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This is my blog while at the MSAAD program of the GSAPP of Columbia University. 1st post came with my arrival at NYC. e-mail: eb2283@columbia.edu, ezio@otn.gr, ezioblasetti@gmail.com 

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

10:46 AM - Independent Research – GSAPP – Spring 2006

Team Ezio Blasetti, Mark Collins Toru Hasegawa, Dave Pigram + Roland Snooks.

Supervisor Hernan Diaz Alonso

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Blogger ezio said...

Independent Research – GSAPP – Spring 2006


Ezio Blasetti, Mark Collins Toru Hasegawa, Dave Pigram + Roland Snooks.


Hernan Diaz Alonso

If architecture is the imagining of possible worlds, then the true value of the computer in architecture lies not in the expedition, nor enhanced visualization of traditional design processes, but in the expansion of architectures possibilities. It does this through the creation of architecture that was previously impossible and perhaps even unimaginable. It is our contention that the computers most powerful tool toward this end is that of computation, its ability to manage large volumes of information.

This independent research project will explore the role of computation in the generation and construction of architecture, demonstrating the ways in which these two modes can form a symbiotic relationship. Architecture, in general, and digitally generated architecture in particular, often has a significant discontinuity between design process and the means and methods of construction, and a corresponding discontinuity between imagined and realized. The project will attempt to bring generative design and construction methodologies into an intertwined, reciprocal relationship. This removes all discontinuity and allows for the positive contribution of constructional or material intelligence to the generation of the architecture.

Our understanding of computation is not related to the digital; “a computation is an operation that begins with some initial conditions and gives an output which follows from a definite set of rules”1. We are as interested in the computational ability of natural systems and materials, such as the formation of flocks of birds or soap films, as computational processes.

The most significant self-imposed constraint of the project is to construct the largest possible actualization of this investigation – to American size it. This implies a tendency towards optimization which itself will be explored as both a positive and negative force within the design process.

Project aims

In order to demonstrate the described integral relationship between design and construction, it is of course necessary to construct the project. In doing this our primary aims will be to explore the form of computational architecture, and how something big and strange can be constructed on a small and standard budget (the project which gives you more bang for your buck!). Our common experience of computationally generative architecture is that it tends toward geometric complexity, as such this project will actively engage new materials and methods in the design, articulation and construction of these geometries.

Project description

The integral process of design and construction will engage:

* A generative design technique
* Genetic algorithms
* Material and construction research
* Logistics and funding

A non-linear feedback loop of these aspects is achieved through the embedding of material/financial/formal intelligence in the early stages of the genetic design, allowing for an “smart” speciation of a design object. Clearly, a material/structural logic allows for a numeric performance attribute to be evaluated by the ruthless mathematics of the computer. However, we are not only interested in the most efficient or the biggest, even though this holds sway in any discussion of “American Size.” Persistence as a species must be informed by multiple inputs, a performative manifold. To see the full potential of the genetic design process, we intend to “American Size” the genetic process, in terms of a variety of performance criteria, thousands of iterations and a heavy population. Currently, the goal is at least 10,000 generations. Given a small quantum of difference in each iteration, the speciation of architecture over an enormous timeline should yield a robust variability to be selected, both “naturally” (computationally) and “unnaturally” (intuitively). This issue of “selection” will be explored in terms of creating a learning algorithm, that allows the user to inject his or her own aesthetic sensibility without diminishing the capacity of the computer to generate and evaluate countless possibilities.


While we believe that the aims and objectives of this project will make it a unique contribution to architecture. It is situated within, and builds upon, an intellectual context that is neither new, nor in any way limited to the digital domain. It extends, via Frei Otto and the work of Antoni Gaudi, to the Gothic Cathedral builders all of whose forms were strongly influenced by material properties and therefore by material forms of computation. Our contribution will be to extend this knowledge into a digital computational space where millions of possibilities could be understood and evaluated. The degree to which the architecture becomes responsive, or more specifically, responsible, for its own presence, the labor that is required to create it, and the cost under which it operates, will become a metric by which it will be judged.

Measures of success

This project, upon completion, will be deemed successful in direct proportion to the extent to which it fulfills the following objectives:

* Demonstration that the processes undertaken can generate genuinely innovative possibilities for architecture
* Demonstration that the actual construction of the project added to, and did not in any way diminish, its strength, both formally (i.e. perceptually) and conceptually.
* External Recognition: acknowledgment from outside of the academic realm that this project is of a high standard and has expanded the domain of architecture by demonstrating additional possibilities, formal or intellectual, by way of the undertaken design and construction techniques. This recognition may be reflected by publication or by invitation of the work, for subsequent exhibition, or to the project team, to lecture about the project and the ideas that lead to its inception.
* Professional standard of workmanship
* American Size: Is the project bigger (and better) than would have been achieved in a one-off design practice? Has it actively interrogated the realms of finance, material, and form to arrive beyond what could have been achieved with a traditional design methodology?  

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