Michael Braund, Chris Walsh, and I just presented a paper at this year’s iteration of ACADIA, a conference focusing on digital tools and techniques in architecture. Our submission was a paper featuring a human- space interaction analysis tool called, for lack of a better or even relevant name, “Dragonfly”. I will be posting some videos and hopefully a live demo over the next few days. We received some great feedback (mainly urging us to differentiate ourselves from existing tools and to do more testing), and we will certainly take those suggestions to heart.
Some of the outstanding papers for me were Achim Menges and company’s work with wood, Maciej Kaczynski’s (et al) work with digital fabrication (i.e. Robots!) of thin masonry vaults, Skyler Tibbits’ work on large-scale self-assembly, and of course Mark Foster Gage’s keynote talk telling us all to shut up about computation. Actually, I think he was telling Patrick Schumacher to shut up about computation….but perhaps it goes for the rest of us as well.
A few years ago, a major driver for research in architectural geometry was the growing gap between what was imaginable and what was buildable. With big advancements in the design and construction of freeform surfaces, parametric models, and live physics engines, that gap has been considerably lessened. However, these days, I see the same kind of gap growing between that which is buildable and that which is useable.
Our methods of evaluating the usability of designs, even if they are a result of real-time-sensory-input-fed-into-a-genetic-algorithm-that-optimizes-some-structural-property, are very much based on human intuition and previous experience. Now, I am very much in favour of preserving and developing the role of intuition and experience in this digital design age, but I can’t help but feel the similarities to the problems that engineers faced when confronted with a doubly curved surface not five years ago.
Motivated by this, Mike Braund, a Ph.d candidate at York University, and I have been exploring the potential of using ecological psychology to quantify, in some way, the usability of digital designs. So far, we have managed to implement a rudimentary version of ecological psychology into the Grasshopper environment as a proof-of-concept, but we need to seriously rethink the code in order to develop the idea further. Ultimately, we are trying create a simulation environment that can quantify and inform the design of architectural spaces based not only on the intention of the designer, but also the intentions of the user.