Monday, June 13, 2011

A good example of Generative Design

Good examples of generative design are hard to come by – because there aren’t many, especially, in architecture. What is often claimed as generative design usually turns out to be designer-driven design. This is perhaps, due to the late discovery of parametric history based design by architects and perhaps the failure of design academics to define Generative Design.

An interesting example of generative design is presented by Nate Holland at the ACADIA conference as part of his research. Nate is indeed practicing generative design as his work process exploits the computers generate and search capability in exploring of design possibilities at the two vertical extremes of the building: Firstly, at ground floor to locate the best shop location and then at the top levels to orient the towers according to the best views.

Project Teaser from Nate Holland on Vimeo.

I like the equation “Profit = Revenue – Cost ” because these terms are measurable. These are terms that architects shy away from often preferring to discuss their work in illusionary terms that defy measurement. However, Economic and environmental imperatives are now making architecture much more numerically accountable. I am not proposing architecture to a numerical activity like engineering. But I think, doing so will do a lot of good for generative design; because, if all of us carry our own yardstick we will be spinning our own yarns.

The means of measuring the efficacy of design is essential for the evolution of design methods. Despite decades of academic research , the evolution of design methods have been relatively slow and is now mostly driven by the evolution of tools (CAD). Generative design will benefit greatly from the discussion on design methods moving from marketing brochures to open discussions, and that is now beginning to happen. What is the best way to layout a store in the base of a building? What is the best way to orient towers with regards to views – these are some of the important issues that Nate has addressed.

The ability to measure provides us a means to verify the efficacy of methods. Dodging it will push architecture backwards and into the hands of those who can talk about it in languages that we do not understand. The reality is that any complex design problem is a multi criteria design problem. For sure, some of these criteria will defy measurement and they should. But many need not. Cost, rentability and thermal performance are some of them. Generative design is likely to prove its efficacy in these areas. Nate’s attempt to build in evaluatory criteria into design exploration are certainly in the right direction.

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