Digital Structures' first interactive design tool, structureFIT, is a free web-based platform for exploring the structural design of planar trusses. Based on an interactive evolutionary algorithm, the tool allows designers to navigate design spaces that link geometric design variables with structural performance in a flexible and creative way. The tool is organized into three phases: problem setup, where an initial design and variables are input, exploration, where designers can iteratively generate and select design alternatives, and refinement, where designers can make changes to a selected design and observe performance implications in real time. Performance is indicated by a numerical score that reflects required structural material volume, normalized by the volume of an initial design, and includes stress and buckling considerations. For more technical and detailed information about structureFIT, see here and here.
To access structureFIT, you must have Silverlight installed in your web browser. Unfortunately, this technology has been deprecated and is no longer supported by default in common browsers like Google Chrome. However, it is still possible to use structureFIT by either enabling your browser's NPAPI plugins (e.g. in Chrome) or by using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Once your browser is correctly configured, you can start using structureFIT here.
Since the development of structureFIT, Digital Structures has focused on extending the tool's underlying principals of design freedom and directed exploration to other platforms, including popular parametric design interfaces such as Grasshopper and Dynamo. Our ongoing work in this area is summarized in the Parametric Plugins section below.
Moo: Multi-objective optimization for Grasshopper2015 - Present
Stormcloud: Interactive evolutionary exploration for Grasshopper2014 - 2015
Sampling tool for Grasshopper2014
Moo: Multi-objective optimization for Grasshopper
2015 - Present
Moo is a tool that helps designers understand and investigate tradeoffs between multiple design goals. Using the NSGA-II algorithm, which uses an evolutionary approach to iteratively approach the Pareto front, this tool connects parametric models in Grasshopper to multiple performance goals specified by the user, which could include structural weight, annual operational energy, daylight autonomy, etc. The component allows the user to input sliders, objectives, and other settings, and it returns an approximation of the performance Pareto front for the design space as a CSV file that can be further analyzed in a tool like MATLAB or Excel. This tool is still under development and will be publicly available by the end of August 2015.
Related group members:
Stormcloud: Interactive evolutionary exploration for Grasshopper
2014 - 2015
Based on the framework developed for structureFIT, Stormcloud is a new component for Grasshopper and Rhino that allows any parametric model to be explored using an interactive evolutionary framework, combining quantitative performance analysis with qualitative designer input. Unlike structureFIT, Stormcloud can work with any model and geometry type that can be represented and analyzed in Grasshopper. The quantitative analysis is also flexible: it can use structural weight, like structureFIT, but users are also free to input their own objective functions computed using other plugins or user-defined expressions. This tool is in the final stages of development and will be freely available for download and use by the end of August 2015.
Related group members:
Sampling tool for Grasshopper
This tool enables systematic sampling, or the generation of design alternatives, within parametric design spaces developed in Grasshopper, which is an important functionality for exploring a broad range of options in conceptual design. Three sampling schemes are included: random uniform, grid, and Latin hypercube. The samples can be used for design space exploration, multi-objective optimization and/or determining Pareto fronts, approximation algorithm construction, and in general the facilitation of many research endeavors of the Digital Structures group and beyond. The tool will be freely available for general use by the end of August 2015.
Related group members:
In building design, the concept of authorship is shifting from the traditional notion of the sole architect to a recognition of the modern team-based approach. In particular, the role of the structural engineer as a design partner is increasingly acknowledged, documented, analyzed, and celebrated. Recent books and scholarly articles present a range of contemporary and historical case studies in architect-engineer collaboration that show various ways successful, discordant, and other types of relationships impact design quality. These case studies also often highlight the specific design contributions of engineers, which are frequently overlooked in conventional architectural history work.
While useful, such case studies tend to present isolated examples in small numbers and without sufficient context. Widespread knowledge and publicly available information about engineers’ involvement in important building projects is still lacking. Even simple data, such as the name of the structural engineer involved with a project, goes unmentioned or is only reported as a side note or anecdote in many accounts. Fundamental questions of which engineers have worked with which architects on which projects remain difficult to track down answers to. This limits the design and research community’s ability to recognize excellence in structural design, and to qualitatively measure the impacts of structural engineers on architectural creations through comparative analysis. For example, structural engineer August Komendant (1906-1992) was a notable collaborator of architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974). However, questions of his precise impact on Kahn’s celebrated work, which could be analyzed by comparing Kahn’s buildings designed with Komendant to those designed without, remain open. There is a strong, unmet need for a centralized repository of key information related to design partnerships and collaborations to provide fundamental knowledge in a consolidated, organized manner, and to support further scholarly work in this field.
Digital Structures is currently undertaking a new research project aimed at addressing this issue: a new web-accessible database that contains fundamental information on design collaborations for hundreds of architecturally significant projects. Powerful visualizations allow users to quickly understand relationships between architects and engineers, including which designers worked together, patterns and contrasts related to design partnerships across projects, and accomplishments and impacts of various individuals. Through an intuitive graphical interface, users can sort projects by a number of useful metrics, including architectural program, structural system, primary materials, geographic location, scale, and decade.
This database and visualization tool are still under development, but will eventually be accessible here.