University of Cambridge > > Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars > Computing for Creativity and Performance in Structural Design

Computing for Creativity and Performance in Structural Design

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Maria Marques de Carvalho.

In the realm of buildings and large-scale structures, shape and geometry often have a direct and important influence on measures of performance, such as material efficiency. Since Galileo’s Two New Sciences in 1638, scholars, engineers, and architects have explored how to shape structural elements and carve material away to achieve strength and stiffness targets while using as little matter as possible. Today, many computational methods are available to optimally distribute material in 3D space for maximum performance across a number of disciplines, such as shaping a building’s mass for maximum solar performance or its structure for maximum stiffness. However, despite the existence of such methods in academia since the 1970s, their use in practice at the architectural scale has been extremely limited. This talk will address two key reasons for the limited uptake of performance-driven shaping. The first is the difficulty in reconciling the singular outputs of optimization methods with the multi-faceted and qualitative nature of architectural design. Designers need to be active agents in the process of designing shape to incorporate aesthetics, context, culture, etc., so geometries generated solely by the computer without human input are of minimal value. New methods to integrate designers into shape optimization processes, such as interactive optimization and design space exploration methods, have the potential to overcome this challenge. The second problem with conventional optimization in architecture is that existing methods typically disregard materialization and construction. This talk will discuss several new directions in the field of digital fabrication that directly link the performance-driven design generation of shape with processes for material production, fabrication, and assembly. Together, these two research directions offer new potential for shape in architecture to be responsive to performance, materialization, and designer intention simultaneously.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars series.

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