. The resulting outcomes from such parametric models may be totally
incomprehensible. This appears to learners of parametric modelling as a phenomenon of “mistaken
links” (see Figure 2, bottom 2 rows).
Figure 1 State spaces of designs (from
Gero, 1990).
Parametric models are in essence created by a set
of constraints specified using parameters and their
relations (Woodbury, 2010). In the context of architectural design, even a simple design solution
may contain hundreds of objects, each of which
has at least a handful to a dozen of geometric parameters. Therefore, a parametric design model has
to manage thousands of relations between parameters (Monedero, 2000; Davis, Burry and Burry, 2011;
Leitão, Santos and Lopes, 2012). A design solution
can only be generated when all constraints are resolved. Any change in the value of one parameter
246 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
A programmer with experienced parametric modelling techniques may treat both phenomena described above as bugs (errors) in the parametric
model. We have observed these incidents in an undergraduate course teaching geometric modelling
using parametric tools. Often in the class, students
were puzzled by the unexpected outcomes and the
Figure 2 Generative variations (top
2 rows: 12 variations from a
parametric model of complex
parameters; bottom 2 rows: 12
variations from a parametric
model of mistaken links).
instructor attempted to help students “correcting”
their models. Of course, in the context of the course,
students may have target outcomes that need to
be generated by correctly formulated parametric
models. Nevertheless, in the context of design exploration, these phenomena create unexpected outcomes that may be intriguing and can broaden the
space of possible designs.
We conducted an empirical study to observe how
designers behave while encountering unexpected
outcomes using parametric design tools as well as
other kinds of design tools. Unfortunately, we were
not able to recruit experienced design practitioners
who are also experienced users of parametric design
tools. We decided to recruit graduate students who
are confident in using parametric design tools and
with at least 4 years of undergraduate architectural
design trainings.
Each participant was asked to perform three design tasks, on separate days, with a different design
tool for each task. The available design tools are (1)
a parametric design software of their choice, (2) a
non-parametric design software of their choice, and
(3) pens and papers. The three design tasks are different but similar in that the objective is to create a
space for specific requirements: a space for waiting
that is quiet in atmosphere and smooth in texture;
a space for passage that is joyful in atmosphere and
heavy in texture; and a space for wandering that is
hostile in atmosphere and light in texture. The order
of tools and the order of design tasks are all randomly selected.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 247
Code Verbalization
problem definition
statements or questions of design constraints
statements of what the problem should be
statements or questions regarding the nature of
the problem, especially what the constraints
often inferred from analysis, statements
structuring redefinition
involving redefinition of what constraints meant
statements of how to go forward in response to
the problem
impositions of constraints not given in the
phrases about requirements indicating scanning
of memory
repeated phrases about requirements to access
scan call
deeper memory
expressions of surprise, discourage, upset,
expressions of relief
expressions of praises, interests
Fm expressions of self-encouragement
articulations of solutions or tentative solutions
expressed in the beginning of the protocol
articulations of tentative, fairly specific idea as a
potential solution
articulations of attempt to list objects of a kind
articulations of an idea that apparently has all
required attributes
articulations of attempt at elaborating upon an
repeat of example
articulations of repetition of an example
articulations of a class of objects whose
members are potential solutions
articulations of attempt at overcoming the
constraint bypass
failure of a probe to meet one of the
analysis method. The protocols were segmented
Coding scheme
For each design task, the participant was asked toarticulations
and coded
methoda used
by Khandofaccording
attempt to
think-aloud while constraint
designing, and
the process
(1993). one
Ec wassolution
or more(1993)
of thestudied divergent
videotaped and a post-task interview was conduct-requirements
thinking in the creative problem solving process
ed. The data was analyzed through the protocol
and identified five categories of protocols: problem
of attempt to prove that a solution
met a requirement
articulations of victory by announcing a solution
248 | eCAADe 30 - Volume
1 - Digital Aids to DesignEs
embodied all requirements
Table 1 Coding scheme (from Khandwalla 1993).
structuring (P), search (S), feeling (F), ideating (I), and
evaluating (E), each of which contains sub-categories. Our coding scheme follows these categories
and corresponding subcategories (Table 1).
During the parametric design task, unexpected
outcomes generated by the parametric Modelling
tool may show through verbalizations in forms of
feeling and search. In particular, the participant may
exhibit surprise, upset or discouragement, i.e. the
Table 2
signs of block (Fb) in feeling when encountering
an unexpected outcome. In addition to feeling, the
participant may than search her/his memory (S, Sc)
for verifications of the outcome. For each identified
code in Fb, S, or Sc, the corresponding computer
screenshots were examined to record the unexpected outcome and to determine the cause of the
unexpected outcome, i.e. “complex parameters” or
“mistaken links”. Table 2 illustrates our coding result:
Verbal transcript
Sample coding results.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 249
each protocol segment is numbered, time-stamped,
with verbal transcript (the study was conducted in
Chinese), coding with identified cause of unexpected outcome if available, and video image.
Data analysis
In total, five participants took part in the study but
only three of them completed all three design tasks.
Our analysis was based on three participants (A, B,
and C) who have completed all tasks. Among the
three participants, A and B had one-year experience
in using Rhino/Grasshopper, while C had three-year
experience in using Rhino/Grasshopper and twoyear experience in using Generative Component.
All three participants use Rhino/Grasshopper for the
parametric design task in our study.
1. Design medium vs. divergent thinking.
Overall, regardless of design medium used, participant A exhibited most frequent divergent thinking both in terms of time frequency and segment
frequency, while participant C showed the least.
Among three design tasks, participant A showed
most frequent divergent thinking when using
parametric design software, participant B exhibited slightly higher frequency of divergent thinking
when using parametric design software, while participant C’s data showed opposing results in time
frequency and segment frequency. In particular,
participant C, being the most experienced “parametric designer” among all participants, showed the
Participant Medium
least number and the least frequency of divergent
thinking when using parametric design software.
2. Unexpected outcomes.
To identify “unexpected outcomes”, we focused on
the design tasks using parametric design tools. We
examined the segments with Fb (feeling-block), S
(search-scan), or Sc (search-scan call) coding and
their corresponding computer screenshots to determine the occurrence of unexpected outcome. For
each occurrence, the cause of was “complex parameters” or “mistaken links” inferred using the verbal
transcript and corresponding computer screenshots.
For example, when the occurrence of unexpected
outcome corresponds to error or warning messages
in Grasshopper, we infer that the cause is of “mistaken links”. Both participant A and B had unexpected
outcomes due to “complex parameters” or “mistaken
links”, while participant C had only one occurrence
(Table 4).
3. Design thinking process.
We plotted the design process with encoded protocols to examine the divergent design thinking process where x-axis is the time dimension and y-axis
marks the coding as discrete elements (e.g., Figure
2). In particular, we wanted to relate the occurrences
of divergent thinking with “unexpected outcome”
created by the parametric design tools. We marked
the occurrence of unexpected outcome with a small
circle and looked for the coding of problem structuring (Pf, Pd, Pa, Pr, Pap, Pc) or ideating (Ip, Ipb, Il,
Design Time No of
No of
Frequency I Frequency II
Segment Coding (codings/min) (codings/seg)
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Table 3
Quantitative analysis of
protocol data (pds: parametric
design software; npds: nonparametric design software;
pp: pens and papers).
Table 4
Occurrences of unexpected
outcome in the parametric
design task.
No of unexpected
Iex, Ie, Ir, Ig, Ic) immediately after that. Overall, for
participant A and B, we saw prominent patterns of
“unexpected outcome” causing divergent thinking.
For participant C, however, we found no effects; the
only unexpected outcome was treated as a mistake
of his own fault.
From the analyzed result, we observed that participant C behaved distinctly from the other two participants. Although all three participants has equivalent
experience in architectural design, participant C has
learned two parametric design tools for over two
years each, while participant A and B learned only
one parametric design tool for one year. We consider
participant C as an “experienced parametric designer” and participant A and B as “novice parametric
Participant C was able to employ the parametric
design medium as proficient as other design mediums (i.e. non-parametric design software, and pens
Complex parameters Mistaken links
16 (89%)
17 (85%)
0 (0%)
2 (11%)
3 (15%)
1 (100%)
and papers). Therefore, the rate of divergent thinking did not very too much when participant C used
different design medium (see Table 3). Furthermore,
participant C, although had very few unexpected
outcomes, had consistently re-read the design task
and reformulated parametric models. This fits the innovative designing activities stated by Gero (1990;
Participant A and B exhibited more divergent
thinking and refined design problems more often
when using parametric design medium than using
the other two design mediums. Both of them encountered unexpected outcomes due to “complex
parameters” and “mistaken links.” It was observed
that the unexpected outcome sometimes hindered
their design process. For example, an expected outputs due to “mistaken links” prompted participant A
to restructure the design problem, but he was not
able to make necessary modifications to fix the parametric model so that he had to give up the original parametric model. Although most unexpected
Figure 2 A section of the design thinking process of participant A.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 251
outcomes were not adopted directly by them for
further design development, these unexpected outcomes did trigger redefinitions and refinements of
design problems.
From our study, there are some indications that
the space of possible design solutions of the participants was expanded with the existence of unexpected outcomes. However, this occurs more
prominently for those who are novice and less so for
those who are experienced. Review the state spaces
of design by Gero (Figure 1), each space of design
is perceived differently by designers with different
levels of experience. All trained designers should be
able to perceive the full space of routine designs. An
experienced expert designer may perceive the full
space of possible designs as illustrated in the figure.
However, a less experienced designer may not be
able to perceive the full extend of possible designs
and thus bounded by her/his own ability (Figure 3).
We see the potential effect of parametric modelling bringing unexpected outcomes to expand the
perceived space of possible designs for less experienced designers, as well as to expand the space of
possible designs for experienced designers. An experienced designer may overcome hindrances un-
expected outcomes with systematic explorations of
design problems and alternatives. Therefore, understanding how experienced designers behave while
employing parametric design tools is a key future research. In addition, if parametric tools may promote
designers’ reflections on design problems, these
tools may help novice designers to advance their
design capabilities. Therefore, employing parametric design tools as design teaching/learning tools
may warrant future research as well.
We thank reviewers of the abstract for their critical
and insightful comments.
Barrios Hernandez, CR 2006, ‘Thinking parametric design:
introducing parametric Gaudi’, Design Studies, vol. 27,
pp. 309-324.
Cagan, J and Agogino, AM 1991, ‘Inducing constraint activity in innovative design’, AI EDAM, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 47-61.
Davis, D, Burry, J and Burry, M 2011, ‘Understanding visual
scripts: Improving collaboration through modular programming’, International Journal of Architectural Computing, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 361-376.
Figure 3 Expanded and perceived
spaces of designs (adapted
from Gero 1990).
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Gero, JS 1990, ‘Design prototypes: a knowledge representation schema for design’, AI magazine, vol. 11, no. 4, pp.
Gero, JS 2000, ‘Computational models of innovative and
creative design processes’, Technological Forecasting
and Social Change, vol. 64, no. 2-3, pp. 183-196.
Jones, C and Sweet, K 2010, ‘Over constrained’ in 5th International Conference Proceedings of the Arab Society
for Computer Aided Design, Fez, Morocco, pp. 179-188.
Khandwalla, PN 1993, ‘An exploratory investigation of divergent thinking through protocol analysis’, Creativity
Research Journal, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 241-259.
Kilian, A 2006, ‘Design innovation through constraint modeling’, International Journal of Architectural Computing,
vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 87-105.
Leitão, A, Santos, L and Lopes, J: 2012, ‘Programming languages for generative design: a comparative study’, International Journal of Architectural Computing, vol. 10,
no. 1, pp. 139-162.
Mitchell, WJ 1993, ‘A computational view of design creativity’ in JS Gero and ML Maher (eds.), Modeling Creativity
and Knowledge-Based Creative Design, pp. 25-42, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale NJ.
Monedero, J 2000, ‘Parametric design: a review and some
experiences’, Automation in Construction, vol. 9, no. 4,
pp. 369-377.
Woodbury, R 2010, Elements of Parametric Design, Routledge, New York.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 253
254 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Scripting Shadows
Weaving digital and physical environments through design
and fabrication
Eva Sopeoglou
Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.
[email protected]
Abstract. This paper considers the opportunities of engaging in a creative dialogue
between the physical and the digital, through the use of generative design tools and digital
fabrication technologies. Digital iterations on an open-air installation for a pavilion take
the shape of research in design. The design is partly driven by environmental parameters,
such as the movement of the sun and shadows across a site in the Mediterranean. A
fabricated microclimate is tailored through bespoke scripting and fabrication. In this
project, rather than being used to optimise environmental parameters, scripting intents
to offer a delightful milieu for human comfort.
Keywords. Scripting; digital fabrication; shading; environmental comfort.
The physical aspects of architectural design are
understood to be three-fold: the materials and the
building itself, but also the people, as they take on
active roles as the designer, fabricator and user; and,
thirdly, the temporal aspects for the environment,
such as weather, climate and natural elements,
which in this case are the sun and shadows.
On the other hand, architecture consists of digital matter and exists inside digital drawings, fed with
information [Figure 1].
In the condition of the digital drawing and the
fabrication file, architectural design is able to navigate between hard materials and soft data. This paper will present a design case where both the digital
and physical need to be considered.
There is always an inherent challenge when designing with invisible materials, such as the sun, wind,
light and air. Working with such intangible, yet very
physical materials, there is a need to visualise the
information and place it in the design’s virtual environment.
Environmental parameters then enter the design not as physical, but as digital data. This digital
data is, in turn, transforming the physicality of the
project through fabrication. As a result architecture’s
physical materials can interact with the environment
and the building can interact with the site.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 255
There is a long history of designing with the climate,
in vernacular and traditional architecture, where
form is directly influenced by specific mirco-climatic
conditions. In more contemporary examples from
architecture include experimentation in form-finding using scripting, parametric and generative digital tools, where again climatic data become a formgenerator for architecture (Weinstock: 2011; Tsigkari
et al: 2011).
Such examples demonstrate that is it possible
to design with enough information from the site,
architecture becoming more site-specific. However,
often the aim of using scripting tools in design is in
order to optimise a design, improving an aspect of
its engineering performance. Often, environmental
design becomes an instrument for optimisation.
Other factors of sustainability and comfort, such as
delight and the user’s experience are given less priority in this process.
With the use of scripting there is an opportunity
for the cr eative interplay between climatic data and
fabricating materials, building components and the
inhabitation of spaces. The project to be presented
here is seeking to use digital aids as means to en-
hance creativity, at many levels: at the phase of design, also at the fabrication stage, and in the inhabitation, use and experiencing the place.
Thus, scripting and generative design becomes
an opportunity for a creative architectural practise,
where interplay is sought between design and the
environment, rather than optimisation for engineering.
The project presented here is of a summer house, in
a rural seaside setting. Because of the wish to connect in a direct way to the place, there is very little
distinction between inside and outside spaces. The
structure is more of an outdoor pavilion and an architectural site-specific installation, with minimum
requirements for an enclosure.
This project forms part of a larger research
agenda, on the notions of environmental comfort
and designing with the climate. This design-based
research investigates architectural fabrics, in spatial
enclosures between the body and the landscape.
The thesis is formulated around the backdrop of
Gottfried Semper’s (2004) tectonic theory on the
principle of cladding and his suggestion of a decisive link between textiles and architecture [Figure 2].
Figure 1
Scripting as a method of
inserting physical environmental information into
256 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Figure 2
Textile Fabrications: a series
of design experiments with
the textile nature of digital
fabrication in sheet metal.
Figure 3
Dressing bodies: exploring
patterns in the natural and
digital landscapes.
A particular research focus is shadows and shading,
conceived as ephemeral architectural fabrics which
dress the city, the body and the landscape. Shadows form a particular kind of architectural fabric,
as they are temporary, ephemeral and nomadic ar-
chitectural entities. Moreover, shading contributes
to time- and climate- sensitive design, at the same
time addressing aesthetic and performative aspects
of a fabricated environment.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 257
This on-going project is developed in a digital environment, using Rhinoceros design software [1],
complimented by the plug-in scripting tool Grasshopper [2]. The scripts used so far in the project are
mainly of three distinct categories:
First, scripts to manipulate two-dimensional
surfaces, which may represent a wall, roof or
floor, representing architectural textiles. Digital
manipulation enhances texture, in particular
the texture of light and shadows. Scripts were
used to read light and dark areas in images,
which then generated surface textures for the
project’s metallic panels [Figure 3].
Second, the scripts were used as form-finding
tools, in order to create three-dimensional
shaded spaces. As the sun follows a set trajectory based on the location, specific spaces are
equipped with tailored canopies, projections
and vertical shading devices, in order to create
a comfortable inhabitable shade for different
times of the day.
Third, scripting was used to track the sun and
to visualise dynamic shadows as moving and
nomadic temporal condition, in other words,
a four-dimensional shaded space. Points of attraction are placed were people may interact
with the architectural components, seeking an
intimate perceptual experience of comfort.
Because of the digital interface, it was possible to experiment with much iteration. Thus, versioning - or if
using the fashion analogy, building a collection - becomes a process of architectural design. This mode
of designing is an appropriate tool, since shadows
are dynamic phenomena.
The design of the pavilion gives the opportunity
to re-think how environmental principles are dealt
with in a generative, parametric design context. This
context is able to deal with the complexities of a dynamic system which develops over time.
The architecture generated using scripting
design protocols is here aimed to explore options
which offer variety, instead of narrowing down to an
optimum best solution. Instead, it is used as means
to creatively engage the designer, the fabricator and
the user in collectively producing a playful mix of
manufactured and hand-crafted environments.
In this sense, architectural digital design and
fabrication extends from the production of objects
to architecture, to describing a design process and a
learning paradigm.
258 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Semper, G, Mallgrave, HF, Robinson, M and Getty Research
Institute 2004, Style in the technical and tectonic arts, or,
Practical aesthetics, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
Tsigkari, M, Davis, A, Aish, F and Specialist Modelling Group,
Foster + Partners 2011, ‘A Sense of Purpose: Mathematics and Performance in Environmental Design’, Architectural Design, 81(4), pp. 54–57.
Weinstock, M 2011, ‘The Metabolism of the City: The Mathematics of Networks and Urban Surfaces’ Architectural
Design, 81(4), pp. 102–107.
[1] Rhinoceros;
[2] Grasshopper;
Visual Narratives of Parametric Design History
Aha! Now I see how you did it!
Halil I. Erhan1, Rodolfo Sanchez1, Robert F. Woodbury1, Volker Mueller2,
Makai Smith2
Simon Fraser University, BC Canada, 2Bentley Systems Inc., PA USA
{herhan, rsanchez , rw}, 2{Volker.Mueller, Makai.Smith}
Abstract. Histories are underdeveloped and underused features in parametric CAD
(PCAD) systems. Designers employ backtracking and deferral strategies that both use and
augment history. Using backtracking and deferral as a framework we present two classes
of design process graph diagramming techniques for augmented history in PCAD. We
compare the second version of these design process graphs across several designers who
completed multiple tasks using two parametric systems (SolidWorks and GenerativeComponents). The two systems show similar types of action, with markedly more and deeper
backtracking in GenerativeComponents. We present a third diagramming system as a
design for a proof of concept prototype. This prototype aims to expand the capabilities
of design histories beyond access to single prior states to visualize and enable direct
interaction based on backtracking and deferral.
Keywords. Parametric CAD; design history; backtracking; deferral; design space.
History, the record of what actually happened in design, helps designers manage, and to a lesser extent,
reflect on and understand work. When edited, histories cease being logs and become stories; narratives.
Through these narratives, designers often tell stories
of how an idea develops from inception to a satisficing solution (Simon, 1956). In parametric computeraided design (PCAD) systems in particular, the narrative of work done (or interpreted) is often the best
means available to explain how and why complex
parametric links came to be. However, in current
systems, histories are mostly logs and designers
are usually frustrated by the system providing inadequate help in organizing, recording and editing the
process (Woodbury and Burrow, 2006). Throughout
this paper we use the term history to refer to all tools
that provide the ability to record and replay actions.
Our stance is more akin to the view of history taken
by the humanities (history is always partial and relative) than to that of computer scientists (history is a
In this study, we aim to understand design action when designers use PCAD tools and to suggest
potential solutions to support design by using histories. We envision an interactive model of the parametric design process that designers use actively for
both understanding and explanation. The study has
two goals. The first focuses on a means to identify
the design patterns and strategies unique to PCAD.
The second is to provide insight for system developers to design tools to view, interact and explore
using the parametric model’s design history. It aims
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 259
to take advantage of the systems’ parametric capacity not just to model, but also to explore design
space and explain choices, both made and foregone.
These goals are related but different from earlier research that mainly focuses on ‘interaction’ analysis
(such as Bhavnani and Bonnie, 2000), visual undo/
redo mechanisms (such as Grossman, Matejka and
Fitzmaurice, 2010), or state-based version control
using interactive design histories (such as Bueno et
al., 2011).
We report two studies. We focused on the strategies designers adopt when they revisit the actions
they perform as they search for alternatives and
refine their design. In the first study, we observed
designers using SolidWorks (SW) [1] to develop
solutions to two different design problems under
controlled conditions. In the second study, we analyzed design transaction records of actual work from
another parametric tool, namely GenerativeComponents (GC) [2], to learn more about what history
could reveal to designers. Together these studies
provide insights towards a model for a parametric
process graph and an interactive system adapting
the model. Our hope is that, by identifying the opportunities, achievements and failures described in
the design narrative, better design solutions can be
Below we describe our motivation for this study
followed by a brief description of the literature. We
present our research apparatus and the studies we
conducted. We present several visual design process graphs and use these to propose a design for a
parametric design history graph. We conclude with
a general discussion and ideas for future work.
Histories can provide us with insights into our accomplishments and failings that can be used to
guide later decisions. These insights arise not only
through individual points in time but also through
a narrative of the process leading to and from any
of the high or low points in design. The core idea
is that designers, like ‘time-travelers’, should not be
bound to working only on single and present design
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states, but also on potential states that were visited
earlier or missed. For this, new tools are needed for
design histories that support not only editing history, but also simultaneous interaction with multiple
points in history and the iterative nature of design
search (Akin, 2008). There are several reasons for an
augmented design history. First, a navigator may
help designers access design history to re-explore
past design states and discover new ones; Second,
edited narratives of the parametric design process
can build explanations for private (internal) or public
(external) use. Third, histories may provide new tools
for managing the complex relations networks created with PCAD, which is an essential feature for creativity support tools (Shneiderman, 2007). Fourth, design histories provide researchers with new tools for
understanding PCAD and how it supports design.
Current design-support systems generally do
not provide augmented design history. We identify
some reasons for this as follows:
Limited functions to navigate, edit, and explore
past design states beyond simple undo and file
Limited feedback on the development of design work. The information is model- and statefocused and does not reveal what happens to
the model.
Limited action records that can provide insight
on design. Some tools only provide information on model structure and partial process records through construction trees or transaction
logs. Deferrals and revisions are implicit.
Limited retrieval of discarded design states that
are valuable to understand and explain the design process. Such states may exist in a record
but are easily lost in the noise of many minor
changes and states.
PCAD tools and models allow users to improvise design history management partially. They enable rapid exploration through parametric changes. Through
backtracking, the designer can change and explore
the design space on the basis that greater exploration will ultimately provide better design solutions
and should therefore be encouraged to do so. This
potential is currently untapped and relies on user
driven strategies to cope with the absence of inbuilt
tools. We propose that higher-order actions such as
deferral and backtracking can structure more useful
design histories.
The literature presents two high-level and interrelated strategies designers adopt when working
with complex design models. The first is ‘backtracking’ (Akers, 2009). Designers backtrack to return to a
previous design state. The second is ‘deferral’ (Woodbury, 2010). Designers model objects and relations
approximately, knowing they will refine these later.
Deferral is strongly assisted by PCAD as model
changes propagate downstream – greatly lowering
the cost of deferral strategies.
Akers provides a taxonomy of reasons for backtracking related to software usability studies (Akers,
2009). This includes error recovery, exploring the interface, exploring design alternatives, revising temporary actions, understanding action consequences
and reversing undesirable system actions. Our particular interest is on backtracking when exploring
design alternatives and when revising temporary actions; designers create temporary model states that
can later be deleted or edited once their purpose is
Backtracking in PCAD goes beyond the working
definition given by Akers that only includes undo
and erase as signals for backtracking (Akers, 2009).
A broader definition is required to map designer action in parametric modeling accurately. Designers
trigger backtracking when they revisit a previously
established parameter or feature in the model past
state and make a change. These modifications include adding new features, suppressing or deleting
features and simple undo. On the other hand, deferral in design is closely tied to the very nature of parametric modeling (Woodbury, 2010). With a deferral
strategy, designers build or use representations
that can admit changes to earlier decisions without
much change on the representation. We believe that
the reasons behind the deferral strategy are determined by at least four factors. The first two are deferral of parametric values and deferral of structural
elements of the parametric system. The other two
factors are the deferral of design decisions and the
deferral of work.
We conducted two studies to understand the design
behavior of designers using PCAD tools and to suggest potential tool solutions to support the design
process using design history. Below we describe the
process we followed, and insights gained from each
Apparatus development: building the
design process graph
Before we conducted the studies, we developed a
design process-graph scheme as an apparatus to
visualize and analyze patterns of use in parametric
design. We also identified signals that reveal backtracking and deferral. We achieved these by running
a pilot study with one participant who was asked
to design a bus stop and a beach changing room.
The participant was a designer with advanced SW
skills. The encoding of the pilot study is based on the
participant’s feedback as well as the measures described by Akers (2009). It helped us refine the study
design and encoding guidelines. We identified the
following signals as measures to be used in encoding the data in both studies:
Undo: Reversing the previous action performed
Delete: Deleting parts of the CAD model or
Add actions: Inserting new geometric features
to the model.
Modifying actions: Editing existing feature
Within- and between-states: Actions that are
executed and applied within the same state or
in between different states.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 261
Figure 1
First iteration of graph
modeling action data with
backtracking shown as
arcs. The long backtracking
arcs towards the end of the
process suggest the deferral of
Figure 2
During any point in the design
process (a) designers add
new elements to the design
(b). At this point the designer
decides to change a value
The first graph-model: Using the insights from
the pilot study, we created the first process graph
by encoding video of designers to reconstruct the
design history (Figure 1). It was an iterative process
that consisted of researchers viewing, identifying
and generating accounts of the sequential actions.
Actions are marked as nodes, and undo, delete,
add, modify actions were shown as arcs connecting from the node where an action is performed to
the initial node where the object being edited is first
introduced. Backtracking actions created new variations and alternatives shown as branches on the
graph. The initial encoding was very detailed and
captured more user actions than were necessary;
adding noise to the data masking relevant actions.
The initial graph was not included in further analysis
except as a source to provide insight on the overall
On the graph, the actions shown as nodes are ordered from left to right. Alternatives (branches) are
created when signaled by explicit user intention or
observation of a “major” change to the model; and
distinct symbols identify revisiting variables and
deletions. In this process, the flow of control is managed by the designer and system as described in
(Figure 2).
The first iteration was visually complex and hard
to grasp. We identified three apparent sources. First,
many local edits (direct or short indirect arcs) appear
to be simple error correction (caused by either designer or system) that were corrected using undo or
erase. Second, distinguishing operations by type (revisiting variables, deletions and structure changes)
suppressed the overall picture of change. Hence,
we decided to remove suspected undo actions and
made all nodes and arcs of one type. Finally, the
of a preceding element (c).
The system updates all states
downstream and takes the designer to the state where the
change is initiated. The graph
keeps the record of change as
a backtracking arc.
Figure 3
The second iteration of the
process graph includes the abstraction of designer actions
into a defined set. Actions that
build the model are shown in
grey. Backtracking, in large
orange nodes and backtracking arcs link both.
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Figure 4
Part editing span is added as
horizontal bars.
branching was not a good model of PCAD, primarily
because of the downstream propagation of change.
Backtracking became the most salient behavior captured in this version.
The second iteration of the graph-model: After
studying actions, their relationships, visual representation and overall structure, we decided to include
only add, subtract and modify actions in the graph.
Other low-level actions such as UI-commands, error
correction, zooming or changing display styles were
The second process graph scheme includes
three discrete elements of parametric modeling:
constructs, backtracking and design variations (Fig-
ure 3). Constructs are all the actions designers take
within the tool to build the parametric model such
as inserting a feature or creating a parametric relationship, or encapsulating a selection of low-level
actions. In this graph, constructs are shown as grey
nodes; backtracking nodes (larger orange nodes) are
placed when designers backtrack and make changes
to constructs, for example, by changing the value of
a parameter or deleting a section of the model. With
each backtracking node, a corresponding arc is created representing the relationship between the construct and its backtracking node. The third element
is design variations, which are shown below the constructs as unfilled nodes. These are a record of the
Figure 5
A sample transaction showing
changes to two elements and
the addition of one more in
the design model.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 263
Figure 6
Design process graphs of GC
and SW designers using backtracking as metric. Actions
encoded from five different
real-world projects using GC,
study 2 (Left), and actions
from participants using SW
that created different solutions for a beach changing
room and bus stop in Study
1. Note: graphs are not at the
same scale.
264 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
changes on the parameters made by the designer
either immediately after establishing them or after
backtracking. We built the second graph using the
encoded data from one of the participants in Study
1 (see below). A partial view is shown in Figure 3.
In the second scheme, each design variation
is equivalent to a branch. However, the resulting
graph does not show branching as a tree graph as
branches are implicit. Given sequential nodes A,
B and C and design state α, an arc from C to A will
create an implicit branch and changes will propagate downstream. The value of B and all subsequent
nodes will depend on the new value of A and the
parametric relationships associated with A creating
design state β. Design state α no longer exists as a
model state and has no explicit branch. In addition, we changed arcs from rectilinear to curved (in
this instance circles) as in ThreadArcs (Kerr, 2003) as
these disambiguate arc crossings and improve visual tracing in and out of nodes. The next refinement
of the second graph shows part-editing spans under
corresponding nodes as color-coded bars below the
graph (Figure 4).
Study 1: observing design moves using SW
The first study consisted of 16 participants who were
asked to complete two separate design tasks in the
course of approximately two hours using SW. Participants for the study were upper-division undergraduate, graduate and former students from SIAT,
Simon Fraser University. All undergraduate participants had previously taken advanced design courses that included the use of SW. Graduate students
had a design background. All participants were
screened through a questionnaire and interviewed
to confirm that they were either intermediate or advanced users of SW.
For this study, we asked the participants to design a bus stop and a beach changing room. We
assert that these two tasks are comparable, given
that the prototypical design of these two structures
is similar in overall size, number of individual parts,
spatial complexity, structural complexity and difficulty. In the first stage, we used the apparatus we
developed to visualize the encoded process graphs
of 7 design solutions out of 33. Figure 6 (right column) shows these visualizations.
Study 2: analysis of real world projects
created by GC
The second study used GC models collected from
the “wild” as records of design work. Transactions in
GC are records of the discrete changes that build a
parametric model. A transaction can include single
design steps or a group of actions at the user’s discretion. Figure 5 shows a sample transaction that
adds Floor_solid in the model and changes curve02
and plane02.
GC transaction files were parsed to produce
process graphs. The parsing revealed some issues.
Individual transactions ignore the action order and
may include information that is ambiguous and unnecessary for our purpose, such as minor edits. GC
transaction files are user-editable but do not record
this action, therefore they may not accurately reflect
all work done. We selected transaction files that
were not substantially changed once the designer
completed their design task. Care was taken to
make sure that the criteria used in encoding SW and
parsing GC files was similar given the differences between the systems. The resulting analysis graphs are
shown on the left column in Figure 6.
The studies revealed that backtracking actions are
highly common in both systems. They can have different span sizes covering few actions or the entire
graph. There are three general backtracking patterns
observed. First, in partial construct-backtrack moves
designers build a part of the model, backtrack to the
start of that part, refine and continue working on
the next. The GC model iv, and the SW models a, b,
c are of this type. Second, long construct moves and
long backtracking spans may connote focus on specific aspects followed by reflection. The GC models i,
ii, iii, v and the SW models d, e, and f show this pat-
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 265
Figure 7
(a) Example of a fully
expanded and collapsed
process graph (b)A three
level hierarchical parametric
process graph with Constructs
in dark grey, Backtracking
events in orange and Design
Variations in light grey. Arcs
connect between individual
nodes and nested nodes in
higher-level parts (marked by
tern. The third pattern combines both patterns such
as the models i, ii, iii, iv in GC and e in SW. We believe
that the SW g is an exception: we suspect that the
participant executed a preconceived design. The
intensity of backtracking in the GC models is much
higher than the SW models. This can be attributed
either to the tool, task, or designer. The similarities
between the SW graphs, and the similarities between the GC graphs may reveal that it is most likely
the tool and task rather than the designer.
Backtracking can be a sign of exploration and
deferral. The long-span backtracking particularly
shows that designers are willing and able to refine
even the earliest of actions and parts. The actions
that prompt the backtracking are either explicitly set
up by the designer or implicitly present in the parametric model but nevertheless allow the designer to
defer decisions. All graphs (except g) show certain
backtracking-intense clusters, for example in the SW
model a, the backtracking is in the end, whereas in
the GC model i it is spread evenly throughout the
process. We need further investigation to understand why backtracking moves differ so dramatically
between the two systems.
Initial Prototype: enabling time travel in
Based on our findings, we envision a software prototype providing designers with real-time feedback in
parallel to the construction of the parametric model.
The prototype captures, synthesizes and generates a
visualization of the design process derived directly
266 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
from the user’s interaction with the parametric tool.
It is proposed to be add-on to existing parametric
systems. We suggest the prototype provide the following capabilities.
1. View and interact with design variations that
are not part of the current CAD model. Through
the UI, designers should be able to review past
design variations, comparing alternative versions of their design and ultimately backtrack
to previous designs.
2. Navigate the hierarchical structure by adjusting the granularity independently across the
process graph to manage complex models and
provide designers a way to identify the relationships of nodes on different levels of the hierarchical structure.
3. Provide information about individual and
groups of nodes, arcs and nested hierarchies
through tooltips and brushing.
4. Provide secondary notation to mark nodes and
5. Save, share and compare process graphs for
training, archiving, supervising, collaborating
or accountability.
The prototype would include a hierarchical structure
that allows constructs, backtracking nodes and design
variations to be grouped together to create nested
hierarchies (Figure 7). The hierarchical organization
would enable semantically meaningful chunks of
actions to be grouped together, making the identification of the relationships between individual
actions and higher-level parts or tasks in the graph
coloured bars). The numbers
over the nested nodes shows
the number of incoming
(red) and outgoing (black)
backtracking arcs.
Figure 8
A process graph visualization
showing the same design
model at individual action
level a) and a collapsed
nested structure b). Nodes
are grouped together based
on predefined rules or userdefined structures. In this case
nodes are grouped based on
SW grouping.
possible (Figure 8). Due to page limitations, a detailed description of the prototype is left for another
paper. Arc rendering is another major change in the
prototype. Arcs are bundled together to reduce occlusion, clustering and enhancing overall readability. These graphically compact rounded rectangular
arcs preserve the start-end point detection and help
to reduce the crossing ambiguity of the circular arcs
of our previous diagrams. The design of these arcs
is based on techniques developed by Holten (2006).
The process graph as a model of design history
shows a partial narrative of the design process.
Through visual analysis we can identify backtracking
and deferral; two strategies consistent with the literature and relevant to parametric modeling. These
strategies support exploration and are present in
both PCAD systems.
Our initial findings show that there is enough
evidence to motivate the creation of a tool to support these two strategies in PCAD. This contention finds support in other studies on backtracking
(Tidafi, Charbonneau, and Araghi, 2011). The support tool should particularly address design refinement, what-if-scenarios, why-not-try-this-scenarios
and deferral. We demonstrated a possible solution in
this paper, in the process of implementing it along
with experimentation on backtracking and deferral.
This research was partially funded by the Graphics,
Animation and New Media Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia
y Tecnología (CONACYT), Mexico.
Akers, D, Simpson, M and Jeffries, R 2009, ‘Undo and erase
events as indicators of usability problems’, Proceedings
of the 27th international conference on Human factors in
computing systems (CHI ‘09), pp.659-668.
Akin, Ö 2008, ‘Variants and Invariants of Design Cognition’
in J McDonnell and P Lloyd (eds) Design Thinking Research 2007, 20 pages.
Bhavnani, SK, and John, BE 2000, ‘The Strategic Use of Complex Computer Systems’ Human-Computer Interaction,
15 (2), pp. 107–137.
Bueno, C, Crossland, S, Lutteroth, C and Weber, G 2011 ‘Rewriting History: More Power to Creative People’ Proceedings of the 23rd Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference, pp. 62–71.
Conklin, EJ and Yakemovic, KCB 1991, ‘A Process-oriented
Approach to Design Rationale’, Human-Computer Interaction, 6 (3), pp. 357–391.
Grossman, T, Matejka, J and Fitzmaurice, G 2010, ‘Chronicle:
Capture, Exploration, and Playback of Document Workflow Histories’, Proceedings of the 23nd Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, UIST
’10, New York, NY, USA: ACM, pp. 143–152.
Holten, D 2006, ‘Hierarchical edge bundles: visualization
of adjacency relations in hierarchical data’, IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 12(5),
Kerr, B 2003, ‘THREADARCS: An Email Thread Visualization’,
Technical Paper, RC22951, IBM Research. Available at:
Shneiderman, B 2007, ‘Creativity Support Tools: Accelerating Discovery and Innovation’, Communications of the
ACM, 50, pp.20–32.
Simon, HA 1956, ‘Rational choice and the structure of the
environment’, Psychological Review, Vol. 63 No. 2, pp.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 267
Tidafi, T, Charbonneau, N and Araghi, SK 2011, ‘Backtracking
Decisions within a Design Process: A way of enhancing
the designer’s thought process and creativity’, Proceedings of CAADFutures 2011, Liege Belgium.
Woodbury, RF and Burrow, AL 2006, ‘Whither design
space?’, Artificial Intelligent For Engineering Design Analysis Manufacturing, 20(2), pp.63–82.
Woodbury, R 2010, Elements of Parametric Design, with contributions from Onur Yüce Gun, Brady Peters and Mehdi
(Roham) Sheikholeslami, Taylor and Francis Group.
[1] 3D CAD Design Software SolidWorks. Available at:
[2] BIM and Beyond-Generative Design: GenerativeComponents. Available at:
268 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
“Divide et Impera” to Dramatically and Consciously
Simplify Design
The mental/instance path - How reasoning among spaces, components
and goals
Antonio Fioravanti1, Gianluigi Loffreda2, Davide Simeone3, Armando Trento4
Sapienza University of Rome - Italy.
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. In our times, in a complex and universal village where problems are
intertwined and pervasive beyond our imagination, we need new approaches to deal
with them – appropriately. In a previous work we highlighted the importance to
reason ontologies: a ‘world’ f.i. a building – as a mental image – is not a Linnaeus’s
classification (structured set of entities) but a system (goals oriented set of classes) able
to reasoning upon selectively chosen entities belonging to different Realms (ontology
universes) (Fioravanti et al., 2011a). The general aim of our research– to be an effective
aid to design – is to simulate wo/man as designer and user of designed spaces, hence how
mental skill can be computably included in new tools able to tackle these problems. This
paper is focused on the first role: how actor-designers approach design problems and
how the inference mechanism can help them and affect the design process. A ‘Building
Object’ - the dual system of Spaces and Technology elements – is inferred in several ways
according to different goals and the inference mechanism can, simulating human mental
shortcuts, optimize thinking.
Keywords. Design process; design operational theory; thinking optimization; inferential
mechanisms; human-machine collaboration.
In the world, which has become a single global village characterized by increasingly complex relations, interdependence and now universal problems, we need tools and methods in order to ‘predict
and govern future situations’ – i.e. design – that
should be at the same time “simple” in order to focus the attention on possible concrete and realistic
Reflections upon these tools and methods accompany the history of humankind and these were more
and more systematically developed and deeply explored from industrialization age on. Simon (1996)
claims that in Industry Age there is progress (also
meant in a broader sense as quality and quality control), when a certain work is freed from worker personal skills.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 269
This statement can be considered valid also in Postindustry Age when the most distinctive activity is
design and beside the original concept “to substitute human skill” new concepts rose: to support, to
complement and to aid humans. Nowadays the key
word could be “to enhance human capacities”.
Consequently, the basic idea pervading our
CAAD community is that, by freeing the designer
from tasks that can be progressively delegated to
ICT, s/he can concentrate her/his efforts and creativity on higher level problems with which, for the
time being, ICT has greater difficulty in coping till
now. Nevertheless these limits are moving ahead:
designer possibility horizon becomes wider. In this
approach an explicit man-machine ‘collaboration’
is declared: the research group is thus in the mainstream of pure computed ‘aided’ design in which the
designer can, at any time, turn off the design aids/
constraints of application programs. At the same
time, in full awareness, the designer can rely on the
default mechanism which allows, at any step of the
process, ICT entities to be instantiated, albeit only as
regular values (namely the defaults). The research
group is therefore a considerable distance from the
philosophy of “automated design”.
In actual fact, the pioneering and initial phase
of Computer Aided Architectural Design is over and
tools, a time focused on number processing and on
verifying that equations referring to physical phenomena are respected, are now cleverly directed towards solving higher level problems, but are often
inadequate for this purpose.
In order to be effective and achieve a quantum leap
in the field of Computer ‘Enhanced’ Architectural
Design - CEAD -, the model of the building its definition and its behaviour - i.e. architectural design must take into account:t:
Relations between the building and “wo/man”
in all his complexity, corporeality and sensitivity.
To do this it is necessary for “material humans”
(like super-avatars) to be as realistic as possible
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in order to interact with the building - digital
Logical processes on associated entities to define
the building and the relevant design process.
Reasoning procedures need to optimize the
search path (for the solution, for constraint
checking, for instantiation, etc.), so it is useful
to imitate the designer’s mental path as experienced for centuries. The digital world needs to
be brought closer to the real world through the
omnicomprehensive nature of all its parameters, including both physical characteristics and
human arguments – physical digitality.
This view leads us to appreciate that the current architectural design models (made up of the building
and the process) have two shortcomings: on the one
hand, a short-sighted view of the role of ‘material humans’ in using the building, in exploiting it culturally,
in enjoying an aesthetic gratification; on the other,
dull inference engines used to logically process and
to explore knowledge that they ultimately populate
with instances the knowledge domain on which
they act. The first point is not treated in the present
paper; however, research by our group is now under
way. The second point is instead the subject of the
present paper: Inference Engines and how they instance prototypes.
Traditional methodologies and tools, based on
meetings and direct interaction among actors are
very efficient in dealing with architectural design
problems, but have shown their limits in present
design process characterized by a high degree of
inter-disciplinarity, delocalization of activities, subdivision of activities, timely use of information and
the correct use of the more advanced methods and
technologies, - in a word: complexity.
In order to manage these problems effectively
it is necessary to develop new methodologies and
innovative tools. At present, among the forms of
actors’ interaction in the design process, the Collaborative Design paradigm (Kvan, 2000; Woo et al.,
2001; Cheng and Nancy, 2003, Peng and Gero, 2007,
Carrara et al., 2009) has peculiar advantages that fit
such problems neatly.
The fundamental bases of collaboration reside
in knowledge (understanding, timely, appropriate),
consent (social habits, joint results) and in the way
it is communicated among designers (real time, to
whom, how much, selectively, device).
However, a knowledge-based system for architectural design (Carrara and Fioravanti, 2010)
before ‘enhancing’ collaborations among different
specialised designer teams -’external’ collaborationsshould enhance collaboration within the specialist
designer team -‘internal’ collaboration-. Such new
knowledge-based systems leverage collaboration
between a designer and her/his specialist knowledge -her/his ontology- . To realize such an ‘internal’
and afterword, ‘external’ collaborations it is needed a
‘new’ building model able to include these characteristics.
In the CAAD community a number of efforts have
been devoted to overcoming these problems in order to integrate competencies into a single application program and to store and share knowledge. Design is much more than describing a component of
a building (Archea, 1987) as it is an activity aimed at
helping the actor-designer to conceive of artefacts,
to record expertise, to implement experience-based
design rules and at “... changing existing situations
into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996, pg. 111).
These aims are difficult to reach as technology
and methodology lacunae of present application
programs to realize and implement such objectives mainly due to the lack of an overall and unitary
model of the building that is effective for actordesigners and user, representative of its complexity and even capable of introjecting aspirations and
processing them.
Nowadays the formal representation of BIM and
IFC does not contemplate these aspects as they consider a building as an assembly of entities of classes
(class = hierarchical set of entities).
A building is instead an ‘actual’ system: several
classes (ontologies) directed towards goals (e.g.
habitability, energy saving, constructability, etc.)
(Fioravanti et al., 2011a).
To make possible a ‘systemic’ building model,
the Research Group has formalized:
specialist knowledge by means of ontologies Knowledge Structures, KSs - in the field of Architectural Design and that can be amplified
during the design work so as to capitalize on
the knowledge and design rules and to effectively aid a designer ‘on tap’.
Relational Structures and Inference Engines that
selectively relate entities, concretely instance
these entities and push the instantiation process towards a goal (instantiation rules: priority,
exclusion, congruency).
The above-mentioned model is based on a highly
structured, formal representation of the knowledge
used along the whole design process, expressed by
means of Knowledge Structures.
The Knowledge Structures – KSs – are basically
all structured in the same way: a set of ontology, corresponding to the ‘objects’ the final product is made
of (physical elements, spaces, site, etc.).
The objects on which the design process acts
Space Units (SUs), organized in Building Units
(BU) the building is spatially made of.
Functional Elements (FEs), organized in Functional SubSets (FSSs) the building is physically
made of.
Any set of ontology can be linked to (already experienced) ‘good solutions’ and to ‘codes of practice’ as
well to coherency rules. By assigning values (data) to
a KS ‘slot’ any actor-designer defines features of an
object thus activating a ‘design proposal’ of his/her
As above stated the novelty of a ‘systemic’ building
model mainly resides on a Relation Structure - RS -
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 271
Figure 1
Optimizing thinking in
architectural design – new
building: not all entities of
domains are involved. An
example of swapping between
two domains: an ‘WO Whole-Of - swap’ from entities
of a Spatial Class domain – Ω
to ones of Technology Class
domain – Ω-1.
that selectively relates ontologies and on a Inference
Engines that chooses the instantiation path and
To make this possible entities of one class and
others of another one, are related to each other by
means of specific relationships, which an Inference
Engine - IE - can use to perform a goal (f.i. just a simple instantiation process!). The entities and their
ontologies on which RS and IE act are very different, those can be procedures, HC plants, fire escape
paths, etc.
With reference to buildings, there are two
fundamental ontology classes: that of the spaces
(rooms) and their aggregations, which in a project
go to make up the so-called ‘Spatial Class’ domain,
and that of the physical elements (components)
and their aggregations, which in a project make up
the constructive apparatus, defined as a ‘Technological Class’ domain. For a specialist actor (designer or
272 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
user) the Building is made by her/his Spatial Class –
Ω – and her/his Technology Class – Ω-1 – plus her/his
RS and IE (fig. 1). The two classes both have a semilattice structure. Correspondingly they are subdivided into Room Domain (hierarchic) and Elementary
Space Domain (lattice), and Constructive Domain
(hierarchic) and Material Domain (lattice).
The main characteristic of entities is related to
the ‘type’ of entity: the membership “class”. This is
formalized by means of a custom-made frame structure, similar to the one investigated by McCarthy
(1960), by means of an ISA (Is-A) slot. Our frame has
a four-tier structure: frame, slot, facet, value.
This way, the model is able to manipulate also
the type of an entity’s structure so it allows a designer not only to change the inheritance of an entity but also to mix entity assemblies. The freedom
a designer obtains from this formal logic enables
her/him to compose an entity of a class also from
Figure 2
Optimizing thinking in
architectural design – refurbishment: not all entities of
domains are involved. An
example of swapping between
two domains: an ‘WO Whole-Of - shift’ from entities
of a Technology Class domain
– Ω-1 to ones of Spatial Class
domain – Ω.
entities of different classes belonging from heterogeneous domains, for example, a room of a ‘Spatial
Class’ domain with a pillar of the ‘Technology Class’
The Spatial Class together with the Technology
Class contribute to define a building by means of
the RSs that link the two domains (normally separate) through a ‘swap’ of the composition relationships WO (Whole-Of ) slot allowing an assembly of
mixed entities (fig. 1).
At the time of instantiation this peculiarity makes
it possible to simultaneously verify the constraints
that are normally separated on ’parallel’ logical
planes: classes of different domains.
It is important how a Relation Structure - RS -,
by means of an Inference Engine -IE -, explores and
populates Knowledge Structures when the designer
wishes to instance them.
As claimed in our previous work (Fioravanti, 2011b,
pp. 181-183 and fig. 5) the architectural (or structural, or engineering, or...) concept of a Building is more
than the sum of ontologies. Building is a system =
goal oriented classes = RSs + ieS + ontologies. Now
it is needed to take a closer look at an RS and its IE
engine mechanism.
When designer wants to instance an entity it
means s/he wants to populate entities of a class with
value(s). We developed two implementations of instantiation process in Protégé and in Common LISP.
In Protégé implementation, as stated above,
each entity consists on a structured set of meanings,
properties and rules; referring to the rules associated to the specific entity that is going to be instantiated, there are mainly two kinds of relationships/
rules that will be checked by the system in different
Restrictions - ‘internal’ to an ontology - applied
to properties of a class/entity by means of its
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 273
Figure 3
Optimizing thinking in
architectural design – space
metadesign: not all domains
are involved. An example
of not an ‘WO - Whole-Of shift’, the design thinking is
only inside the Spatial Class
domain – Ω.
constraints (Cardinality, Type, Value or their
combination by means of Booleans operators,
Rules - ‘external’ to ontologies - applied to
classes/entities by means of Proposition Logics
According to this duality, there are two different
phases: the instantiation phase and the specific
checking/control one.
In the first one, the IE will check the consistency
of the entity by pointing out all the restrictions applied to the Parent Class properties asking for values,
specifications, relationships and/or links to other entities or instances; depending on the specific design
phase, the designer can specify all the requests and/
or leave some (or all of them) filled in with default
values (blank or referred to regular values). The IE
will then continue pointing out the missing property specification needs, but it will also allow the
inconsistent entity instantiation till the end of the
overall design process when all the inconsistency,
274 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
incoherence and incongruences should be solved.
Restrictions can represent particular ‘conditions’ applied to the entity properties; according to the inheritance nature of the Object Oriented Ontology
Structure, each Class inherits all the properties of its
own SuperClass(es); and in turn SuperClass(es) inherits/inherit its own properties and their associated
Restrictions; at the SubClass level, each SubClass
could present different “Sub” Restrictions to that (or
other one inherited) property by associating more
restrictive conditions.
As stated above, Restrictions could refer to different entity characteristics:
‘Cardinality’ requiring a certain/minimum/
maximum number of associated entities (f.i.
<Room> has_wall min 3);
‘Value’ comparing and checking the instance
with predefined values or range (f.i. <Wall>
has_height min 3.5 m);
‘Type’ verifying associated class(es) to the considered one (f.i. <Window > has_Glass only
Figure 4
Optimizing thinking in
architectural design – survey:
not all domains are involved.
An example of not an ‘WO Whole-Of - shift’, the design
thinking is only inside the
Technology Class domain
– Ω-1.
‘Combination of the above’ illustrated Restrictions by means of Boolean operators (And, Or,
Not, etc).
The second phase at every design phase can control
the overall consistency of the developed ontology
by means of Proposition Logics algorithmic rules
applied to specific entities: in this phase, each calculation, inference, reasoning on entities’ properties and/or rules will be evaluated, checked and/or
pointed out by listing conflicts, hierarchy changes
on inferred relationships, values not allowed and all
other kind of incongruence, inconsistency, incoherence on the ontology, according to applied rules.
The verification process will follow a “list sequence” to analyze all applied rules, referring to their
“definition/creation order”: the IE, at present, does
not allow associating a priority to the rules, so each
of them has the same priority level referring to others.
Referring to this limitation, the results of this check
is not so clear and easily readable and understandable by involved actors: especially at the first design
phases, the ongoing developed design solution are
not coherent and consistent due to changing solution, needs, requirements and specifications and so
the check results appears as long lists of warnings,
compiling errors, ontology missing values, etc.
At present, the research team, considers this issue one of the reason that contributes to the growing sensation that to support an effective collaboration it is needed, together with actor-designers, an
actor-manager, which operates as a Design Project
Manager, able to handle management tools, to analyze checking results and verification processes and
that owns enough expertise to set timing and communication protocols among actor-designers to individuate their reciprocal needs.
The Common LISP implementation has a more
powerful capacity of expressing higher abstraction
level concepts, so it is more compact and allows to
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 275
give priority to rules of I.Es.
In this case the instantiation process seems to
be apparently simpler, as for an entity the IE sequentially checks
1. Parent entities (by means of ISA relations) and
assumes values, defaults and constraints if
these ones are not in contrast with its own - a
leaf constraint prevails on correspondent parent constraint (OOP);
2. Then IE checks in breadth the sub-entities an
entity (an assembly) is composed by (by means
of WO relations);
3. In turn the latter explore their parent entities
using an a) procedure.
Afterwards, in this way, the instantiation process has
populated with value(s) all the parameters required
- by the designer or by the default mechanism,
whether verified or not.
This process has two drawbacks: it is ‘exhaustive’ for an ontology and cannot relate two or more
ontologies concurrently (in the same process and at
the quasi-same time).
This means an architect would have to define
every space, from the building space to room space
to elementary space, in the Space Class - Ω, an exhaustive and tiring process, before considering any
building entities of the Technology Class - Ω-1. The
same would be true for a structural engineer that
can consider only the Technology Class - Ω-1, or a
plant engineer and so on.
A clever solution to overcome these difficulties
would be to imitate - physical digitality - what professionals, architects in particular, have done for
centuries, i.e. to take into account other knowledge
domain from the beginning (for the sake of example, Ω together with Ω-1) and ‘selectively’ explore
the domains involved. The mind always saves and
optimizes mental energy: it is a ‘thinking economy’.
It is actually usual for architects, at every step of the
design process, to define some different entities at
different scales belonging to different ontologies. A
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master architect has the natural ability to effectively
mix entities of different knowledge domains.
It is therefore a normal mental process to enclose spaces by means of walls, doors, windows, etc.
from the beginning of architectural design without worrying at first sight about elementary space
definitions and checking. That means to abandon
instancing Space Class and go to Technology Class.
This method has two advantages:
To intimately relate the domains involved in the
mental process in order to have a comprehensive vision of problems and opportunities;
To rapidly (and roughly) estimate a bill of quantities, not mere parameter costs from the very beginning of the process: concept or preliminary design
This model also clarifies what a designer does. In
a refurbishment project a designer applies a different method: s/he starts from a check of the deterioration status of building components (wall, plaster,
steel, reinforced concrete, woods, roof, etc.) upon
building codes, then it checks rooms and space distributions to be refurbished, in respect to functional
spaces requirements (fig. 2).
A third example of the use of this model is when
the designer has to define a ‘metadesign’ project: s/
he only works inside the Spatial Class domain, and
the result will be a parameter series of functional
spaces (f.i., min and max sqm of an elementary space
for a clerk with her/his desk and chair, of a standard
patient’s room, of a hospital ward for an infectious
diseases) (fig. 3).
A fourth example of the use of this model is
when the designer has to make a survey of an existing building: s/he only works inside the Technology
Class domain, and the result will be document of
building status and its spaces (f.i. building dimensioning, building component deterioration, georeference of building and building parts, results of
material test, etc.) (fig. 4).
Referring to existing implemented prototypes,
the developed ontologies have been tested by
means of JessRules Inference Engine applied to Protégé ontologies, combining restrictions verification
embedded into the Ontology Editor itself with external algorithms/rules editor included in JessRules
In this way it has been simulated the above
mentioned design process, mixing entity definition
(referred to Building Design) from Spatial and Technology Class domains and analyzing user feedback
and computational results.
At present, research is under way to apply different inference engines and development languages
to a series of ontologies in the fields of hospitals and
The paper affords new prospects to deal with two
problems of architectural design process:
How to define a building model that can take
into account the complexity of a mental image
of a real building (physical digitality);
How to optimize an architectural design instantiation process able to follow the usual master
architects thinking (digital physicality).
The first objective has been tackled by means of a
‘neat’ and sharp subdivision of building model: ontologies of spaces and components as usual, plus a
Relation Structure, specific for each actor-designer
that relates specific entities of two domains.
The second objective has been solved by mimicking the mental energy saving actor-designer
does during the architectural design process s/he
explores and defines just the essential entities s/he
needs at each design process phase. The possibility
to define immediately the essential information at
different levels of detail during the work in progress
project gives actor-designers a better control of the
whole project of the time, so s/he can performs appropriate choices. It is a matter of facts that, as we
can see in sketches of modern master architects like
Le Corbusier (Carrara and Fioravanti, 2004, fig. 1 and
pg. 428), Louis Khan, Zaha Hadid, Steven Hall, Jean
Nouvel, etc., they draw at the same time the whole
shape and technical details of their masterpieces they perform ‘concurrent’ design at different levels
of abstraction and detail
The ‘systemic’ building model allows better imitating the mental path actor-designers do and the vision arisen from this study can be seminal for next
generation of CAAD tools and methodologies.
Archea, J 1987, ‘Puzzle making: What architects do when no
one is looking’, in Y.E. Kalay (ed.), Computability of Design, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 37-52.
Carrara G, Fioravanti A 2010, ‘Improving design quality of
complex building systems by means of ICT enhanced
collaboration’, in G Carrara, A Fioravanti and YE Kalay
(eds), Collaborative Working Environments for Architectural Design, Palombi Editori, Rome pp. 3-18.
Carrara G, Fioravanti A 2004, ‘How to Construct an Audience in Collaborative Design - The Relationship among
which Actors in the Design Process’, in Proceedings of
the eCAADe Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, pp.
Carrara, G, Fioravanti, A, Nanni, U 2009, Knowledge-Based
Collaborative Architectural Design, International Journal of Design Sciences & Technology, 16(1), pp. 1-16.
Cheng and Nancy Y 2003, ‘Approaches to Design Collaboration Research’, Automation in Construction, 12(6), pp.
Fioravanti, A, Loffreda, G, Trento, A 2011a, ‘Computing Ontologies to Support AEC Collaborative Design: Towards
a Building Organism delicate concept’, in Proceedings
of the eCAADe Conference, Ljubljana, Slovenia, pp.177186.
Fioravanti A, Loffreda G, Trento A 2011b, ‘An innovative
comprehensive knowledge model of Architectural Design Process’, International Journal of Design Sciences &
Technology, 18(1), pp. 1-18.
Kvan, T 2000, ‘Collaborative design: what is it?’, Martens, B
(guest ed.), Special Issue eCAADe ’97, Automation in
Construction, 9(4), pp. 409-415.
McCarthy, J 1960, ‘Recursive functions of symbolic expressions and their computation by machine’, Communication of the ACM I, 7, pp. 184-195.
Peng, W and Gero, J 2007, ‘Computer-Aided Design Tools
That Adapt’, in Proceedings of CAAD Futures ‘07, Sydney,
Australia, pp. 417-430.
Simon, HA 1996, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed., MIT
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 277
Press, Cambridge, MA, US.
Woo, S, Lee, E and Sasada, T 2001, ‘The multiuser workspace
as the medium for communication in collaborative design’, Automation in Construction, 10(3), pp. 303-308.
278 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
Parametric Tools for Conceptual Design Support at the
Pedestrian Urban Scale
Towards inverse urban design
Anastasia Koltsova , Bige Tuncer , Sofia Georgakopoulou , Gerhard Schmitt
ETH Zurich, Switzerland, TU Delft, Netherlands.
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected],
[email protected]
Abstract. This paper presents an inverse pedestrian urban design method and an initial
set of parametric tools for conceptual design support at the pedestrian urban scale.
Inverse pedestrian urban design concerns the derivation of urban design parameters
from a local context in order to produce better informed and situated designs. The tools
concern the rationalization of street network and building form. Some of the parameters
that are used within the tools are view angles (visibility analysis) and distances between
target points (accessibility analysis). The paper elaborates on inverse urban design,
presents some case studies and tools, and touches upon design patterns and their
alignment to design processes.
Keywords. Urban design; pedestrian design; parametric modelling; design tools; inverse
urban design method.
The main goal of our research work is to facilitate the
design of pedestrian urban space by offering a set
of computational design methods and associated
parametric tools that would allow for fast visualization and analysis of alternative design scenarios. The
complexity of contemporary urban design projects
increases with the growing pace of urban development. Large amounts of data must be collected,
stored and analyzed. The use of conventional Computer-Aided Design tools does not provide speed
and flexibility necessary to design in the conditions
dictated by the rapid urban development. We seek
ways to integrate parametric and constraint-based
modelling methods into the contemporary design
practice. These methods enable architects and ur-
ban designers to create, manage and organize complex (parametric) design models by integrating different types of parameters and rapidly generating
and evaluating alternative design solutions (Ehran
2003; Madkour et al. 2009; Woodbury 2010).
One of the main challenges that inhibit contemporary designers from applying computational
design methods within their design processes is
the difficulty of converting design information into
parameters of a computational model. We propose
a novel method for design parameter derivation in
order to foster this conversion. This research will establish an inverse method for determining the most
adequate set of parameters from the local design
context that are well suited for creating sustainable
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 279
urban spaces. In general, an inverse method implies
converting observed information into attributes (parameters) of an artefact being designed. In our work
we analyze/observe the design context and its problematic and based on the acquired information we
formulate the design parameters which we use to
build parametric models for design and analysis of
new pedestrian urban spaces.
This research focuses on the intermediate urban
scale, with a specific emphasis on the quality of
pedestrian space, ranging from urban fabric at approximately 10 hectares, to the street canyon scale
(Berghauser Pont and Haupt, 2010). This provides
an appropriate level of geometric and configuration
detail for morphological investigations (Figure 1).
The research is concerned with the quality of
urban space, originating in 1960s from the works of
design theorists such as Jane Jacobs, Donald Appleyard, Kevin Lynch and some others. Their work laid
a theoretical ground for a “good urban form” while
at the same time the research of Leslie Martin and
Lionel March at Cambridge School concentrated on
the task of modelling urban design problems with
accurate mathematical models in order to objectively measure urban space qualities (Martin and March
1972). In our work we investigate both aforementioned approaches in order to understand how the
intangible qualities of urban space can be expressed
in urban form using design parameters. In our prior
work we analyzed the qualities of urban space provided in Lynch (1960), Jacobs and Appleyard (1987)
and Ewing and Handy (2009) and formulated a preliminary set of design parameters. The latter were
used to build parametric tools for analysis of the
degree of openness of public urban space, accessibility by bike/on foot and some more (Koltsova et
al. 2012). Subsequently, within a teaching exercise
we analyzed several case studies (in Switzerland
and Russia) to derive additional design parameters
that are more context-specific. In general, we plan
to conduct research on three case studies in Switzerland, Russia and Singapore. In parallel to the
analysis of pedestrian areas within the three contexts, we examine relevant literature on local urban
design methods, review their evolution in history,
and inspect urban codes and guidelines (Koltsova
et al., 2012). To succinctly obtain this information,
we conduct brief interviews with local urban design
practitioners. The specific details for determining
pedestrian comfort might also be obtained from
case-specific literature and best-practice examples
in the future. Our preliminary work on the two of the
case studies will be described in more detail in further sections.
The derived parameters form the backbone of
a set of computational tools that we are developing within Grasshopper [1], a parametric plug-in
for Rhinoceros [2]. Grasshopper is seamlessly integrated in the Rhinoceros modeling environment, a
popular modeling software among designers today.
The combination of ‘manual’ digital modeling possibilities in Rhinoceros with parametric modeling
techniques, allows for a more gradual integration of
our ‘derived’ parametric tool set into a design process. The fact that our tools can be used in parallel
Figure 1
Level of scale.
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to the design process within the same modelling
environment constitutes an advantage of our method in comparison to design analysis software such
as Space Syntax [3] or Ecotect [4], where designers
need to export their models for analysis into another
software and interrupt the flow of the design process.
Our tools are targeting the early design stages, when architects develop first sketches of their
design ideas. Architects often develop these first
sketches based on their sense of beauty, styling,
and overall vision, temporarily neglecting some rational aspects. The design outcome would greatly
benefit from the use of simple tools for evaluation
and analysis of the architect’s design actions at this
early design stage. Using such tools the sketch design would be well grounded and drastic changes of
concept ideas in the later stages of design would be
overcome. Our tools can be used to analyze the design models prior to their detailing and before their
further analysis within more sophisticated software
such as Ecotect or Space Syntax, which would help
to avoid double work.
In general, a physical system can be modeled mathematically as:
Y = F (X) (1)
where X is an input, Y is an output and F is an
operator that characterizes a system. Inverse problems are defined as solving (1) for unknown X with
given Y and F (Hirano and Yamada, 1988). When applied to urban design, an inverse problem implies
converting observed information (urban form) into
Figure 2
Inverse urban design process.
attributes (e.g. parameters) of an artifact being designed (Figure 2).
This research is based on the hypothesis that an
inverse urban design method provides an improved
way of creating sustainable urban environments
compared to conventional design methods. The development and definition of an inverse urban design
logic is an integral part of our research.
Inverse urban design is based on the analysis
of the information available for a target context in
order to discover a set of parameters that is most relevant to urban form design within the same context.
By analyzing the information available for a target
context, it is possible to discover a set of parameters
that are well suited to create compelling novel urban spaces within the same context. Inverse urban
design is not achieved by deriving formal patterns
and rules from an existing city structure and buildings and applying these for the generation of new
designs. Instead, the local context is analysed in order to derive information such as view points, view
obstruction, landscape undulation, proximity to
major functions, etc. This information is then used as
an input for parametric tools in order to create good
pedestrian urban designs by forming/shaping building envelopes and open spaces. The subsequent
implementation of such parameters using the Grasshopper parametric environment would provide improved flexibility and variation to the entire urban
form design process.
The main components of the inverse urban design method are the following:
parameter derivation and ontological modeling,
implementation, and
Parameter derivation
The first part of inverse urban design at the pedestrian scale consists of observing existing examples
of urban organization in use by pedestrians at (or
near) the target context, and in analyzing its current
problematic. Based on the acquired information we
derive parameters to be used for design and analysis
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 281
of new urban forms. To better understand aspects
that facilitate the use of urban space by pedestrians
at each specific design context, it is important to observe the current situation. The data collection step
tentatively includes the following subtasks to be
performed at one or more locations near the target
Identification of places with high pedestrian
activity (using statistical data, literature, GoogleMaps, GIS, etc).
Characterization of functions, landmarks, accessibility, and structural density.
Description of user-space interactions.
Formulation of the main types and configurations of streets and dynamics of space.
Subsequently, the data will be structured into three
main categories with relations between them defined as follows:
User-related data – pedestrian activity, use of
space, etc.
Physical data at fabric scale – density, accessibility, allocation of functions, etc.
Physical data at street canyon scale – configuration, types, sections, etc.
These categories, their subcategories and their relationships will be further developed into an ontological structure guiding the systematic parameter
derivation process in the next stage of the research.
Case studies
At the current stage of our research work we conducted preliminary studies in Schlieren, Switzerland
and Moscow, Russia where we analyzed a number of
pedestrian urban spaces, their qualities and problematic. Based on the derived information we developed a number of parametric models for the analysis of pedestrian urban space, which we applied for
case study sites.
The work on the case study in Schlieren was
conducted as part of a teaching exercise. The old
part of the city of Schlieren was developed on the
slopes of the valley and was later extended by the
industrial zone built between the river and the railway running through the city. Apart from the railway
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there are two major traffic roads crossing the city. As
a result the city is split into separate zones, which
makes pedestrian mobility highly inconvenient.
Therefore, we asked our students to look for ways in
which the city structure can be enhanced in order
to facilitate its use by pedestrians. After the introduction, students were asked to identify the design
problem they would like to explore. To a large extent
the choice of the students was dictated by the problems lying on the surface such as accessibility/navigation and noise emission.
One group of students developed a tool for accessibility analysis of any given location in Schlieren
by various transportation modes. Architects and urban designers can use this tool to define intervention points and to develop new strategies to allow
for a shift from private to public transport. It provides a method to evaluate the accessibility within
a project area, i.e. it helps to visualize at an early design stage the zones that are not accessible by walking or by public transport. The basic parameters this
definition uses are: the traveling speed (walking, bus
and car) and the distance to the target point (in this
case the distance between living areas and the local train station). In the first step, students superimposed a grid of regularly distributed points on a project area and measured the shortest distance along
the traffic/pedestrian network from each point on a
grid to the train station.
Second, based on the distance and the traveling
mode (walking, taking bus or car) each point was
shifted vertically. In the last step, these points were
used to interpolate a surface through them. Figure
3 demonstrates the accessibility from points on a
project area to the train station by bus (green) and
by car (in red).
One of our findings was that the preliminary
analysis phase did not constitute a challenge for
students. They could identify and formulate design
problems, however, it was challenging for them to
translate these problems into design parameters
and implement them within parametric software.
In general, the parametric/relational thinking is not
common and not a part of the curriculum in the tra-
ditional architectural design education. However,
more and more students are using parametric tools
in their design studios for model making, façade
paneling, or complex building shape optimization.
In a next attempt to collect context-specific
information we conducted a workshop with local
architects from Moscow. The main goal of the workshop was to define the problematic of the local urban context at pedestrian scale and reveal the major
factors that jeopardize the quality of urban space.
Due to time constraints we could not acquire a comprehensive list of factors, however, our preliminary
findings already contribute to the enhancement of
public space quality.
One of the major negative impacts on local urban environment is created by outdoor advertisement. Figure 4 illustrates a local pedestrian street in
Moscow from different viewpoints. In figure 4b we
can see that when approaching the street from the
(east / west / north / south) side, pedestrians are not
aware that behind the superfluity of billboards that
block the view, a beautiful urban space dedicated to
pedestrian use unfolds. Uncontrolled placement of
outdoor advertisement constitutes a serious problem in Moscow. In order to analyze the impact of the
outdoor advertisement on the quality of pedestrian
urban space, we developed a tool that allows to
quickly estimate the view impact of such billboards.
This tool takes the viewpoint and vertices of the
façade and billboard surfaces as an input (Figure 5a).
Additionally, user can adjust the view angle (in this
example it is set to max 60 degrees). Vectors are created between the viewpoint and vertices. Vectors
that have only one intersection point and are within
the angle range of 0 to 60 degrees are selected and
corresponding vertices/surface faces are assigned
color (white for visible). The rest of the surface faces
are colored in grey (not visible). The first conclusions
Figure 3
Accessibility by bus (in green)
and car (in red) on a project
area in Schlieren (Switzerland).
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 283
Figure 4
View to a pedestrian street
in Moscow from different
viewpoints: viewpoint 1 (c)
corresponds to image a;
viewpoint 2 to image b.
that can be drawn from our analysis is that considerable facade areas of the 18th century buildings are
blocked by the low-quality billboards. Another issue
is that the billboards stay on the way of one another
and the information on them is not properly communicated to passers by. Our tool can be used to
balance out the amount and placement of the billboards, in order to provide optimal view to the historic façade frontage and to communicate the information displayed on the billboards more efficiently.
Design patterns
By analyzing the problems of both design contexts
we have derived the specific design parameters for
each and implemented these within parametric
software to measure/analyze certain qualities (accessibility- Schlieren; view pollution – Moscow).
This process of parameter derivation from the local context is the basis for the inverse urban design
method. The parameters and their relations derived
through the inverse procedure constitute the design pattern that is implemented within parametric software. The combination of such patterns and
their alignment to the design processes at an early/
conceptual design stage is the concomitant goal of
this research work. The design patterns will be the
subject of a consequent paper.
In the next paragraphs we present an example
of how the developed patterns can be used in a sequence for the design of an exemplary project site.
Figure 5
Visibility analysis of the facade
surface in Grasshopper; a)
Vectors connecting the view
point to the vertices of the
façade surface; b) In grey, the
facade area that is not visible
by pedestrian from the defined
view point (in red).
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Figure 6
Exemplary project site.
As a reference we used design process presented in
Christiaanse et al. 2005 on the design project for the
redevelopment of the area next to the Zurich main
station. The proposed sequence as well as every individual design pattern will be presented to design
practitioners in the future and revised based on their
Architects/urban designers usually start their
work on design project by defining the possible
road network organizations. Figure 6 demonstrates
the exemplary project site inside the red rectangle,
which contains some roads that form the building
blocks. By using our parametric tool the blocks can
be subdivided further into lots or parcels. This tool
also provides a possibility to set the min/max size of
the plot, which allows for testing the various lot organizations (Figure 7).
When the optimal amount and organization of
building lots is achieved, the next tool can be applied to analyze accessibility on the site (Figure 8).
This tool is based on the component of Giulio Piacentino [5], which we reworked in order to be able
to measure the accessibility from any defined point
to any other point on road network. By placing the
transportation nodes (or any other major functions
such as retail, parks or housing), the designer can estimate the accessibility on the design site. It is also
possible to alter the road network by dragging the
control points of the polylines that form the road
network, and change the location of the functions
and interactively receive feedback on the design actions. Multiple scenarios for allocation of functions
and their accessibility can be tested.
In order to estimate a better location for public
open spaces we developed a tool that takes all the
major functions (set by designer) of the site and
generates all possible solutions for shortest paths
between the functions (Figure 9). Here we assume
that the road segments where the shortest paths
go through would be the most active and we allocate the public spaces along them. Undoubtedly,
more parameters should be considered, such as visual qualities, presence of pedestrian facilities in the
streets, etc. However, for a first estimation, this tool
is sufficient.
Figure 7
Subdivision of the project site
into lots, different scenarios.
Figure 8
Accessibility analysis of the
resulting road network.
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 285
Figure 9
Allocation of open spaces.
Figure 10
Building envelop alteration
based on the visibility analysis (illustration by Dominik
After the building lots and open spaces are defined,
we assign max heights per lot (defined by local
building regulations). Another tool in our tool set
can alter the building envelopes based on the defined view points (Figure 10). Based on the position
and the view angle, it cuts the volume of the building to provide the view to an open public space.
The last tool that we developed analyzes the
views from several “important” view points (defined
by designer) and checks for the intersection of the
view sections. The areas where the view points intersect can be used for the location of landmarks.
In order to achieve design patterns in the sense of
the term as it is applied in the software engineering
domain, the inverse urban design method analyses the context data in order to derive parameters
286 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Digital Aids to Design Creativity
from it. An ontology will be developed within this
method, which will be used to propose a best set of
parameters to make novel and useful urban designs
for the context. This ontology will be developed for
global (relevant for any context), context-specific,
and site-specific conditions, in order to express parameters unambiguously, define a familiar hierarchical structure of terms, and ensure the consistency
of the parameters (especially the global ones), their
attributes, and their relationships in the context of
their use for different locations and projects by urban designers. Such an ontology will be very useful
to the designers during the inverse design process
(i.e., parameterization process). Clearly, the balance
between extensibility, flexibility, and sufficient structure will be a key point of attention in this step.
The design patterns will be presented to design
practitioners at the joint workshops and revised
based on their feedback.
Martin, L, March, L, (ed.) 1972, Urban Space and Structures,
Cambridge University Press, UK.
Madkour, Y, Neumann, O, Erhan, H, 2009, ‘Programmatic
Formation: Practical Applications of Parametric Design’,
International Journal of Architectural Computing, vol.
07, no. 04, pp. 587-603.
Woodbury, R (ed.) 2010, Elements of Parametric Design,
Routledge, New York.
Figure 11
Building envelop alteration
based on the visibility analysis (illustration by Dominik
Berghauser Pont, M and Haupt, P (ed) 2010, Spacematrix:
Space, Density and Urban Form, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam.
Christiaanse, K, van den Born, H, Gietema, R, van Oort, I (ed)
2005. Situation/KCAP Architects and Planners, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam.
Erhan, HI 2003, ‘Interactive support for modeling and generating building design requirements’ Doctoral Thesis.
School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University.
Pittsburgh, PA.
Ewing, R and Handy, S 2009, ‘Measuring the Unmeasurable:
Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability’, Journal
of Urban Design, 14(1), pp. 65–84.
Hirano, T, and Yamada, T 1988, ‘Multi Paradigm Expert System Architecture Based Upon the Inverse Design Concept’, Proceedings of the Int. Workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Industrial Application, Hitachi.
Jacobs, A and Appleyard, D (ed.) 1987, Toward an Urban
Design Manifesto, in Le Gates, R and Stout, Routledge,
New York, pp. 165-175.
Lynch, K (ed.) 1960, The Image of the City, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Koltsova, A, Kunze, A and Schmitt, G 2012, ‘Design of Urban
Space at Pedestrian Scale: A Method for Parameterization of Urban Qualities’, Proceedings of IV2012 16th International Conference, Monpelier, France.
Koltsova, A, Schmitt, G, Schumacher, P, Sudo, T, Narang
and S Chen L 2011, ‘A Case Study of Script-Based Techniques in Urban Planning’, in J. S. Gero (Ed.), Design
Computing and Cognition 10, Springer Netherlands, pp.
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The Disassembly of a Musical Piece and its Conversion to
an “Architectural” Pathway
An algorithmic approach
Stamatis Psarras1 and Katherine A. Liapi2
University of Patras, Greece
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. This paper presents and discusses a process of transferring the main features
of a piece of music such as structure, notes etc., to a primarily spatial construction in
architecture. The main objective of this effort was to convert the linearity of time during
the hearing of a musical piece into a continuous pathway and an architectural stroll on a
given site. To this end, the musical piece is used as a source of data, which, with the use of
developed algorithms, are converted into spatial data. A purely instrumental piece, “Air,”
from the suite for strings in D major by Bach, provided the source data used in the design
of Park D, a section of a Cultural Park in the suburbs of Athens, Greece. The developed
algorithms presented in the paper include: a) an algorithm for generating the shape of the
path and the space defining elements along the path, and b) an algorithm that generates
the geometry of four harmonographic structures.
Keywords. Music and Architecture; Gestalt; Design Algorithms; Harmonograph.
Architecture and music, typically the products of
dissimilar artistic media, often present a lot of striking similarities. The creators of both arts often use
common tools and, in many instances, both depend
upon proportions and other mathematical relationships (Tenney, J. 1977). Based on this notion, several
architects have attempted to establish a relationship
between the two arts that goes beyond the metaphoric or symbolic association. The work of Iannis
Xenakis, such as the “City of Music,” where he used
the mathematical language, to express through architecture the complexity of the language of music and the experience of sounds, has significantly
enriched the research in this direction (Capanna,
A., 2009; Sterken, Sv., 2009). At a different level, a
product of the efforts made to establish a tighter
relationship between music and architecture is the
harmonograph. This is an instrument that is based
on the proportions of the Pythagoras’ scale and is
able to convert notes into images (Ashton, A., 2003).
A common denominator that supported several
of these efforts was the assumption that the human
brain perceives different artistic works with similar
processes or mechanisms. These mechanisms, in the
early modernist years, were interpreted by the Gestalt theory arguing that our experiences tend to be
organized in a regular, orderly, symmetrical and simple manner. The laws of Gestalt that find application
mainly in the visual arts, can be also applied to the
interpretation of the mechanisms involved in the
Digital Aids to Design Creativity - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 289
Figure 1
General Plan for Park D#.
perception of other artistic expressions (Desolneux,
A. et al., 2008).
Taking into account existing research in the
field and working in the same direction, a process of
transferring the main features of a piece of music to
an architectural project has been attempted and is
presented in the following sections.
The design of a section of a Cultural Park in the
suburbs of Athens, Greece, served as a test-bed
for experimentation with a developed method for
transferring the main features of a piece of music
(structure, notes etc.) to a primarily spatial construction in architecture. The Cultural Park currently
houses a sculpture hall, a theatrical scene, and a couple of smaller exhibition halls. A new section of the
Cultural Park, Park D#, that embodies in its design a
methodology for transferring music data into spatial
data, has been proposed and is discussed here.
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Notable site features that were taken into account
for the proposed design were its low relief topography, a highway at one of the site boundaries, a large
open parking lot at a neighboring area, sparse vegetation in the field, and a relatively small building
structure, dating from the beginning of the century;
this was used as support structure for Park D# to
house the information desk, restrooms, administration etc.
The main feature of Park D# was the design of
a music pathway that will also serve as an open-air
sculpture exhibition; the stroll along this path is
planned and expected to convey a combined spatial
and sound experience. Park D# would also include
several semi-covered station areas, the harmonographic structures, planned to host or provoke combined music-sound and art events.
Accordingly the main objective of the proposed
design was to convert the linearity of time during
the hearing of a musical piece into one continuous
pathway on the given site. The selected piece is a
Figure 2
Determining the shape of the
pathway at Park D#.
purely instrumental piece named “Air” from the suite
for strings in D major by Bach (BWV 1068). A description of the developed processes and algorithms for
translating the music data into spatial data in an architectural context follows.
The music pathway which is the principal feature of
Park D# results from a process of transferring several
sets of data that derive from the selected piece of
music into an architectural context.
Before the discussion of the developed processes, it needs to be mentioned that “counterpoint”
refers to techniques that facilitate the knitting of
two or more melodies that are expected to be heard
simultaneously. “Repetition,” “opposite movement,”
“imitation,” are commonly used techniques in counterpoint; analogous compositional rules, such as
“array,” “symmetry” and “copy,” are met in the visual
arts and architecture. Departing from this observation, the principles of Gestalt psychology can help
us identify common patterns between music and
architecture. The Gestalt principle of” proximity” can
be used for selecting notes that are close to the time
dimension of a piece, and transferring them into an
architectural context, while the Gestalt principle of
“similarity” can be used for selecting notes that are
similar in punctuation, tone, or pattern.
The selected piece “Air” is written for four instruments, two Violins, one Viola and a Cello. The notes
from these instruments are translated into spatial
elements. Specifically the formulation of the stream
of the music path derives from the structure of the
musical composition and the musical phrases.
Accordingly the first step of the design process
was to calculate the length of the music path and to
place it on the site. Assuming that the walking velocity of the moving visitor remains constant, the
length of his journey along the path was designed
to be the same as the duration of the music piece.
Next, the shape of the path had to determined.
The shape of the path is very important as it affects the visitors experience along the path. Therefore several path shapes were examined. In all instances the shapes were based on a hypothesis that
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Figure 3
Placing space defining elements along the music path.
derived from the need for an assumed movement
and a perceptual pattern. Several path shapes have
been derived ranging from a purely linear path to
various spiral and curvilinear formations. According
to the set objective, the simplest path shape would
be the preferred one as long as specific requirements with regard to the visitors movement and
perceptual field were met. After several path shapes
were ruled out, the selected path configuration was
the one described below.
The number of curves along the path was determined by: a) the basic structure of the suite, which
is A-A/B-B, b) the perceptual changes of the musical
“phrases” and c) the site characteristics and topography (Figures 1 and 2).
At a following stage, in order to determine the
features of the path, the Gestalt psychology principles were used for setting criteria for categorizing
and grouping the notes. Throughout the piece there
is a clear differentiation of the role of the notes. So,
along the path, the musical notes are represented
by spatial elements, organized into three distinct
“attention groups” that reflect the distinctive roles of
the instruments in “Air.” Similarly the space-defining
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elements of the path inherit the characteristics of
the notes, such as the “tone” and “duration,” as well
as the association of the notes of the piece to the
counterpoint formation (Figure 3).
The spatial boundaries of the pathway are
shaped by three sets of space defining elements that
correspond to the three distinct “attention groups”
of the notes of the piece. In this regard, the notes of
the cello determine the placement and dimensions
of the space defining elements (concrete paves) on
the ground plane. Their placement creates an inner
path that make the visitors shift from one side of the
pathway to the other. The side elements of the pathway occur from the background notes in each one
of the other three instruments. Their characteristics
are the long duration and their secondary use inside
the musical piece. The side elements of the pathway
inherit the characteristics of the background notes.
The remaining notes between the three instruments compose the melody and are the latest and
most important series of notes that form the foreground. These notes generate the overhead sheet
metal elements that attract the visitors’ attention
(Figure 4).
Figure 4 (left)
Placing overhead elements
along the music path.
Figure 5 (right)
Location of the Harmonographic Structures in Park D#.
The imprint of the musical piece in the path determines the location of all other elements in the Park
such as the harmonographic structures, the secondary routes, the topographic relief of the site, and the
areas planted with bushes and trees.
The harmonographic structures, as mentioned
earlier, are outdoors semi-covered station areas
planned to host or provoke combined music-sound
and art events. Their shape follows the logic of the
Harmonograph (Ashton, 2003). For the purposes of
creating a three-dimensional shape, a harmonographic surface has evolved from the two-dimensional instrument into a three-dimensional structure
(Figure 5).
To translate a piece of music into a pathway in an
architectural context, its most important and “objective” elements had to be selected and analyzed
according to their counterpoint and perceptual
properties. Certain elements, such as those related
to “hue” properties, were intentionally omitted, as
they rather entail a subjective understanding and
In order to convert the notes to objects, we had
first to convert them to numbers. Information with
regard to the instrument, length, tone and range of
each note was needed to form the parameters of
the geometric shapes along the path, and was thus
collected on a spreadsheet. This digitation process
required filtering and restructuring all music data so
that the required information about each note could
be received. The new digital data were introduced
into algorithmic expressions that allowed us to con-
trol all spatial information parametrically. The results
of the counterpoint analysis of the piece, along with
the constraints that occurred from the application
of the Gestalt laws of perception, were also incorporated into the developed algorithms.
In order to generate the spatial geometry of the
pathway and the harmonographic structures in a
3D graphical environment, two different design algorithms have been developed. The first one, Algorithm I, generates the path and all the elements that
form its spatial definition, such as the ground plane,
the overhead plane and the side elements; the other
one, Algorithm II, shares data with the previous and
generates the geometry of the harmonographic surfaces.
Algorithm I
This first algorithm involves two steps. At the first
step the shape and the length of the path is generated. Then the algorithm, together with the music
data, takes into consideration site data and constraints, and generates the geometry of all the other
space defining elements. The algorithm this time
generates three sets of elements, ground, side and
overhead. For the generation of the geometry of
each one of them, their basic geometry (rectangular, trapezoid, spacing between elements e.t.c.) and
their correspondence to the elements of the musical
piece were the most important parameters of the algorithmic expression.
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Figure 6
Cello notes’ pattern as translated on the elements of the
ground plane.
In this algorithm, each one of the three space defining elements, that corresponds to an “attention
group” incorporates some of the most notable characteristics of the notes, as derived from a Gestalt
based analysis, such as their counterpoint formation. Particular cases of implementation of the characteristics of an “attention group” to a set of space
defining elements are described in the following
The cello has the typical baroque form of the
walking bass line; the cello notes, as already mentioned, determined the placement and shape of the
concrete paves on the ground plane. The cello series
of notes follows a specific pattern throughout the
Figure 7
Overhead space defining elements of the musical path.
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Figure 8
Placement and shape of the
overhead elements corresponding to the melody notes.
musical piece. Each pattern consist of four notes that
is repeated according to the following sequence:
1st Note -> +7 Notes -> -1 Note -> -7 Notes, called
octave leaps. Each note is translated into a quadrilateral ground element, with a colour saturation index
that occurs from the position of the note in the pattern; in this manner the elements of the path are expected to recreate in a visual mode the experience
of the cello notes’ pattern. By assigning a length that
corresponds to the tone of each note, the above pattern can be noticed in the trace of the path (Figure
The side elements of the music pathway, that
serve as informational boards, follow the boundaries of the path while their height depends on the
tone of the respective notes. These are placed on
the side of the path that corresponds to the instrument from which the notes originated: the Lead
Violin notes determine the features of the left side
elements of the path, while the second Violin and
Viola the right. The objective here was: a) to let the
side elements contribute to the balance of the next
“attention group,” where the lead Violin has almost
half the Foreground notes, and b) to highlight the
constant change of roles between the instruments
(when the foreground ends the background begins
and vice versa).
The last “attention group” is considered the most
complex and functional. The purpose this time is to
create “aerial”, or overhead elements, that represent
the notes of the melody. These are the most important notes of the musical piece, with a wide range of
qualitative differences, as, in general, melodies present a great variety of notes (Figure 7).
Each overhead element has a rectangular shape
while its origin is placed on the middle line of the
path. The overhead elements are placed at different
heights from the ground and some of them are titled. Their height corresponds to the importance of
the note in the melody, with the most important being the one closest to the ground. As with the side
elements, each overhead element is characterized
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Figure 9
Harmonographic Structures
generated by the respective
by a left or right orientation that corresponds to the
instrument, from which the note comes. The length
and the slope of the each overhead element is defined by the tone of the note (Figure 7).
Additional parameters of the overhead elements integrated into the algorithm are their height,
brightness and colour. Darker shades were given to
the elements that correspond to the most important notes that are placed closer to the visitors; a red
colour was given to the elements that correspond
to notes that are part of a counterpoint formation
(Figure 8).
In brief Algorithm I integrates several parameters that derive from the characteristics of the notes
in the selected piece, such as their counterpoint formation, frequency, duration, as well as the features
of the notes before and after the one examined, and
generates the shape and placement of the respective space defining elements on the site.
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For the creation of the harmonographic structures a
3D interpetation of the basic harmonograph organ
was used by extracting the equations that occur
from the original organs and making digital modifications to them. The original organ uses two pendulums, the combined motion of which produces
2D drawings that reflect various ratios of the parameters. The ratio derived from the Pythagoras musical
scale is found to produce particularly interesting results.
Once Algorithm I has generated the shape of the
path and the three sets of space defining elements,
additional space elements are created, by placing
lines perpedicular to the path that correspond to
notes that are scaled according to their proximity
to the location of the harmonographic structures.
These are converted into ratios according to Pythagoras scale. These ratios, as well as some other characteristics of the site, are then used to generate four
different harmonographic structures.
So the Algorithm II that generates the 3D spatial
form of the harmonographic surfaces, uses the site
data and the data that come from the music piece,
already used for the shape and spatial definition of
the path. This algorithm generates the geometric
configuration of the harmonographic structures in
a 3D graphical environment. The algorithm extracts
the proportions of each one of the 3D harmonographic structures from the proportions of the notes
of the basic path that is nearest to it. Respectively
the algorithm generates the geometry of the four
harmonographic structures which are named according to their primary function as follows: “Entrance”, “Light and Sound”, “Auditorium”, and “Waterfall” (Figure 9).
The main objective of this research was to develop
a process that permits transferring the basic characteristics of a piece of music into spatial geometry,
translating the linearity of time while listening to
this piece, to a stroll, or better, a walking journey,
along a pathway. This was done by selecting a particular piece, in this instance, the Air from the Suite
for Strings in D major of Bach. This piece was used as
a source database, which, with the application of the
developed algorithms, was converted to an output
database of spatial data.
The musical pathway in Park D# provides a spatial experience of Air, the features of which have
determined the consecutive stages in the design of
the path. At the initial design stage, the parts and
phrases of the piece have determined the shape of
the path. Then, separating the notes according to
their perceptual properties in different categories,
by following the principle of similarity in Gestalt, the
main space defining elements of the path have been
generated. Finally, the differentiation between similar consecutive space defining elements is based on
the characteristics of the notes in the piece, such as
frequency, duration and association to the piece’s
Park D# has not been inspired by music but it is
a consistent transfer of a music piece into an archi-
tectural space. The developed processes and algorithms can be modified to address different scenarios that involve a music piece and an architectural
Ashton, A 2003, Harmonograph: a Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music, Wooden Books, Wales.
Capanna, A 2009, ‘Iannis Xenakis: Architect of Light and
Sound’, Nexus Network Journal, vol3, no1.
Desolneux, A et al. 2008, From Gestalt Theory to Image Analysis: A probabilistic Approach, Springler-Verlag, New
Sterken, Sv, 2009, ‘Towards a Space-Time Art: Xenakis’s Polytopes’, Perspectives of New Music, vol.39, no.2.
Tenney, J 1977, ‘Meta-Hodos: A Phenomenology of 20thCentury Musical Materials and an Approach to the
Study of Form’, Journal of Experimental Aesthetics, vol
1, no1.
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Generative Design
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Swarm Materiality
A multi-agent approach to stress driven material organization
Marios Tsiliakos
Digital [Sub]stance, Greece
[email protected]
Abstract. This paper sets out to introduce and explore a computational tool, thus a
methodological framework, for simulating stress driven material growth and organization
by employing a multi-agent system based in swarm intelligence algorithms. It consists
of an ongoing investigation that underlies the intention for the material system to be
perceived as design itself. The algorithm, developed in the programming language
Processing, is operating in a bottom-up manner where components and data flows are
self-organized into design outputs. An evaluation process, via testing on different design
cases, is providing a coherent understanding on the system’s capacity to address an
acceptable, within the “state-of-the-art” context, solution to material optimization and
innovative form-finding. The analysis of the exported data is followed by a possible
reconfiguration of the algorithm’s structure and further development by introducing new
Keywords. Swarm-intelligence; stress; material-organization; biomimetics; processing.
Computational design tools have amplified architects capacities on both conceptual and technical
levels in terms of manipulating complex geometrical
configurations and introducing pioneering design
initiatives. A post-rationalization process is however, essential in the majority of the contemporary
design cases in order to resolve problems emerging
from the translation of digital information to physical materialized objects. This dualism from digital to
physical, from bits to atoms (Negroponte 1995) and
vice versa, has introduced a great number of studies
towards the lossless realization of digital design or
its optimized implementation. Recent investigations
on material systems science, Computer Aided Manufacturing and Evolutionary Developmental Biology,
provide the foundations for a forthcoming concrete
articulation of the “digital design – fabricated design” system.
In this context, the main objective of this research is to introduce and explore a computational
tool, thus a methodological framework, for simulating stress driven material growth and organization by employing a multi-agent generative system
based in swarm intelligence algorithms. The fibrous
intrinsic characteristics of this dynamic performative system, following the agents’ trails, operate
by adapting to certain stimuli while exchanging
information in a reciprocal manner with the environment’s spatial qualities, fulfilling multiple tasks
and consequently converging into a local optimal
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 301
scenario. Structural information in combination to
morphological and topological data become, along
with the multi- agent system’s behaviour, the driving
forces in a bottom-up approach where data flows
and components are self-organized into design
outputs. This ongoing investigation underlies the
intention for the material system to be perceived as
design itself. Therefore is intended to bridge the gap
between digital and fabricated matter and through
its adaptive virtues and its force-energy morphology evolving (Thompson 1961), to progress towards
an enhanced conversion of design and material
growth, as this appears in natural systems.
The proposed algorithm, developed in the
java-based programming language Processing, is
explored via testing on different design cases, offering a coherent understanding on how the various
elements perform and a critical evaluation of the
system’s capacity to produce an acceptable, within
the “state-of-the-art” context, solution to material
growth optimization and creative form-finding. In
addition, these experimentations outline the intriguing elements of the generative multi-agent
system, forming its implementation, while at the
same time revealing its limitations. The analysis and
evaluation, leads to possible reconfiguration of the
algorithm’s methodological structure and further
development of the concepts describing it, by introducing new elements and reinforcing the existing.
A multidisciplinary approach
The examined algorithmic system utilizes knowledge and apparatus from the fields of biomimetics,
material systems science, engineering and computational science to form a rational and hierarchically
articulated methodology. Nature is providing a tremendous amount of information implemented into
these scientific fields, assisting contemporary investigations that vary from the analysis of the human
body’s structural element: bone’s micro-mechanical
configuration (Huiskes 2000), to the effect of the
micro-fibril orientation into plant growth. Research
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conducted on fibre composite materials, biomechanical load bearing, plant growth and structural
optimization procedures, is implemented within the
algorithm’s structure and realized through the dynamic computational model of the collective behaviour ordered swarms, leading to an interdisciplinary
approach on creative design through optimized material distribution.
Figure 1
Material as design: rendered
still of the algorithm.
Multi-agent synthesis strategies
“Swarm Matter” by Kokkugia is a morphogenetic
research process within the software development
framework that investigates the generation of ornamental geometries through swarm intelligence
based formations and emergent patterns [1]. This
exploration is analogous to the presented algorithmic process in the implementation of a multi-agent
system operating as a form finding module. However it diverges from it radically in the methodology
by which, contextual data are incorporated into the
process and by the nature of the data itself, which
is not limited to the inherent interaction within the
agent system.
Structural information as design initiative
Research conducted by Michalatos P. and Kaijima S.
(2007) employs structural information as a design element. Specifically, the case study of the “Land Securities Bridge” is examining procedures on optimizing
a preliminary design intention through the method
of densification, while at the same time organizing
the data operating on the design as fields of values.
A related approach is integrated in the proposed
system through the densification of the fibre matrix.
A different research case investigates adaptive
growth through fibre composites, operating on the
specific design scenario of a pedestrian bridge, using the Tow Fibre Steering fabrication method on a
field of uniform mechanical stress (Doumpioti 2008).
The Computer Aided Internal Optimization (CAIO)
method is exploited (Mattheck 1998), where fibres
are aligned with the stress force flows mimicking
plant growth. The intrinsic characteristics of fibres
are engaged in the presented system in an equivalent method.
Those investigations have provided inspiration
and technical knowledge regarding the notions examined in this paper. The implemented formal and
practical systems are reinforced by the emergent
situations of the multi-agent algorithm. Material optimization routines are engaging interaction and adaptation, in addition to the inspired morphogenetic
and form-finding methodologies as a combination
of reactive and informative systems. Consequently,
this research explores the dynamic characteristics
of multi-performative systems implemented into information based design processes and attempts to
evaluate it.
Inputs to outputs
The structure of the algorithm is expressed as a linear process constantly resulting to emergent outputs. This input to output procedure introduces a
set of dynamically defined routines, both in terms
of design-production, but also in relation to the optimization of the results. Being characterized as an
information-based adaptive system, the algorithmic
framework is powered by a set of inputs that vary in
their nature and by the effect they address on the
operational attributes of the system. The totality of
input values can be categorized as:
1. User defined inputs: Initial morphology examined, seeds, agent system steering values.
2. Analytical inputs: F.E.M derived vector-field.
3. Combinatorial inputs: Porosity field depending
on the sun’s position.
User defined inputs can be altered on demand. Different geometries suggest alternative design scenarios affecting both the analytical and the combinatorial inputs which intrinsically relate directly to
the examined morphological configuration. Specifi-
Figure 2
Schematic overview of the
algorithm: inputs to outputs.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 303
cally, the emergent result of the system is possible to
differentiate greatly when the multi-agent system’s
steering values are changing, or if the quantity and
the position of the seeds, are altered. In contrast to
the randomly placed seeds, the initially user defined
steering values can be transformed on a local level
due to the adapting virtues of the system.
On the other hand, the outputs of the system consist in their majority of data sets provided
thought-out the implementation of the algorithmic
process in evenly distributed time periods, in favor
of a more comprehensive evaluation. Stills of the
running algorithm and text formatted sets, recording the various elements of the scheme at incremental intervals, are supportive to the main product of
the system, which is comprised to dxf and stl exports of the fibrous design.
Data driven design
The algorithm implements a swarm intelligence
dynamically defined routine based on the flocking boids procedural model by Craig Reynolds [2],
followed by the numerically defined variables of
alignment, cohesion and separation that characterize the population of the flocking agents. This fibre
producing system performs on a basis of two adaptation factors, each of which is addressing a different
weighted effect to the final outcome. The primary
adaptation criterion is the principal stress value set
adopted as a vector-field, or more precisely as voxel
data field, derived by Finite Element Method analysis of the examined geometry using structural en-
gineering software such as Solidworks™ and Oasys
GSA™. A text file containing the principal stress data
is translated to modules of information within the
algorithm. Each module contains a numerical stress
value, a topological data set, and a vector in relation
to its neighboring modules-voxels. The FEM evaluation is performed using polymer as the material for
the study, providing at the same time that the structure is self-supported.
The second adaptation mechanism emerges
from the three-dimensional environment of the
program’s interface. This interface integrates a sun
system utility that operates by calculating the angle
by which sun rays collide to the geometry’s domain,
organizing a new data-field operating on a second
level of hierarchy following the initial FEM adaptation. This process arranges different porosity levels
on the overall geometry resulting in a plethora of
anisotropic material design configurations, thus can
be proved extremely useful in architectural design
cases. On the other hand it may lack functional and
conceptual reasoning in object-based studies. On
these grounds, each adaptation factor can perform
independently or in combination, with the stress
driven growth to occupy the first level of importance within the system.
Fibre generation
The fibre generating algorithm performs on a logic
that exploits the multi-agent system’s characteristics. Each agent member of the swarm population
navigates on the UV surface domain of the examFigure 3
Finite Element Analysis on
a free form surface and its
fibrous implementation.
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ined case study, interacting simultaneously with
other members of the population while informed
by the adaptation mechanisms. The seeds, the areas
where the fibre growth commences, are randomly
placed on the morphology while their quantity can
be redefined as the algorithm is running. In a simplified scenario, each fibre agent tries to navigate
through a larger number of high stress areas in the
data vector-field, while continuously trying to avoid
others where the second adaptation mechanism of
the porosity data field is operating, hence agents
tend not to approach areas with large porosity values. Each agent of the system is defined by a steering vector. When the agent is within the operating
area of a large stress value voxel of the field, another
vector with direction towards to the stress point
gets added to the steering vector, moving the agent
through this high stress zone. The added vector is
not however capable of keeping the agent on a constant looping course inside the stress area. In addition, while navigating inside this area, the steering
values of the agent members affected are instantly
altered. In particular, the alignment value increases
along with the cohesion, as the separation value
gets narrowed down to keep agents as close as possible, therefore achieving greater fibre densities.
Those values return back to the user defined ones
when the agent exits the field.
The sun position depended porosity layer of
adaptation runs on a similar methodology, by adding vectors towards or in reverse directions from the
high or low porosity areas. However in this case, the
initial steering values are not affected by any means.
Where sun rays are more direct the algorithm tends
to reinforce its structure while in other cases receiving oblique illumination, material is organized in a
diluted mode.
The methodology of re-orienting fibres in highly
stressed areas thus depositing more material is correlated to the Soft Kill Option (SKO) and is the same
technique that nature uses to advance growth (Mattheck 1998). However, it is this research’s intention
not to get attached to a specific methodology but to
advance in a combination of theories and optimization routines implemented and documented in this
Figure 4
Schematic diagram of the
stress adapting fibre generating agents.
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Finally, the concluding element of the multi-agent
system is a constrain factor to prevent the overdesign of the structure. The algorithm iterates at the
previously documented state, generating a moderately large amount of fibres until a certain threshold
is met. This threshold is dependent on the geometry
examined and limits the number of fibres integrated
in the final material configuration according to the
fibre matrix ratio used in composites, provided via
an approximation of this equation (Ashby and Jones,
material design. Until the fibre limit is met the algorithm realizes to fibres only those multi-agent paths
that are routed through more than ten high stress
areas of the data field. This limitation could result
to a highly differentiated sum of fibres, that may or
may not, combine the fullest of the systems capacities. However, whilst the limit criterion is active, the
algorithm evaluates recursively each member of the
fibre population and assigns a double numerical
value to it. This number is provided by the following
fitness equation.
EcL = {Vf / Ef + (1-Vf )/Em}^(-1) (1)
Fitness=(∑_(i=0)^n{Spi*Dpi} )/((n+1) )*((k+1))/
(∑_(j=0)^k{Atj*Daj}) (2)
where Vf is the volume fraction of fibres, and Ef, Em
are Young’s modulus for fibres and matrixes in Gpa.
Evaluation Process
From the total number of fibers generated in the
algorithmic process only a few are converted into
where n is the number of stress vectors, k is the
number of porosity attractors, Sp is the stress value
of the vector, Dp is the distance of the fibre to the
stress vector, At is the value of the attractor and Da is
the distance from the attractor.
Figure 5
Explanatory snapshot of the
performing algorithm.
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Figure 6
Stills displaying the performing agents (dark colored) and
the constructed fibres (red
As the algorithm iterates, it deletes a single fibre
from the population and replaces it with another
from the ongoing operating fibre agents, which
must carry a fitness value larger than the population’s average. The system runs for 2400 iterations at
this mode until is terminated. By this methodology,
it achieves a steadily advancing and controlled performance optimization, resulting to the material optimization of the final design product. In this aspect,
the previously mentioned SKO methodology is reinforced by a selective process that categorizes fibres
not only by the necessity of lying in high stress areas
but by efficiency in combining the best achieved results.
A more reliable approach that has not yet been
realized in the context of this research is the implementation of a continuous F.E.M evaluation for the
fibre population, and via this feedback loop, to provide a sufficient termination criterion for the process.
This methodology relates to the Computer Aided
Optimization method where a biological shape is
consistent with the uniform stress axiom (Mattheck
1998). In other words, when the results of the analy-
sis indicate a uniform stress throughout the examined geometry the algorithm will terminate resulting to local optimal solutions.
The presented computational system is evaluated
through testing on ten different geometrical configurations, such as spherical cubes, knots and teapots,
in addition to variations by altering its user defined,
agent or contextual, parameters. The nature of the
data accumulated varies from, text files and vector
graphics images, to stereolithography models. Certain output elements have been rendered of great
importance during the experiments. The Average
Fibre Length (AFL) is a critical measure for the evaluation process. In most cases the AFL steadily converges to a certain value, providing the optimal fibre
length for the specific design case. However the topological configuration of the fibre matrix is unique
each time, due to the dynamic characteristics of the
swarm based multi-agent system.
The number of seeds affects greatly the overall
design. Smaller number of seeds suggests greater
Figure 7
Rendered stills of the teapot
geometry at different iterations of the algorithm.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 307
Figure 8
Charts displaying the Average
Fibre Length for different
geometries and number of
AFL values and vice versa, being at the same time
highly depended on the morphology investigated.
Furthermore, the system converges faster into possible solutions when more seeds are defined, underlying the danger of a latent overdesign, which can’t
be controlled at this state. The multi-agent steering
values can also alter the design output. For instance
smaller separation value, provides highly routed fibers, thus for the purpose of this research these values were kept at a neutral level in all experiments.
Finally, the porosity data field has introduced differ-
ent transparency levels and highly anisotropic characteristics on the overall geometry, again with a vigilantly selected value data set to avoid overdesign at
certain areas.
An implementation in a large scale conceptual project consisting of a multi-story building development [3] is examined by the application of the generative process in a recursive fashion throughout
the design. The overall morphology of the building
Figure 9
Architectural design casestudy displaying a recursive
implementation of the
presented algorithm.
308 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
was analyzed by the computational system providing the structural elements of the design, which
were then re-designed by the same algorithm in the
micro-scale level. The complex columnar elements
have been evaluated and addressed as a composite of a common used matrix, such as concrete, reinforced by the fibrous assembly. Although being
only an experimental implementation, the existence
of several integration possibilities that can be suggested in analogous contextual frameworks, is identified.
When considering material as design, the presented
system has been proved successful in terms of replicating material growth and arrangement while
achieving a stress adaptive character. It diverges
from the other accessible methodologies principally in regard to the implementation of the multiagent fibre mechanism, and its inherent capability
to evaluate multiple design scenarios, converging
to a local fittest. This process is primarily defined in
natural systems that initially grow the material and
then optimize it by re-deposition. The intrinsic incapacity of the system to provide global optima, similar to other optimization methods such as Genetic
Algorithms can be addressed as an advantage in
terms of design pluralism. Furthermore, the running
algorithm has been proved an interesting spectacle,
specifically during the evaluation process when the
replacement of fibres appears, converging to creative designs.
Finally, the experiments have indicated a significant amount of issues that have to be attended, with
primary aim, the implementation of a termination
criterion via a FEM analysis feedback loop, capable
of reinforcing the evaluative character of the algorithm and advance its optimization characteristics.
Burgert, I 2006, ‘Exploring the Micromechanical Design of
Plant Cell Walls’, American Journal of Botany 93(10),
Potsdam, Germany, pp. 1391–1401.
Doumpioti, C 2008, ‘Adaptive Growth of Fibre Composite
Structures’, Silicon + Skin: Biological Processes and Computation, Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of
the A.C.A.D.I.A, Minneapolis, United States, pp. 300-307.
Fratzl, P 2007, ‘Biomimetic materials research: what can we
really learn from nature’s structural materials? ’, Journal
of the Royal Society 4, Potsdam, Germany, pp. 637–642.
Holland, J.H 1996, Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds
Complexity, Perseus Books, Cambridge.
Huiskes, R 2000, ‘If bone is the answer, then what is the
question’, Journal of Anatomy 197, Netherlands, pp.
Jeronimidis, G 2000, Structural Biological Materials, Design
and Structure - Property Relationships, Pergamon, Amsterdam.
Mattheck, C 1998, Design in nature: Learning from Trees,
Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Michalatos, P and Kaijima, S 2007, ‘Structural Information as
Material for Design’, Expanding Bodies: Art • Cities • Enth
vironment, Proceedings of the 27 Annual Conference of
the A.C.A.D.I.A, Halifax, Nova Scotia, pp. 84-95.
Negroponte, N 1995, Being Digital, Vintage Books, New
Thompson, D, W 1961, On Growth and Form, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Ashby, M and Jones, D 1986, Engineering materials 2-An
introduction to microstructures, processing and design,
Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 309
310 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Decoupling Grid and Volume
A generative approach to architectural design
Hao Hua
ETH Zurich, Switzerland
[email protected]
Abstract. Computational design is apt to address all design problems in one model,
though these problems usually originated from distinct models. The method of
employing one model follows the problem-solving paradigm developed in the early
years of CAAD. The paper argues that employing multiple models in one generative
process is valid. Furthermore, it can be more productive than using single model. Two
experimental programs are implemented. They suggest that each model could work
without interrupting other models, thus multiple models can interplay in one design task.
Keywords. Model; generative; computation; grid.
This paper presents a generative design method
employing multiple models. In the field of CAAD,
early computational approaches to spatial planning
were based on single model of architecture - especially the grid(Armour 1963; Whitehead 1965; Seehof 1966) . It was widely believed that a minimal representation of the architecture is sufficient to carry
out design processes based on CAAD methodologies. By contrast, architects seldom employ a single
model in designs, especially for deconstructivism
architects. The motivation of the research is to see
how multiple models of architecture can interplay
in a meaningful way in a computational context. It
is clear that employing multiple models is promising
at solving problems since more models can address
more design problems. While, the critical question
is how different models make articulations respectively without interrupting the behaviour of other
The two programs of the research are based
on the two basic generators of architecture: the
grid and the volume. The grid is a set of parallel/orthogonal axes which are helpful for organising the
positions and the orientations of various elements
of architecture. It seems that the model of grid is
mainly based on the view regarding the architecture
as an assemblage of physical components. While the
model of volume defines the extents of the spaces
of the architecture, therefore the volume model is
grounded on the assumption that the spaces are the
protagonist of the architecture. Rather than studying the two models respectively, the interplay between the two models in one design task is the main
focus of the research.
Though both models are well known to architects and theorists, employing them in designs
together brings a lot of complexities. If the gird
is coupled with the volume, i.e., the axes of the
grid are aligned with the boundaries of the volume, it is reasonable and sufficient to make one
model subject to the other. However, it is far from
necessary to start architectural design under this
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 311
assumption. Once we decouple them, the differences between the two would highlight the
articulations of both systems since one would
server as the figure and the other the ground.
The research is partially inspired by Colin Rowe’s
(1947) celebrating paper “The mathematics of the
ideal villa”. The paper coined the so called “ABABA”
rhythm of the grid underlying both Le Corbusier’s
and Palladio’s villa plan. The proportion of grid is
2:1:2:1:2 in one direction, other direction has factors
of 1.5 and 2(1.5+0.5). It suggested that a similar grid
plays an essential role in both designs. However,
his paper might be misleading that the two plans
are dominated by the grid. Obviously, the model
of volume also plays a primary role in both designs:
Palladio’s villa employed a set of symmetrical vol-
umes while Le Corbusier used subtraction of volumes which refers to the concept of transparency in
Rowe’s (1963) anther paper.
It is seems that the grid and the volume in
both Malcontenta and Garches are well correlated,
however, some deconstructivism architects strive
to evoke the conflicts between the two models.
Resolving these conflicts leads to meaningful compositions. One important example is Eisenman’s
House III(Figure 2). Especially his diagrams explicitly illustrate the contrasts between the grid and the
volume, between a pair of grid/volume and another
pair. In a broader sense, deconstructivism architects
like Eisenman, Libeskind(2000) and Tshumi(1996)
have been searching methods for organizing multiple systems which have heterogeneous properties.
The model of grid or the model of volume could
be employed as a generative system for architecture.
A lot of approaches to spatial synthesis have employed either of them as the main model, for example Whitehead (1965) and Roseman(1996) chose the
grid model; Chouchoulas (2003) and Lehnerer(2010)
preferred the volume model. Nevertheless, few approaches have tried to use both models for design
in the field of CAAD or computational design. One
main reason for that is most researchers believed
dealing with one model is more feasible than using
multiple models even the relevant design problems
are originally addressed in different models. Despite
that, this program investigates how two models
addressing distinct problems could work together.
The conflicts between the two models are both a
challenge for problem solving and a opportunity
towards alternative solutions. Two scenarios (one
for program I the other for program II) are set up in
order to explore the possibilities of the interplay of
the grid and volume.
This program arranges rooms and functional units
(e.g. entrance hall, terrace, stair case) on a grid and
within a single cuboid volume. The grid adopts the
rhythm of the grid in Villa Stein (Rowe 1947). The
intervals of the grid repeat the rhythm of 4:2 (in me-
312 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Figure 1
Colin Rowe’s analytical diagrams of the grid of Palladio’s
Villa Malcontenat (top) and
Le Corbusier’s Villa Garches
Figure 2
Eisenman’s House III, from
Figure 3
The grid is in red, the cuboid
volume in black. Several functional units are placed on the
grid and within the volume.
The unoccupied parts of the
volume are for the rooms (besides the functional units).
ter) in one direction and 1:3:3:3 in another direction.
The dimension of the cuboid volume varies within
certain range. The volume is divided into several
layers by a fixed interval (equal to the height of the
floor). These layers of volumes are further subdivided into smaller volumes by the underlying grid.
Since the gird is not aligned with the cuboid volume, each subdivided volume is either a cuboid or
a more complicated volume resulted from cutting
a cuboid by the grid (Figure 3). The functional units
occupy the subdivided volumes(one unit could occupy many units), as a result, the boundaries of
the units are aligned with the gird and all units are
within the original cuboid volume. It is obvious that
the shapes of the units and the relations between
the units become more complex by decoupling the
well coupled grid-volume. The program defines four
functional units: an entrance hall (two-layer high), a
stair case, a conference room(two-layer high) and a
terrace. They are randomly generated with certain
constraints, for example, the entrance hall are located on the first layer and must to be directly accessible from outside of the volume.
An optimization process improves the composition
of the functional units. The criteria include:
1. The position and the orientation of the stair case
should facilitate the circulation, thus:
The stair case should not be blocked by other
functional units
The stair case should connect the entrance hall
Suppose there is a straight corridor starting
from the stair case, it should not be interrupted
by the functional units.
The position of the stair case should be proper
in the plan(the details refers to the term e and
e in the cost function).
2. Avoid collisions between the functional units.
According to these considerations, the cost (error)
function of any composition is a weighted sum of
these terms:
e : number of collision
e : 1(if the stair case directly connects the en1
trance hall) or 0(if not).
e : the number of units which block the stair
e : refers to the area of the region which is be3
hind the staircase (this region is relatively difficult to access from the stair case ).
e : refers to the ratio between the area of the
region on left side of the staircase and that on
the right side. (a significant difference indicates
one of the two regions is far away from the
e : the number of units which interrupt the
straight corridor.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 313
A simple “generate and test” algorithm is found to be
sufficient for minimising the error. In every iteration,
a new composition is generated based on the current one (by changing the current one sightly). The
process adopts a new composition if it has smaller
error, otherwise the new one is abandoned. Under
most circumstances, a satisfying solution could be
found after hundreds of iterations.
The program is implemented in Java. The solutions generated by the grogram have a wider range
of patterns in composition. To construct a more detailed 3-d model for each solution, a set of additional
rules are made for generating the facade according
to the underlying units, e.g., the entrance hall has
big openings on the facade. As a result, the patterns
in facades are able to reflect the rhythm of the hidden grid. In the same time, the 3-d model indicates
the single cuboid volume.
Comparing with the preceding program employing
one grid and one volume, program II uses a pair of
grids and a pair of volumes. Although playing with
multiple volumes is a traditional design method, it
hasn’t become a dominant theme in composition
until deconstructivism architects developed this
method to a new level after 1960s (e.g, House III
by Eisenman, Royal Ontrio Museum by Libeskind).
Roughly speaking, the volumes are subject to the
overall composition in traditional design method,
while the volumes interact with each other by playing their own roles. Playing multiple grids is also not
common in traditional method, however, deconstructivism architects have shown its great potential
(e.g. Eisenman’s diagrams).
This program commences with two groups
of generators, each group consists of a grid and a
volume which are twisted with each other. Inside
each group, the floors are generated on the grid
(the boundary of the floor is aligned with the grid)
and within the volume (Figure 7). However, there is
a complicated situation that the floors generated in
one group may penetrate the volume of the other
group, then the penetrating floor will be cut by the
Figure 4
Optimization on composition.
314 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Figure 5
one solution with four floors.
Figure 6
The floor plans of the solution
in Figure 5.
Figure 7
top: two groups of generators,
each group has one grid(in
red) and one volume(in black).
bottom: the floors are generated on the grid and within
the volume.
other group if it interrupts the floors in the other
group (otherwise the penetrating floor keeps still).
The grid in each group has one row and three columns, the middle column is for arranging staircases
and other two are for the floors(Figure 7, bottom).
An optimization process arranges the positions
of the floors (in vertical direction) to make the total
area of the floors maximum and to give each floor
a proper height. Since the floors are associated with
the twisted grid and volume, a rule-based method
for such purpose is not available. Thus an optimization process starting from random initialisation
is more reasonable in this situation. Besides, such
process is better at generating alternative solutions
than rule-based method.
Both “generate and test” and simulated annealing have been tested for optimization. The convergence speeds of the two are similar in this program,
both takes hundreds to one thousand iterations to
get satisfying results. The solutions generated by
the process fulfil the predefined goals: maximising
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 315
the total area and maintaining proper floor heights.
Furthermore, the solutions exhibit certain complexity, e.g., some floors get complex shapes and some
floors overlay with each other in x-y plane but keep
a proper distance in z direction(Figure 8). These
interesting outcomes are associated with the decoupled grid and volume. In other words, both the
model of grid and the model of volume make definite articulations in the final compositions without
interrupting the other.
The model of grid and the model of volume could
play distinct roles in the generation of the architecture. To put it differently, the two models interplay
in one stage. It is obvious in the two programs that
most elements of final 3-d models are closely associated with both the grid and the volume, i.e., they
are articulated by the two models simultaneously. It
implies that employing two models in architecture
is valid when each model is not subject to the other.
Moreover, both of them can make clear articulations in the final composition. From a viewpoint of
computational design, the results of two programs
suggest that the co-existence of two models in one
generative process is feasible. One model would
possibly interfere rather than interrupt the action
of the other model, In other words, it leads to an
interaction between them. From a viewpoint of architectural design, the interplay of multiple models
have special significances, as Venturi (1966) put it: ‘A
valid architecture evokes many levels of meaning and
combinations of focus: its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at once.’
Employing more than one model is an important
way for evoking such kind of multiple readings. If we
regard reading as a process of perceiving underlying
models from the final articulations, then the generative processes proposed by this paper is to make
clear articulations from multiple models.
Figure 8
The optimization process
maximizes the total area of
floors and maintains proper
floor heights.
316 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Figure 9
The rendering of one solution.
Armour, GC and Buffa, ES 1963, ‘A Heuristic Algorithm and
Simulation Approach to Relative Location of Facilities’,
Management Science, Vol.9, No.2, Jan 1963. pp.294-309.
Chouchoulas, O 2003, Shape Evolution, PhD thesis, University of Bath.
Lehnerer, A and Braach, M 2010, ‘Stadtraum Hauptbahnhof
(Zurich, CH)’ in L. Hovestadt, Beyond the Grid - Architecture and information technology, Birkhäuser, Germany.
Libeskind, D 2000, Daniel Libeskind: the space of encounter.
Universe. New York. Rosenman, MA 1996, ‘The generation of form using an evolutionary approach’, in J. Gero and F. Sudweeks(eds),
Artificial Intelligence in Design’96, Kluwer Academic,
Dordrecht. pp.643-662.
Rowe, C 1947, ‘The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa: Palladio
and Le Corbusier Compared’, Architectural Review,
1947, pp.101-104.
Rowe, C and Slutzky, R 1963, ‘Transparency: Literal and phenomenal’, Perspecta, Vol. 8. (1963), pp.45-54.
Seehof, JM 1966, ‘Automated facilities layout programs’,
ACM ‘66 Proceedings of the 1966 21st national conference.
Tschumi, B 1996, Architecture and disjunction. MIT press,
Venturi, R 1966, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, The Museum of Modern Art Press, New York. Whitehead, B and Eldars, MZ 1965, ‘The planning of singlestorey layouts’, Building Sci. 1, 127.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 317
318 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Creativity With the Help of Evolutionary Design Tool
Philippe Marin , Xavier Marsault , Renato Saleri , Gilles Duchanois
School of Architecture of Lyon, France, School of Architecture of Nancy, France
[email protected], [email protected],
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The general thematic of our work tackles the question of the generative design
tool efficiency to stimulate a creative architectural conception in the context of sustainable
development. We focus our point of view on the conceptual research phases. We would
like to characterise the human creative mechanisms in a situation of generative assistance
where digital tool reveals some degree of autonomy and incorporates environmental
constraints. Thus, we implement an evolutionary design tool in which energetic
performances of the analogon are used in order to orient the evolution. Our tool is based
on an interactive genetic algorithm that ensures both a broad exploration of the solutions
space and the subjective user preferences accounting. Users groups were confronted
to the tool in a conception situation and creativity was evaluated and characterized.
Keywords. Interactive genetic algorithm; evolutionary design; creativity; environmental
The general thematic of our work tackles the question of the generative design tool efficiency to stimulate a creative architectural conception in the context of sustainable development. We focus our point
of view on the conceptual research phases. These
moments of conception reveal an important creative dimension and their digital instrumentations
have been reviewed since a few years. We would like
to characterise the human creative mechanisms in a
situation of generative assistance where digital tool
reveals some degree of autonomy and incorporates
environmental constraints. Thus, we implement an
evolutionary design tool in which energetic performances of the analogon are used in order to orient
the evolution. We mark the emergent situation in
which the designer is becoming a meta-designer,
describing the conditions of behaviour more than
the final shape. Moreover, chance plays an active
role during the generative and evolutionary pro-
cesses, and we speak about a generative algorithmic
hazard in order to characterise this phenomenon
that must stimulate an inventor’s interpretation. This
paper will first present the interactive genetic algorithm that we have implemented and particularly
the human-machine interface functionalities, and
second, the results of our experiments regarding
creativity mechanisms at work.
Evolutionary algorithms are various; there are generally genetic algorithms, evolution strategies, evolutionary programming and genetic programming.
The genetic algorithm is probably the best known
of all evolutionary search algorithms. These algorithms are part of the computing intelligence family
and they are traditionally used to solve optimisation
problems. They offer two advantages: on the one
hand, their application flexibility and on the other
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 319
hand their robustness to address difficult problem
with local optimums.
Starting from J. Holland in 1975, in order to explain the adaptive processes of natural systems and
to design artificial systems based upon these natural systems, there are several examples of the use of
genetic algorithms in the field of architecture. The
works of John Frazer, Peter Bentley (Bentley 1999),
and Paul Coates represent the first experiments in
the area. During these last years we note a continual interest for the use of these algorithms and today
we can expect a maturation of the technology. For
example, Hemberg (Hemberg et al. 2007) searches
to stimulate the creativity with a surface generator;
Caldas (Caldas 2005) optimizes housing composition; Besserud (Besserud and Cotten 2008) distorts
building envelope; Dillenburger (Dillenburger and
al. 2009) synthesizes building and Turrin (Turrin et al.
2010) optimizes a solar roof.
Evolutionary algorithms have been traditionally used to solve optimisation problems. In addition,
they can be used as a design aid. The evolutionary
approach is a generate and test approach which fits
the procedures for design synthesis and evaluation
in the design process. The characteristics of the approach are:
A pool or a population of design solutions is
used rather than a single solution.
Individuals are selected according to their adjustment to the fitness functions.
New solutions are generated through mutation
and crossover of previous elite.
In addition, these design evolutions can be
used as an aid in stimulating the designer’s
In case we cannot define precisely what we want to
optimise, it is necessary to develop specific strategies. In the situation in which the evaluation is not
measurable with the help of a mathematical function, for example the notion of satisfaction or aesthetic qualities, it’s possible to convoke the human
interaction in the evolutionary loop. This result is the
320 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
implementation of an interactive evolutionary algorithm. If the first experiments were concerned by
artistic or music creations, many studies nowadays
evolve subjective judgments in various domains of
application (Bentley and Corne 2001).
That does not prevent us from difficulties and
limits. Considerations on the user’s fatigability, a
too wide number of repetitive interactions, an impossibility for a human to consider an important
population or the user’s boring are all contributing
to invent intelligent modalities of interaction and
ergonomic interface. The usual techniques aim to
decrease the population size, as well as the number
of generations; they intend to automatically select
the solutions in function of previous user’s choices,
to decrease the complexity of the genotype in order
to preserve live interaction. Moreover, in the case of
a multi-objective approach, it is difficult to introduce
a human interaction. It is often difficult to identify
the criteria to which the user wants to give a priority.
However, in a situation of conception, the designer
must be able to evaluate the consequences of his
choices and selections. Two algorithmic modalities
are usually proposed here: the first is the possibility to control the mutation rate and the second is
an approach by a “cumulative selection” which is a
genes prioritisation (Romero and Machado 2007). In
addition, a special attention is given to the interface
ergonomic principles.
The creativity is the capacity to produce, simultaneously, something new and suited to the context. The
production is called new depending on its originality and its unexpected characteristics, but it must
be also adapted to the situation and it must satisfy
several contextual constraints. The notion of novelty
is relative. Boden (Boden 2003) proposed to separate the “psychological creativity” (personal creativity) from the “historical creativity” (function of the
production already done). The intuition, the cultural
and the educational background play an important
role in the creative process and the mental activities
at work represent a combination of rationality, intui-
tion and creativity (Candy and Edmonds 1999). Exploration, generation and evaluation compose three
main activities of the creative process. The creative
solution emerges from analogy, metaphor, selective
comparison, selective combination or multiple generations of possibilities (Bonnardel 2009). The conative factors (style, personality, motivation) and the
emotional factors can complete the model (Lubart
and al. 2003). The designer’s sagacity and his interpretative glance participate in the perception of anticipated qualities of the solutions.
Our case study is based on the implementation of an
interactive genetic algorithm. We have seen that the
general theme of our work focuses on the generative capacity of digital devices to stimulate a creative
architectural design in the context of sustainable
development. The tool will assist the architect in
his design process, and will allow the identification
of eco-efficient solutions in a specified context, in
terms of climate, urban integration and programmatic needs, without stifling creativity and allowing
the emergence of creative and unexpected solutions. Thus the tool must facilitate access to a rational understanding, knowledge objectified in terms of
performance evaluation, while allowing for subjective interpretation and individual choices based on
the tacit knowledge of each architect.
We use environmental constraints to orient the
evolution, our own energetic simulation engine
makes the individual evaluation; a morphogenetic
engine is defined and based on the coagulation of
individual entities called voxels; a machine-human
interface allows an interaction between the systems and the architect. The designer has the ability
to orient the evolution in function of subjective or
aesthetic interpretations; he can make choices while
acknowledging the performance behaviour of the
Morphogenetic engine
In the latter case, the parametric model of the gen-
erated analogon is determined. The designer focuses his activity on his interaction with the evolutionary loop. The specificity of this solution relies on the
integration of an interactive genetic algorithm.
The morphological model used is based on an
agglomeration of elementary units, called “voxel”
(volumetric pixels), whose geometry is currently reduced to a parallelepiped of fixed size. These “voxels” take place in a three-dimensional matrix space
and represent spatial units. The matrix limits are
defined by the initial plot shape and constraints by
legal urban regulation, both in the plan definition,
in the maximum height and in its urban alignment.
The faces of the voxel have a material specification,
in terms of insulation and opacity. They receive solar
energy and contribute to heat exchange. Each “voxel” is also associated with programmatic functions.
The generative stochastic process fills the matrix
space with either an active “voxel” or a void cell.
The input data consist of the geometric description of the plot, the urban environment and their
geolocation. An objective of constructed area is also
defined for each programmatic function.
Evaluation engine
The evaluation engine combines three fitness functions: the compactness of the building, the shadows
evaluation on the urban environment and the thermal performance evaluation (figure 1). The shadows
evaluation on the built environment is calculated by
ray tracing on a matrix of dots arranged on the urban context façades. Six solar positions are selected,
and the average shade during the period is determined. The shading must be minimized. The calculation of heat balance is based on the simplified
model of Unified Day Degree method. This allows
an approximation of the heat balance of the building envelope, specifically for winter comfort. It takes
into account the glass surfaces and free solar heat
contribution, function of the project localisation,
and losses in transmission, function of the envelope
thermal resistance, for which the coefficient is fixed.
The gap of living space available, from the surface
target, specified in the initialization process, should
be minimized.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 321
Figure 1
Phenotype representation
used for the performance
Interactive genetic algorithm
One of the project specificity is based on the integration of an interactive genetic algorithm (IGA).
This allows the designer to interact with the evolutionary loop. He can drive and orient the evolution
according to its own subjective interpretation of
the aesthetic qualities of the analogon. The integration of a human interaction in the loop evaluation
can introduce a tacit knowledge in the selection
constraints. However, this interaction encounters a
number of limitations: slow process associated with
the time of awareness, population size limitation,
simplified evaluation required in order to maintain a
real-time interaction, weary of the designer in front
of a wide number of generations. Our proposal incorporates a dual mode of genetic evolution: the
automatic generation selection process that can
remain independent or be interrupted by a human
interaction. Then the designer has the possibility of
privileging individuals and orienting the evolution
trajectory in a chosen direction.
A “gene class” represents the genome description; it is composed of the voxel status and its cor-
322 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
responding index inside the matrix space. The status could be active, associated to a programmatic
function or forbidden in function of the legal urban
regulations. A “chromosome class” describes an individual; it is composed of the “gene class” and the fitness table associated. Starting from the “gene class”,
the “evaluation engine” builds the corresponding 3D
model and makes evaluation based on this phenotype representation (Figure 1). Three different populations are preserved during the whole process:
the current population, the total population from
the first generation and the Pareto population. The
Pareto front is evaluated by a single fitness function
merging randomly the three independent objectives (Jaszkiewicz 2002). In order to simultaneously
promote diversity and fitness within the population,
we use the ACROMUSE method (Mc Ginley and al.
2011). It allows adapting crossover, mutation and selection rates in function of two population diversity
measures. A Standard Population Diversity (SPD) is
calculated, this index is variable and drives the crossover and mutation rates. Meanwhile the Health
Figure 2
Machine-Human Interface.
Population Diversity (HPD) combines fitness and
genomic diversity in order to modify the selection
pressure, this ensures both the population diversity
and the high performance solutions. A pheromone
is used as a mark and associated to the pool of individuals selected; this pheromone could evaporate in
order to reflect the recent user choices or could be
fixed for a specified number of generations.
Machine-Human Interface
The Machine-Human Interface is organised by two
screens. The main one allows the elite population
visualisation, the second one zooms in the phenotype representation. The first screen is divided in
three main parts (Figure 2): the current elites population, the selected individuals collection and the
algorithm preferences composed by the evaluation
parameters and the constraints values. The zoom
window presents the phenotype representation integrated inside the urban context; it is possible to
manipulate the 3D model in rotation and to display
the performance outline (Figure 3). These two kinds
of information allow both a subjective interpretation
and an access to an objective knowledge, the relative and the absolute performance of the analogon.
The architect has the possibility to select one or
more individuals and to keep them available for subsequent manipulations. These selected individuals
constitute a collection. At any time during the process, the architect can export them or inject them
inside the evolutionary loop in order to redirect the
optimization, to rebalance the Pareto front by favouring these new entering.
Originality of the solution
This tool reveals a double originality. On the one
hand, at the Human-Machine Interface level, it offers the display of a population of privileged elites,
but a gene pool is kept and stored in a larger population of individuals. A multi-generational process
between each iteration and human interaction is
integrated; it speeds up the convergence process
and reduces user’s weary. On the other hand, at the
genetic algorithm level, a mechanism for persistence of user choice is integrated and can take into
account both subjective and objective evaluations.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 323
Figure 3
Zoom window.
Both the Jaszkiewicz’s MOGLS adaptation and some
gene pheromones are used to bias the fitness relative proportions and the crossover process in order
to reflect the user’s preferences during the run of the
algorithm. Moreover, adjusting the algorithm to provide diversified solutions while taking into account
the choices and selections of designer is solved by
the use of an adaptive crossover and mutation rate,
based on the ACROMUSE method.
Experimental protocol description
In our experiment we mobilized two groups of two
students, who realized two sketches of an architectural project. The program, the site and the performance objectives were given and the students had
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three hours of working time in order to produce
characteristic draws, façades and perspective views
of their project. They were not limited in their tools
and supports and they could use any software starting from Ec-Co-Gen tool.
Three cameras captured students’ activities and
all drafts, diagrams and schemas produced were collected at the end of the session: they constitute the
marks of the design activity and represent a series of
intermediate objects of mediation. A questionnaire
was proposed at the end of the exercise and a post
session interview was organized in order to revert to
the feeling of the students, to collect propositions
and to identify limits and constraints. The objective
is to observe in which proportions the tool supports
the creative activity and how it becomes resources
for decisions.
Creativity characterization
First results and comments
Starting from the data collected, we aim to characterise the creativity mechanisms involved during this
generative design process. Four dimensions structure our analysis. First, the originality degree of the
solution proposed. It is based on the analysis of the
difference between the distinctive features of a reference solution and those of the solution proposed.
A qualitative critic conducted by the experts could
complete it. Second, the creativity mobilised during the design process is measured with the help of
fluidity and flexibility concepts coming from the divergent thinking method. The fluidity represents the
number of ideas generated; the flexibility represents
the number of ideas categories. Third, the creative
cognitive activity is identified with the help of all
kinds of marks we have collected: the draws, the gestures and the dialogues between the designers are
taken into account. Fourth, the way of appropriation,
the use of the tool and the designers’ recommendations mark the tool potentialities and improvement.
The data reduction is still under process but first
results and comments could be proposed. Concerning the degree of originality, it seems that the students take into account the environmental factors,
they are parameters of the generative engine. They
clearly become explicit constraints and mediation
support. The suggested solutions respect the initial
constraints of the brief and present an important
degree of definition in relation with the duration of
the exercise. The sketches offer many opportunities
and combine architectural principles in an integrative proposition, the projects can be considered as
original. The figure 4 shows an example of students’
sketch, starting from the digital model exported
from Ec-Co-Gen-L, the students decided to draw by
hand an annotated view.
Concerning the divergent thinking measure, it’s
difficult to evaluate the activity flexibility but it is
easier to quantify the fluidity. During two-thirds of
the time, the students explore the solution space by
Figure 4
Example of students’ sketch.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 325
generating solutions. The two groups of designers
made fifty and sixty-five generations and respectively six and four preferential solutions were kept.
If we crosscheck these elements with the verbs,
gestures and diagrams produced, it clearly appears
that the tool is used as a support of the exploration
activity. It allows the understanding of the interactions; the students try to understand the global performance in regard with the site conditions. Moreover, the tool is used as a generator of ideas that
allows selective combination, selective comparison,
analogy and multiple generations. The solutions
generated become the support of the collaboration
between the two designers and they stimulate the
ideas exchanges and convergence.
The tool is relatively simple to use and one
group has hijacked the software by combining two
generated solutions in a final project. Numerous remarks were made concerning ergonomic features
and new functionalities needs.
The main limits concern the global understanding of, on the one hand, the link between performance and form, and on the other hand, the position of the solution inside the solution space, that
is to say the representation of the solutions populations global behaviour. Our initial intention was to
propose a phylogenetic visualization of the generated solutions, but we failed in this direction. Another hypothesis could be to visualise the epigenetic
landscape. Its behaviour during generations and the
position of the elites population could give a global
view of the state space allowing the designer to appreciate this multiplicity.
In this article we have presented the Ec-Co-Gen-L
tool, its components and functionalities. We have
marked the double originality of this interactive
genetic algorithm, the one based on the limited
number of elites displayed while a broader number
is kept in order to ensure diversity, the second that
allows the persistence of user’s choices during the
generations and the selection operations.
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We have described the experimental protocol we
used in order to evaluate the quality of our tool to
stimulate and support creativity. We have characterised the creativity mechanisms operating during a generative instrumented design and we have
particularly identified the necessity of building the
epigenetic landscape visualization.
Finally, we mark the fact that the quality of the
solutions generated are associated with the critical
distance taken by the designer during his conception activity. Thus, if the tool facilitates the ideas
convergence and helps reasoned decision-making,
it must participate in the construction of dissensions
that must stimulate and allow combinations, comparisons and confrontations.
This project is partly funded by The French National Research Agency (ANR), under “the creation”
agenda (ANR-10-Creation-012).
Bentley, PJ (ed.) 1999, Evolutionary Design By Computers
[With Cd Rom], Morgan Kaufmann.
Bentley, PJ and Corne, DW (eds.): 2001, Creative Evolutionary
Systems (the Morgan Kaufmann Series in Artificial Intelligence), Har/Cdr ed., Morgan Kaufmann Publishers In.
Besserud, K and Cotten, J, 2008. Architectural Genomics.
Presentation. ACADIA. Minneapolis, USA.
Boden, MA (ed.) 2003, The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, Routledge.
Bonnardel, N 2009. “Activités De Conception Et Céativité :
De L’Ananlyse Des Facteurs Cognitifs À L’Assitance Aux
Activités De Conception Créatives.” in Le Travail Humain, N° 72, Janvier 2009 : Les Activités De Conception
: Créativité, Coopération, Assistance(ed), Presses Universitaires de France - PUF,pp. 5-22.
Caldas, LG, 2005. Three-Dimensional Shape Generation of
Low-Energy Architectural Solutions Using Pareto Genetic Algorithms. Presentation. eCAADe. Lisbon (Portugal).
Candy, L and EA Edmonds, 1999. Introducing Creativity to
Cognition. Presentation. C&C ‘99 in Proceedings of the
third conference on Creativity & cognition. Loughborough: LUTCHI Research Centre.
Dillenburger, B, Braach, M and Hovestadt, L 2009. Building
Design as Individual Compromise Between Qualities
and Costs : A General Approach for Automated Building Permanent Cost and Quality Control. Presentation.
CAAD Futures. Montréal, Canada.
Hemberg, M, O’Reilly, UM, Menges, A, Jonas, K, Gonçalves,
MC and Fuchs, SR 2007. “Genr8: Architects’s Experience
With an Emergent Design Tool.” in The Art of Artificial
Evolution: A Handbook on Evolutionary Art and Music
(Natural Computing Series)(eds), Springer.
Jaszkiewicz, A 2002, “Genetic Local Search for Multiple Objective Combinatorial Optimization,” in European Journal of Operational Research.
Lubart, T, Mouchiroud, C, Tordjam, S and F. Zenasni (eds.):
2003, Psychologie De La Créativité, Armand Colin.
Mc Ginley, B, Maher, J, O’Riordan, C and Morgan, F 2011,
“Maintaining Healthy Population Diversity Using Adaptive Crossover, Mutation and Selection (Acromuse),”
IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation Volume:
15 Issue:5, pp. 692 - 714.
Romero, J and Machado, P (eds.) 2007, The Art of Artificial
Evolution: A Handbook on Evolutionary Art and Music
(Natural Computing Series), Springer.
Turrin, M, von Buelow, P, Stouffs, R and Kilian, A 2010. Perfomance-Oriented Design of Large Passive Solar Roofs.
Presentation. eCAADe. Zurich.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 327
328 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Emergent Reefs
Alessandro Zomparelli , Alessio Erioli
University of Bologna - Italy, University of Bologna - Italy
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. The purpose of Emergent-Reefs is to establish, through computational
design strategies and machine-based fabrication, seamless relationships between three
different aspects of the architectural process: generation, simulation and construction,
with the intent of exploiting the expressive and tectonic potential of D-Shape technology
for underwater reef formations as a design response to coastal erosion. Starting from
a digital simulation of a synthetic local ecosystem, a generative technique based on
multi-agent systems and reaction-diffusion (through continuous cellular automata - CCA)
is implemented in a voxel field at several scales. Discrete voxel space eases the simulation
of complex systems and processes (including CFD simulations) via CCA algorithms,
which then can be translated directly to the physical production system, which in case
of addtive technology can be specified as guided growth.
Keywords. Reaction-diffusion; Reefs; Multi-agent Systems; Open Source; D-Shape.
Coastal erosion is a process that, if uncontrasted,
over time leads to sea bed desertification and waterfront thinning, thus involving both sub-marine
environment and tourism activity. Italian shores are
a typical example: the intensified quantity of tourists in the last decades while giving propulsion to
the economy at the same time increased the seabed smoothing caused by tourists, thus easing the
action of progressive erosion. Instead of focusing
on the solution of the specific problem through
existing models and approaches, the intent of this
project is to address the issue of a positive environmental transformation through the generation
and construction of marine reefs shaped to host
an underwater sculpture gallery while at the same
time providing the material and spatial preconditions for the development of marine biodiversity
on the transformed sea-bed. Tourism becomes a
part of the ecosystem; the generation of evolved
functional programs, morphogenetic strategies
and production technologies are considered efficiently connected nodes of a coherent yet differentiated network. Starting from a digital simulation of
a synthetic local ecosystem, a generative technique
based on multi-agent systems and continuous cellular automata (put into practice from the theoretical premises in Alan Turing’s paper “The Chemical
Basis of Morphogenesis” through reaction-diffusion
simulation) is implemented in a voxel field at several
scales giving the project a twofold quality: the implementation of reaction diffusion generative strategy within a non-isotropic 3-dimensional field and
seamless integration with the fabrication system.
The entire project was developed with D-shape fabrication technology in mind [1]. Developed by Eng.
Enrico Dini, who patented the technology that solidifies sand through liquid infiltration and built a large
scale 3D-printing machine, it extends and scales up
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 329
the more common 3D-printing process; D-shape
uses the same additive tomographic layering strategy, with sequential layers of dolomitic sand upon
which a row of nozzles drop a patented binder liquid
only in the corresponding section points. The invention was co-opted from its initial purpose (printing
houses) into many different applications, mostly in
the field of art (sculptures) and, more recently, marine barriers. Since objects to be produced can have
a very heterogeneous generation history, a 3D voxel
grid is used to rationalize them to the process and
resolution of the machine; this step is not only necessary, it is the principle that links digital processes
to the materiality. Nonetheless it is applied in an
extensive way: two different models of rationality are overlaid with a brute-force method, but one
lacks geometry generation and the other misses
the link to material production. As a consequence
of this double gap and since the resolution achievable at the moment is quite coarse (in z direction the
layer thickness is 5-10 mm and the liquid expansion
causes a slightly larger horizontal xy resolution), the
emerging pattern is mostly treated as an imperfection and sanded, considering the slick look of the
digital model as a finalized result to tend to.
Starting from these assumptions and in the intent of exploiting the expressive and tectonic potential of D-Shape technology, the project explores
voxel-based generative strategies. Working with
a discrete lattice eases the simulation of complex
systems and processes (including non-linear simulations such as Computational Fluid-Dynamics) starting from local interactions using e. g. algorithms
based on continuous cellular automata, which then
can be translated directly to the physical production system. The purpose of Emergent-Reefs is to
establish, through computational design tools and
strategies and machine-based fabrication, seamless
relationships between three different aspects of the
architectural process: generation, simulation and
construction, which in the case of D-Shape technology can be specified as guided growth.
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The idea of an underwater exhibition architecture
suggests a general layout articulated as a cluster of
heterogeneous and connected halls. Such spatial
distribution pattern is typical of a peculiar marine
environment, the atoll. In order to generate a similar
distribution pattern a strategy based on the interaction with a 3D data field (provided by the simulation
of underwater currents) and attractors is implemented: in Complex Adaptive Systems, attractors
are points in the space of possible configurations
of a system (phase space) representing stable configurations, wether static or dynamic, towards which
the system tends, generating stable, oscillating or
propagative behaviors [2]. Attractors here represent
the halls as stable configurations and let the system
work to generate the intermediate states between
A software tool was developed in Processing
to control the influence of a set of attractor points
(using position and intensity as parameters) on density fields. Two different classes of attractors were
defined (positive and negative), based on magnetic
field laws, moving in a two-dimensional domain.
The voxel size (and so local density) is linked to position and intensity of each attractor following an inverse square law:
where ϕA is the density at a specified point A,
Pi is the charge intensity of the ith attractor, and
Ri is the point-attractor distance. The density function influences the height of reefs that can eventually emerge above the water surface. However, it is
necessary to introduce a special cut-off condition for
higher values in order to achieve the crater-like configuration of the halls system:
If ϕA>1: ϕA=1-(ϕA–1)
Working coherently within the voxel grid, a CFD simulation of the underwater currents was implemented (with the help of eng. Diego Angeli, researcher
within the Mimesis group at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Modena) through OpenFOAM®
(open-source software for CFD analysis) in order to
create a data permeated space. The speed vectors
data calculated in OpenFOAM is read into Processing via a custom written plug-in; attractors cause
directional vector-field convergence and inverse
square vector intensity falloff. This alteration differs
from a purely responsive behavior in which a systems reacts to an existing simulated data field: it is
already a proactive operation in order to anticipate
effects. It is crucial, however, to coherently define
the process of attractors generation and placement.
The adopted morphogenetic strategy for attractors
consisted of a virtual ecosystem: while interacting
with an underwater environment and simulating
distribution patterns, it is possible to stumble upon
inefficient configurations with low or undesired capacity of nutrients distribution.
It is therefore necessary to develop a morphogenetic strategy which, starting from the vector field,
is able to generate global configurations that are
coherent with currents behavior from simple internal local relations. This bottom-up strategy searches
global system coherence as an emergent property
of agents mutual interactions in the ecosystem or,
in other words, as the moment in which the global
system reaches and maintains homeostasis. In order
to assess the nutrients distribution capacity of the
system over time, a transportation algorithm was
adopted, with the ability to visualize concentration
patterns according to vectors direction. In relation
to this environmental property two different classes
of interacting agents (A type and B type) are moving in the defined domain interacting among each
other via a stigmergy-based relationship. The interaction between the two species occurs through
information released in the environment: nutrients
released by B type agents are stored in the voxel
cell corresponding to the agent position and sub-
Figure 1
The Synthetic Ecosystem.
Screenshot from Processing.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 331
sequently transported through the fluid following
the currents (vector field directions). B type agents
are able to detect nutrients concentration and move
looking for higher concentration areas. This evaluation is achieved through the analysis of neighbors
cell that return the gradient of density function.
where vD is the movement vector related to
density function D, and cs is a sensitivity coefficient
for nutrients. A positive feedback is enacted: every
agent enforces the strongest nutrient paths. In addition to this stigmergic behavior each agent interacts with neighbors of the same kind through the
basic flocking rules identified by Craig Reynolds:
cohesion, separation and alignment. “A” type agents
class is subdivided in two subclasses determined by
the sign of cs and correspondingly different behaviors: A- (generative) and A+ (dissipative). A- agents
search for areas where nutrients concentration is
minimum and generate a magnetic-like field (such
as those described previously, with inverse-square
distance propagation rule) that varies in extension
an magnitude according to number and charge of
clustering agents, while A+ subclass agents search
for areas where nutrients concentration is maximum
and can dissipate magnetic field tending to revert
the environment to its unaltered state. The usual
cohesion and separation rules control density and
spatial distribution according to each agent charge
intensity. Both subclasses maintain a stigmergic behavior with nutrients spread by B type agents. Each
A subclass can switch type (A+ to A- or the other
way around) if the nutrient concentration goes (respectively) above or below two limit thresholds that
define a “comfort zone” for the agents. Charge intensity of each A type agent represents then both a sort
of “health level” and the ability to generate (for A-) or
dissipate (for A+) the aforementioned magnetic-like
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The simulation can be manually stopped when the
ecosystem reaches a stable condition; in this case
visual assessment is faster than and (for the required
accuracy) as effective as coding a stopping condition; not to mention that such implementation,
since it requires testing all agents in the system at
each step, would have considerably slowed down
the whole simulation. While the simulation is running it’s also possible to interactively tweak different
parameters and alter or switch the agents’ charges.
During some of the simulations, when the density
of A- agents in low-concentration areas reached a
critical point, closest packing behavior appeared
although there is no specific coded implementation
of it.
The previous step provides an efficient strategy
based on bottom up processes for the generation
and spatial deployment of the fields governing the
reefs morphogenesis; the morphogenetic process itself is then developed through the implementation
of a differentiation process that progressively separates void (passage) areas from those occupied by
the material. In order to keep integral and coherent
with the field generation and fabrication logic the
exploration of cellular automata algorithms, focusing
in particular on reaction-diffusion for its properties
of condition-based differentiation and articulation in
space, seemed an almost natural choice. As hypothesized by Alan Turing (1952) in “The Chemical Basis
of Morphogenesis” such algorithms are the basis of
morphogenetic differentiation, and can be simulated
through a system of two interacting chemical substances, called morphogens, reacting together and
diffusing in space or on a surface. The reaction-diffusion process was implemented using Continuous
Cellular Automata algorithms over a 3D voxel grid,
the same underlying structure that allows a seamless
transition through all the steps of the overall process,
from analysis to fabrication. Every voxel cell interacts
only with its 26 adjacent neighbors. In the case of a
simple isotropic pattern, whose behavior is the same
in any direction, it is sufficient to consider the 6 main
Figure 2
Examples of different fields
configurations emerging
from variations in the agents
Figure 3
Algorithm steps relationship
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 333
Figure 4
Pattern formation samples.
Reaction-diffusion behavior
changes according to density
field and vector field maps.
neighbors. The remaining 20 cells, with only an edge
or a vertex in common, are used in order to implement anisotropic diffusion. Diffusion simulation is
solved through a model based on the law postulated by Adolf Fick, which predicts how diffusion itself
affects the variation of concentration over time:
∂ϕ/∂t = D·∇2ϕ
where ϕ is the concentration as [(amount of
substances)·L-3], t is time [T], D is the diffusion coefficient as [L2·T-1]. The general reaction-diffusion
process simulation is based on the Gray-Scott algorithm, applied implementing the equations that,
extending Fick’s law, express both reaction and diffusion phenomena:
334 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
where ∂u/∂t=Du·∇2u and ∂v/∂t=Dv·∇2v represent Fick’s second law of diffusion: Du and Dv are
the diffusion coefficients of morphogens u and v respectively, with Dv < Du. Through these equations
the fields obtained in the previous step are associated with different properties of the two morphogens: the vector-field affects the preferred diffusion
direction of morphogen v while the density field affects the variation of parameter k for reaction. The
term density is referred to the rate of material-filled
volume compared to the overall simulation volume.
Pattern formation and direction are thus controllable by tweaking the Gray-Scott parameters which
act on the outputs of the simulated ecosystem, coherently exploring variation at the present system
The importance of anisotropy in patterns distribution arises from several necessities: avoid reef overturning, coordinate scuba divers trajectories and
underwater currents with the reef formation itself in
order to minimize human-reef collision chances (as
cross-directed currents would push divers against
the reefs) and provide a distribution system of “cor-
Figure 5
Exemples of layouts generated with different ecosystem
ridors” connecting the halls. To achieve this, reefs
and empty spaces are associated to the distributionfields of the morphogen v and u respectively: the
result is a cluster of halls surrounded by walls and
paths aligned with underwater current vectors in
order to reduce at once the reef’s overturning effect
and the risk of scuba drivers being pushed against
the generated walls. Through the reaction-diffusion
algorithm simulation a wide range of possible patterns emerge, associated to particular behavioral
rules of the agents-systems. Here are some examples of different system behaviors with their related
distributions of underwater clustered halls.
By tweaking the simulation parameters it is possible to explore behavior variations within the system domain, achieving a gradient of possible distributions according to project requirements.
The issue of dealing with the integration with biological marine biodiversity and provide the material substrate for its future development was not
addressed by tweaking the system for a particular
requirement of a single specie (or a limited group
of ), rather the intent is to produce a broad range of
heterogeneous spatial conditions in order to pro-
vide the largest set of opportunities for the local
ecological community (this term refers to the complex food web that shares the same environment).
It is anyway necessary to endow the generated reefs
with qualities present in the material substrate of
other marine environments hosting rich biodiversities, the most significant of which is the presence of
cavities: they create a natural localized micro-gradient of resources and energies and are used as shelters by both weak and territorial fish species.
The basic principle adopted is the same conditional void-matter separation based on reactiondiffusion algorithms: the process described above is
iterated at a more detailed scale in a self-similarity
logic analogous to those governing fractals. Since
the Gray-Scott algorithm doesn’t allow a wide range
of scale variation over a given voxel matrix, the 3-dimensional pattern obtained so far was scaled using
an algorithm based on tricubic interpolation, which
allowed the achievement of the desired void pattern
scale with a good approximation quality. The result
is a scalable and multi-layered domain, where every
layer represents a field affecting hierarchically dependent layers, coherently driving formation at different scales. In this model matter, information and
processes are scalable.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 335
Figure 7
Gray-Scott algorithm applied
to a frame of final layout.
The project provides a material substrate for cultural
development and aims to the possible repopulation of local sea-bed by enhancing a pattern of differentiated spaces through the application of morphogenetic strategies that proactively shape the
new environment interacting with its own physical
characteristics. Although some tests were carried
on about underwater behavior of D-Shape material artifacts with positive results, no current testing
can provide a reliable trend of its reactions dynamics over time (for instance, resistance to erosion),
since large-scale 3D printing technology (such as
D-Shape) is still a breakthrough sector in an early development stage and rapid evolution and such kind
of tests require a longer timespan to be trustworthy.
336 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
However this shouldn’t be an excuse for limiting design speculations, while reasonable constraints that
can be found during further extensive testing should
instead be considered and embedded in the project
strategy. Under the design process point of view,
this was a good chance to create a more intimate
relationship between morphogenetic strategy and
simulated environment. Through finite elements
discretization of environment and design object it
was possible to develop a solver that through structural and fluid-dynamics based inputs can elaborate
a convergent reaction-diffusion configuration based
on the designer’s parameters. As continuous assessment and rapid adaptation are an intrinsic part of
the design approach, further implementation are
also foreseen (such as, material behavior and its in-
Figure 8
Side views of full-developed
reefs with scale reference.
fluences in terms of weight, mechanical and viscous
behaviors over time, erosion). Another reason that
limited the physical testing phase has been the lack
of investors, although recent contacts with local institutions interested in touristic development and
environmental care may provide in the near future
the necessary economic fuel to start building a positive network among tourism, culture, material practice and sound environmental transformation.
Camazine, S, Deneubourg, J L(ed.) 2003, Self-Organization
in Biological Systems, Princeton Studies in Complexity,
Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Johnson, S (ed.) 2004, Emergence: The Connected Lives of
Ants, Brains, Cities and Software, Garzanti Libri, Milano.
Hensel, M, Menges, A, Weinstock,M (ed.) 2010, Emergent
Technologies and Design; towards a Biological Paradigm
for Architecture, Routledge, London.
Lynn, G (ed.) 1998, Animate Form, Princeton Architectural
Press, USA.
Reynolds, C 1987, ‘Flocks, Herds and Schools: A Distributed
Behavioral Model’, Proceedings of the SIGGRAPH Conference, pp. 25–34
Turing, AM 1952, ‘The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis’,
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, 237(641), pp. 37–72.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 337
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Behavioural Surfaces
Project for the Architecture Faculty library in Florence
Tommaso Casucci1, Alessio Erioli2
University of Florence, 2University of Bologna.
1, 2
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. Behavioural Surfaces is a thesis project in Architecture discussed on December
2010 at the University of Florence. The project explores the surface-space relationship
in which a surface condition, generated from intensive datascapes derived from
environmental data, is able to produce spatial differentiation and modulate structural
and environmental preformance. Exploiting material self-organization in sea sponges
as surfaces that deploy function and performance through curvature modulation and
space definition, two different surface definition processes were explored to organize the
system hierarchy and its performances at two different scales. At the macroscale, the
global shape of the building is shaped on the base of isopotential surfaces while at a
more detailed level the multi-performance skin system is defined upon the triply periodic
minimal surfaces (TPMS).
Keywords. Digital datascape; Isosurfaces; Material intelligence; Minimal sufaces.
The introduction and use of digital tools in Architecture implies an impact measurable not only in terms
of a technological shift, but mostly and foremost as
the necessity of a paradigm shift towards an increasingly complex and richly responsive system that is
able to dynamically interact and simulate complexity as opposite to merely represent it. This capacity
allows us to implement new processes and systems
(joining behavioral and geometrical aspects as the
basis for morphology and organization) from their
analysis and to extend them through simulation to
a wider range of scales and effects. The interaction is
increasingly intense and fast, up to the tipping point
where the ability of technology to change us has
reached and surpassed our ability to feedback on it.
Ultimately, this means that new extended computing power, advanced control on massive databases
in design processes require a new kind of sensibility
derived from the ability to understand and interact
with complex phenomena.
Architectural and design problems become
more focused around the perpetual and dynamic
assessment (analysis and design) of a system’s behavioral properties (physical, geometrical and performative, but also effects and affects), as well as
the network of environmental relations through
morphogenetic processes instead of the description
of building models where geometries are statically
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 339
Figure 1 (left)
Perspective from via Ghibellina.
Figure 2 (right)
Plan level 3-3.
overlapped on material processes. Such processes
are intended to exploit and embed material intelligence within the system, where behavioral properties of matter are seen as an integrated part of
geometry organization, guided by the balanced interplay of extensive and intensive differences in the
system itself.
According to Neri Oxman, “material properties
are considered intermediary agents mediating environmental impetus with material response, such
that inanimate matter might contain the information
for its behaviour and evolution” (Oxman, 2011). Research at the nanoscale from the observations on
matter through Scannig Election Microscope (SEM)
revealed how material organization is highly thriving on curvature and minimal surfaces. As Stephen
Hyde puts it: “shape determines functions and the
energetics of functions dictate the optimal structure required” (Hyde et al, 1996). While growing up in scale
and complexity, allometric growth causes the genesis of forms that steer away from the pure geometry of minimal surfaces but still material processes
put their principles at work within a more complex
global organization as a form of localized material
Thriving on these premises, the project explores
the qualities that can emerge from the modulation
of surface condition driven by intensive datascape
describing environmental conditions. The project
consisted in the articulation of the basic principle
explained above focusing on the system behavior
and performance organization at two different hierarchical scales, thus developing two different yet
connected algorithmic exploration of surface definition processes. At the macroscale, the global shape
340 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
of the library (including both the internal flow and
spatial distribution as well as the outmost skin) is
defined on the base of isosurface systems generated
by the pervasive vector field of flow patterns simulated on the building site; at a more detailed scale,
a particular kind of triply periodic minimal surface
is chosen as a topological model to articulate the
porosity pattern of the outer skin according to the
distribution of internal forces and solar radiation values.
The design process involved a digital tool pipeline including several existing software (such as Rhinoceros®, Grasshopper, Autodesk® Maya, Autodesk®
Ecotect) in order to stream information from the
Figure 3
Interior view.
analysis of physical data to the geometrical and performative setup of the system and its simulated material properties.
The case study project is a design proposal for
the new Architecture Faculty library in Florence. Although the proposal is an academic case study only
and not aimed to construction in a close time range,
we hope it could be a first step for further exploration in coupling material behavior and geometry in
architectural design.
The building site is a large area containing an
existent panopticon building used until recent
times as convent first and penitentiary later on.
The project recovers the pre-existing spaces of the
panopticon as storage, HVAC spaces and archive for
physical books and provides a new built structure to
host study areas, meeting rooms, an auditorium and
exhibition space.
The design process can be summarized in three
1. Building the environmental analysis datascape
2. Morphologenesis of the global structure
3. Surface to multi-performance membrane
Building the environmental analysis
The first phase of the project was focused on the
analysis of specific environmental conditions on the
building site both at the actual state and in future
scenarios (built upon the projections extracted from
existing databases – for example projections made
by the local transport authority about the number
Figure 4
3D vector field.
of people traveling on public transport in ten years
from now). On this phase a large quantity of relevant
data was collected from both existing databases
(when avaible) and direct measurements on building site and structured to set up a pervasive, threedimensional vector field describing a gobal environmental datascape. In particular a mapping of the
connectivity network (which city areas were reachable within a certain time frame) was built based on
road system, transportation mean and capacity and
traffic condition.
From such map the users flow and intensity at
the expected area access points were extracted,
while attractor points for neighbour cutural facilities
were also defined. All the data was then converted
and translated to a common model in Autodesk®
Maya in order to describe the distribution of each
analysed condition on the site, locating attractors as
a set of potential charges and force fields attractors,
using particle sources for the access points. Each of
these entities are related to specific analyzed conditions and were parametrized accordingly.
The field was then generated using Maya nparticles flow simulation, to explore the trajectories
produced from the interaction of the distribuited
charges and the 3D digital model. The 3D vector
field generated from the simulation was the pervasive datascape used as input in the following isosurface generation process.
Morphological definition of the global
structure of the library
The generation of the library shape at the macroscale is based on the extraction of isosurfaces describing equipotential conditions inside the vector
field derived from environmental analysis.
Isosurfaces are defined as surfaces that represents points of a constant value within a volume of
space, in other words, they are level sets of continuous functions whose domain is 3D-space. In our case
the isosurface system was generated through the
use of marching cubes algorithm in Rhinoceros®.
During the generation process, a set of parameters was defined to control the final output, the
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 341
Figure 5
Isosurfaces system, generation
and selection.
isosurface meshing methodology, the isosurface
threshold value and the range of selected values
from the original vector field.
The exploration of all possible variations produced a broad set of different outcomes in the final
meshed surface among which a solution was identified using two selection criteria based on usability
and spatial heterogeneity. Usability was interpreted
as connected to the presence of planar horizontal
342 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
conditions (approximated within an adjustable tolerance) within the continuous surface, searching
for the one that possessed the higher percentage
of such conditions. Spatial heterogeneity is a necessary prerequisite for functional differentiation in
general and a condition coherent with the different
activities in a distributive and functional program
of a library; in this case the criteria was used to locate, among all cases, the one in which spatial het-
The convoluted morphology of the surface aims
to enhance structural performances thanks to the
combination of curvature and material system morphology at a finer scale, just as it happens in shell
structures: their typical efficiency is due to surface
curvature and to the spatial configuration of the
material distributed along the surface itself. Instead
of a mono-optimized linear hierarchy where each
element is singularly optimized for minimal use of
material in very specific conditions, the goal was to
produce a redundant structure with interdependent hierarchies with trans-scalar feedbacks in which
each element participates to the definition of the
whole system performances and redundancy assures resilience. In redundant structures surplus in
number of nodes and connections provide the system with high adaptability and reliability (predicatable failure modes) in case of unpredictable stress
conditions, due to the elements morphology and
system design and to the fact that each node is not
strictly indispensable to the stability of the entire
system. This form of material intelligence is very frequent in biology: “Biology makes use of remarkably
few materials, (…) and they have much lower densities
than most engineering materials. They are successful
not so much because of what they are but because of
the way they are put together” (Jeronimidis, 2004).
Figure 6
Proliferations on quads based
Figure 7
Parametrical proliferation
based on the stress distribution.
Figure 8
Direct solar radiation analysis.
Surface to multi-performance membrane
erogeneity was better matching with the library’s
functional mapping. Since the two criteria do not
generally converge on a single solution the one that
was more efficiently (even if not optimally) satisfying both criteria was finally chosen.
In order to achieve multi-performance membrane
behavior on the outer surface, mechanical and porosity properties are expressed through a minimal
surface based miscrostructure.
Minimal surface are defined in mathematics as
surfaces whose principal curvatures at any point
have always equal magnitude but are opposite in
sign; triply periodic minimal surfaces (TPMS) are a
family of minimal surfaces whose structure is based
on a tri-dimensional crystalline organization: they
are particular cases of equipotential surfaces dividing space between the atoms of a crystal. Their high
genus combined with uniform curvature endows
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 343
Figure 9
Topological variation of the
them with high-level mechanical performances
combined with porosity control. Three dimensional
patterns based on triply periodic minimal surfaces
can be observed in the microstructure of sea urchins. Their impressive mechanical properties and
lightness are due to material organization despite
the weak material (calcium carbonate) constituent.
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Multiperformance is then pursued through parametrical proliferation of a subclass of TPMS, Schoen’s manta surface: it is based on the repetition of
a genus 19 cubical cell, which is compliant for quads
based proliferations such as the one in this project.
The mesh inherited from the previous step is rationalized through Catmull-Clark subdivison: this pro-
cess enhances the curvature-based properties of the
initial mesh and outputs a quad-based only mesh,
which fits Manta’s modular topology.
Several patterns were tested to evaluate the
global behaviour derived from the interaction of a
great number of elements. Interesting effects begin
to emerge around vertices connecting more than
4 edges. Variations in density and tessellation were
explored in order to test specific conditions (surface
curvature values or stress values on the surface).
Porosity on the exterior membrane was tuned
(through phenotypical variations of the cells) according to direct solar radiation values derived from
solar analysis on the global surface rationalized for
proliferation, in order to ensure a heterogeneous
and regulated pattern of climatic and lighting conditions in the library interior spaces. In areas where
direct solar radiation values are low, the passage
of direct solar rays is fostered; conversely where
these values are higher the passage of direct light is
blocked, favoring bounced light instead.
Maintaining the topological conformation of the
Schoen’s Manta surface, the parametrical variation
of the fundamental region determine the modulation of lighting condition in the interior spaces of
the library.
The final intricacy of the global proliferation
around the convoluted surface creates also a selfshading pattern that it is expected to cause positive
influence on thermal load patterns and performance
over the entire building. It was not possible (but it
would certainly be a necessary step in further developments) to make specific tests in order to prove the
amount of thermal benefit provided, however the
similarity in collective self-shading techniques (provided both by convolutions on an individual’s shape
as well as collective growth patterns) in species such
as cacti provides an observable qualitative proof of
zation and efficient behavior at several system scales
within a process of integration with environmental
conditions. Environmental forces (in the form of a
pervasive datascape) drive and constrain the initial
generation upon which then a process of multi-performance optimization through morphological organization and parametric proliferation is operated.
The thesis explored in particular two different yet
connected and consistent condition-driven surface
definition processes at different scales (one through
marching cubes algorithm, the other through triply
periodic minimal surface definition), which resulted
in different spatial organization capacities and behavioral performances of the system and its constituent parts.
Isosurfaces, commonly used in Computer-Aided
Engineering and meteorology for volumetric data
visualization, were used to define isoconditions for
the global shape of the library according to the environmental datascape while triply periodic minimal
surfaces were used to acquire multi-performance
membrane behavior out of the initial surface, manage porosity and modulate light perception and climatic conditions in the interior spaces of the library.
Hyde, S, Blum, Z, Landh, T, Lidin, S, Ninham, BW, Andersson,
S and Larsson, K 1996, The Language of Shape: The Role
of Curvature in Condensed Matter: Physics, Chemistry
and Biology, 1st ed., Elsevier Science.
Wiley, JG 2004, ‘Biodynamics’, Architectural Design Magazine, 74, pp. 90–95.
Kelly, K, 2010, What Technology Wants, Unabridged, Library Unabridged CD, ed. Tantor Media.
Oxman, N 2011, ‘Proto-Design’, Architectural Design Magazine, 81, pp. 100–105.
The thesis project is a case study about the application of material system properties through morphology and organization, articulating geometry, organi-
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 345
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Acoustic Environments
Applying evolutionary algorithms for sound based morphogenesis
Isak Worre Foged1, Anke Pasold , Mads Brath Jensen3, Esben Skouboe Poulsen4
AREA, Denmark and Institute of Architecture & Design, Aalborg University, Denmark,
AREA, Denmark, 3,4 Electrotexture and Institute of Architecture & Design,
Aalborg University, Denmark
2 and,,
3,4 and
[email protected] and [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]
Abstract. The research investigates the application of evolutionary computation in
relation to sound based morphogenesis. It does so by using the Sabine equation for
performance benchmark in the development of the spatial volume and reflectors,
effectively creating the architectural expression as a whole. Additional algorithms are
created and used to organise the entire set of 200 reflector components and manufacturing
constraints based upon the GA studies. An architectural pavilion is created based upon
the studies illustrating the applicability of both developed methods and techniques.
Keywords. Evolutionary Computation; Algorithmic Design; Architectural Acoustics;
CAAD/CAM processes.
Various methods for optimising acoustic environments through simulating a volume exist as commercial packages with the intention of clarifying
the sound performance of a pre-conceived design
proposal. With known factors and equations for
acoustic evaluation, it is, however, possible to let the
machine create a computational search for a performance oriented architecture, letting acoustic criteria drive a morphogenetic process. This requires
a search method, whose aim is to alter the design
until a desired performance level has been reached.
Different search methods can be mentioned e.g.
Simulated Annealing, Neural Networks and Genetic
Algorithms (Brownlee, 2011). The latter, Genetic Algorithm (GA), is chosen in this work, due to versatile
utility and its direct implementation in commercial
software, which therefore makes it accessible to the
general designer beyond this work.
The GA’s conceptual construct, developed by
John Holland in the 1960’s and 1970’s (Holland,
1992) mimics the evolutionary processes in nature
by populations, reproduction and heredity, with
the inherent ability for the designer to alter several
parameters within the method, such as population
size, crossover technique and mutation rate. Much
literature can be found on the subject by e.g. John
Holland (1992), David Fogel (1997, 2000), David
Goldberg and Kumura Sastry (2002, 2005) illustrating not only its diversity on application but also its
growing importance as a probabilistic solver for singular- and multi-objective problems.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 347
The projects manoeuvre away from a conventional
‘model-simulate’ approach to a ‘generative-model’
approach but remain to apply singular sound sources. The work in this paper approaches the sound milieu based upon multiple sound sources.
Design method (machine computation –
human computation)
Besides the technical setup of the evolutionary engine, there are three essential operational parameters for a designer to develop and describe when
working with GAs; a) describing the fitness function,
b) altering the variables of the population and mutation rate, and c) to convert from genotype (system)
to phenotype (design) [1]. Within this work, we have
decided to omit the technical setup by utilising the
Galapagos Evolutionary Solver for Grasshopper, Rhinoceros, developed by David Rutten [2] and to focus
the agenda on exploring the three operational parameters described above.
Designing the fitness function
Optimisation of acoustic aspects within the design
process asks for a fitness function, which searches a
design specific intention that can be described as a
number, as a target for the algorithm.
The most used equation for acoustic evaluation,
determining the reverberation time, is the Sabine
equation describing the amount of time it takes
for the sound pressure to decrease 60 dB after the
sound source is terminated, RT60.
RT60 = Ta = 0.16* V / Sa (1)
The equation is based upon a volume (V), the average absorption coefficient of used materials (a) and
the total absorption in Sabins (Sa).
V = m3 (2)
Sa = S1 α1 + S2 α2 + .. + Sn αn = Σ Si αi (3)
Sn = area of the actual surface (m2)
an = absorption coefficient of the actual surface
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While being a simplistic measure for the specific
acoustic quality, the equation is widely used and
functions as an initial fitness benchmark with a resultant number suitable for a genetic algorithm.
Extending the above algorithm as a fitness function could be done through adding more acoustic
criteria such as sound pressure levels (dB) through
a concatenated performance formulation in the fitness function (Sato et al, 2004). This is, however,
omitted due to the focus towards applying permance ‘cost’ to the use of evolutionary algorithms
in architecture rather than high-end audacity simulations. An iterative design speed over accuracy is
therefore chosen.
Algorithm variables
The dominant variables affecting the performance
of genetic algorithm are ‘population size’ (the
amount of genomes that can be selected and reproduced from), cross over technique (how the information from each genome is paired to become the
next generation’s offspring) and mutation rate (the
percentage of how often a random alteration to a
genome occurs).
Genotype and phenotype
The genotype, the evolutionary algorithm, controls
the phenotypic behaviour and progression that
within this work can be observed in the evolving
volume, that is geometrically restrained within an
This allows the designer to maintain an internal
and an external boundary of the volume that can
be related to a project-specific site. The displayed
studies show the ability of the algorithm to reach a
certain reverberation time in accordance with the
Sabine equation. This then again can be oriented towards a specific music genre.
Figure 1
Base volume geometry from
which the GA alters its point in
an x-y-z specified domain.
Figure 2
Series of studies altering the
GA’s parameters towards a
higher acoustic performance.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 349
Figure 3
Site plan. Location of the Pa-
Aim, method and application
The work aims at both empirical studies performed
through evolutionary algorithmic search towards
established benchmark criteria, defined by, among
others, the Sabine equation but equally applies the
constructive aspects that induce parameters of material accessibility, dimensions and manufacturing
The design method goes through a series of
performative steps:
1. Defining the volume, using GAs.
2. Defining reflectors, using GAs.
3. Optimising reflectors for production, using rationalisation algorithms.
4. Rationalising reflectors for manufacturing and
assembly, using rationalisation algorithms.
5. Producing CNC files for production, using parametric production techniques.
Defining the volume
The description of the volume follows the methodology described above but with the fitness function
searching a minimum reverberation time instead of
the one-second used in the preliminary studies. This
is founded in the fact that electronic music is unconventional in the sense that it is spread via loudspeakers, rather than instruments. They are, however, already acoustically developed to produce the
best sound possible within the loudspeaker cabinet.
The pavilion therefore searches the minimal effect
on the sound but the maximum protection of the
clear sound, thus eliminating the reverberation time.
The definition of the volume domain, or algorithmic
search field, is determined by the site contextual
setup. The setting is used to create a natural boundary for the algorithms to evolve within, considering
a clear orientation of the space towards the waterfront as a flow specific characteristic that will set the
spatial architectural scene.
350 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
vilion at the Aalborg Harbour
front and the natural boundaries created by the site.
Defining reflectors
Rather than being an auxiliary installed element, the
intention of the reflectors is, besides their obvious
function to improve the acoustics, to make them the
identifiable architectural expression. Reflection of
the sound is aimed at 1) creating the maximum of
reflections between the reflectors without sending
the rays back into the listening space or 2) to direct
the sound rays away from the pavilion. Both strategies strive towards a clear, low reverberation time
for electronic music. The site itself is surrounded by
a sound void, the Fjord, and high noise levels from
the road.
Defining a reflector that seals from external
noise, while absorbing the sound rays, is based
upon a geometrical study (based upon an altering
triangle) driven by the same evolutionary engine as
above, but with the fitness function to maximise the
reflection count of each ray. Four models are produced to which the triangular form can change, 1)
the length of the normal vector to the surface, 2) the
length of the vector from the surface to the sound
source and 3) + 4) studies of the first two, but with
an ability of variation in the directionality of the vectors towards a source of the normal vector to the
The studies show a clear improvement of the reflection count (absorption) by using a sound source
oriented approach and a slight further improvement
by allowing the vector that is oriented towards the
sound source to deviate. See Figure 4. Traditionally,
as mentioned above, acoustic spaces are defined
Figure 4
Study and evolution of
optimum reflector geometry
towards a maximization of
Figure 5
Experimental matrix of the
four different strategies,
clearly indicating the capacity
of long stretched geometries
oriented towards the sound
source with slight heterogeneous variations across the
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 351
Figure 6
Diagram showing the effect
of the algorithm in orienting
the elements to different
loudspeakers, scaling their
reflective factor and opening/
closing them towards the
from a single source or a group source located in
the same area. The pavilion explores the spreading
of the sound source by implementing loudspeakers
situated in each corner of the volume. The complete
geometrical organisation of the reflectors is subsequently derived by applying an algorithm that is developed from the prior studies used to identify the
varied sound source vectors to the volume.
The algorithm allows a zone of reflectors to focus on a specific loudspeaker, to scale its geometry
in order to alter the reflective factor (absorption level) and at the same time open its geometry towards
the water and close it off towards the road. Figure 6.
Production processes
Lastly the entire model is re-calculated and slightly
altered for elements exceeding the CNC manufacturing and wood plate limitations of 1200x1200mm.
Production files are generated directly within the
model space and allocated on fabrication ‘sheets’ for
the CNC laser cutter machine.
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The work explores the potential of using GAs for design morphogenesis. It finds that both general spatial volume and expressive surfaces can be generated from application of acoustic applied equations
as search targets on several aspects. After development of volume and reflector performance, an organisation algorithm was applied to rationalise and
apply all elements. This was chosen due to the nature of the GA, as their search field would expand to
a 20050 number domain due to the many reflectors
and the amount of variables within each reflector.
The studies showed that the scale of variables and
population size are crucial to the GA’s performance
as a solver to work in preliminary design phases,
thus maintaining the GA for initial search and solving. The work finds that a progressive reformulation of the problem is useful in order to target the
GA technique’s relatively small search space without
compromising the ability for stochastic search for
moving beyond obvious design solutions to the designer.
Figure 7
Photo electronic music
performed in the pavilion
during a 2011 culture event in
Aalborg, Denmark.
Figure 8
Photo electronic music
performed in the pavilion
during a 2011 culture event in
Aalborg, Denmark.
Brownlee, J 2011, Clever Algorithms – Nature Inspired Programming Recipes, Lulu Press.
Fogel, DB 1997, The Advantages of Evolutionary Computation. Natural Selection, Inc.
Fogel, DB 2000, What is evolutionary computation. IEEE
Holland, JH 1992, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Sys-
tems – An Introductory Analysis with Applications to Biology, Control, and Artificial Intelligence, MIT Press
Holland, JH 1992, Genetic Algorithms – Computer Programs that evolve in ways that resemble natural selection can solve complex problems even their creators
do not fully understand. Scientific American.
Goldberg, DE 2002, The design of innovation: Lessons from
and for competent genetic algorithms. Springer, 2002.
Sato, SI, Hayashi, T, Takizawa, A, Tani, A, Kawamura, H and
Ando, Y 2004, Acoustic Design of Theatres Applying
Genetic Algorithms. Journal of Temporal Design in Architecture and the Environment. Vol 4, No. 1 pp 41-51.
Sastry, K, Goldberg, D 2005, Genetic Algorithms. Search
Methodologies pp 97-124. Springer.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 353
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Exploring the Generative Potential of Isovist Fields
The evolutionary generation of urban layouts based on isovist field
Sven Schneider , Reinhard König
Bauhaus-University Weimar
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. Isovists and isovist fields can be used to numerically capture the visual
properties of spatial configurations (e.g. floor plans or urban layouts). To a certain
degree these properties allow one to make statements about how spaces affect people.
The question that serves as the starting point of this study is to examine whether
spatial configurations ca n generated on the basis of these properties. This question
is explored using an experimental approach for the computer-based generation of
two-dimensional urban layouts. The spatial arrangements of two-dimensional elements
(building-footprints) within a given boundary is optimised in terms of the desired isovist
field properties by means of an evolutionary strategy. The paper presents the results of
this optimisation and discusses the advantages of this method compared with pattern
books as commonly used in architecture.
Keywords. Spatial Configuration; Generative Design; Evolutionary Strategy; Isovists;
Visibility Based Design.
People experience space through their senses, and
the sense of vision in particular. The properties of a
spatial configuration as we see it with our eyes are
referred to as visuospatial properties and are mainly
influenced by two factors: the surface characteristics
(materials, textures and colour) and the arrangement and size of the spatial elements. In this paper
we consider only the latter. The arrangement of elements in space is termed the spatial configuration.
The elements of a configuration (boundaries such
as walls or ceilings) define what you see or don’t see
from a specific point of view and thereby affect human behaviour (see e.g. Hillier, 1996; Lawson, 2001).
The effect of spatial configurations on the behaviour
of people is a crucial factor for creating liveable and
thus sustainable environments (Gehl, 1987). To ensure that environments exhibit certain visuospatial
qualities, designers often refer to regulations and
guidelines such as urban codes or pattern books
as they contain specifications for the recommended dimensions and shapes of roads, open spaces,
buildings or building details (Alexander et al., 1977;
Duany, et al., 2006; Parolek, et al., 2008). While this
approach is useful as it ensures a certain standard
in the planning of environments, it is also relatively
inflexible in its ability to respond to changing contexts. The sheer variety of possible criteria in the real
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 355
world and their complex interrelationships means
that such pattern-collections can only hope to offer
a limited number of sample solutions. And because
every planning and design problem is in principle
unique (Rittel and Webber, 1973), such an approach
can only be of limited use in design processes.
In addition, patterns typically provide a geometric solution to achieve a certain spatial effect but it is
of course conceivable that different geometric solutions can produce similar spatial effects. A patterncollection is therefore always a subjective selection
of what is possible in principle. From our point of
view, instead of offering a few specific patterns that
produce certain visuospatial effects, it would be
more useful to develop mechanisms that produce a
multitude of patterns based on the intended effect.
Such an approach would allow one to intelligently
look for appropriate solutions for many different
contexts. Faucher and Niver (2000) describe this
approach as an “inverse design” approach, a term
borrowed from inverse simulations in physics and
mechanics. In this article we implement an inverse
design process using computer-based generative
methods for the automatic generation of spatial
configurations (layouts). We examine whether specific spatial patterns can be (re-)produced based on
specific visuospatial properties which is important in
order to be able to support complex design processes where a number of criteria need to be reconciled.
Because we are considering only criteria that relate
to visibility within spatial configurations, this method
can also be referred to as “Visibility Based Design”.
One method for measuring visual properties associated with a particular arrangement of boundaries
(spatial configuration) is to use isovists. An isovist
(as shown in figure 1, left) describes the part of an
environment that can be seen from a single observation point (Benedikt, 1979). Various parameters
can be derived from an isovist, such as the area, the
perimeter, compactness and occlusivity. The area of​​
an isovist describes how much one can see from a
certain vantage point. The compactness describes
the relationship between area and perimeter compared to that of a perfect circle and indicates how
complex or compact the field of view is. Occlusivity
indicates the amount of open edges. An open edge
denotes an edge line of the visual field which is not
bounded by a physical boundary (e.g. a wall). Occlusivity is small in locations that offer few or no views
into other parts of that configuration. For example a
viewpoint within a completely closed, convex space
has an Occlusivity of 0.
To evaluate an entire spatial configuration it is
necessary to look at a configuration from more than
just one viewpoint. To this end Benedikt proposes
the creation of isovist fields. The computer-aided
calculation of isovist fields is described by Batty
(2001). A regular grid is generated and an isovist is
calculated for each point in this grid. The properties
of these multiple isovists can then be represented
by giving the grid-points different colours. Dark
points refer to low, light points refer to high values
(see Fig. 1, right).
Figure 1
Left: An isovist from a
vantage point inside a spatial
configuration (figure taken
from Benedikt, 1979); right:
An isovist field for a T-shape,
mapping the isovist area onto
the single gridpoints (figure
taken from Batty, 2001).
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One way to evaluate a configuration based on isovist fields globally is to use average, minimum and
maximum values​​, as well as the standard deviation
of the frequency distribution of the individual isovist
properties. These characteristics can, for example,
be used to describe the public spaces within an urban layout. In Figure 2, this is demonstrated by an
example: the public space of two different building
patterns (perimeter block and terraced row development) has been analyzed by determining the isovist
properties Area and Compactness. One can see clearly that both structures differ markedly in their isovist
field characteristics. For example, the average isovist area of the terraced row structure is three times
larger than that of the perimeter block, although the
built-over floor area is similar in both cases. For the
value of compactness we can see that the isovists
in the perimeter block are generally more compact
than those in the row structure. At the same time
the latter reveals a lower standard deviation than
the perimeter block, which means that the isovists
in the row structure are evenly non-compact, while
in the perimeter block development, there are many
compact (i.e. the backyards) as well as non-compact
isovist fields (i.e. the streets).
The extent to which isovist properties help us make
statements about how spaces affect humans is still
not fully understood. However, empirical studies
have shown that various correlations exist between
those properties and the actually perceived spatial
experience. Franz and Wiener (2008) used VR experiments to show that area, compactness and occlusivity correlate highly with how test persons rated the
perceived beauty, complexity and spaciousness of
a configuration. Furthermore, they showed that the
subjects were able to find points in a configuration
with the largest and smallest field of view. ConroyDalton (2001) and Wiener et al. (2011) found that
isovists capture information that is relevant to wayfinding behaviour, especially when it comes to deciding where to go next.
If we assume that, as described above, it is possible to make statements about the experiential qualities of a configuration, it should in turn be possible
to derive a configuration for an intended spatial experience. In the following, we have drawn on an idea
put forward by Benedikt (1979) to generate spatial
configurations on the basis of isovists. Benedikt formulates this concept at the end of his original article
about isovists in architecture as follows: “One might
Figure 2
Analytic comparison of the
isovist fields of two different
urban structures (undertaken
with UCL-Depthmap).
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 357
well ask: when is it possible, given one or more isovist
fields (…) to (re)generate E [the spatial configuration]
as a whole? (…) a direction seems clear: to design
environments not by the initial specification of real
surfaces but by specification of the desired (potential)
experience in space (…).” This question is examined
in the next section using an experimental approach
for the generation of urban patterns.
For the generation of spatial configurations, we use
an optimisation method based on evolutionary algorithms (EA). Evolutionary algorithms are well suited to our purposes for two reasons: they are flexible
and can easily be adapted to changing problems,
and they require no a-priori patterns for guiding the
search process (Rechenberg, 1994). This is particularly important because we want to investigate the
influence certain parameters have on a solution. For
this it is important to exclude confounding factors,
such as a conscious change of solutions.
The two essential components of a generative
system based on EA are the generative mechanism
(GM) and the evaluation mechanism (EM). The GM
serves to generate variants. This mechanism is based
on a model that represents the particular problem
in an appropriate manner. In our case, this model
must be able to generate geometric representations
of two-dimensional layouts. Ideally, one would use a
model from which any geometric layout variant can
be generated, but, due to the immense number of
possible solutions, this would increase the comput-
ing time to an impractical level. Rules must therefore
be defined that permit a wide range of potential solutions while keeping the search space as small as
The EM of an EA is used to evaluate the variants
produced by the GM. The way these variants are
evaluated is described by a so-called fitness function. This function defines the qualities that the desired solution should have. In the context of this article, these qualities are described by certain isovist
In a previous study we had shown that isovist
properties are in principle well suited as objective
criteria for the optimisation of layouts using EA
(Schneider and König, 2011). Here the properties of
single isovists were used to position walls in a way
that ensured specific visual relationships between
different points of view. The GM used a grid of lines
in which single lines could be switched on and off to
optimise the configuration. The fitness function of
the EM consisted of the target values ​​for each Area
and Compactness of the single isovists and the target values ​​for the area of ​​overlap between the different isovists. Based on these target values, different
configurations of floor plans with three rooms were
generated. The three rooms have a similarly large
area, a high degree of compactness and simple topological relationships (room 1 is connected to room
2 and 3, but room 2 is not connected with room
3). Figure 3 shows an example of the results of a test
Figure 3
Variants of a configuration
defined by 3 viewpoints
P1(top left), P2 (top right),
P3 (bottom centre) in
which the isovists of P1 and
P2 shall not overlap.
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In the following we demonstrate how urban layouts
can be generated according to specifically defined
isovist field properties. We begin by describing the
technical aspect of the generative system (GM, EM)
before showing and discussing the results this system produces for a simple test scenario.
Generative Mechanism (GM)
0.15s, while the population of the EA consists of 15
individuals. The average, maximum and minimum
values​​as well as the standard deviation of various
isovist properties can be derived from the isovist
field. These values are
​​ used as fitness criteria for defining the objective function. The objective function
describes the deviation of an isovist field-property​​
from a corresponding target value. In general terms,
the fitness function can be specified as follows:
Using the GM, variants – or so-called individuals –
are generated. An individual represents an urban
f ( x) abs ( IFValue − targetValue)
layout. It consists of a fixed number of buildings
located on a plot of land. The buildings as well as
the plot are represented as rectangles. The operawhere IFValue refers to an isovist field property
tions of the GM include the random positioning and
(such as Average Area) and targetValue to the value
scaling of the rectangles (buildings). The rectangles
this property should have in the final solution.
should firstly not overlap and secondly stay within
the given boundary. These two criteria are checked
The generative system presented above was evaluafter the random placement of a building and if necated using a test scenario. The goal of this test is to
essary the coordinates are adjusted through specific
find out if and which spatial patterns can be genermovements. In order to avoid non-feasible solutions,
ated on the basis of isovist field properties. The test
such as buildings with a width of 3 m, minimum and
scenario examines the positioning and scaling of
maximum widths (minWidth, maxWidth) and surfive buildings within a square boundary (MinWidth
face areas (minSurfaceArea maxSurfaceArea) are deof the building = 7 m, MaxWidth = 30 m). The isovist
fined for the rectangles as well as the minimum and
properties that are used for optimisation are Area
maximum coverage (minCoverage, maxCoverage)
and Compactness. To better understand the influof the plot. The properties of the building (position,
ence of the various properties ​​on the resulting spalength, width) can only be changed within the range
tial configurations, we minimised and maximised
defined by these constraining values.
the individual criteria:
Evaluation Mechanism (EM)
The evaluation of the individuals is undertaken usf ( x) IFValue → min, max
ing the isovist field properties. For each individual =
an isovist field must be calculated. Since the calculation of isovist fields is computationally intensive and
time-consuming, we use an approach introduced by
The distribution of the two isovist properties Area
Schneider and König (2012) which uses the graphiand Compactness in the isovist field can be charcal processing unit (GPU) for carrying out this calacterised by four values: average, minimum, maxiculation. Compared with conventional CPU calculamum and standard deviation. These can be either
tion the calculation speed is increased many times
minimised or maximised. As a result, 16 objective
over. This reduces the duration of the optimisation
functions can be defined for the 8 IFValues (Average
process to an acceptable level: the evaluation of an
Area, Min Area, Max Area, StdDev Area, Average Comindividual in the test scenario takes approximately
pactness, Min Compactness, Max Compactness, StdDev
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 359
Compactness). Several test series were performed for
each of these objective functions. For each series one
representative result was chosen and shown in Figure
4 and 5. In the following the results are explained in
more detail.
The minimisation or maximisation of Average
Area means that the area that a person sees inside a
configuration should on average be either as small
or as large as possible. In Figure 4 (top row, first image from left) it can be seen that by minimising the
average area, a solution is generated in which several small open spaces between buildings occur. The
maximisation of the same value results in the generation of an L-shaped building pushed to the edge of
the plot resulting in one large open space (Figure 4,
bottom row, first image from left).
The minimisation of Min Area means that there is
a point in the layout from which one can see only a
very small open area. This creates areas which can are
like small inner courtyards, narrow alleys or niches. In
Figure 4 (top row, second image from left) a niche is
marked with a red dot. If Min area is maximised these
viewpoints with a small visible area disappear (Figure
4, bottom row, second image from left).
The optimisation of Max Area produces similar
configurations as it does for Average Area. For minimum Max Area several small yards are created, for
maximum Max Area one large yard. In contrast to
Area Average, not all points in space must have a large
or a small isovist area. It is sufficient that there is one
viewpoint that meets this criterion.
Through a systematic optimisation of the standard deviation values of
​​ the area one can control how
strong the differences of the different area values are.
Minimising this value creates layouts in which one
can see the same area from most of the points. This
results in spaces of a similar size (Figure 4, top row,
last image). However, if the standard deviation is maximised (many varying area values), then one large
and several small spaces occur (Figure 4, bottom row,
last image).
In another test series, the different values of
​​ Compactness were used as objective criteria. The results
360 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
show that, much like the optimisation of the Area
values, a typical spatial pattern arises (Figure 5). By
maximising the Average Compactness, an L-shaped
building is generated, which forms an approximately
quadratic open space (Figure 5, bottom row, first image from left), while minimising the same value results in an urban structure with solitaires. The position
of the solitaires creates long vistas from many viewpoints.
By minimising the Min Compactness, layouts
arise in which at least one point in space exists with a
very non-compact field of view. In the example layout
shown in Figure 5 (top row, second picture from left),
the corresponding isovist is shown in red. It can be
seen that the minimisation of compactness (very narrow and long isovist) emerges through the proximity
of two buildings. If Min Compactness is maximised,
layouts similar to those produced by maximising the
average compactness emerge (contiguous buildings
with one or more enclosed spaces).
By minimising the Max Compactness, layouts
arise where no viewpoints with a compact isovist can
be found. Accordingly, solitaires emerge which are
only a small distance from the boundary of the test
field (Figure 5, top row, third image from left). This
ensures that there is no “inside corner” in the whole
layout. The maximisation of the same value results in
the creation of at least one enclosed square courtyard
(Figure 5, bottom row, third image from left).
When minimising the standard deviation of the
compactness values, layouts arise where the compactness value is similar from most viewpoints. The
magnitude of this value is not specified. This can create layouts in which the isovists are very compact
at all points (e.g. bottom row, first image from left)
or layouts in which the isovists of all points have a
rather average compactness (top row, fourth image
from left). If the standard deviation is maximised, layouts arise in which the open areas have very different
compactness values. In Figure 5 (bottom row, last image) one can see that a cascade of different compact
spaces is created (from completely closed to open
with numerous vistas).
Figure 4
Sample results of the optimisation of different objective
criteria for Area after n=40
Top row: Results achieved
through minimising the
objective criteria. Bottom row:
Results achieved through
maximising the objective
criteria. The configuration is
superimposed on the isovist
Figure 5
Example results for optimisation of the isovist value
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 361
The arrangement and direction of visuospatial properties is an important aspect in the design of buildings and cities. Conventional methods for supporting this design process usually amount to little more
than a collection of exemplary solutions. But a collection of proposed solutions is not able to respond
adequately to different contexts with different conditions and their complex interactions. Instead it is
necessary to develop methods that can generate a
variety of patterns based on certain requirements.
In this paper we presented one approach for implementing such a method using a computational
system for generating spatial configurations for different objective values ​​of isovist properties on the
basis of an evolutionary strategy. The hypothesis
that this method can be used to (re‑)produce specific spatial qualities was proven using a simple and
highly restricted test scenario (location and scale of
buildings within a rectangular area).
The extent to which isovist properties are useful
for describing spatial configurations more comprehensively is an issue that we will consider in further
studies. Here we plan to test the method in a realistic
case study by generating plans for an urban district
within an existing urban environment. In addition
to single value optimisation, we plan to optimise
different objective criteria simultaneously. Using
multi-objective optimisation we want to ascertain
whether the patterns resulting from single objective values can be meaningfully combined. It would
also be useful to supplement the system with additional evaluation criteria. With regard to visuospatial
properties, Visibility Graphs (Turner et al, 2001) are
of importance because graph-based measurements
of functional criteria allow us to make statements
about a spatial configuration (Hillier, 1996). A first
promising approach to incorporate the integration
value in a generative system can be found in Krämer
and Kunze (2005). Furthermore it would be interesting to use 3-dimensional isovists for evaluation. A
first useful application of 3-dimensional isovists in
architecture is demonstrated in Derix et al. (2008).
362 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
The tool we developed for the optimisation and
generation of urban patterns can be downloaded
This study was carried out as part of the research
project FOGEB, funded by the Thuringian Ministry
for Economics, Labour and Technology and the European Social Funds (ESF).
Alexander, C, Ishikawa, S, Silverstein, M, Jacobson, M, Fiksdahl-King, I and Angel, S 1977, A pattern language, Oxford University Press, New York.
Batty, M 2001, Exploring Isovist Fields: Space and Shape in
Architectural and Urban Morphology, Environment and
Planning B Planning and Design, 28(1), pp. 123-150.
Benedikt, ML 1979, To take hold of space: isovists and isovist fields, Environment and Planning B Planning and
Design, 6(1), pp. 47-65.
Conroy-Dalton, R 2001, Spatial Navigation in Immersive Virtual Environments, PhD Thesis, University College London.
Derix, C, Gamlesæter, A and Miranda, P 2008, 3D Isovists
and spatial sensations: two methods and a case study,
in S. Haq, C. Hölscher, & S. Torgrude (eds), Report Series
of the Transregional Collaborative Research Center SFB/
TR 8 Spatial Cognition.
Duany, A, Wright, W and Sorlien, S 2006, Smart Code and
Manual, New Urban Publication, New York.
Faucher, D and Nivet, ML 2000, Playing with design intents:
integrating physical and urban constraints in CAD, Automation in Construction, 9(1), pp. 93-105.
Gehl, J 1987, Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. The
City Reader, van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.
Hillier, B 1996, Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Lawson, B 2001, The Language of Space. Elsevier Architectural Press, Oxford.
Parolek, DG, Parolek, K and Crawford, PC 2008, Form Based
Codes: A Guide for Planners, Urban Designers, Municipalities, and Developers, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Hoboken,
New Yersey.
Rechenberg, I 1994, Evolutionsstrategie ’94, frommannholzboog, Stuttgart.
Rittel, HWJ and Webber, MM 1973, Dilemmas in a General
Theory of Planning, Policy Sciences, 4, pp. 155-169.
Schneider, S and König, R 2011, Visibility-based Floor Plan
Design - The Automatic Generation of Floor Plans
based on Isovist Properties, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Spatial Cognition for Architectural
Design (SCAD 2011), New York, USA, pp. forthcoming.
Schneider, S and König, R 2012, Real-Time Visibility Analysis, Proceedings of the 12th Design Descision Support
Systems Conference in Architecture and Urban Planning,
Eindhoven, Netherlands, pp. forthcoming.
Turner, A, Doxa, M, O’Sullivan, D and Penn, A 2001, From isovists to visibility graphs: a methodology for the analysis of architectural space, Environment and Planning B
Planning and Design, 28(1), pp. 103-121.
Wiener, JM, Hölscher, C, Büchner, SJ and Konieczny, L 2011,
Gaze Behaviour during Space Perception and Spatial
Decision Making. Psychological Research, Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp. 1-17.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 363
364 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Speculative Structures
Reanimating latent structural intelligence in agent-based continuum
Joshua M. Taron
Laboratory for Integrative Design, University of Calgary, Canada,
[email protected]
Abstract. The potential afforded by the open search spaces of both agent-based models
and evolutionary engines have given architecture yet another set of computational tools
to play with, yet more often than not and with some cause, they are used in isolation from
one another. This research explores the set of techniques and results of having combined
swarm formations, FEM software and an evolutionary engine within a parametric
modeling environment such that they induce materially intelligent and structurally viable
swarmed formations. A set of protocols are developed for grafting these formations into
the already-built environment, treating it as a resource to be accessed and exploited
toward the production of novel morphogenetic results and architectural possibilities.
Keywords. Interoperability; morphogenetics; evolutionary computation; swarms; FEA
structural analysis.
Interoperability and Building Information Models
(BIM) have become nearly synonymous terms as
Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) have become a
means for integrated design solutions. More specifically, data-rich IFC objects have established a
standard so that information is not lost when moving between platforms. This integrated solution
creates a problem however by excluding data sets
that cannot read or generate IFC objects. Without
having any problem with IFC progress and development, there is another line of investigation that
I will call Integrative Interoperability that does not
concern itself with IFC language and instead focuses
on techniques of communication between software
that might otherwise remain disconnected. This dif-
ference borrows from Branko Kolarevic’s (2008) disciplinary integrated vs. integrative distinction and
applies it to software methodology. So rather that
dealing with a defined and closed integrated model
such as IFC, integrative interoperability speaks to
the generative capacity to yield compexity by fluidly
navigating across different software territories to
discover and create a process, technique, or a product that is qualitatively new. Additionally, rather
than framing integrative techniques as fighting the
tide of disintegration, integrative interoperability
partners with and exploits disintegration between
multiple software as a fertile territory for new morphogenetic design opportunities.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 365
The foundational premise of the research lies in integrating multiple and otherwise disparate data sets
into a single morphogenetic, structurally viable assembly; or rather a discrete act of architecture. Integrative interoperability becomes a significant tool
under such a model because it frees design from the
totality of any single given software environment
and lets each program read and generate information that it is specifically geared for. For example,
3D modeling environments can directly access and
exchange information with multiple other software
platforms so that the user can get spatial, aesthetic,
structural and material feedback.
The advantages of integrative interoperability
exponentially increase within evolutionary environments when virtual populations are culled and bred
relative to explicit performance criteria. This not
only enables design to engage with increasingly
complex problems but it also allows new morphological and material behaviors to emerge in the
process. For architectural design, this means that
the meta-structure of the information networks
becomes synonymous with defining performance
criteria itself. As cities become more complex, our
ability to provide equivalently complex building
solutions inherently evolve with them provided we
have integrative methods for capturing, integrating
and producing emergent data sets.
Most, if not all, architectural projections of swarmgenerated buildings are imaged as static instances
of otherwise dynamic processes. While architects
are usually interested in building in general, this
raises questions as to what information within the
swarm continues to actively contribute to the development of any given project. The fact that a swarm
becomes frozen at a single moment of its existence
limits its behavior in the context of its “native” animate environment. However, the complexity of that
instance does not dictate a single solution (and in
fact resists single solutions), but rather it opens up
a set of solutions given discrete constraints such as
materiality, structural sizing and loading. This re-
366 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
search accesses and makes use of latent information
within “frozen” instances of a swarm in order to discover new structurally informed morphologies – in
effect reanimating swarms in ways that would otherwise be impossible or undesirable in their original
agent-based environment(s). Furthermore, the scalability of swarms should be of particular interest to
architectural design as increasingly complex strategies of integration are clearly necessary if design is
to sustain the metabolisms of urban environments
(Weinstock 2008). This is consistent with various
others’ calls for computational approaches to design
that make use of planetary and even cosmologically
scaled populations (Bratton and Metahaven 2011;
Keller 2011).
At first glance, snapping a moment out of an active agent-based space might seem undesirable, but
it actually opens up an opportunity to overcome (or
at least bypass) a fundamental problem presented
by swarms when attempting to integrate them with
analytical software. Critical to a swarm’s functionality as a design tool is its ability to remain relatively
computationally inexpensive. If agents within a
swarm have to perform overly complex sets of individual calculations, models either become too slow
and inefficient to run given a fixed number of agents
or the number of agents must be reduced, thus decreasing the intensive capacity of the model. In other words, a swarm’s intelligence is directly related to
how many agents it is able to sustain (more is typically better) and how efficiently it can develop solutions (faster is better). Augmenting flows of information should ideally yield more productive results
rather than negatively disrupting the otherwise fluid
circulation of information.
One instance of inefficiency and computational
expense within swarms can be found when attempting to form feedback loops between active
agent-based models and analytical software, in this
case finite element analysis (FEA) software. The intended purpose of forming such a connection lies
in the ability to incorporate structural performance
into a swarm’s behavior. But structural calculations
are computationally expensive as structural sizing,
Figure 1
Evo-morphogenetic structure
materiality, connections and loading must all be accounted for. This is only compounded when dealing
with large numbers of structural segments. Perhaps
a more critical question lies in what structural logic
any instance of a swarm should assume at all as addressed in previous investigations [1] that attempted to compress agent-based patterning into surface
logics in order to integrate them into a single material construct.
With so many parts and such a range of complex
interconnections, it becomes apparent that a uniform approach would likely fail to make use of the
latent structural intelligence that a swarm has to offer. This is made more difficult given that in many
cases, structural solutions are beyond intuitive or
conventionally determinable means. By separating structural calculations and spatial swarming
from one another, their own efficiencies can be
maintained and productively mobilized against one
another. However, in order to enable an evolutionary morphogenetic design environment, a method
for advantageously [re]connecting them without
sacrificing efficiency is needed. This is achieved by
making use of Geometry Gym tools in Grasshopper,
grafting swarm formation into architectural assemblies and running them through FEA-driven evolutionary feedback loops. This yields solutions that
explicitly express latent structural intelligence of
swarm formations in partnership with the alreadybuilt environment.
Evo-morphogenetic structure
The meta-structure of these investigations is defined through the explicit relationships between a
series of different software platforms. Specifically
the work establishes integrative interoperability between initial non-parametric 3D geometries in Rhino, agent-based models in Processing, parametric
environments in Grasshopper (including the Galapagos evolutionary engine) and structural analysis
software (SAP2000 FEA) (Figure 1).
In geometric terms, the framework allows one
to manipulate a series of points in Rhino which are
actively linked to an agent-based environment (Processing) where those points function as particle
emitters in a pheromone-flocking particle swarm
optimization model. Particle courses are tracked
and interpolated as NURBS curves in Grasshopper.
This geometry is parametrically associated with material properties and structural sizing and iterated
through the Galapagos evolutionary engine in a
manner that mobilizes individual structural members against the global structural performance of
the entire assembly. Evolutionary results are then
sent back to the initial rhino environment and evaluated for any other criteria (not addressed in this
By nesting an evolutionary feedback loop within
the larger morphogenetic framework, specific attributes emerge without threatening the structure as a
whole. The necessity for hierarchies (or at least their
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 367
resilient stability) within morphogenetic assemblies
is often something that is overlooked despite the
crucial role it plays in enabling emergent behaviors
to express themselves (Hensel et al 2006). Given the
dynamic nature of both material(s) and geometries,
resilient network structure acts as an attendant “not
in the sense of a spectator” that simply observe a
process as it unfolds, but rather “as a constant or point
of reference in relation to which variation is assessed”
(Deleuze 1981). The framework then becomes a
mechanism to produce variations that aggregate to
form novel and identifiable behaviors. In this case,
the framework aims at finding and fostering structural and material viability within geometric formations that otherwise lack such intelligence.
Sensitivity-driven bending
The first attempts at reanimating swarms focused
on two related orders of interconnection needed to
achieve structural viability. In the case of post flocking simulations, particles tend avoid one another
and thus particle courses fail to come into contact
with one another. In addition to the course curves,
a connective layer of curves is produced by means
of a proximity mesh through the swarm much the
same way webbing connects chords to one another
within a truss (Figure 2).
Alone, the proximity mesh serves as a minimal
solution within the excessive redundancy of the
swarm. However, the conceptual and aesthetic dissonance between these two layers is seen as undesirable and opens up a new line of questioning that
focuses on how the minimal solution of the proximity mesh might be accessed so that the swarm might
induce deviations from what otherwise ultimately
operates as a single linear span between 2 points.
Using a proxy geometry that approximates the
swarm components, the geometry is broken down
into differential lists in order to provide a parametric
The first level of subdivision differentiates
between agent path curves and proximity mesh
curves. A point set is then distributed through each
agent path curve based on a fixed frequency of
length identifying pinned connection points for the
proximity mesh curves (Figure 3).
These points are capable of shifting as the assembly deflects. End points of the agent path curves
constitute a separate point set that serve as fixed
connection points that will not shift as the assembly
deflects. Each agent path curve is assigned a value
for structural size with straight segments spanning
from point to point within each respective curve. In
the interest of limiting evolutionary variability within the high number of proximity mesh segments,
curvature, structural sizing, and curve segmentation
are compressed into a single parametric component
(Figure 4).
The logic of the component is as follows:
straight proximity mesh segments are restructured
as single span 3-degree curves resulting in a set of
4 CV’s per curve. While the end points remain connected to their respective agent path curves, the
remaining CV’s are each attracted to a nearest point
condition found within a differentially scaled set of
agent path curves. This process distorts the curves
as to provide a way for the swarm, through its internal proximities, to produce locally driven curvature.
Omni-directional curvature differentiates in magnitude on a per segment basis within the proximity mesh as it distributes through the agent path
curves. The relative magnitude of induced proximity mesh curvature is managed through a single sensitivity value. As this value increases, so does relative curvature which in turn drives structural sizing
and segmentation. The combination of agent path
curve structural sizing and proximity mesh sensitivFigure 2
Course connection diagram.
368 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Figure 3
Proxy swarm assembly
Figure 4
Curve segment variation.
ity value constitute the variables flowing into the
Galapagos evolutionary engine (Figure 5).
Specified deflection-driven sizing
While sensitivity-driven explorations focused on
individually sizing every member in the swarm assembly, this round of testing takes a step back in
order to articulate the performative advantages
of replacing larger scale structural members with
swarm-based assemblies that use smaller/lighter
structural members. Inspired by Huang and Xie’s
evolutionary topology optimization of continuum
structures that use displacement constraints (Huang
and Xie 2010), we began by developing a parametric definition that would allow a single span beam to
be evaluated for a specified deflection value (SDV)
through SAP2000. By minimizing the absolute value
between the deflection result and a SDV in Grasshopper, evolutionary iterations through Galapagos
would yield a specific structural size that would approach the SDV as shown in (Figure 6).
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 369
Figure 5
Galapagos results using FEA
generated fitness values.
Having established the necessary computational
framework for our own evolutionary structural optimization, we began applying swarm assemblies
in place of the singular structural member in an attempt to drive the size of the structural members
down while maintaining the ability to achieve a
range of SDV‘s given an axial load of 1kN to put the
assembly into compression. All members in the assemblies were assigned a uniform value for size and
employed a simple proximity mesh to constrain
the otherwise disconnected swarm courses to one
another. Initial results are shown in (Figure 7). The
results of these tests exhibit a desired correlation
between lighter members and higher SDV. However, the tests raised questions over the intensity of
the proximity mesh and the effect they were having over achieving deflection. Toward this end, the
proximity mesh was sorted into a list that measured
their lengths and put them into sets representing increments of 25% of the total population. The tests
were run again to achieve the specified deflection
values of .001, .01 and .1 of the overall beam span.
In this series the population of connecting members
was culled by 25% increments beginning with the
370 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
longest members so as to understand the effects
of decreasing structural frequency. Results that
used only the shortest 25% of the population failed
to manage the axial loads and as such their results
were discarded noting the threshold for failure.
Two unexpected behaviors were expressed.
First, even with the full population of proximity mesh structural segments in place, the longest
members contained the highest stress loads. This
was suprising in that we expected stress either to
appear toward the middle of the span or in areas
where other connections were not being made.
Secondly, the test demonstrated the intelligence to
size up the structural size of the members in order to
achieve a deflection value that had previously relied
on more parts throughout the assembly. We were
not surprised to see shorter members demonstrate
higher stress levels given the absense of additional
structural members.
Stress-driven Branching
While the previous tests were inspired by subtractive methods in order to arrive at a structural equilibrium, efforts were made to develop a bidirectional
Figure 6
Specified deflection framework.
Figure 7
Instance of emergent structural sizing using specified
deflection values.
system where structure could not only be removed
through a hard-kill process similar to those used in
BESO methods (Huang and Xie 2010) when members fail to meet minimum stress levels but also
added in order to target high stress areas and locally
distribute their loads. Toward this end we modified
a series of grafting protocols (Taron 2012) whereby
agent-based morphologies structurally integrate
into otherwise normative wall assemblies (Figure 8).
Given the presence of higher stress levels in
longer members developed in the SDV tests, the
branching grafts intend on distributing stress
throughout the entire assembly. Additionally, these
curve networks were translated into continuum
meshes that simultaneously achieve dimensional
depth through manifold volumes while minimizing
the length of any structural member to the edge of a
given face. FEA stress analysis on a series of increasingly complex formations reveal the successful distribution of stress through the assembly while maintaining constant loads (Figure 9). This is a promising
discovery as a particular form can achieve specified
loading and reduce structural sizing without having
to revert to minimal geometric form. In other words,
redundancy has the capacity to produce its own
modes of efficiency that operate as an alternative to
‘conventional’ form-finding methods.
By iterating bi-directional branching through
FEA informed evolutionary loops, an initial swarm
formation can grow and decay such that it efficiently
grafts into an existing structure and actively participates in distributing loads through the entire as-
Figure 8
Grafting sequence.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 371
Figure 9
Stress distribution through
curve network (above) and
continuum structure (below).
sembly. Because the evo-morphogenetic framework
remains intact, additional forces and geometries can
be added or subtracted thus allowing the assembly
to search for new equilibria (Figures 10 and 11).
Evolutionary morphogenetic tactics demonstrate
real purpose for developing latent performance attributes in complex assemblies including swarm formations. While much discussion continues to take
place revolving around the usefulness of swarms
in architecture, this work articulates the potential
value for any complex assembly subjected to evolutionary iteration when integrated with performance
analysis software thus enabling novel solutions and
morphologies to affect architectural objects and discourse.
Work has already begun toward fabricating
these assemblies at a number of scales and with a
range of materials and connection strategies. Presently the work has focused on populating planar
surfaces but will likely yield new problems and opportunities when deployed through more spatial
(multi-orientation, multi-surface) assemblies. Additionally the research would benefit from urban
analysis that identified derelict or abandoned structures that could be revitalized and reprogrammed
through these tactics. Rather than thinking of archiFigure 10
Hard-kill stress distribution
branching sequence.
Figure 11
Stress-generated continnum
Structure assembly render.
372 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
tecture as always a new discrete object, these methods reposition it as an always already integrated part
of the already built environment.
Bratton, B and Metahaven 2011, ‘Design and Geopolitics:
The Alterglobal, Soft Power, Disaster Capitalism’, in
Metahaven (eds), Print: the Identity Issue, http://bratton.
Deleuze, G 1981, The Logic of Sensation, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 13–18.
Hensel, M Menges, A and Weinstock, M 2006, ‘Towards
self-organisational and multiple-performance capacity
in architecture’, Archit Design, 76: 5–11.
Huang, X and Xie, YM 2010, Evolutionary Topology Optimization of Continuum Structures: methods and applications, Wiley, West Sussex.
Keller, E 2011, ‘Agents of Revolutionary Time’, Proto/e/
co/logics: Speculative Materialism in Architecture,
curated by Andrasek A and Juricic B, http://vimeo.
Kolarevic, B 2008, ‘Post-digital Architecture: Toward Integrative Design’, First International Conference on Critical
Digital: What Matter(s)?, Cambridge, MA, pp. 149–156.
Taron JM 2012, ‘Structurally Intelligent Swarms: Exploiting
Interoperability Toward Generative Design’, Proceedings of the 2012 ASCAAD Conference: CAAD/Innovation/
Practice, Manama, Bahrain, pp. 33-47.
Weinstock, M 2008, Metabolism and Morphology. Archit
Design, 78: 26–33.
City Modelling - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 373
374 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - City Modelling
Modeling of RL - Cities
Aant van der Zee , Bauke de Vries
Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. In this paper we present an outline of a newly started project to develop a city
generator for use in urban planning. The aim of the project is to develop a rule-based
system which is capable of generation lookalike cities. Lookalike cities are cities which
resemble real life cities without being an exact copy of it. A city consists of several zones;
each zone has it own identity. In order to generate lookalike cities, these zone-identities
need to be capture into rules which the system can ‘read’. Keywords. Procedural modeling; urban development; L-systems; architecture; city
With the rise of the gaming industry there was a
demand for realistic or imaginary city models that
accommodate game adventures. As a consequence
there was a need for artists who ‘build’ in-world cities. With the increase of the speed of the personal
computers, the game environments became larger
and larger and so the demand for these artists. The
gaming industry had to overcome the difficulty to
hire more and more artists to design these largescale cities. The answer was to develop methods,
which use no art assets like: (building-) models and
textures. Research was done to develop procedurally generated cityscapes (Parish 2001, Muller 2006).
Most research has been done in the field of games
(see figure 1). or ancient cities (see figure 2). Procedural generated buildings (Wonka 2003), temples
and ancient cities like Rome and Pompeii (Haegler
2009) are used as an urban visualization tool.
Surprisingly these city generators also found
their way also in the urban planning (Schirmer,
2011). There is already a commercial software package which generates cities.
It is our opinion that these tools lack some features which makes them less useful in the domain
of urban planning. The generated cities and buildings are ‘abstract’; they don’t resemble real life cities and buildings. In order to increase acceptance
in the building industry, especially urban planning,
research needs to focus on real life cities and buildings and trying to mimic their identity (see figure 3).
In the next paragraph’s we will give an outline of
our recently started research project. In this project
we aim to develop a city generator.
In urban design we anticipate the following application areas of computer generated cities:
Visual quality check
Infill of sites in the city
Test case for zero energy towns
Virtual city model
The above list is not conclusive; there will be more,
not foreseen, areas where generated cities can be of
Our research focuses on generating lookalike
cities. Lookalike cities are generated city which resembles existing cities without being an exact copy.
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 375
In other words lookalike cities are cities with the
same identity but different buildings en infrastructure.
We discriminate three levels of abstraction,
namely: the city as a whole, the infrastructure and
the buildings. We recognize that a city consists of
several zones; each zone has it own identity. This
identity of a zone depends mainly of:
Type of streets (main road, secondary road, linear, curved etc)
Street profile (cross section)
Width of the streets
Are pavements alongside the street
Do the buildings have front gardens
Green places (parks)
Type of building (dwellings, shops etc)
The architecture of those buildings
In order to generate lookalike cities we have to capture the identity of a city into a finite number of
rules. The above mentioned ‘items’ need to become
input for our system. The system must be capable of
‘rewriting’ those rules to come up with a generatedcity which resembles the real life city but without
being an exact copy of it. We come to following research questions:
Is it possible to “capture” a city identity into
Is it possible generating a city which mimics an
existing city using above mentioned rules?
We are starting our research to see if it is possible
to generate a city based on some rules. First we develop an engine which can generate different city
layouts (infrastructure network). The end result must
be a city layout which is similar to the original city;
it must mimic the target city without becoming an
exact duplicate of it. The original city will become a
template for the system to generate a lookalike city.
In the next subparagraph we will give an outline
of this research.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph we are
developing a system, which generates cities. These
generated cities must mimic existing cities.
376 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
Figure 1
Liberty City.
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Network typologies.
a) Population based (Altstadt)
b) Grid (Amsterdam)
c) Circular (Amsterdam)
d) Radial (Paris)
There has been extensive research in the above
mentioned research areas. We can recognize two
main streams of generating city research, template
based en agent based engines. We will discuss these
two approaches in some detail.
L-Systems were created by the biologist Lindenmayer as a method to simulate the growth of plants
(Prusinkiewicz and Lindenmayer 1990). “In an L-system, each plant module is represented buy a letter, different letters being used for modules of different types
or in different states. A sequence of letters forms a word
which represents the entire plant. Development is simulated by a process of rewriting; a rewriting or production rule is applied to a letter, resulting in its replacement by a new letter or group of letters” (Hanan, 1992).
Parish and Muller (Parish 2001) used a template
based L-system to generate cityscapes. Parish and
Muller recognized in real life cities 4 different types
road networks (see figure 4), which they used as a
template for their system.
To generate a city with sloped streets they used
a gray tone (elevation) map as input parameter to.
The topology of the location was depicted in gray
tones, each gray tone could be translated into a
A different approach was used by Lechner
(Lechner et al. 2003, Lechner et al. 2006), they developed a agent based system. The only main input
of their system is a terrain description. “With the aid
of agent based simulation we are generating a system
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 377
of agents and behaviors that interact with one and
another through their effect upon a simulated environment” (Lechner et al. 2003). “The city generation is
implemented by simulating cities using a set of agents
that can model specific city entities such as developers, planning authorities and road builders. The system
models not only the road network and buildings but
also simulates the growth and development of the city
over time” (Kelly and McCabe, 2006)
The goal of these approaches isn’t to mimic
existing cities; they are constructed from abstract
buildings. The goal of both systems lays not so much
in reproducing existing cities but in generating convincing and plausible cities.
As we explained in the previous paragraph our system must be capable of at least three different tasks:
1. Generating cities zones.
2. Generating infrastructure network.
3. Generating buildings.
age of the landscape typology. The landscape generator is developed as a multi-objective heuristic
optimization modeling approach, and generator
contains probabilistic elements (e.g. random starting situation, near-random cell swap), which results
in different output, each time it is run with identical
input settings. The system is capable of producing
a range of landscape configurations for a variety of
situations. This generator was developed to produce
plausible landscape configurations, so this system
lacks the ability to generate adequate infrastructures.
The re-arranged zoning map is input for our
system to generate plausible alternatives city zone
layouts. This newly generated abstract zoning plan
is base for generating alternative infrastructures and
buildings. By reading the colors of the re-arranged
zoning plan the system “knows” what type of infrastructure, roads and buildings it has to generate
within each zone to mimic the identity of the original city.
Cities zones
Infrastructure network typology
We start by analyzing the map of the original city
and make a zoning map. In this zoning -map each
zone has its own color. Each color stands for a well
defined combination of zone-identity attributes (see
first paragraph). The development of this zoningmap is done manually, using existing city maps.
By re-arranging the zones we get an alternative city lay-out which is fundamental the same as
the target city. For the aforementioned step we will
use the landscape generator developed by Slager
(Slager 2011) for generating alternative city-scapes.
This landscape generator uses landscape types
as building blocks of plan scenarios. A landscape
typology describes a proposed future spatial development and contains spatial and (non)spatial
(descriptive) attributes. A 2D reference image indirectly provides objective compositional and configurationally characteristics of the proposed development. These spatial attributes and their target values
are retrieved from the compositional and configurational characteristics present in the reference im-
There are lots of different types of infrastructure or
patterns (Alexander, 1977) but according to the literature there are four main typologies (see figure 1, the
population based, grid, circular and radial networks.
We will use our system to generate Dutch lookalike cities; therefore we have to look if there is a need
to localize network typologies. In the Netherlands
there is a local network typology, a combination of
two distinct infrastructures, the land bound and
the water bound. In Amsterdam, Utrecht and more
Dutch cities there are canals, on every bank there is a
road with bridges connecting those two roads. So to
localize the number of existing road types we need
to add an extra road type, which is a juxtaposition of
two different infrastructure-networks (see figure 4).
378 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
We decided to use L-systems (Prusinkiewicz, 1966) as
a base to generate the infrastructure. This decision is
based on the fact that we want to make a rule-based
system, so we can better direct the outcome. The
generate output which will have some similarity
with the existing building type from which the rules
where derived.
Figure 4
Juxtaposition (Amsterdam).
traditional L-system has no ‘knowledge’ of its environment. We will extend the L-system the ability to
interact with the ‘environment’ (Mech, 1996). The
environment is in our case the colored zoning map.
The L-system can ‘read’ the colors of the zoning map
and act according to it, as each color stands for a
zone identity, a combination of zoning attributes.
In this way the system can create for instance a road
type according to the zone to which it belongs.
In order to use an L-system to generate buildings,
we have to analyze existing buildings to develop
production rules which are stored in a data base. It
is our intention to automate this building analyses
phase; this will be done by analyzing photos. We
think of analyzing the photo’s in Google maps. For
every zone we have to analyze sufficient buildings of
the same type.
We (the system) will perform analyses of the
photos in regard of: type of building, type of main
entrance, how many floors, what kind of roof, layout
of the facade etc., to make up the production rules.
These rules will range from number of floor to the
layout of window and will be categorized according this level of detail (=LoD). Each rule will have an
unique id which is made up of: building type, category it belongs, rule type (number of floor, windows
layout etc) and level of detail. This makes it feasible
for the system to pick at random for each LoD different rules to generate alternative buildings. Rules
which belong to the same type of building, will
The consecutive results will be put in a model based
on the CityGML. This decision is based on the fact
that the pipeline of the system resembles that of the
LoD used in CityGML. The level of detail of our system will range from LoD 0 (= our zoning plan) to LoD
3 (= our generated building). Our system doesn’t
generate interior layouts, so the buildings can’t be
By using CityGML the outcome of our system
can easily imported in other CAD software or viewers, for further visualization or calculations.
In this paper we discussed the outline of our research to develop a city generator which will generate cities which mimic existing cities.
After finishing the above discussed system we
will expand the system with a module which place
texture on the surfaces. The materialization of the
buildings and roads is also a part of the identity of
the city.
It is too soon to conclude if it is possible to write
rules which capture the identity of a city. We are still
in de phase of the development of the engine. According to the literature it is possible to generate a
plausible city.
To validate the system we need to develop a
number of different rule sets, each set for a different
real-life city. Next step is to generate according to
these rule sets 3D ‘look a like’ cities. We will present
these generated 3D cities to a panel of professionals,
with the question: “Which city are you looking at/
walking thru?” From their answers we can conclude
if our generated cities mimic existing cities or not.
Alexander, C 1977, A Pattern Language, Oxford university
press, New York.
Haegler, S, Muller P and van Gool L 2009, Procedural Mod-
Generative Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 379
eling for Digital Cultural Heritage, EURASIP, Journal on
Image and Video Processing, Volume 2009.
Hanan, JS 1992, Parametric L-Systems and their application to
the modelling and visualization of plants, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Regina, Saskatchewan.
Kelly, G and McCabe, H 2006 A survey of procedural techniques for city generation, ITB Journal issues 14, December 2006, The academic Journal of the Institute of
Technology Blanchardstown.
Mech, R and Prusinkiewicz, P 1996, Visual Models of Plants
Interacting with Their Environment, in Computer
Graphics Proceedings Annual Conference Series, ACM
SIGGARPG, pp. 397-410.
Muller, P, Wonka P, Haegler S, Ulmer, A and van Gool, L 2006,
Procedural Modeling of Buildings, ACM Transactions on
Graphics, vol 25, no3, pp. 614-623.
Parish Yoav, IH and Muller, P: 2001 Procedural Modeling of
Cities, SIGGRAPH ‘01 Conference Proceedings, pp. 301308.
Prusinkiewicz, P and Lindenmayer, A 1996, The Algorithmic
Beauty of Plants, Springer Verlag, New York
Schirmer, P and Kawagishi, N 2012, Using shape grammars
as a rule based approach in urban planning- a report
on practice, Proceedings of the eCAADe Conference, Zurich, Switzerland pp. 116-124.
Slager, K 2011, Landscape Generator, Method to generate
plausible landscape configurations for participatory spatial plan-making, Eindhoven University of Technology,
Wonka, P, Wimmer, M, Sillion, F and Ribansky, W 2003, Instant Architecture, ACM Trans Graph. 22, pp. 669-677.
380 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - Generative Design
User Participation in Design
User Participation in Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 381
382 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - User Participation in Design
Digital System Of Tools For Public Participation
And Education In Urban Design
Exploring 3D ICC
Anja Jutraz , Tadeja Zupancic
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture, Slovenia
[email protected], [email protected]
Abstract. This article is a starting point for the development of experiential urban
co-design interfaces to enhance public participation in local urban projects and to be
also used as a communication and collaboration tool in urban design. It is based on the
previous research involving 3D city models utilized as understandable design interfaces
for the non-technical public (Jutraz, Zupancic, 2011), where we have already explored
different views (pedestrian, intermediate and bird’s-eye view), as well as the means by
which the information obtained from these different views may be combined by shifting
between viewpoints. Previous work was conducted in the “street lab” as well as the
Urban Experimental Lab, which was developed specifically for the public’s participation
in urban planning (Voigt, Kieferle, Wössner, 2009). Presented in this article is the next
step that explores the immersive collaboration environment 3D ICC [1], formerly known
as Teleplace. The environment was developed for efficient collaboration and remote
communication and shifts the research focus towards questions regarding how to employ
both labs as interfaces between the non-technical public and design professionals. As
we are facing the lack of digital systems for public participation and education in urban
design, different digital tools for communication and collaboration should be combined
into a new holistic platform for design. A digital system of tools needs to be developed
that supports the urban design decision-making process and focuses on improved final
solutions and increased satisfaction amongst all participants. In this article the system of
digital tools for public participation, which include communication, collaboration and
education, will be also defined, with its basic characteristics and its elements.
Keywords. Digital system of tools; collaboration; 3D model; public participation; urban
Urban design is a public collective activity and
through combining different ideas, opinions, etc, we
develop shared urban visions. Schoenwandt (2008)
defines the “third generation” planning theory as the
next step to the rational model of planning, where
“agents” of planning construct a “planning world”,
which exists in the context of an everyday “lifeworld”. Specific exchange among both “worlds” always happens. The collaboration process with its decision support tools presents an experiential urban
co-design interface (technical and social) between
“the planning world” and “the life-world”. This inter-
User Participation in Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 383
face is focused on the experiential mode, wherein
lies the most important perception of place/ urban
design. The collaboration process could be real or
virtual, different according to space and time; real
world or digital representation of the real world
could be compared to the digital city models or
even combined with them and used for simulating
potential future developments.
Public participation is a complex process, where
different representatives of the non-technical public and experts are engaged. Each participant offers
particular knowledge and/or expertise/visual communication ability that can be shared with others
and each one could learn something new from the
other participants. The general public may learn
much through the urban design participation by
simply being present and sharing comments and
opinions. Collaboration is a more important process
than communication alone and can contribute to
lifelong learning in urban design.
The previous research (Jutraz, Voigt, Zupancic,
2011) was done in the “street lab” and in the Urban
Experimental Lab, developed for public participation in urban planning (Voigt, Kieferle, Wössner,
2009), and it aims at developing visual digital 3D
city models to enhance public participation in local
urban projects. It also discusses the problem regarding the diversity of city model views (pedestrian,
intermediate/mid-, and bird’s-eye view) and, consequently, the means by which one can combine information from each view by shifting between different viewpoints. We found that the most suitable way
to present the city model is to show the site from
different views: the pedestrian, mid-, and bird’s-eye
views, while recognizing that things that are observable from one view are not seen from another. Shifting between different views can even improve the
final results of the participation process. It is really
important to shift from the big picture to the small
details in both directions, and from the conceptual
to the experiential mode of presentation. Mid-view
can be seen as an interface between the pedestrian
and bird’s-eye views.
384 | eCAADe 30 - Volume 1 - User Participation in Design
Based on this research, this article focuses on the
interface between the “planning” and “life-world”
and presents the communicational and collaborative tools to be used by the different participants
(Figure 1). This interface presents a digital system of
tools (DST) to facilitate the public’s participation in
urban design, which is most important for the nontechnical publics (politicians, citizens, users, investors), who are the target group of the participation
process; experts present their support and source of
expertise. DST can help by improving the communicational and collaborative process between different participants, in order to develop a shared urban
Figure 1
Towards a shared urban
DST should be composed of a set of tools reflecting the needs of the public participation process
in urban design. These tools should support public
participation in urban design by informing, involving and educating people in urban design. DST
should offer to different participants various tools;
participants would choose the tools that would be
the most appropriate for the selected urban design
problem. Only the right combination of various tools
will lead to improved final results. These various
tools include, among others, tools for the presentation of the site, communication, raising awareness,
Figure 2
Tools for public participation
process in urban design (*3D
ICC includes the tools marked
collaboration, life-long learning in urban design, 3D
city models, and implementation. (Figure 2)
This paper also investigates the potential of using 3D ICC as an interface between “planning world”
and “life-world”. 3D ICC combines several tools,
which are part of DST (Figure 2). It presents an immersive collaboration platform where one can find
different tools for communication and collaboration
[1], e.g. content and application sharing, multi-modal communication in one space, realistic interactions
such as using whiteboards, sketching, etc. The environment consists of different rooms where various
groups of people may meet, share their opinions,
and give presentations. Google Sketch Up models
may also be imported and users may use their avatars to walk through the 3D models. This platform
offers a real-life experience where the user may use
his or her avatar to explore a 3D model and gain a
real impression of the proposed design. As Murphy (2011) states avatars can “help you learn to cope
with similar situations in the actual world”. When you
move around a 3D city model with your avatar, you
are able to adopt this experience and reflect it into
everyday life, and you more easily imagine what urban design proposals would mean for real-life.
This article addresses the positive and negative
sides of 3D ICC, users’ experiences with this tool,
compares 3D ICC with Urban experimental Lab, and
tries to define the benefits and potentials of both of
them for public participation in urban design. Exploring different digital tools for collaboration and
communication in the design process helps us to
User Participation in Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 385
define the characteristics and elements of optimal
DST, as well as to develop appropriate tools for each
stage of the participation process.
The main research of this article is based on the exploration of the immersive collaboration environment 3D ICC [1], formerly known as Teleplace, now
Terf, developed for efficient collaboration and remote communication. It consists of several “rooms”,
generally two types: the meeting place with whiteboards, where participants can work together,
share information and applications collaboratively,
visualize information, use sticky notes, sketch, modify a document while others wait, and in the other
“rooms” you can import a 3D model of a building
and walk through the building with other participants at the same time as one would in the real life.
It is an online collaborative environment, which offers live/ group chat, video conferencing, and interactive avatars.
In the research presented in this article we
wanted to define characteristics and elements of
3D ICC and the links to the DST (which elements of
DST are missing in 3D ICC, what could be improved,
etc.). At the same time we wanted to evaluate 3D ICC
through user experiences; its positive and negative
sides were also defined. Moreover, through this research, opportunities for using the tool in urban design were identified.
In the first part of this research, we conducted
a survey amongst the students of the AEC Global
Teamwork class of 2012 at Stanford University (PBL
Lab, 2012), headed by Dr. Renate Fruchter, where
the students were asked to use 3D ICC as a support
digital tool in their design processes (from January
to May 2012). The students used the tool for weekly
meetings, instant communication and collaboration
and for the exploration of the 3D model with their
avatar (walking through the model). The main aim of
this research was to find out how the profession is
facing the use of the 3D ICC, and on the other hand
to evaluate the performance of 3D ICC.
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In the second part we were dealing with the process
of urban design in 3D ICC, especially with the options of importing larger 3D models, and the level of
details, which are still possible to be imported in the
3D ICC in architectural design in AEC
Global Teamwork
The survey amongst the students of AEC Global
Teamwork of 2012, based on their experiences with
3D ICC, was answered by 23 students, 15 men and 8
women, mostly between the ages of 18 and 24 years
old and not older than 34 years. They came from different universities all around the world (e.g. Stanford
University, University of Puerto Rico, Bauhaus University, Warsaw University of Technology, University
of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Ljubljana).
They came from a diverse cultural environment: US
(10 students), Canada (1), Poland (1), Germany (3),
China (2), Iran (1), India (1), Slovenia (2), and Puerto
Rico (2). The AEC Global Teamwork is an interdisciplinary class; the students were architects (2 students),
construction managers (5), structural engineers (9),
life-cycle financial managers (1), MEP (1), apprentice
(2) and owners (3). The team consisted of 6 members, each from a different discipline, which was a
very important part of the design process. 67% of
the students said that 3D ICC helped them by improving the knowledge about the other disciplines.
3D ICC has a huge potential of becoming a really
useful tool for interdisciplinary design and collaboration between team members and investors.
Students very poorly knew any other virtual
world, only 2 of them have used them before. For
most students, this class was their first exposure to
a virtual environment. In addition to 3D ICC, they
knew of only a few of them: Stadia, Second Life, and
Virtual Cube. We could see that virtual worlds are
not really popular among the students. The survey
is based on determining how the profession is faced
with such a tool, how easy it is for using it, does it
Figure 3
Exploring architecture in
3DICC, walking through the
model with your avatar.
aid in the design process, with which problems the
students were faced, etc.
No one had used 3D ICC before the start of the
AEC Global Teamwork class, and also later they used
it rarely, averaging twice a month. Before they used
it for the first time they were looking forward to using it (50%), they liked it from the first moment they
saw it (13%), they didn’t want to use it (13%), they
thought it was an unnecessary additional tool, and
some of them also found it a really difficult tool (8%).
It is interesting to watch the change in students’
opinion about 3D ICC between the beginnings and
end of the AEC Global Teamwork class. At the onset,
most of them (50%) were looking forward to using
it, 3D ICC has been positively accepted by 63% of
students and negatively by 34% of students. After
using it 38% of students changed their opinion: 22%
liked it more and 16% liked it less. The results of the
survey show us that after the AEC Global Teamwork
half of the students liked the digital tool and half of
them didn’t like it. The tool has both positive and
negative impressions as expressed in student opinions about the tool shown in (Table 1).
3D ICC has been used for different purposes:
88% of students used it for walking through the
model, 59 % used it for weekly meetings, where they
shared presentation and information, some of them
also for decision-making actions (35%) and real time
actions like whiteboards, discussions, sketching
(41%). They were exchanging visual- and non-visual
information, voice and text, the information were
available in 3D ICC all the time, and the team members were able to enter the collaboration space in
3D ICC and check the information they needed. The
virtual room was utilized as the collaborative space
where whiteboards were located; you could exchange both kind of information: visual and non-visual, e.g. numbers, density, text. It’s like a real meeting place, where you walk around with your avatar
and synchronously exchange all the information.
Walking through the model in 3DICC
From the architectural and urban design point of
view we can conclude that the most valuable characteristic of 3D ICC is the option of walking through
the model (88% students used 3D ICC for walking
through the model and they liked this function the
40% of students used pedestrian view (the elevation from the ground 1.6m) and 40% the combination of all three views (pedestrian, intermediate,
bird view) for moving through the 3D model. 20% of
students used only intermediate view (the elevation
from the ground 10m). These results could be linked
with the students’ cultural and environmental background: cultural context has a big influence on the
students’ perception and their way of using 3D models - it is especially important what their background
knowledge is, what they are used to, etc. Students
didn’t use the orientation boards in the 3D model
because they didn’t know they could use them, and
they didn’t know exactly how to use them.
User Participation in Design - Volume 1 - eCAADe 30 | 387
3D ICC pros
3D ICC cons
Table 1
Type of the tool
Online immersive collaboration
and communication tool.
Closed group of people.
No time, place limits - you can
access it from wherever you
want, whenever you want.
Only virtual, no face to face
Limited access – it is not free.
Needs a really good internet
connection - if one person's
connection is less powerful, the
whole group suffers it and has to
wait. Sound and connection
You have to arrange meeting in
There is no list of all the
members of the collaboration
process, you cannot send them
message, only online
participants are in the list.
You can get information only if
you enter the virtual
environment - it requires some
It is useful only at the beginning
of the project.
The critical evaluation of the
Open source/paying
Team members
Collaboration process
Type of information
Stage of the project
3D model
3D model - navigation
Communication with physically
co-located team members.
Interdisciplinary collaboration.
Anyone can revise and mark up
documents interactively.
Efficient meeting flow without
changing controls.
You can have multiple
documents up at once.
Combining visual- and nonvisual information.
You can access the information
whenever you want, through the
whole stage of collaboration
The walkthrough helps by
making decisions. It helps
architects, because they
experience their building from
the perspective of a user.
Predefined views.
3D model - details
It helps to experience only
conceptual 3D models.
3D model - importing
You can import simple Sketch Up
3D model.
Combining different
Only one tool at the same time:
sharing information or walking
through the 3D model.
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3D model has to be prepared in
specific program (e.g. Sketch
Problems with navigation,
problems with moving around
with the avatar.
It is good only for the simple
building – more detailed models
don’t work well. Hard to get the
real impression of the building if
you don't have a lot of details.
Problems with importing large
3D models, complex
architectural forms and files
cannot be handled.
Hard to switch between
"walking through the model"
and "sharing information" at the
same time.
3D ICC, based on survey and
personal experiences.
Students pointed out that avatar mostly helped
them to identify scale of building and spaces. 87%
of students think that walking through the building
with your avatar effects the perception of the space
– comparison of avatar size to space.
you cannot imagine the place, and that 3D models
build upon the 2D plans. 2D and 3D drawings need
to be considered concurrently; the 3D model is critical in order to visualize the architectural model.
Evaluation of 3DICC, based on the survey
and own experiences
The Urban Experimental Lab (developed in previous
research work) and 3D ICC both offer many benefits:
the Urban Experimental Lab offers a real experiential
mode by using 3D glasses; 3D ICC is a virtually based
collaborative space for communication, collaboration and designing. The Urban Experimental Lab
requires one to be physically located at a specific
place (the lab is located in Vienna and a user must
be physically present in this lab), whereas 3D ICC is
available anywhere a reliable Internet connection
3DICC offers a variety of functions/elements, and
the most popular functions among the students
were walking through the building (82% students
used it), using sticky notes (76%), sharing information (71%) and interactive avatars (71%).
The connection between 2D plans and 3D models was also discussed. 73% of students claimed that
2D plans don’t illustrate the building sufficiently and
Table 2
The elements of DST and 3D
ICC, based on survey and own
The elements of DST
List of participants: name, purpose of being
involved, discipline, …
Text, communication tools - e.g. chat simultaneously
Text, communication tools - forum, blog –
Analysis, presentations.
Aerial photographs with street level imagery.
2D maps.
3D city models, 3D architectural models.
Visualizations, a realistic visual simulations.
Various scenarios.
Planning design aspect.
Experiential design aspect.
Educational module.
The elements of 3D ICC:
(+) yes; (o) mid; (-) no
(-) There is only list of names of online
(+) Individual and group chat.
(-) You can chat only with the participants
who are online at the same time as you are.
(o) Only if you posted them on the
(-) No direct link between real-life street level
and 3D model.
(o) You can post them on the whiteboards.
(+) Limits on the size of the model.
(o) Conceptual simulations.
(o) Only one scenario at the same time, but
you could switch between different
(+) Available from the bird view and
intermediate view.
(+) You can experience the site with your
avatar (pedestrian view).
(o) Learning takes place through direct
interaction with other disciplines, there are
no special educational modules
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The characteristics of DST
Online, virtually based, with no geographic /
location or time constraints.
Easy to use.
Easy to navigate 3D models.
Real-time information sharing and multiuser
Understandable for different users with
different knowledge background.
Save participants’ time.
Interdisciplinary collaboration.
is available. As face to face collaboration and virtual
collaboration are both really important and strongly
connected, these labs could be seen as support
for effective public participation in urban design.
Moreover, urban planning, which has already been
explored in the Urban Experimental Lab, could be
combined with urban design, as planning is always
connected with design and vice versa.
Positive sides of both Labs should be combined
in a distributed lab. By using both labs, each for a
specific purpose, their weaknesses and potentials
should be improved. Both of these labs should represent a part of the DST and each can offer specific
functions for the larger, overarching DST. These labs,
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The characteristics of 3D ICC:
(+) yes; (o) mid; (-) no
(+) It needs a really good