Contemporary Architecture

Digital Architecture

Strictly speaking the architecture of present century has already witnessed the marvels of DIGITAL ARCHITECTURE, but there will a paradigm shift in this field when we look to the future.
This presentation aims at presenting those technologies that comes( or will come) under the ambit of digital architecture.

  • The architecture of modern times is characterized by its capacity to take advantage of the specific achievements of that same modernity: the innovations offered it by present-day science and technology
  • The relationship between new technology and futuristic architecture even comprises a fundamental datum of what may be referred to as avant-garde architectures
  • Future will be about integrating computer-aided design with computer-aided fabrication and construction
  • Redefining the relationship between designing and producing
  • Eliminating many geometric constraints imposed by traditional drawing and production processes— making complex curved shapes much easier to handle, for example, and
  • reducing dependence on standard, mass-produced components
  • It would bridge the gap between designing and producing

Digital architectures refer to the computationally based processes of form origination and transformations. Several digital architectures are identified based on the underlying computational concepts such as:

  1.  topological space (topological architectures)
  2.  isomorphic surfaces (isomorphic architectures)
  3.  motion kinematics & dynamics (animate architectures)
  4.  keyshape animation (metamorphic architectures)
  5.  parametric design (parametric architectures)
  6.  genetic algorithms (evolutionary architectures)

Topological architectures:

In “architectural curvi-linearity”, it offers examples of new approaches to design that move away from the de-constructivism’s “logic of conflict and contradiction” to develop a “more fluid logic of connectivity.” This is manifested through folding that departs from Euclidean geometry of discrete volumes, and employs topological, “rubber-sheet” geometry of continuous curves and surfaces. In topological space, geometry is represented by parametric functions, which describe a range of possibilities. The continuous, highly curvilinear surfaces are mathematically described as NURBS – Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines. What makes NURBS curves and surfaces particularly appealing is the ability to easily control their shape by manipulating the control points, weights, and knots. NURBS make the heterogeneous and coherent forms of the topological space computationally possible.

Eg: Guggenheim Bilbao by Frank Gehry.

Isomorphic Architectures

Blobs or metaballs, or isomorphic surfaces, are amorphous objects constructed as composite assemblages of mutually inflecting parametric objects with internal forces of mass and attraction. They exercise fields or regions of influence, which could be additive or subtractive. The geometry is constructed by computing a surface at which the composite field has the same intensity: isomorphic surfaces. These open up another formal universe where forms may undergo variations giving rise to new possibilities. Objects interact with each other instead of just occupying space; they become connected through a logic where the whole is always open to variation as new blobs (fields of influence) are added or new relations made, creating new possibilities. The surface boundary of the whole (the isomorphic surface) shifts or moves as fields of influence vary in their location and intensity. In that way, objects begin to operate in a dynamic rather than a static geography.

Eg.:Cardiff Opera by Greg Lynn, BMW-Pavilion by B. Franken

Animate Architectures:

Animation software is utilized as medium of form-generation. Animate design is defined by the co-presence of motion and force at the moment of formal conception. Force, as an initial condition, becomes the cause of both motion and particular inflections of a form. While motion implies movement and action, animation implies evolution of a form and its shaping forces. The repertoire of motion-based modeling techniques are keyframe animation, forward and inverse kinematics, dynamics (force fields) and particle emission. Kinematics are used in their true mechanical meaning to study the motion of an object or a hierarchical system of objects without consideration given to its mass or the forces acting on it. As motion is applied, transformation are propagated downward the hierarchy in forward kinematics, and upward through hierarchy in inverse kinematics.


  • House in Long island by Greg Lynn
  • Port Authority Bus Terminal in NY by Greg Lynn: Dynamic simulations take into consideration the effects of forces on the motion of an object or a system of objects, especially of forces that do not originate within the system itself. Physical properties of objects, such as mass (density), elasticity, static and kinetic friction (or roughness), are defined. Forces of gravity, wind, or vortex are applied, collision detection and obstacles (deflectors) are specified, and dynamic simulation computed.

Metamorphic architectures

Metamorphic generation of form includes several techniques such as key shape animation, deformations of the modeling space around the model using a bounding box (lattice deformation), a spline curve, or one of the coordinate system axis or planes, and path animation, which deforms an object as it moves along a selected path. In key shape animation, changes in the geometry are recorded as key frames (key shapes) and the software then computes the in-between states. In deformations of the modeling space, object shapes conform to the changes in geometry of the modeling space.

Eg: Offices of BFL Software ltd. by Peter Eisenman

Parametric Architectures

In parametric design, it is the parameters of a particular design that are declared, not its shape. By assigning different values to the parameters, different objects or configurations can be created. Equations can be used to describe the relationships between objects, thus defining an associative geometry. That way, inter dependencies between objects can be established, and objects’ behavior under transformations defined. Parametric design often entails a procedural, algorithmic description of geometry. In this “algorithmic spectaculars”, i.e., algorithmic explorations of “tectonic production” using mathematica software, architects can construct mathematical models and generative procedures that are constrained by numerous variables initially unrelated to any pragmatic concerns. Each variable or process is a ‘slot’ into which an external influence can be mapped, either statically or dynamically.

Eg.: Algorithmic spectaculars by M Novak

Evolutionary architectures

Evolutionary architecture proposes the evolutionary model of nature as the generating process for architectural form.
Architectural concepts are expressed as generative rules so that their evolution and development can be accelerated and tested by the use of computer models. Concepts are described in a genetic language which produces a code script of instructions for form generation. Computer models are used to simulate the development of prototypical forms which are then evaluated on the basis of their performance in a simulated environment. Very large numbers of evolutionary steps can be generated in a short space of time and the emergent forms are often unexpected. The key concept behind evolutionary architecture is that of the genetic algorithm. The key characteristic is a “a string-like structure equivalent to the chromosomes of nature,” to which the rules of reproduction, gene crossover, and mutation is applied. Optimum solutions are obtained by small incremental changes over several generations.

Eg.:“Pseudo-organisms” by J. Frazer

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4 thoughts on “Digital Architecture”

  1. We are yet to to truly see the possibilities of digital architecture-
    digital printing and digital fabrication need to catch up with the developments in design and form making so as to be large scale and cost effective


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