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sg2011 – Day Six investigates structural behavior, design for data and more

Friday, April 8th, 2011

SmartGeometry held in Copenhagen was all about architectural research. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture brochure states that one of the most important purposes of architectural research is to “develop new models for the way we build and design the world in a time characterized by new technological possibilities and great challenges.”

Day Six of SmartGeometry (sg2011) in Copenhagen kicked off with a talk by Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, professor and head of CITA, on the topic “Materializing the Invisible.”

She said they have built a series of speculative models in textile design, where they made iterative models over and over again, so they can return to one single description to bring together as one soft shell construction.

They learned two things from doing this: the unfolding of the complex surface is very complicated to do with the computer but extremely easy to do with your hands, “the simplicity is immediate to me,” she said. “The relationship between the digital and craft is not necessarily immediate. The drawing changes in its role; rather than thinking of drawing as a section cut, it becomes a section, the detailing and creases are inscribed, it’s the way the material is given its performance.”

The parallel project for this is “It’s a Small World,” which is an exhibition they were asked to create to show something all the way down to small design. This is about how to organize models and they used fractal order to achieve it.

“Our interest became how we could organize different elements, trying to develop a model that performs. Using GenerativeComponents, we developed a parametric design environment that could take us from design process all the way through to fabrication,” said Thomsen.

It’s A Small World created an economy that really isn’t present in research. They implemented non-traditional design practices to make new use of old materials. These surfaces were highly inhabited. “Therefore there was a rift between systematic thinking of these structures and the design intent of the curators. We had to adjust the way we were working with these structures,” Thomsen explained.

Another research project, DevA, investigated the structural behavior of bent steel sheet and how it be used in architectural design.

In contrast, Lisa Amini, director, Smarter Cities Technology Centre, IBM Research, Worldwide Smarter Cities Program talked about her program which she is building from the ground up. She quoted Steven Spielberg: “Invisible infrastructure is the most radical change.”

“The economies of scale are in cities,” said Amini. “We believe this is where people will live.” It is therefore prudent to design for data, and have your designs be influenced so they can collect data, to be able adapt to missions and the environment.

She sees a “Citizen centric vision” where citizens use mobile devices to collect data and will become very active data producers.

Ben Van Berkel, founder of Unstudio, talked about how the architect can rethink his position. His organization is a specialist organization that specializes with specialists around it. He spoke about the Mercedes Benz Museum 2001 for which there was a short time to design and build it. Used on this project was an animation technique could make 300 changes within the 3D model so people could stay working on the development of the model, and everyone updated the same day. So the need for compactness made it possible for those involved in the project to rethink the project.

Quote for the day

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

“Part of the ambition of Pachube is we’re coming to a situation where our environments will be extremely connected, we impinge upon each other, not just physically but digitally. This has a cultural aspect to it, but by providing a mechanism where you can decide to opt in, you don’t have to share all your data. But if there is a way to share your data, you can create something more valuable for the community as awhole.” – Usman Haque of Haque Studio and CEO and founder of Pachube, a YouTube like product that allows you to “store, share & discover realtime sensor, energy and environment data from objects, devices and buildings around the world” in a keynote at sg2011.

sg2011 Day 5 talks focus on data

Friday, April 1st, 2011

What was essentially Day Five at the SmartGeometry Conference in Copenhagen (sg2011) was called talkshop, a day-long series of panel discussions that focused on data – with topics such as: data by design, form follows data, performative data, the data promise.

To kick off the day, Shane Burger, associate and head of the Computational Design Unit at Grimshaw Architects, defined the 9-year-old SmartGeometry group as “a world wide community that believe that through digital tools they can make design process better and through that, can make better architecture and design.”

Founders Lars Hesselgren, High Whitehead, and Jay Parrish spoke about the beginnings of SmartGeometry:

“I sent email to the other guys about going forward using CAD,” said Hesselgren.

“I recollect there were a few who could do parametrics,” said Whitehead.

 “We thought the problems were technological, but the way around the problem was more through sociology, and the reasson why sg continues to flourish is it is a social experiment,” said Parrish.

“We  intended consequences and some happened, and unintended consequences also,” said Hesselgren. “Then there are those things that we absolutely had no idea were going to happen – the “unintended unintended.”

In September, sg organizers put out an email to the community  asking for what a challenge would be and that becomes the overall theme of the conference. What is new, and where are the new boundaries – essentially  what they should make sg about this year.

 The conference comprises 10 clusters with 10 participants each, plus champions that set the brief of the cluster. “We had about 50 applications from people who wanted to run a cluster,” said Burger. “Last year there were only 15.” There is open registration, and you have to actually apply, only get the best people in. “We try to keep it small — to 110 people– but we are convinced that we have the best people in the world to run workshops. And who participate.”

 He added that what people talk about in this conference happened just last night or this morning, unlike other conferences.

Kyle Steinfeld, UC Berkeley, and Nick Novelli, CASE Rensselaer said that for the past four days the group had been exploring ability for designing literal data creation from the ground up to see if that makes the process more transparent and more robust.

 “Not just architects manipulate data, everyone does,” said Steinfeld.


  • Data accessibility
  • Data resolution
  • Data agency

sg2011 conference (SmartGeometry) comes to Copenhagen

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I am here in Copenhagen for the annual SmartGeometry Conference, sg2011, hosted by Bentley Systems, from March 28-April 2.

The event will come in three parts, a Workshop (28th-31st March), a public Talkshop (1 April), and a public Symposium and Reception (2 April).

Speakers include: Ben van Berkel (UN Studio), Usman Haque (Haque Design + Research), Billie Faircloth (KieranTimberlake), Craig Schwitter (Buro Happold + Adaptive Building Initiative), Lisa Amini (IBM Smarter Cities Lab), and Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen (CITA)

I have also covered GenerativeComponents, the technology that actually spawned the SmartGeometry Conference in a recent issue of AECWeekly:

Look for conference updates in the coming days.

Kenesto: 30 day trial
Bentley: -YII 2018 Awards
AIA 2018 - Countless CAD add-ons, plug-ins and more.

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