Generative Design Exploration

Generative Design Exploration: Computation and Material Practice

Mania Aghaei Meibodi
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment

Today, computation serves as an important intermediary agent for the integration of analyses and the constraints of materialisation into design processes. Research efforts in the field have emphasised digital continuity and conformity between different aspects of a building project. Such an approach can limit the potential for significant discoveries, because the expression of architectural form is reduced to the varying tones of one fabrication technique and simulation at a time.

This dissertation by Mania Aghaei Meibodi argues that disparate sets of digital and physical models are needed to incorporate multiple constraints into the exploration, and that the way the designer links them to one another significantly impacts the potential for arriving at significant discoveries. Discoveries are made in the moment of bridging between models, representational mediums, and affiliated processes.

This dissertation examines the capacity of algorithm—as a basis for computation—to diversify and expand the design exploration by enabling the designer to link disparate models and different representational mediums. It is developed around a series of design experiments that question how computation and digital fabrication can be used to diversify design ideation, foster significant discoveries, and at the same time increase flexibility for the designer’s operation in the design process.

The experiments reveal the interdependence of the mediums of design—algorithm, geometry, and material—and the designer’s mode of operation. They show that each medium provides the designer with a particular way of incorporating constraints into the exploration.

From the way the designer treats these mediums and the design process, two types of exploration are identified: goal oriented and open-ended. In the former, the exploration model is shaped by the designer’s objective to reach a specified goal through the selection of mediums, models, and tools.

In the latter, the design process itself informs the designer’s intention. From the kinds of interdependencies that are created between mediums in each experiment, three main exploration models emerge: circular and uniform, branched and incremental, and parallel and bidirectional.

Finally, this dissertation argues that the theoretical case for integral computational design and fabrication must be revised to go beyond merely applying established computational processes to encompass the designer and several design mediums. The new model of design exploration is a cooperation between algorithm, geometry, materials, tools, and the designer.

For the exploration to be novel, the designer must play a significant role by choosing one medium over another when formulating the design problem and establishing design drivers from the set of constraints, by linking the design mediums, by translating between design representations, and by describing the key aspects of the exploration in terms of algorithms.