Computational design for Architecture

Bioclimatic architecture design solutions are implemented more efficiently through digital technology, such as computational design, also called parametric modeling. We already know that bioclimatic architecture solutions are inspired by the knowledge of the functioning mechanisms of organisms found in nature. The aim is to imitate their behavior and exploit their potential applied to architectural creations and projects, to allow us to imagine technologically advanced solutions, strategies and tools to solve the major problems of comfort of buildings, their functionality and air conditioning according to the need for energy saving and reduction of environmental impact.

This new approach to architectural design allows to experiment and develop solutions that manage not only to reduce the environmental impact – being themselves derived from nature – but also to improve the performance and reactions of sustainable, adaptable and more performing products and materials.

But let’s see how.

Architecture and computational design for eco-sustainability

The study and the information acquired, through research on organisms and systems of nature, went hand in hand with research on new technologically efficient tools. Computational design applied to architecture is one of these.

Computational design is the product of the union of two disciplines: design and computation.

The spread of digital design software is the necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the affirmation of the parametric architectural current that wants to materialize the complexity of the contemporary world. The architect, the designer, the creator always remains the irreplaceable “mind” (at least so far!), The one who decides and fixes the result to be obtained.

On the other hand, the “computation” is used to correctly enter data and parameters in order to manage the software. Therefore, Computational design combines the creative, functional, symbolic and productive factors that lead to the creation of a design object, with optimization of algorithms underlying the computation, which transform the complexity of reality into a succession of simple elements.

It is an evolution of Computer Aided Design (CAD) towards a much more complex design logic, where representation is replaced by simulation and the generation of integrated systems. Computational design is basically a system based on advanced visual programming languages that include various activities, ranging from Big Data management to automated generation of shapes.

The use of parametric modeling for architectural design allows to overcome geometric limits and obtain unique shapes and solutions. All thanks to data and parameters that, modified, create infinite possibilities. New programming and coding languages, modeling and 3D printing, such as Grasshopper, allow us to faithfully reproduce the functions and cellular structures of organisms, as well as the systems of organization and evolutionary adaptation typical of natural habitats. This is the sector in which biomimetic architecture develops, a relatively young science that combines biology and technology.

Read more to know some examples of bioclimatic architecture

The article, entitled “Potentials of robotic fabrication in wood construction” by Oliver David Krieg and Achim Menges, presents the current research on the architectural potential deriving from robotic fabrication. A wooden structure has been created, made up of sheets of wood folded to form “curved finger joints” .The experiment shows current developments in computational design and digital fabrication propose an integrative design approach contrary to classical, hierarchical architectural design processes.

Architecture related fields, such as material science, engineering and fabrication have been seen as separate disciplines in a linear design process since the Industrialization era. However, current research in computational design reveals the potentials of their integration and interconnection for the development of material-oriented and performance-based architectural design, with particular attention to biomimetic eco-sustainable materials.

The robot’s high degree of kinematic freedom opens up the possibility of developing complex and highly performative mono-material connections, never previously made.

Buildings simultaneously become envelope and structure. 

The architectural and design visions by Zaha Hadid

Just think also of the visions of the Zaha Hadid Firm, thanks to which “it was possible to break the isolated and closed block, building porous and permeable buildings”, as stated by the Iraqi-British architect who died in 2016, the first woman selected to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize for 2004. Zaha Hadid produced numerous architetcures, in the sinuous style that became her trademark. Zaha Hadid has made sinuous shapes and abstract geometries her trademark.

The new design approach “consists of the parametric malleability of all architectural and urban elements”. The malleable character of the architectural material is essential, to be adapted to the context.

Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku, Azerbaigian

City Life, Milan

Al Janoub Stadium, Qatar

For the Al Janoub Stadium, designed for the football world cup to be held in Qatar in 2022, inaugurated in Al Wakrah on May 16, 2019, Zaha Hadid Architects said they thought of a “ The stadium was designed in conjunction with a new precinct so that it sits at the heart of an urban extension of the city, creating community-based activities in and around the stadium on non-event days”.

The shape was inspired by the sails of traditional Dau boats, traditional Arab sailboats, used by used by pearl divers from the region. The curved roof and the outside refer to the history of Al Wakrah’s navy, and the spectators inside have the realistic sensation of being on board a ship. Therefore, the building is meant to resemble upturned dhow hulls arranged in a huddle to provide shade and shelter.  Beams placed “in the bow” support the roof system.

The main feature of the stadium is the possibility of completely closing the roof, which is retractable, with a tensile structure designed by Schlaich Bergermann Partner: the roof is made of fabric and pleated PTFE cables, with the roof arches being 230 meters long. The cooling system prevents the stadium’s users from overheating, due to Qatar’s hot and arid climate. It is capable of cooling the spectator areas to 18°C and the field of play to 20°C.

According to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), “detailed micro-climate analysis informed the arena’s shape, with aerodynamics and optimal shading from the roof ,which incorporates a minimal amount of glass, making a significant contribution to temperature control.”

Biomimetics and computational design, the innovation of digital fabrication for biomimetic buildings, designed by robots

The innovation of digital manufacturing is represented by:

  • speed of construciton;
  • very precise manufacturing;
  • efficient and advanced detection methods;
  • possibility of simultaneously having the envelope and structure of a building;
  • striking visual effects inside and outside.

The first prototype of a wooden structure made by a robot in the world dates back to 2014. Thanks to the computational design, it was possible to create, for the first time with the aid of a robot, a biomimetic wooden building. The shape of the envelope takes up the skeleton of sea urchins, a modular organism composed of individual elements of connected calcium carbonate. In the same way, in the Landesgartenschau Exibition hall 2014 pavilion, designed at the University of Stuttgart, this structure is made up of thin multilayer beech plates and interlocked with each other through joints on the edges, with a precision never before achieved. Characteristics of the materials, measurements and manufacturing principles are part of a simulation and optimization system in which the shapes are designed robotically.

Landesgartenschau Exibition hall, Stuttgart

These are just some of the examples of parametric architecture, realized through computational design. We are only at the dawn of how the new frontier of architectural design and the construction of spaces is developing.

Progettazione in Grasshopper

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