Computational Design and Robotics Start Changing Architectural Design

Technology has always had a significant impact on architecture. Every technological advancement has reshaped the field of architectural design in one way or another. So, it’s not surprising that architects of today need to dedicate their time and effort into broadening their horizons, honing their computer skills, and staying up to date on new technological achievements.

While it would be ideal if architects could master the skill of coding to enhance their design process and become more efficient, this isn’t always possible. This is where computational design and robotics come into play.

Although Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) tools are already being widely used, computational design and robotics can take your designs a step further. Let’s take a look.

A Brief Overview of Computational Design

Before finding out what kind of changes computational design can enact on architecture, it’s essential to know what this field is. Computational design, often mistakenly referred to as parametric design, is the use of computational strategies in the creation of architectural designs.

The computational design aims to enhance the design process by allowing architects to create their tools and develop new methods to solve design problems without needing a background in coding and programming.

Computational design tools allow for visual programming, which empowers architects to assemble and develop programs graphically as opposed to textually (which would require them to write codes). All the design decisions will be encoded along the way and will give insight into the design process, showcasing the steps which need to be taken to achieve the final result of the said design.

Robotics and Architecture

Robotics is a broad field, and it’s particularly tricky to describe and define robots in architecture correctly. A robotic arm can be defined as a robot, and so can a CNC milling machine and a 3D printer. No matter how you define them, robots in architecture serve to expedite and perfect the digital fabrication process, which can be extremely valuable to architects.

They can be especially useful during the construction process as they can work to expedite it and ensure it’s all carried out as it’s supposed to. As opposed to computer software and programs, robots can account for the physical properties of the materials they’re handling, making real-time designing, and constructing a breeze.

Because of their versatility and flexibility, robots can help architects bring their designs to life and ensure the utmost satisfaction of clients and spectators.

Advances so Far

Both computational design and robotics already have a long history and are tightly intertwined with architectural design. However, it’s only in the past few years that we’ve genuinely seen unprecedented developments in these fields that act as signs of further advancements in the years to come.

By now, we grew accustomed to using computational design and robotics for developing small scale models and structures. Many architects are taking it a step further, relying on these technologies for the construction of much larger objects.

At least such is the case with Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, who developed ROB units that can build intricate structures made of wood and brick on site.

So far, they’ve completed numerous projects with these ROB units, including Structural Oscillations in Switzerland, the Robotic Pavillion, and they were even the creators behind the Pike Loop in New York — their first construction built on site.

With the use of computational design and robotics, architectural design can become more efficient, more intriguing, and not to mention more sustainable.

Importance of Using Computational Design Tools

Computational design tools can prove to be invaluable to an architect trying to solve a design problem. Most architects rely on CAD software to enhance their designs, but this means only using the tools that are already available.

What if you come up with an innovative design that requires you to develop a tool that doesn’t exist yet? This is precisely why computational design is needed in architecture. Enabling you to write your own program can help you be proactive and solve design problems with ease.

The software and programs can be adapted and customized to suit your specific needs and ensure that you have all the tools you need at your disposal.

Many computational design tools are compatible with some of the most popular programs used by architects today.

GenerativeComponents is a stand-alone program that is compatible with MicroStation. Dynamo was developed by Autodesk, while Grasshopper is used alongside the 3D modeling software Rhino.

Whichever program you’re using, you’re likely to find a computational design tool that can help you enhance your design process and improve your end-results.

What You Can Achieve with Computational Design and Robotics

Computational design and robotics can help you push the limits and take your work to a whole new level. Whether you’re relying on these new technologies for simply automating tedious tasks or generating new designs, you can expect to receive many benefits.

The following are just some of the things you can achieve by implementing computational design and robotics into your work.

Widen Your Horizons

This isn’t just a fable. Computational design and robotics truly help you widen your horizons by giving you the opportunity and providing you with the tools you need to come up with innovative designs and bring them to life.

There’s only so much you can do and come up with if you have just a pen and paper. This can be a significant limitation that prevents you from thinking up new, intriguing designs.

With computational design tools, all you need to do is encode design rules into the framework, and the tool will offer you dozens of different design varieties that follow those rules. You can develop unique geometrical shapes that still comply with the rules of physics, or you can have a tool that will help you generate designs for various rooms and spaces. The options are limitless and can help you to overcome the creative blocks that many architects have to deal with.

Automate Tedious Tasks

A simple yet invaluable benefit of using computational design tools is automation. Computational design tools that are compatible with your software’s API can help you automate such tasks as renaming files or copying elements and views.

While this may seem simple enough to do, any architect knows how time-consuming such simple tasks can be. Computational design frees up your time and allows you to focus on the more critical aspects of your job.

Get Access to All Your Data

Without computational design tools, architects are often forced to transfer their data from one program to another via Excel so that they can access all the tools they need (as different programs have varying tools). This process tends to be more complicated than it seems, and the constant change of formats can result in lost data.

With computational design tools, this whole ordeal is much simpler. These tools often allow architects to create project dashboards, import, and export files with ease, as well as modify their designs as needed.

All this makes collaboration simpler as well, so it’s a win-win situation either way.

Test All Your Options

Making a 2D sketch of your design on a piece of paper is often necessary, but it’s rarely enough if you want to know precisely how your creation will perform in the real world.

Computational design tools and software allow you to create simulations and tests that can give you insight into your design that you’ve never had access to before.

You can easily create tools that can help you determine how much sunlight your building will get, how your building will perform in an earthquake, how strong winds can affect it, etc.

Computational design tools also allow you to make changes to your designs and see how they affect the entire building. This is why computational design is often mixed up with the parametric design.

Parametric design is a small aspect of computational design that allows you to use different parameters to create buildings. If one parameter changes, the entire design changes with it. This allows you to test all your options at any stage of your design process without losing the previous work.

Solve Problems Before They Arise

All this testing, tweaking, and playing around gives you further insight into your designs and allows you to notice issues and risks before the construction process begins.

Using computational design tools will force you to use the algorithmic approach to design and record every step of your design process. Each step can then be analyzed and improved as needed, and this will give you a better understanding of your design and allow you to implement your newly gained knowledge in your future work.

The Bottom Line

Both robotics and computational design tools can help you in your design process. While robotics mostly serves its purpose in the construction phase, the two fields together will enhance your work. They’ve already had a significant effect on architectural design. With new technological advancements, we can expect to see many more changes and upgrades that will transform the field of architecture.