Tuesday, October 20, 2009

UNSudio and Parametric Modeling

Last night I attended the opening keynote for ACADIA 09 by UNStudio's head of design integration, Christian Veddeler. I write this with the assumption that you're familiar with both UNStudio's work and parametric modeling software.

While I am familiar with and admire their work, I saw Ben Van Berkel speak about the pavilion this past summer, I was intrigued to learn more about their design flow. Mr. Veddeler used the Mercedes Benz Museum as a case study.

Image courtesy UNStudio.

The Museum is based on a trefoil knot:

From there the knot was pulled and repeated vertically to create a double helix circulation strategy. Parametric modeling software was essential in keeping the project viable by keeping costs manageable while maintaining a fluid design process.

By applying parameters to elements of the project it allows them to focus on design without having to worry about the means and method of construction as much. For example, a parameter for repeating concrete formwork was applied to the curves and other elements (the entire structure is reinforced concrete). Once that was established they were free to manipulate the design to accommodate the pragmatic constraints that we architects are always faced with; program, square footage requirements, gravity, etc. In this way they weren't waiting until the end to address such things as making certain elements fit into a module so the project budget doesn't spiral out of control.

And don't most architects work in this way? We design a building with little regard to how it's going to get built only to have to go back to the drawing board once the construction bids come back over budget. In my opinion, software tools like parametric modeling are essential for architects wishing to push the envelop of design and construction. It certainly has been for UNStudios.


  1. This sounded really interesting. Have you come across a video of the lecture? I was at the keynote by autodesk and I saw they were filming but it seems that the trend is for these videos to go into storage instead of the web.

  2. In a timely respnse from one of the organizers, they are currently processing the audio and video but don't know when it will be available and if it will be available online. A copy of the proceedings can be purchased here, www.acadia.org/acadia2009/sales.html