Fabrication Aware Design
It seems that the disciplines of engineering and architecture are destined to meet in the middle, through the wonderful world of geometry.
A few weeks ago I was rhapsodising about a lecture I had been to on differential geometry, which ended in a remarkable video where a rationalised, self-supporting structure was literally pulled into being, in real time, on a machine less powerful than my desktop. Well, I managed to get in touch with the lecturer (Dr Helmut Pottmann) who has kindly given me permission to share the video with you.
Initially I was going to cut it down to highlights, focusing on the structural aspects. But to me the whole thing is so amazing, it seemed a shame to deprive you of the complete 2 minutes and 46 seconds; skip to 1:34, however, if you really can’t wait. For the full experience, I’d also recommend you turn the quality up to 1080p.
The method uses Planar Quad meshes to transform complex shapes into something similar to a truss, with torsion free/low moment nodes; creating a thrust network that is relatively trivial to analyse. By finding geometrical constraints that ensure sane behaviour a good ‘first estimate’ of a structure can be quickly derived. If you’re interested, I recommend that you take a read of the actual research report, which explains it all much better than I ever could.
The aim of the research was to avoid/overcome the decoupling of architectural design from the constraints of engineering reality (form vs function, if you will). Arguably it is this separation that leads to both computationally and economically expensive iterations between separate aesthetic, rationalisation, analysis, etc. stages/offices. It seems that the disciplines of engineering and architecture are destined to meet in the middle, through the wonderful world of geometry.