Conflict and Compromise An Evolutionary Framework for the Design of Multi-Storey Timber Buildings
Sammanfattning: In January 1995, the architect John Frazer’s groundbreaking study, An Evolutionary Architecture, was published to coincide with an exhibition of the same name at the Architectural Association in London. The book proposed a new methodology for the architectural design process, based on a radical repositioning of the role of the architect. Its fundamental premise was that an abundance of possible future design trajectories could be predicted, explored, evaluated, and accelerated through generative and evolutionary computing techniques, making for the possible advancement of a more sustainable future built environment based on form-generating processes that use the scripting of code as a representation of genetic characteristics that allow architectural structures to be treated as a form of artificial life. As the design iterations (study models, or sketches) begin to operate like organisms, developmental and evolutionary processes can be made to act upon the resulting structures in response to a specific site and context with unique environmental and weather data, programmatic concerns, and functional performance criteria. As Gordon Pask writes in his foreword to the book, Frazer’s ideas point toward a far-reaching change in practice: “The role of the architect here, I think, is not so much to design a building or city as to catalyse them: to act that they may evolve”. Frazer was at least a few decades ahead of his time: around 2009-2010, David Rutten (a developer with Robert McNeel & Associates), released Galapagos, an evolutionary solver that works with Rutten’s Grasshopper graphical algorithm editor, which in turn has been pivotal to the recent transformation of parametric design practices. Arguably, Galapagos brought evolutionary solvers to the (digital design-interested) masses. The plug in made it relatively simple to create a wide spectrum of design iterations based on evolutionary logics. Architecture is a conditional field of constantly varying parameters. Architects design compromises between these parameters. Perhaps it follows logically that the most successful architects are those that manage the art of compromising the best. One possible way of using compromise as a constructive tool is to investigate the concept of ‘fitness’ through evolutionary computation. If we allow several competing objectives (genes) to participate in the creation of successful compromised positions (genomes), we might find interesting and novel material and spatial organisations between the controlled and the serendipitous. We might allow gradients of objectives to inform different (or indeed the same) parts of our buildings, pit material properties against circulatory efficiency, structural considerations against financial implications. It might well be that the most interesting works to come out of such a paradigm will arise from the most unexpected combinations of objectives: what is the outcome of a balancing act between atomic structure and programmatic diversification? Energy generation and speed of construction? Cost and happiness? The present study seeks to investigate how such an evolutionary framework might be set up for the design of multi-storey timber buildings. It uses as examples several architectural projects that were designed as part of a wider study into the future of such buildings, and which all employ evolutionary computation to optimise the structures and their potential performances.
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