Algorithms open new possibilities in architecture

25Feb15

Complexity is no longer an impediment but rather an opportunity, he writes on his website. And we see this embodied in his work, which is full of fine lines and curves and intricate patterns and shapes that look almost alien.

The complexity of the result wowed people who saw it in person. Hansmeyer tells Gizmag that people insisted on touching the columns, despite signs asking them not to. He finds this exciting, as it shows how algorithms can so easily encode different scales and levels of information into architecture.

Asked whether a human could have designed Digital Grotesque via a traditional method, Hansmeyer jokes that “it’s difficult to draw sections of a column with sixteen million facets using a traditional pen or a mouse,” though he concedes that it’s theoretically possible. More interesting, he notes, is that algorithmic design such as this is three-dimensional to begin with – it needs no intermediary 2D representation, as is the norm in architectural design.

The interior of Digital Grotesque's grotto is a sight to behold (Photo: Michael Hansmeyer/...

The interior of Digital Grotesque’s grotto is a sight to behold (Photo: Michael Hansmeyer/Benjamin Dillenburger)

That’s not to say that algorithms can’t be used in designing 2D representations of space. Take Stanford University researchers Paul Merrell, Eric Schkufza and Vladlen Koltun’s program that generates detailed floor plans from a set of high-level requirements. But the strength of computer-generated and computer-aided design (CAD) is its power to cut through the cruft of abstraction to get straight to the most direct representation of the final product, and in the case of architecture, at least, that’s 3D.

In design and architecture, most research into algorithms and computational creativity has focused on this kind of basic AI – tools that support the design process by generating endless streams of possibilities by mutating existing designs or that separate the artistic aspects from the functional ones.

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