Realtime Structural Design

Before a new structure can be built, it must be designed. This design phase is a very important step in the building process. The total cost of the structure and its structural performance are largely dependent on the structural design process. The impact of decisions on the design process is initially high and declines as the design matures. However, few computational tools are available for the conceptual design phase; thus, an opportunity exists to create such tools. In the conventional workflow, the architect uses geometric modeling tools and the engineer uses structural analysis tools in sequential steps. Parametric modeling tools represent an improvement to this workflow, as structural analysis plug-ins are available. This allows the architect or engineer to receive structural feedback at an earlier stage, but still as a sequential step to the geometric modeling.

The present thesis by Daniel Akesson aims to improve this workflow by integrating structural feedback with geometric modeling. The user interfaces of conceptual design tools should be interactive and agile enough to follow the designer’s iterative workflow. Direct manipulation involves human-computer interaction, which enables an interactive user interface. In this user interface style, users can directly manipulate on-screen objects using real-world metaphors, which engages the users with their task and encourages further explorations. This is achieved by reducing the perceptual and cognitive resources required to understand and use the interface.

New technologies have opened up the possibility of creating new design tools that make use of very direct manipulation. This possibility is further explored in this thesis through the development of two such applications. The first application makes use of multi-touch tablets. The multi-touch interface has literally closed the gap between humans and computers, enabling very direct manipulation interactions with two-dimensional user interfaces. The developed application is an interactive conceptual design tool with real-time structural feedback that allows the user to quickly input and modify structural models through the use of gestures. The second application extends these concepts and ideas into a three-dimensional user interface using an input device named the Leap Motion Controller.

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