Towards Radical Regeneration

Technology is the answer, but what is the question?” famously asked Cedric Price to an audience of architects and engineers in 1966.

In the age of the growing inequalities, climate crisis, and ecosystem collapse, the questions could not be clearer for researchers, educators, and practitioners in the Architecture Engineering Construction (AEC) fields, nor the answers more urgently needed. The certainty that technology alone can be the answer is rapidly waning. Since 1950, the world has been undergoing what some have dubbed the Great Acceleration, which is the steady and approximately simultaneous
increase in growth rates across a wide range of indicators of human activity. The indicators are many and varied. Whether population, real GDP, primary energy
use, water use, transportation, telecommunications, or inequality, all areas of production and consumption have undergone a near exponential growth in the last
70 years. The growth of the socio-economic indicators mentioned above is paralleled by the spike registered in the Earth System indicators such as nitrous oxide, methane, stratospheric ozone, ocean acidification, tropical forest loss, domesticated land, and terrestrial biosphere degradation. This pressure on the planetary boundaries is directly associated with the risk of abrupt environmental change.

In the public perception, two closely related parameters represent this development: the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and surface
temperature. But the steady, unchecked increase in almost all indicators of human activity affects far more than these easily perceived parameters. It amounts to a change of the entire planetary metabolism. As scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science reported in 2020, global human-made mass now exceeds all
living biomass. The rise in our activities is radically changing the material composition of the Earth surface, and—unsurprisingly—construction materials,
especially concrete, play a very significant role. The combined weight of all buildings and infrastructure (*1100 Gt) far exceeds the mass of all trees and shrubs
worldwide (*900 Gt), and concrete is the most used substance worldwide, second only to water.

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Impact: Design With All Senses

Spatial Design is a fundamental practice in humans’ shaping of the material world. As a cultural technique, it is a key activity in the design-based disciplines as well as in the arts and in engineering. The digital revolution has led to the development not only of new spatial design technologies, devices and tools, but also of new fundamental processes and strategies, in which generative procedures make algorithms an indispensable component in the design process. But it is not only technological possibilities that are progressing. The social configurations of spatial design are also shifting, as are spatial awareness and spatial experience. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between environments and technology: surfaces are becoming interfaces, inhabitants are becoming nodes, and products are transforming into services. As a consequence, established concepts of authorship, ‘reality’ and ‘authenticity’ need to be re-evaluated.

All forms of design are increasingly using digital representations and digital tools to provide more immediate feedback on the designs being generated. In this context, we can observe a gradual convergence of artistic and technical design processes. Media art and design are drawing intensively from technological developments, whereas the development of technical products and services are increasingly considering non-technical aspects such as user experience and intuition.

By synthesizing artistic, theoretical and technological perspectives and positions, the symposium will provide a platform for key research questions about the role of the digital in relation to art, architecture and design, and the impact on the future of society, environment and innovation. In this context the integration of life cycle analysis as a fundamental parameter of any design exploration and optimisation seems to be key question in the further production of human physical and social space in all scales. What will be our impacts for further generations and how could we adapt the new design methods and environments in combination with digital fabrication processes and innovative material systems to a new quality in a Regenerative Design.

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Humanizing Digital Reality

Book: Design Modelling Symposium Paris 2017, Humanizing Digital Reality:
What is the influence of humans in controlling CAD and how much is human in control of its surroundings? How far does our reach as humans really go? Do the complex algorithms that we use for city planning nowadays live up to their expectations and do they offer enough quality? How much data do we have and can we control? Are today’s inventions reversing the humanly controlled algorithms into a space where humans are controlled by the algorithms? Are processing power, robots for the digital environment and construction in particular not only there to rediscover what we already knew and know or do they really bring us further into the fields of constructing and architecture?

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Modelling Behaviour

The Conference Proceedings reflect and expand on the current trend in the building industry to understand, simulate and ultimately design buildings by taking into consideration the interlinked elements and forces that act on them. This approach overcomes the traditional, exclusive focus on building tasks, while posing new challenges in all areas of the industry from material and structural to the urban scale. Contributions from invited experts, papers and case studies provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of the field, as well as perspectives from related disciplines, such as computer science. The chapter authors were invited speakers at the 5th Symposium „Modelling Behaviour“, which took place at the CITA in Copenhagen in September 2015.

Buy the e-book DMSC 2015 Conference Proceedings here.

For photos of the DMSC 2015 Conference and Workshops click here.

For presentation videos of the DMSC 2015 Conference click here.

Rethinking Prototyping

The 4th Design Modelling Symposium Berlin “Rethinking Prototyping”took place with about 250 participants at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany between 28 September until Wednesday 2 October 2013. As in previous years, the Symposium consisted of two parts, two days of Workshops and Master Classes followed by a three-day Conference with Keynote Lectures, Case Studies and Poster Sessions.

Design modelling has benefited from computation but in most projects to date there is still a strong division between computational design and simulation leading up to construction and the completed building  that is cut off from the computational design modelling.

The Design Modelling Symposium Berlin 2013 would like to challenge the participants to reflect on the possibility of computational systems that bridge design phase and occupancy of buildings. This rethinking of the designed artifact beyond its physical has had profound effects on other industries already. How does it affect architecture and engineering?

With our Call for Papers we have called for projects in architecture, design and engineering that address the domain specific challenges in these fields. Connectivity is another important factor which has strong implications especially for urban design and questions of infrastructure design and use. In some cases ubiquitous information may lead to the disappearance of long established building typologies and in other cases large hidden infrastructure is being created to enable such computational networked systems.

At the scale of engineering and building systems new perspectives may open up by engaging built form as a continuous prototype, which can track and respond during use and serve as a real world implementation of its design model. This has been tried many times from intelligent façades to smart homes and networked grids but much of it was only technology driven and not approached from a more holistic design perspective.

Furthermore as a critical level of connectivity is reached previously isolated computational systems may now benefit from access to data from a vast range of sources. But how does design respond? What are changes or new approaches previously impossible? How do we update the false promise of a technological future that’s reliant on replacing everything old with the new with an integrated approach that works with existing infrastructure and the build environment through intelligent interventions? Embedded computational systems can have an impact on both the design process as well as play a role in the built environment. It is this connection we would like to discuss in more depth during the Design Modelling Symposium Berlin.

Complexity and Responsibility

Contemporary architectural production employs an increasing number of computational tools that expand their role within the design process. CAD/CAM technologies have matured into applications with increasingly user-friendly program structures and an efficient exchange between various analytical tools.

Computational geometry enables the design and manufacturing of complex surface configurations, a capacity beyond the repertoire of analog architectural practices constrained by the limitations of descriptive geometry. CAD/CAM technology have been used successfully to achieve novel architectural expression by enabling digital geometry to drive digital fabrication processes. These innovations that have changed the work flow and design approach of a wide range of architectural practices.

In parallel to these advances, limitations have become apparent. In many cases the relationship between design idea and computational tool seems reversed. The resulting buildings appear as reduced materialization of the possibilities of the design tools that shaped them. Only few examples exist where computational tools are used to develop design solutions for complex building programs within a moderate budget, yet driven by a rich conceptual approach that ventures beyond established theoretical paradigms of computational practice.

On the basis of these observations, a critical evaluation of the relationships between tool, conceptual model and final materialization appears necessary. The promise of an increased role of computation in the design of architecture lies in the manifold solutions that exceed human calculative capacities. A good example is the experimental use of FEM based analysis and generative form finding methods in structural design. However, these processes depend strongly on boundary conditions induced in the problem setup defined by the architect or engineer. Each optimization—be it structural or environmental —therefore can only produce a result within the realm of the abstracted (computational) model and cant not seen as a final solution for the physical world.

The complexity of the interconnected and often conflicting information required to shape a building remains a challenge for contemporary computational processes. A future architectural practice needs to cultivate a critical awareness of such limitations in order to develop successful future strategies.

The critical dialog that we envision and encourage at the Design Modelling Symposium Berlin 2011 should be achieved by a collective contemplation of these current approaches and their related technological developments. We would like to promote discussion on future strategies for a reasonable and innovative implementation of computational design.

The following lectures and talks presented at the Design Modelling Symposium Berlin 2011 is a cross section through current cutting edge research in the field. Some of the presentations respond to the challenges and questions formulated above, others open up new discourses departing from the topics outlined here.

Beyond Complex Geometry

The Symposium sees itself as an international interdisciplinary platform of designers, developers and scientists of the disciplines architecture, design and engineering. In all three areas the fundamental technological principals of designing, planning and building have changed radically. CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Com-puter Aided Manufacturing) are nowadays an integral part in concept and planning processes. FEM (Finite Element Method) helps in analysing and optimising more and more complex structures. It is now possible to simulate and explore complex coherences between material, structure and climate. New materials open up the development of more effective constructions, new spatial and material experiences. The Design Modelling Symposium would like to encourage discussion about the tar-get course of this development by exchanging the experiences in appliance of such new technologies. Rather than the prospects of modelling complex geometries and structures, the main focus lies in new concepts and design strategies emerging from the application of new technologies. Another emphasis is the discussion of the role of analogue and digital models in the design and planning process as well as questions regarding realisation of complex geometries and construction systems.

3D Modelling Symposium

Even if the new digital tools of CAGD (Computer Aided Geometric Design) and the rapid deployed computational environments help to create and to visualise their adequate geometries, the software programmes may not necessarily help to understand, construct and build those geometries. A deep observation and critical analysis of the new digital tools is necessary to govern them. Further the same understanding of the fundamental ideas of mathematical and physical formfinding is required in order to optimise the virtual models. The workflow as a sythesis starting from visualisation, leading to formulation of digital and physical models, the verification of the defined geometries with finite elements and the realisation of prototypes requires a true interdisciplinary approach. The contemporary design passes through the integration of other disciplines – structural engineering, applied mathematics and programming. Aesthetic and technical parametres influence a successful design.

These keynotes should be the basis for our further teaching and research activities in the following disciplines: Architecture, Engineering and Industrial Design. Thus the 3D Modelling Symposium Berlin is conisidered as a forum for design oriented disciplines including the realms stated above, with an increasing interest in complex and generic geometries. The three-day event gives a review of the actual state of demands and discussions in the world of 3D-modelling, formfinding and prototyping. In the Key Lectures expert speakers present multi-discipline applications, mostly about Formfinding and Generative Design, whereas participants of the Case Studies deepen the 3D-modelling skills by experienced instructors in the fields of High Quality Surfacing and Scripting.