We are Digital Structures, a research group at MIT working at the interface of architecture, structural engineering, and computation. We focus on the synthetic integration of creative and technical goals in the design and fabrication of buildings, bridges, and other large-scale structures. We are particularly interested in how digital techniques and tools can play an unexpected, collaborative role in these processes. Led by Professor Caitlin Mueller, the group is based in MIT’s Building Technology Program in the Department of Architecture, and also includes contributors from Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Center for Computational Engineering.
Felix Amtsberg's Bamboo Pavillion "Sombra Verde" opened in Singapore2018-05-09, Tags: 3d-printing additive-manufacturing digital-manufacturing fabrication
The bamboo pavilion “Sombra Verde” combines digital fabrication technology (I.E. 3D-printing) with natural grown resources in a spatial grid structure. Visual sensing digitizes the section geometry of each bamboo pole, which is used in two ways.
The bamboo poles are placed according their load-carrying capacity
The specific section geometry informs the digital model to fabricate a bespoke dowel system
Conventional 3D-Printers on PLA base materialize the 36 joints and 234 connectors using eco-friendly PLA and merge natural and "digital" materiality.
The project, which was developed and designed by Felix Amtsberg, Felix Raspall and Carlos Banon of AIRLab, can be visited in Duxton Plain Park until the 15th of June.
Yijiang Huang presented a poster at New England Symposium on Graphics2018-04-29, Tags: fabrication additive-manufacturing robotic-fabrication
Yijiang Huang is presenting the Choreo robotic assembly planning platform at the New England Symposium on Graphics, at MIT's STATA center, on April 29, 2018.
Digital Structures offers a workshop on active bending simulation at AAG 20182018-04-25, Tags: computation fabrication design-tool form-finding bending-active shaping
The workshop will explore the design of bending-active structures with variable cross-sections to fit a target design shape. Over the two days, the participants will use computational form-finding tools for bending-active structures, and design and build an arc lamp. The participants will learn state-of-the-art methods for simulating bending-active behavior, and for the control and optimization of their equilibrium shapes. These methods can be applied to the design of large scale bending-active structures such as elastic gridshells. The workshop is appropriate for all levels of expertise with bending-active simulations; we will provide the participants with computational tools and workflows to successfully design their own sculptures.
Designing with data: moving beyond the design space catalogNathan Brown and Caitlin Mueller, ACADIA, 2017
Design space catalogs, which present a collection of different options for selection by human designers, have become commonplace in architecture. Increasingly, these catalogs are rapidly generated using parametric models and informed by simulations that describe energy usage, structural efficiency, daylight availability, views, acoustic properties, and other aspects of building performance. However, by conceiving of computational methods as a means for fostering interactive, collaborative, guided, expert-dependent design processes, many opportunities remain to improve upon the originally static archetype of the design space catalog. This paper presents developments in the areas of interaction, automation, simplification, and visualization that seek to improve on the current catalog model, while also describing a vision for effective computer-aided, performance-based design processes in the future.
Digital brainstorming: New computational tools for creative data-driven designCaitlin Mueller, Nathan Brown, and Renaud Danhaive, ABX 2015: Conference for the Boston Society of Architects, 2015
This session focuses on tools that link conceptual design decisions in architecture to quantitative and qualitiative performance metrics, such as structural material volume, energy consumption, daylighting quality, and formal and spatial qualities. Developed by the Digital Structures research group at MIT, these tools emphasize design over analysis, aiming to help designers explore a wide range of diverse, surprising, and high-performing alternatives for conceptual design problems. Participants will learn strategies for using the tools in their own practices to navigate conceptual building design problems in a flexible yet data-driven way.
Structural grid shell design with Islamic pattern topologiesResearch, 2015 - 2017
Hängemattenbrücke (Hammock Bridge)Design, 2017
Structural lattice additive manufacturingResearch, 2015 - Present
Forces Frozen: Exploring Structural Ice ShellsWorkshop, 2014 - Present
Recent Blog Posts
IASS 2018 at MIT
We had a great time last month hosting the 2018 International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures at our home on MIT campus! Caitlin Mueller was the Chair of the Organizing Committee for IASS 2018, joined by John Ochsendorf of MIT, Sigrid Adriaenssens of Princeton University, Bill Baker of SOM, and John Abel of Cornell University.
Much of the conference took place in Eero Saarinen’s iconic Kresge Auditorium.
Throughout the conference we enjoyed outstanding speeches from our plenary speakers. Stay tuned for our next blog posts featuring some of the interviews with our plenary speakers that we published in our abstract book.
Plenary speaker Janet Echelman, artist and principal of Studio Janet Echelman.
Plenary speaker John Ochsendorf of MIT and American Academy in Rome.
Plenary speaker Tomohiro Tachi, associate professor in graphic and computer sciences at the University of Tokyo.
Plenary speaker James O’Callaghan of Eckersley O’Callaghan.
Plenary speaker Chuck Hoberman of Hoberman Associates.
56 technical sessions took place throughout the week, where 450 papers were presented.
We also introduced two new events to IASS: a panel on women in design and engineering, and a young designer’s mentorship lunch. These were made possible by Thornton Tomasetti and SOM, respectively.
The panel on women in design and engineering was moderated by Maria Garlock, professor in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University.
Panelists included Mariana Ibanez of I-K Studio and MIT (podium), Alloy Kemp of Thornton Tomasetti (third from right on stage), Lucile Walgenwitz of Guy Nordenson and Associates (second from right on stage), and Jane Wernick of engineersHRW (far right on stage).
Attendees of the panel were asked to submit and vote on questions to ask the panelists via a live portal.
At the Young Designers’ Mentorship Lunch, conference attendees enjoyed interfacing with peers and mentors at randomly assigned tables over lunch.
Another new feature of the conference was our video competition, which featured 21 fantastic submissions. Check them out!
The Young Designers’ Reception sponsored by Guy Nordenson and Associates took place on the 6th floor of the MIT Media Lab. Attendees enjoyed dinner with views of the Boston skyline and live music performed by Digital Structures’s Demi Fang on the violin.
Photos by Irina Chernyakova
The conference ended with an evening cruise on the Boston Harbor.
Photos by Olivia Huang
Not pictured are the workshops that kicked off the conference and the technical tours that were given throughout the New England area.
We had a great team of volunteers that made sure things went smoothly, in uniform… (photos by Danniely Alexandra and Courtney Stephen)
… and a final shoutout to Danniely Staback who made many aspects of the conference possible and successful!
IASS 2018 would not have been made possible without the support of our sponsors. Thank you!
Photos by Julia Irwin unless otherwise noted. Stay tuned on IASS 2018’s Facebook page for more photos.
Digital Structures academic year in review
Digital Structures enjoyed a fruitful academic year. We wanted to share some of our highlights with you as well as some events we're looking forward to in the future.
We also enjoyed presenting and representing Digital Structures at several other conferences around the world, including the Design Modeling Symposium Paris, Chicago Architecture Biennale, and the International Mass Timber Conference.
A design team led by Valentina won first place in the Mars City Design 2017 Competition for Urban Design.
We also enjoyed both hosting and presenting at ACADIA 2017 on our campus.
Finally, we enjoyed hosting and interviewing guest lecturers such as Les Robertson and SawTeen See in our 6th annual Edward and Mary Allen Lecture in Structural Design, glass artist Sophie Pennetier, Professor Christopher Robeller of TU Kaiserslautern, and Martha Tsigkari of Foster + Partners.
This spring two of our members are graduating: Yijiang and Brenda. Yijiang completed his thesis for a Master's of Science in Building Technology on "Automated Motion Planning for Robotic Assembly of Discrete Architectural Structures", and Brenda completed her thesis for a Master's of Engineering in Civil Engineering on "Minimizing Embodied Carbon in Multi-Material Structural Optimization of Planar Trusses". Congratulations!
Coming up, we're excited to hold a workshop on active bending simulation at AAG 2018 and to present on robotic extrusion at RobArch 2018. Hope to see you in July as we host IASS 2018 here on our own campus!
"A deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people": B.V. Doshi Receives the 2018 Pritzker Prize2018-03-22, Author: Mohamed Ismail
On the morning of March 7, 2018, it was announced that Balkrishna V. Doshi would be the 2018 recipient of the 45th Pritzker Prize in Architecture – the profession’s highest accolade. With a career spanning nearly 70 years, B. V. Doshi is the first South Asian architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Born to a Hindu family in the city of Pune in 1927, Doshi grew up around his grandfather’s furniture workshop. According to the Pritzker organization: "Alongside a deep respect for Indian history and culture, elements of his youth—memories of shrines, temples, and bustling streets; scents of lacquer and wood from his grandfather’s furniture workshop—all find a way into his architecture." Shortly after studying at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture in Mumbai, Doshi moved to Europe to practice as an architect. In 1950, Doshi attended the historic Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) conference in Hoddeson, England. Consequently, he found himself to be the only Indian attending a presentation of Le Corbusier’s design for Chandigarh, the future state capital of Punjab. Doshi requested to work for Le Corbusier on the spot and was told to submit a letter rather than a portfolio; on the basis of his handwriting alone, Doshi was able to join Le Corbusier’s office without pay.
BV Doshi in his studio at Sangath, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy of the Vastu Shilpa Foundation
BV Doshi and Le Corbusier touring Villa Sodhan, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy of the Architectural Review
On the surface, B.V. Doshi’s work reminds viewers of Louis Kahn’s geometries and Le Corbusier’s materiality – both of them were former collaborators and mentors to Doshi. But over the span of his career, Doshi developed an architectural language all his own and uniquely Indian. As the Pritzker organization stated: “With a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high quality, authentic architecture, he has created projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients, among others. Doshi is acutely aware of the context in which his buildings are located.” Amidst his vast portfolio, Doshi’s most acclaimed projects include the Aranya Low-Cost Housing Project, his office, Sangath (“an ongoing school where one learns, unlearns and relearns.”), and the Amdavad ni Gufa (Ahmedabad, 1995). As Louisa Hutton said in an introduction to his lecture at the Royal Academy in London, “Lamenting the degeneration of the city into a place for mere commercial transaction, Mr. Doshi argues for the creation of an authentic public realm of such quality that it will lodge in our memories…He sees architecture and in particular the open spaces between buildings…as being capable of fostering community relationships, social cohesion and, as a result, meaningful lives.” Doshi also founded the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology, a premier school of architecture in India, where he is dean emeritus.
BV Doshi's drawing of Sangath, Ahmedabad. Image courtesy of Archdaily
B.V. Doshi recently came to the attention of Digital Structures through his work with renowned Indian engineer, Mahendra Raj. Alongside designers like Charles Correa and Raj Rewal, Raj and Doshi are referred to as “fathers of Indian Modernism”, crafting an architectural legacy that continues to inspire designers to this day. Their impact on the education and practice of architects and engineers cannot be overstated – they brought the techniques and structural systems developing abroad and applied them to a newly independent nation’s search for a global identity. Both were educated and trained abroad but returned to India shortly after its independence to establish their own practices. As Mahendra Raj stated in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist (Domus, 2014): “Our common objective was to set up practices here, find our own roots and rise to the same stature that other countries had attained. We sought an Indian idiom that expressed our ancient culture but was in tune with modern times…For us engineers, there was the exposure to the new materials of concrete, steel, and precast concrete.”
Recounting his first interaction with Doshi, Raj said, “I knew of Doshi when I was working in Chandigarh on Le Corbusier’s building. I used to see these drawings that came from Le Corbusier’s office in Paris — they were very stylish, with things that we couldn’t decipher. We thought some Frenchman had drawn them, but then we found out it was Doshi making the drawings we were receiving.” Through their collaborations, Mahendra Raj and B.V. Doshi designed projects that are still considered feats of engineering and design to this day. These projects include the Tagore Memorial Hall (Ahmedabad, 1971) built with long-spanning folded plates of reinforced concrete, and Premabhai Hall (Ahmedabad, 1972) with its monumental cantilevers.
Tagore Hall in Ahmedabad, by BV Doshi and Mahendra Raj. Image courtesy of Architexturez
Premabhai Hall in Ahmedabad, by BV Doshi and Mahendra Raj. Image courtesy of Architexturez
Today, designers and researchers everywhere are following in their footsteps – including here, at MIT. With the support of the MIT Tata Center for Research and Design, Digital Structures is researching the design of materially-efficient structural elements in multi-story housing construction for India. This research has already benefited from a study of the work of B.V. Doshi and Mahendra Raj, and there is still much more to learn.
Speculative design of shaped beam structure for India. Image courtesy of Digital Structures
Having just celebrated his 90th birthday this past August, Doshi has already been the recipient of the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France (2011); Aga Khan Award for Architecture (1993-1995) for Aranya Community Housing; and Padma Shree National Award, Government of India (1976) among other recognitions. Doshi is also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and served on the Pritzker Prize Jury from 2005 to 2007. For the Architectural Review in 2016, William J.R. Curtis noted that the architect’s best work, “draws together both Doshi’s international inspirations and the results of his search for fundamentals in several areas of Indian tradition…Doshi’s aim of re-linking modern man with the rhythms of nature extends a Modernist utopia while returning to ancient wisdom.”
Digital Structures would like to add to the chorus of congratulations to Balkrishna V. Doshi on his well-earned award – we hope that this moment will be one of many to bring international attention to a rich legacy of architectural design and structural engineering in South Asia.