Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ACADIA 2009 Revisited: Day 3 - Middleware

Ben Raines and Ken Maschke
"Data Flow and Communication in the Design of Complex Architectural Forms"

Presenting in tandem, Ben and Ken as they were affectionately referred to, explained the nature of the collaboration between architect and engineer on three projects undertaken by AS+GG and TT. The projects, Crystal Center, Matrix Gateway Complex (Winner of a 2010 P/A Award), and the Wings Museum, were all 3 located at various locations in the once bustling land of architectural excess known as Dubai. The projects all provided unique architectural and structural challenges. Ben and Ken stressed that successful complex projects are contingent upon the effective transfer of information between the parties involved, in order to provide a fully integrated and coordinated design scheme. In developing the designs both teams satisfy the need for design exploration by building digital models that serve the purposes of unique to their individual trades. For the architects, 3d models built in Rhinoceros 3d can be used to test architectural decisions through massing and surface models, renderings, exported plan and section information, or surfaces that can be exported to analysis software, like Ecotect, to test environmental responsiveness. For the engineers, models built in SAP2000 can be used for finite element analysis, or FEA, in order to accurately determine stresses on load-bearing members, and Tekla to develop and store values for, in the case of the Wings Museum, a diagrid exoskeleton structural system. The diagrid system required especially close collaboration between Ben and the AS+GG team and Ken and the TT team. The architectural team controlled the visual expression of the diagrid and created a mesh of triangular design surfaces and nodes that can be exported in a format that serves the purposes necessary for the structural team to analyze the stresses in all members of the system and size them accordingly. To complete the loop, the engineers then send tabular data from the FEA back to the architects that allow them to interpret the results in such a way that they can give 3d mass to their original design mesh. Using parametric software, in this case Grasshopper 3D, designers can store and order data from both the FEA and 3d model elements from Rhino and subsequently define the relationships between the two to be able to quickly, efficiently and accurately model a diagrid skin of glass and steel. Ben and Ken concluded by stating that the above process is rich yet involves significant forethought to make sure that all lines of communication are open and readily passable and that all parties involved can speak the same language. However, they offered a caution that software cannot make the final decisions and the design professionals involved must close the loop to be able to produce great buildings.

Brady Peters
"Parametric Acoustic Surfaces"

Brady Peters has been at the forefront of the discourse revolving around parametric modeling and scripting for a number of years now. Formerly an associate at Foster and Partners in London, Peters was involved with the Specialist Modeling Group. The SMG, as it is known, is an in house consultancy at Foster's that provides support to design teams by performing a number of advanced modeling tasks including geometric rationalization, optimization, writing of custom computer programs for project specific tasks, and component based design. Examples of projects by Foster and Partners that were heavily influenced by the SMG are two clear span roof projects, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Great Court at the British Museum in London. Both are examples of structures designed, fabricated and installed using parametric software. In both these cases Bentley's Generative Components was used. Peters has moved on from Foster and Partners and is currently working towards his PhD in architecture at Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Peters' work focuses on how space and sound define architectural surfaces. Parametric software allows Peters to use metric data from an environment, in this case sound wave energy, and then use that data to drive a change, i.e., size, angle, radius, etc., in a series of local geometries, or components, which in turn influence the global aesthetic. The result is a geometric construct that is performing according to the relationships and metrics that Peters defines.

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