Design Process

Software, Computation, and Cultural Techniques in Architecture

In the field of contemporary architecture, there are multiple design cultures. However, with the implementation of the computer as a tool, design techniques and processes have been significantly altered and expanded. The very concept of a linear design process has been shifted by computational design. Now architects define parameters and rules, and they program algorithmic instructions within a script. Hence, with computational design techniques and non-linear design processes the variability and complexity of generating form and calculating material properties involve new media and specific cultural techniques. In architecture, computer simulations operate on multiple levels: for example on genetic algorithms in form-generating processes, on tools for performance analysis as well as on building information modeling (BIM).

The objective of the research project is to demonstrate how the design culture and the generation of knowledge in architecture have been changed by computer simulations. Methodologically, the project will build on recent theories and research on cultural techniques, software studies as well as on research methodologies from science and technology studies. Human and non-human agents (such as architects, tasks, hardware, software, parameters, algorithms and so forth) will be examined in order to determine and describe how and in what particular manner computer simulations have an impact on architectural practice as well as in architectural education.

The project focuses on several case studies and pursues an ethnographic approach. Software, media and cultural techniques in computational design are investigated by means of a wide range of materials such as digital files, data, scripts as well as interviews with architects and their staff, educators and their students, and software and plug-in developers. Design practices and notational procedures (such as notes, and sketches and diagrams of scripts) are examined as well in order to clarify the modified relationship between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media and cultural techniques in architectural design.