Talk Given at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Students of Architecture

I gave a talk and conducted a workshop at Footprints, the annual convention of the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA), held at the Gateway College of Architecture & Design from January 25th to 28th.

Here is a slide show and transcript of my talk –

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Alternative Computation

Today I’m going to talk about the use of computation in architecture. A lot has been said about computation and its role in architecture since the early 1980s. Today, virtually any architectural practice uses computers in some form or the other. But it is not just architecture. Today, virtually any profession uses a computer in some form or the other.

So what is it that computation offers?

I am sure that all of you have wished that there was an “UNDO” command that you could use when you have made a mistake while building a model for your design studio. But of course, there is no “UNDO” command outside the computer. Have you ever wondered why?

In order to understand why this is so, I am going to have to briefly switch from architecture to thermodynamics. I am sure that all of you are familiar with the Second Law of Thermodynamics from your physics class in school. One version of this law states that “The disorder in a closed system will always increase.”

What this means is that you are not going to see spilt milk spontaneously gather back into a glass. You cannot “UNDO” the spilling of milk. And some people argue that the Second Law is what defines the direction in which time flows.

But how is it that a computer allows us to “UNDO” things? How is a plant able to grow with soil, water and sunlight? How does a machine make something as complex as a computer in the first place? These are all examples of more order being made from less order.

Well, there is a very convenient loophole to the Second Law. If you add energy to a system then you can increase order. The addition of energy from outside means that the system is no longer closed, but then no system is ever completely closed anyway.

The addition of energy therefore frees us from the second law. Plugging a Xerox machine into a socket allows it to make copies. Light falling on a leaf enables a plant to grow through photosynthesis and ultimately reproduce. Powering up a computer lets it “UNDO.”

So the way a system uses energy determines its relationship to disorder. On this basis, one can think of four different “Realms” or “Paradigms” – the mineral realm, where disorder always increases; the biological realm where order is propagated; the mechanical realm where disorder is controlled and order is created; and the digital realm where there is no disorder.

So what does the digital realm, with no disorder, offer the architecture?

It offers a clean slate as the starting screen of any CAD software will show you. It offers a void with no disorder where you are free to design without any encumbrances. You are free to do what you want.

While a blank sheet of paper is a two dimensional “void,” the computer offers a three dimensional blank slate. In addition to this, the computer offers the ability to process large amounts of information quickly.

If we think of “complexity” as the amount of information required to describe an object or phenomenon, then we can say that the information processing power of a computer allows architects to deal with complexity.

A project done by the studio that made use of what the digital realm offers is the Gateway to the JSPL power plant in Chhattisgarh, built in 2006. The form of this gateway creates a dialogue between local tribal geometries and industrial technology. The design development was undertaken through physical and 3D digital modelling with the geometric information of the digital model being used to create CNC pre-fabricated components that were assembled on site.

There was therefore a seamless flow of information from the digital model to the fabrication of the components by computer controlled machines which used data directly from the model. This allowed for very high precision and the coming together of the pre-fabricated parts smoothly on site in spite of the complexity of the form.

But if we re-visit the construction process of the gateway, we see that the digital realm, from which the design and the computer controlled fabrication comes, must eventually interact with the mineral, biological and mechanical realms. You see this in the critical step of fixing the structure to the footing in the ground. Had there been any mistake in the foundations, and had it not matched the digitally fabricated structure, there would have been no “UNDO.”

Another factor not immediately apparent is the amount of energy needed to manufacture the steel needed for the digital fabrication process. This energy is needed to create a material which is completely homogenous and uniform. The energy is needed to fuel machines which remove the disorder present in the mineral realm.

The removal of disorder from materials is needed when designing in the digital realm because design in the digital realm always begins with a perfectly ordered blank slate. And as long as one stays in the digital realm, there is no way of interacting with the disorder of other realms. While the digital design process can generate complexity, it cannot deal with disorder.

This is not a new thing in architecture. Historically, what has differentiated the architect from the master builder has been that the architect works on paper, in a space free of disorder. But the power of digital technologies available to architects today highlights the issue like never before.

The most obvious way to overcome this is to NOT start the design process in the digital realm – which is what I did in this small experiment with bamboo. Instead of starting with a blank slate, I started by scanning a piece of bamboo on a simple flatbed scanner, thereby digitizing disorder.

I used the scans of two pieces of bamboo to create digital models of them. Because I did not start with a blank slate but instead started by digitizing the disorder of the irregularly shaped bamboo, the computer had no problem in dealing with the complexity of its shape.

I then designed a joint between the two pieces where the angle is exactly 60 degrees. This joint was cut in the bamboo using a computer controlled router and the two pieces of bamboo were then tied with rope by hand. The computer was therefore able to negotiate the complexity of disorder and impose the order of a 60 degree joint on the bamboo.

But humans are much better at dealing with disorder. So can computers and humans collaborate with each other to build complex designs while negotiating disorder?

The first attempt at answering this question was the Parametric Pavilion project. For this project a parametric model was made to create a family of bamboo pavilions that can be built cheaply and quickly for a variety of functions. The parametric model can be manipulated to generate new forms based on programmatic requirements and site conditions. The parametric model outputs dimensioned drawings for construction on site where craftsmen negotiate the disorder inherent in bamboo with the computer generated dimensions.

The hyperbolic paraboloid shape of the pavilion as well as the gateway is part of a larger group of shapes known as ruled surfaces – surfaces that can be made from straight lines.

This geometry is such that the structure can be built using only length dimensions and there is no need to measure angles, curvatures, areas, etc. Linear measurements are the easiest to measure, requiring only a measuring tape to be placed against a piece of bamboo and lengths marked. The use of linear measurements minimizes the chances of errors and also makes the work of the craftsmen on site easier.

But can this technique of linear measurements be extended to more complex geometry?

If you take a flexible member and reduce the distance between its end points then it will curve. If you have a network of such members intersecting each other, then you can obtain virtually any surface you like. And this is nothing but weaving.

The Nest Roof is an on-going project where we are using weaving to construct a complex computer generated surface from bamboo through linear measurements alone.

The shape of the roof was the result of an algorithmic form-finding process resulting in a funicular shell structure. The shape of this shell was dictated by the plan form of the building.

It was decided to weave this shape out of bamboo as a reticulated shell structure. A reticulated shell is a doubly curved structure made from intersecting members of a flexible material. The flexibility of bamboo increases as it becomes thinner, but as it becomes thinner it also becomes weaker. The less a bamboo member has to curve, the thicker and stronger it can be. So an algorithm was created to find paths of minimal curvature along the shell surface along which to weave the bamboo.

The use of this algorithm allowed us to have 4” dia half-round bamboo members arranged in 6 layers to achieve a beam-depth of 2’.

In order to construct this, drawings were made where the lengths of bamboo between each intersection were given for each step of the weaving sequence. Since these lengths were more than the linear distance between the end points of each member, the desired curvature was achieved.

The craftsmen of site could therefore build this structurally optimized reticulated shell structure using only linear measurements. The craftsmen themselves could then focus on negotiating the disorder inherent in the bamboo such as joining two pieces of bamboo to create a continuous structural member, and place spacers of different sizes to absorb variations in the size of bamboo.

So, in this project the computer deals with the ordered aspect of design while human craftsmen deal with disorder, and, as architects we found an efficient way to transfer information from the computer to the craftsmen through linear measurements and weaving.

Lecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Here’s the abstract and a slide show of the lecture I gave at the MIT architecture department’s Computation Lecture Series on December 9th 2011. This lecture had material from my SMArchS thesis and subsequent related work that I have been involved in at Kamath Design Studio in New Delhi. I know this is long overdue… Sorry!


Historically, craft and industrial production have been incompatible because craft produces variation while industry requires standardization. Contemporary digital design and fabrication opens up the possibility of dealing with variation in an industrial context, thus eliciting parallels with craft. In the context of the large-scale industrialization of Western economies the comparisons between craft and digital design and fabrication are largely rhetorical. In developing economies such as India, however, industrial and non-industrial modes of production occur side-by-side and are often competing for the same resources.

This talk will attempt to illustrate, through examples, different kinds of design and production systems that combine craft with digital design and fabrication, and their contextual implications for architectural design.

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Ghosla: A Curvature Optimized Woven Bamboocrete Roof

“Ghosla” (meaning “nest” in Hindi) is a bamboocrete roof designed by Kamath Design Studio for a 150 square meter guest house unit at the Gnostic Centre in New Delhi, India.

Curvature optimized weaving: Surface paths with minimum cumulative curvature compared to a UV transformed hexagonal grid

The shape of the roof comes from a structural form-finding process dictated by the floor plan of the building and the resulting positions of the supporting columns. A RhinoScript was used to find optimized paths for woven members on this surface. The paths found using the script are those with minimum cumulative curvature passing through a given set of points on the surface. This enables the bamboo members used in the weaving to have as large a cross-sectional diameter as possible (and thus as high a load bearing capacity as possible) since they do not need to bend much and need not be extremely flexible. The advantage of using these optimized paths can be seen when comparing them (extreme right, above) to the simple UV transformed hexagonal grid (second from the right, above). The simple UV transformed grid has member paths with significantly higher curvature which will require more flexible (and thus thinner and weaker) bamboo members for its construction.

Stepping back in the design process, the design-computational reason for constructing this roof by weaving bamboo came from the need to devise a work-flow and construction methodology that would enable the construction of a digitally designed complex curved surface (the form-found roof shape) by simple manual construction techniques in a non-industrial setting. Weaving is an ancient process that is in the technological repertoire of most cultures. What makes weaving especially suited to the construction of curved surfaces is the fact that it can use linear, one-dimensional elements to produce a surface curving in three-dimensions and requires only linear measurements during construction. I have discussed the details of this in my earlier post on Weaving and Linear Measurement in Digitally Guided Construction.

The success of this digital-to-physical work-flow can be seen in the 1:25 scale model of the roof that was constructed by carpenter Ram Lakhan with the guidance of Inderjeet Singh Seera of Kamath Design Studio using linear dimensional information obtained from a 3D computer model of the woven roof. Here are some photographs of the model just before completion –

1:25 Scale Model of the Woven Bamboo Roof Under Construction
1:25 Scale Model of the Woven Bamboo Roof Under Construction


1:25 Scale Model of the Woven Bamboo Roof Under Construction

While there is no doubt that there will be numerous challenges that will have to be overcome during full-scale construction, the progress on this project so far shows the ability of weaving to be used for the construction of complex curved surfaces by manual means using linear dimensional information.

The bamboocrete roof that this woven structure will support will be similar to earlier bamboocrete roofs designed by Kamath Design Studio. The woven bamboo structure of the “Ghosla” roof will replace the steel and eucalyptus log trusses used to support these earlier roofs.

Exterior View of the Bamboocrete Roof at the Kamath Residence
Interior View of the Bamboocrete Roof at the Kamath Residence

Weaving and Linear Measurement in Digitally Guided Construction

Measuring the length of a straight line in the physical world is to test the geometric congruency of two one-dimensional objects – an object of standardized length against an object of unknown length. All one-dimensional objects share the property of similarity and can therefore be “placed against each other” as physical objects (strictly speaking there are no “real” one-dimensional objects but this statement will still apply to the one-dimensional edges of higher-dimensional objects). To make two one-dimensional objects congruent requires breaking/cutting the longer of the two at a single point or stretching the shorter of the two along a single direction.

While all this may seem painfully obvious, the uniqueness of the situation is highlighted when you think about how hard it is to make two non-similar objects of higher dimensions congruent or similar. For example, here is a device for replicating three-dimensional sculptures with the ability to change the size of the reproduction. (For more information about this device you can read this article). Now compare this device to using a ruler and pair of scissors to make two pieces of string the same length.


George Stiny shows how a boundary function is able to map algebras of different dimensions to each other (Shape: Talking About Seeing and Doing, p. 98).  In terms of construction, a boundary function can provide ‘templates’ or ‘jigs’ or ‘frameworks’ or ‘guides’ (depending on your method of construction) for objects of a higher dimension using objects of lower dimensions. To cite an example of a project I was personally involved in, the form-work of the Santa Monica Cradle project is an example of two-dimensional plywood ribs being used as a framework for creating a complex, curved, three-dimensional surface from strips of flexible ‘luaun’ ply. In fact, most approaches to constructing an architectural surface involves some kind of underlying linear framework.

The skinning of the plywood framework with strips of flexible luaun.
A Surface
A Divided Surface
The Boundaries Of The Divisions Form A Framework

If a complex three-dimensional shape can be built using a ‘framework’ of linear shapes, then it can be constructed through simple measurements of length. The most basic way to go from a one-dimensional boundary to a two-dimensional shape through linear measurement alone is through triangles. This method has been used since the time of ancient Egypt where it was used to measure the (two-dimensional) area of land holdings using (one-dimensional) rope as a measuring device.

The ‘Suspension’ series of installations by Ball-Nogues Studio (some of which I was fortunate to be a part of) consist of a series of threads cut to specific lengths, coloured at specific intervals and hung from specific points to form a series of catenaries. When seen together, the strings form complex, multi-coloured, three-dimensional “clouds” suspended in mid air.

“Suspensions: Feathered Edge by Ball-Nogues Studio”. MoCA PDC, Los Angeles, 2007.

A sturdier and more ancient way of combining linear elements into objects of higher dimensions is weaving. The weaving of cloth goes from one-dimensional thread to a two-dimensional cloth, and the weaving of baskets goes from one-dimension strips (of cane, bamboo, rattan or other materials) to a three-dimensional surface. Kenneth Snelson shows how a tensegrity structure can be thought of as a three-dimensional polyhedron woven out of linear elements.

A surface woven from digitally derived linear fabrication data.
The first bamboo Parametric Pavilion. Kamath Design Studio, New Delhi, 2010.

The process of weaving is therefore an ideal candidate for a manual construction process involving only linear measurement that can be used to construct a digitally designed, complex curved surface. I had woven a quick model based on this premise some months ago using linear fabrication data obtained by running this script on a test surface. After the successful construction of the first bamboo Parametric Pavilion I am now attempting the design and construction of a more complex woven bamboo roof structure for a 150 square meter guest house building. This project will be a test case for implementing the idea of using digitally derived linear construction data for the manual weaving of a complex curved surface.

Kaleidocycle Wall

The Kaleidocycle Wall is a kinetic, re-configurable, multi-functional accessory to urban living. It is a set of hexagonal kaleidocycles that are connected to each other in different ways so as to allow the system as a whole to posess emergent kinetic properties.

The Kaleidocycle Wall in my studio apartment.
The Kaleidocycle Wall as a light shade, sound insulation and bed side table.
A detail of the Kaleidocycle Wall as a bed side table
A variation on the bed-side configuration of the Kaleidocycle Wall.
The flexagon wall as a bicycle enclosure.

A set of CATIA models were created to analyse the kinetics of the system parametrically. Below are videos of two kinetic form studies:

The wall is made from fifty six laser cut tetrahedral chip board units. The tetrahedra are connected to each other by tape to form simple hinged joints that enable the wall to be re-configured. It took one and a half hours to laser cut the components and six hours to assemble the wall, making it an ideal weekend project.

I had first worked with flexagon kaleidocycles in 2008 while in the SMArchS programme for my project in a Shape Grammar class with Professor Terry Knight and a Digital Fabrication class with Professor Dennis Shelden. At the time I had used a simpler configuration of kaleidocycles to design a reconfigurable urban canopy that would display global adaptive behaviour from local modificaitions made by individuals to either shade themselves from the sun (thus aligning solar panels on the faces of the flexagons towards the sun) or to protect themselves from the rain (thus harvesting maximum rain water) while also displaying urban signage or advertisements approprite to the different configurations of the structure.

The kaleidocycle urban canopy (SMArchS, 2008)

Digitally Guided Weaving

Here’s a very long overdue physical model based on this surface weaving script that I had posted earlier. I made the model with thumb-pins and the plastic tubing used in aquariums. It was actually quite magical to see the surface take a three-dimensional form as I  wove the tubes based on data from the script – a bit like watching an image form as you develop a print  in a dark-room.

A Screen-shot of the Digital Model
The Physical Model
The Physical Model

Guest Lecture at SID, CEPT University, Ahmedabad

Below is the slide show from the guest lecture I gave at the School of Interior Design (SID) at CEPT University in Ahmedabad on the 19th of October. This lecture was given to students of the Masters in Interior Architecture and Design and the faculty of SID focusing on Craft and Technology.

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Digital Design and (Manual) Fabrication

In most academic and scholarly settings the phrase ‘Digital Design and Fabrication’ is used almost like a single word. In fact I was associated with the Digital Design and Fabrication Group at MIT’s Department of Architecture for a large part of my SMArchS programme. However, I wonder if Digital Design must go together with Digital Fabrication, and what happens if they do not? Are we, as designers living in an age where we have access to both digital and non-digital methods of design and fabrication, missing out on opportunities by bundling Digital Design with Digital Fabrication? A vast majority of building construction in both industrialised and non-industrialised contexts still primarily uses manual, non-digital methods of construction. Does this mean that methods of  ‘Digital Design’ can not be used in such contexts? (Digital Design being “a self contained way of designing exclusively within a computational environment” (Sass, Lawrence, and Oxman, Rivka. (2006). Materializing design: theimplications of rapid prototyping in digital design. Design Studies, 27, (3), p. 333)).

A 'Contractor' with a CAD Drawing at a Site Using Manual Construction Techniques (
The Ideal Digital Design and Fabrication Work Flow (

The main argument against being able to use Digital Design without Digital Fabrication is that the formal complexity of the resulting designs is impossible to achieve without the accuracy and versatility of Digital Fabrication technology. Once adopted, Digital Design and Fabrication also offers many conveniences such as the seamless transition from CAD model to fabrication data for CNC machines and the ability to make use of rapid prototyping in the design process. (Sass, Lawrence, and Oxman, Rivka. (2006). Materializing design: the implications of rapid prototyping in digital design. Design Studies, 27, (3), 325-55.) Digital Fabrication also offers advantages such as very high levels of accuracy in building components that increase pre-fabrication and reduce on-site assembly (Kieran, Stephen, and Timberlake, James. (2004). Refabricating architecture: how manufacturing methodologies are poised to transform building construction. New York: McGraw Hill.)

The use of digital fabrication using data from a CAD model means that under ideal conditions designers and fabricators do not have to deal with measurements and calculations while building. Since parts are CNC manufactured, they are highly accurate and their dimensions do not need to be verified before assembly – until and unless there is a mistake and something doesn’t fit. In a manual construction, however, measurement is an integral part of construction. The data from the design is read off dimensioned drawings and used by a construction worker to build a part of the building. The actual dimensions and orientation of the part then need to be checked against those in the drawing. This process of the construction worker having to follow dimensions given in a drawing issued by the designer has its origin in the Renaissance in the West.

Prior to that (and outside the West) the boundary between the designer and the maker was not as well defined and exact dimensions for a building were not completely specified prior to construction. Instead, construction would proceed by a process of Cutting and Fitting whereby a part would first be made and its dimensions would be measured subsequently in order to determine the dimensions of new parts that were dependent on the dimensions of the original part. (McGee, David. (1999). From Craftsmanship to draftsmanship: naval architecture and the three traditions of early modern design. Technology and Culture, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 209-236).

Given the extremes of Digital Fabrication and Cutting and Fitting, and all methods of manufacture in between, can we devise efficient means of executing Digital Designs without the use of Digital Fabrication?

Fabrication Data For Surface Weaving

This RhinoScript takes an input surface and cross-section curves and weaves fibres with the given cross-sections along that surface. The user can specify the ‘thread count’ and the tightness of the weave (weave factor). If prompted by the user, the script can also generate fabrication data specifying the distances between intersections with other fibres along the length of each woven fibre. I hope to use this script to create some physical models in the near future.
A Screen Shot Showing the Use of Multiple Cross-Sections and the Fabrication Data Output
An Experiment With a Hexagonal Weaving Pattern
Option Explicit
‘Script written by <Ayodh Kamath>
‘Script copyrighted by <Ayodh Kamath>
‘Script version Thursday, 27 May 2010 10:30:20
Call Main()
Sub Main()
Dim strSrf, arrUDomain, arrVDomain, intUdiv, intVdiv, dblWeaveFactor, dblWeaveFactorU, dblWeaveFactorV
Dim i, j
Dim strSecCrvU, strSecCrvV, arrBox
Dim dblFabChoice, strLengthCount
ReDim arrOrientPts1(2)
ReDim arrOrientPts2(2)
arrOrientPts1(0) = Array(0,0,0)
arrOrientPts1(1) = Array(1,0,0)
arrOrientPts1(2) = Array(0,1,0)
strSrf = Rhino.GetObject(“Select surface”, 8 )
arrUDomain = Rhino.SurfaceDomain(strSrf, 0)
arrVDomain = Rhino.SurfaceDomain(strSrf, 1)
intUdiv = Rhino.GetInteger(“Enter number of threads in U:”)
intUdiv = intUdiv – 1
intVdiv = Rhino.GetInteger(“Enter number of threads in V:”)
intVdiv = intVdiv – 1
strSecCrvU = Rhino.GetObject(“Select cross section curve in the U direction”, 4)
arrBox = Rhino.BoundingBox(strSecCrvU)
dblWeaveFactorU = Rhino.Distance(arrBox(1), arrBox(2))/2
dblWeaveFactorU = Rhino.GetReal(“Enter the weave factor in the U direction:”, dblWeaveFactorU)
strSecCrvV = Rhino.GetObject(“Select cross section curve in the V direction”, 4)
arrBox = Rhino.BoundingBox(strSecCrvV)
dblWeaveFactorV = Rhino.Distance(arrBox(1), arrBox(2))/2
dblWeaveFactorV = Rhino.GetReal(“Enter the weave factor in the V direction:”, dblWeaveFactorV)
ReDim arrPts(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrPtsU(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrPtsV(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrNorm(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrNormU(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrNormV(intUdiv, intVdiv)
ReDim arrParamsU(intUdiv)
ReDim arrParamsV(intVdiv)
ReDim arrCrvsU(intVdiv)
ReDim arrCrvsV(intUdiv)
ReDim arrPlinesU(intUdiv)
ReDim arrPlinesV(intVdiv)
For i = 0 To intUdiv
For j = 0 To intVdiv
arrParamsU(i) = i*(arrUDomain(0)+arrUDomain(1))/intUdiv
arrParamsV(j) = j*(arrVDomain(0)+arrVDomain(1))/intVdiv
arrPts(i,j) = Rhino.EvaluateSurface(strSrf, Array(arrParamsU(i), arrParamsV(j)))
arrNorm(i,j) = Rhino.SurfaceNormal(strSrf, Array(arrParamsU(i), arrParamsV(j)))
arrNorm(i,j) = Rhino.VectorUnitize(arrNorm(i,j))
If (i Mod 2) =  0 Or i = 0 Then
If (j Mod 2) = 0 Or j = 0 Then
arrNorm(i,j) = Rhino.VectorReverse(arrNorm(i,j))
End If
If (j Mod 2) <> 0 And j <> 0 Then
arrNorm(i,j) = Rhino.VectorReverse(arrNorm(i,j))
End If
End If
arrNormU(i,j) = Rhino.VectorScale(arrNorm(i,j), dblWeaveFactorU)
arrPtsU(i,j) = Rhino.VectorAdd(arrPts(i,j), arrNormU(i,j))
Call Rhino.CurrentLayer(“Layer 01”)
Call Rhino.AddPoint(arrPtsU(i,j))
arrNormV(i,j) = Rhino.VectorScale(arrNorm(i,j), dblWeaveFactorV)
arrPtsV(i,j) = Rhino.VectorAdd(arrPts(i,j), Rhino.VectorReverse(arrNormV(i,j)))
Call Rhino.CurrentLayer(“Layer 02”)
Call Rhino.AddPoint(arrPtsV(i,j))
For i = 0 To intUdiv
ReDim arrPlinePts(intVdiv)
For j = 0 To intVdiv
arrPlinePts(j) = arrPtsU(i,j)
Call Rhino.CurrentLayer(“Layer 03”)
arrPlinesU(i) = Ribbon(arrPlinePts, strSecCrvU)
For i = 0 To intVdiv
ReDim arrPlinePts(intUdiv)
For j = 0 To intUdiv
arrPlinePts(j) = arrPtsV(j,i)
Call Rhino.CurrentLayer(“Layer 04”)
arrPlinesV(i) = Ribbon(arrPlinePts, strSecCrvV)
dblFabChoice = Rhino.MessageBox(“Do you want to create fabrication data?”,1)
If dblFabChoice = 1 Then
For i = 0 To intUdiv
Call Rhino.AddTextDot(“U”&CStr(i), arrPtsU(i,0))
strLengthCount = “U”&CStr(i)&”: “
For j = 0 To intVdiv-1
strLengthCount = strLengthCount&CStr(Unroll(arrPlinesU(i), arrPtsU(i,j), arrPtsU(i,j+1)))&”,”
Call Rhino.TextOut(strLengthCount)
For i = 0 To intVdiv
Call Rhino.AddTextDot(“V”&CStr(i), arrPtsV(0,i))
strLengthCount = “V”&CStr(i)&”: “
For j = 0 To intUdiv-1
strLengthCount = strLengthCount&CStr(Unroll(arrPlinesV(i), arrPtsV(j,i), arrPtsV(j+1,i)))&”,”
Call Rhino.TextOut(strLengthCount)
End If
End Sub
Function Ribbon(arrPts, strSectionCrv)
End Function
Function Unroll(strCrv, arrPt1, arrPt2)
End Function

TableCloth: Complexity From Layers of Simplicity

The TableCloth installation by Ball-Nogues Studio at the Schoenberg Hall courtyard in the UCLA Music Department is a functional installation. It is part art, part architecture, part structure and part furniture. The complexity of this project emerges from the layering of design decisions taken in response to the different functions that the installation fulfils. The installation is meant to enhance the usefulness of the courtyard to the members of the Music Department. It was commissioned as a temporary installation on the UCLA campus for only a part of the year.

Starting with the courtyard as a space a simple ‘drape-like’ surface hanging from one of the walls was proposed. This drape would embellish the building in the same way that a table cloth embellishes a table and marks is as a place for congregation. This drape surface was designed taking into account the circulation around the courtyard ‘relaxed’ by structural analysis so as to ensure that it draped the building smoothly.

The Relaxed Drape Surface in the Courtyard

A strategy was then devised to subdivide this drape surface into tectonic components that were differentiated based on their position on the surface.

The first step of the subdivision process was to populate the surface with points. The points were to act as seeds for the tectonic components. The density of the points was related to the varying curvature of the surface – the greater the curvature the greater the point density. This would enable the components (to be made of flat materials) to efficiently negotiate the curvature of the drape.  This was achieved using a script similar to one posted on this blog earlier.

Points Placed on the Surface Based on Surface Curvature

The points thus placed were used as the input for a Delaunay triangulation mesh which divided the curved drape surface into planar triangles which determine the orientation and periphery of each planar tectonic component. The density distribution of the points determined the density of the Delaunay mesh. A script for Delaunay triangulation was previously posted on this blog.

Delaunay Triangulation Using Surface Points

The temporary nature of the installation was in conflict with the durability and permanence of the materials and resources that would be required of an outdoor installation of the size of the drape surface. It was thus decided to give the individual tectonic components a functional life beyond that of the installation. The design of the components therefore became an exercise in cross-manufacturing where the same physical artefact performed the dual functions of a tectonic component when part of the installation, and a table/stool when independent. The triangular geometry of the Delaunay mesh dictated a three legged object but the function of a table/stool required minimizing sharp corners. Therefore  a Grasshopper definition was used to create irregular ‘ovals’ within each triangle of the Delaunay mesh which were to become the seats of the stools/tables making up the TableCloth.

Irregular 'Ovals' Created From the Delaunay Triangles

The edges of this field of tables/stools were modulated to allow it to act as an amphitheatre with audience seating, a performance area and a visual/acoustic backdrop. Further interstitial components and detailing were added based on structural and constructional considerations to create a structurally, visually and functionally complex installation.

The Complex Installation Incorporating Layers of Simple Design Decisions