INTRODUCTIONFor several years, designers have giventheir attention to self-formation progressions in nature to realize a morepossibilities in the way architecture can be organized. The pioneers in analogform finding who I will be discussing in this paper are Antonio Gaudi and FreiOtto. The results of analog experiments are aesthetically pleasing.
However,the Interesting and the sensation of this method lies in the way they are transformedand come into being. Especially doing the experiments with different kind ofscales and without a plan.With quick development of technology,architects of the 21st century can overcome the boundaries that theanalog experiments had, and transform any abstract form into a building. Digitalexperiments are done at universities and architectural firms. Zaha Hadid is hasinvested a lot of time in digital form finding and contributed on creatingground breaking architecture.
This paper will introduce the history ofform finding from the pioneers to architects of today. It will examine theAnalog experiments done by Antonio Gaudi and Frei Otto will be used as casestudies. An overview of the digital experiments done in AA school ofarchitecture and Zaha Hadid projects will illustrate the difference betweenanalog and digital form finding. Will Perform experiments in bundling systemsin Maya.
FORM FINDING It was until 20th century amathematician D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson extended the ideas to make a modernunderstanding that there are inclusive laws that emerge from principal math andthat reflect the growth and form in biological systems. Thompson worked on the relationship between common formsand numerical models and appeared likenesses betweensuch things as jellyfish forms and drops of fluid. His book,on growth and form got tobe a vital way discoverer in the study ofnature and the instrumental in the later rise of the field ofbiomimetics. The image shows the shapes made by dropson water (left) and the tentacles of a jellyfish(Right). By understandingThompson’s relationship between natural schemes, form &structures and absolute definable rules, the appreciation of naturalschemes has gotten to be a developing field of interest.Soap film studies have given us bits ofknowledge into minimal structures, bee hives have given usan understanding in honeycomb structures whichare currently utilized in lightweight panel systems, and anunderstanding of photosynthesis has helped in creating photovoltaics has endedup as a major sustainable energy source.
While observing a flockof birds or a school of fish it teaches us the development of dynamicstructures. In urban planning, wehave indeed seen the study of non-planned settlements wheresocial, cultural and external limitations permit settlementsto create incrementally because of actions and reactions. Bundling in naturePhilip Ball a science writerexpressed that pattern and form in nature are not onlygenerated through organic coding, but too there are simplephysical laws behind them. Hence, we can repeat complex forms innature by repeating these rules. From all these thoughts, we cansay that there are a few natural forces in the world and theyare acting on natural and inorganic things and decide theirappearances.
Since external forces cause similarities and differences we canrepeat their impact on forms by repeating these physical forces.Pattern or form is often mixed up withjust repeating array of identical components. However, pattern or form can incorporate clusters thatare not fundamentally identical, and repeat in a mannerthan is not fundamentally standard or with well-definedsymmetry. form in nature encapsulates this concept. Throughits energetic characteristic, it can assimilate changingconditions, change its visual appearance, all while remainingtopologically the same.
We find that bundling patterns repeat again and again in differentsituations but still they show some similarities with one another.Like tree roots bear a resemblance to lightning, a neuron in a cell body toLondon underground map. Form finding in architectureTraditionally inthe architectural design process, there is a fundamental belief thatthe design process is a rational linear one and thatthe designer is some way acting as the inventor.The traditional method brings up individual taste and reproduction ofhistorical styles while the form finding one, is based on a process andinteractions between components.As a design process, form finding hasexisted way long before the digital revolution. At the beginning of thetwentieth century, architects like Frei Otto and even before him Antonio Gaudistarted implementing design methods that today we see them we can say that arebased on computational approach.Over the past century architects have beenusing various form finding strategies that are still being made used of today.Form finding by geometry used byFrank Lloyd wright and Le Corbusier in his book Modular he related the goldenratio as beauty.
Corbusier also went on to apply the geometry rules andproportions in to same of his project like Notre dame du haut.Form finding driven by nature thisapproach architects design approach focused on use of typological elements.Aldo Rossi was well known to use pure shapes of the site like the teatro delMondo in Venice. Form finding driven nature, thearchitect observes a progression in nature to discover ways to organize theproject. This study allows the architect to come with an ideal form. Throughthis process the architects translate living organism process into architectureitself rather than just a concept or inspiration.
This has been used bySantiago Calatrava’s city of arts and sciences in Valencia. “Calatrava’sarchitecture is just phenomenal and inventive and exciting. It’s very skeletal,like you’re looking at the vertebrae of a dinosaur or prehistoric fish,”said Chernov. Movie producer.Performance driven form finding method is completely different from other form finding method. In thisapproach architects focus on minimal path or form, obtaining from materialproperties and structural performance. Through this approach the buildingrelation to its context is minimal. New structural techniques and digitalfabrication drives structural optimization systems for complex curved surfaces.
Minimal form made advancement in lightconstruction, to constructing thin concrete shells structure as we can see inStockholm at Wyss Garden Centre, to constructing tents and membranes.Performance driven method unites both aesthetics and function. Architects like Buckminsterfuller in America, Felix candela in Mexico and Pier Luigi in Italy used formfinding driven by performance approach. Fuller’s usage of tensegritystructures, Candela’s Los Manantiales Mexico which has four intersectinghyperbolic paraboloids, with a thin concrete shell and Luigi ‘s Palazetto dellosport in Rome 1960 he used thin concrete shell dome. Designers of today haveembraced this method at applied it in their project. In the next chapter will focus more onAntonio Gaudi and Frei Otto who used analog experiments to come up with formfinding solutions. And, will discuss on digital research done by universitiesand experiments done by Zaha Hadid.
Antoni GaudiThe pioneer of form finding is AntoniGaudi, and the first to use analog experiments in designing his projects. Hewas mostly inspired by nature especially the environment around him, likeMallorca caves, prades mountain behind Reus and Montserrat mountain whichcomprises of different peaks in Catalonia He studied organic forms in natureand tried to express in architectural language. At first Gaudi was influencedby Neo-gothic movement in the end of 19th century. Later he joined modernismeand described gothic style as imperfect. As he said:Gothic art is imperfect, only half resolved; it is a style createdby the compasses, a formulaic industrial repetition. Its stability depends onconstant propping up by the buttresses: it is a defective body held up oncrutches. (.
..) The proof that Gothic works are of deficient plasticity is thatthey produce their greatest emotional effect when they are mutilated, coveredin ivy and lit by the moon. -Antoni gaudiGaudi preferred to work withthree-dimensional models rather than drawing detail plans for his projects. Heexperimented the 3D models by adding weights on them to find the best form andthe correct construction method.
He hanged strings where the columns will beplaced in the project. Then he hanged the weights onto the strings. By adding weights on a model that was placedin upside-down manner curves were formed in vaults and arches.
By doing thisGaudi was looking for the structure of for arches and vaults. He will then takepictures of the model and painted over the photographs. The ‘hanging chain’model took him ten years to build but through this process we would reallyanalyze the organic form. He designed his master works followingthis approach like the Colonia Guell and Sagrada Familia. His projects bear aresemblance to branching systems because of the arches are divided intobranches and they come together.
Inspired from nature as the branching systemsof the arches symbolize trees. This led Gaudi to the use of ruled surfaces likehyperboloid vaults in Sagrada Familia. His even said that; Paraboloids, hyperboloids and helicoids, constantly varying theincidence of the light, are rich in matrices themselves, which makeornamentation and even modelling unnecessary. -Antonio Gaudi Frei OttoIf Antoni Gaudi is the father of formfinding, then Frei Otto is the master of the process of form finding. Hisconcern to achieve more with less material and energy made him take onexperiments and research on lightweight structures. As a result, he gaveattention to form finding and based it on researching self-formation anddeveloping natural constructing methods that are less damaging to the planet.The research group involved different kind of people from architects, engineersto biologist and each one of them had a task. One of the architect’s task wasto find a link between nature and building while the engineers had to researchthe self-formation mechanism and the biologist had to work the natural qualityof the structure and quality of those living in nature.
Frei Otto was really into the study ofnatural forms. As he used to refer to himself as natural scientist than anengineer. In 1964 he established the institute of lightweight structures at theuniversity of Stuttgart, where he established the process of form findingthrough many experimentations with physical models. Which was based onmathematical patterns found in nature.
A vast number of experiments wereconducted at the institute of lightweight structures as basic researchprogramme by teams which were supervised by Frei Otto himself. He came up withmethods in which form generates themselves to analyze the process by which formoriginates from nature. Some of his investigations includes soap filmexperiments to come up with minimal surfaces, optimized pathways by usingthread as branched systems, pneumatic membrane using rubber skin, suspendedconstructions experimenting with chains and floating magnets to experimentsurface occupation in urban development.
Soap film experiment producing minimal surfaceA soap film are membranes made up ofliquids. They always bond to the smallest surface. Thus, taking up the minimalsurface which is mathematically defined. Otto used this experiment and came upwith a different way of building tents. Pneumatic construction experimentsPlastic stiffened rubber films are used inthis kind of experiments. When inflated it hardens. This construction systemcomprises of a membrane which is supported by air pressure. In lightweightstructures pneumatic construction which is also known as air hall is the mostextreme because it supported by air pressure compared to tents which aresupported by poles.
That’s why it was never considered as a serious buildingmaterial. But after Frei Otto’s intensive research they started producingpneumatically tensioned membrane constructions. Like the exhibition pavilion inRotterdam which was reinforced with rope. Otto with other colleagues in 1971proposed an air hall at the city of Antarctica. Frei Otto also did studiedairship as part of ‘airfish’ project and came up with different form andstructure. Suspended constructions experimentsIn this experiments Frei Otto wassuspending chains in a model. The suspended chains if its dense it gives theform of a suspended roof that are stabilized by their own weight.
The suspendedchain forms a hyperboloid line which is perfect form for a free-standing arch. FreiOtto applied this kind of form finding when he designed a temporaryaccommodation for medical school in elm. He also did a competition design of asuspended roof in Stuttgart stadium. Experiment to simulate surface occupationFrei Otto experimented attractionoccupation by using soap bubbles floating on water. The bubbles come togetherand form one pack. On urban scale he simulated both attraction and repellentsimulation by using magnetized pins floating on water.
Experimenting on optimized path and branch systemsThe shortest way to connect two points iswith a straight line but for different points a direct path will be longer. So,Frei Otto carried out experiments to investigate minimal pathways connectdifferent points. One of the experiments was to study the minimal path oftraffic routes.
He was dipping threads in water and with the surface tensionthe threads were bundling. After bundling the threads, the results showed thatthe area and overall length needed to construct the traffic routes issignificantly smaller than the direct path. Frei Otto went further to experiment on optimizingframe construction.
He was looking to for a way to use less material and havelong free span. He tried different kinds of branching system that produceminimal paths by hanging threads loosely between two points then he will moistthe threads with water to bundle them. Like the braced fan construction reducedbuckling because the compression members were reduced. Other architects started using this kingof construction as we can see in Barajas airport when Richard rogers used the yshaped columns to have minimal visual impact effect through the façade. Also,Stuttgart airport Gerkan and partners used branched structure. Digital Form findingAt the beginning of the 21st centurythere was rapid advancement of computers in the field of architecture andengineering.
With the help from Computer Aided Design (CAD) designers can transforman abstract geometry into a building and allows to visualize geometries andstudy the behavior of the most complex form. In different fields, from product design,automotive to architectural design CAD has changed the design process and howwork flows. 3D modelling has significantly affectedvarious industries but mostly importantly it affected film industry andautomotive industry. Because of the opposite objective of the two industries,two different methods of 3D modelling were developed. Polygon modelling it’seasy to operate often used with animation and film industry and nurbs modellingwhich allows for accuracy and precision used in automotive industry.
One of the first engineers to use digitalform finding was Arup engineers. They employed this technic when working forSydney opera house in the late 1950s. Sydney opera house is a complex projectand was achieved by utilizing computers by modelling the complex roof geometryand analyze the structure.It was until the 90s when computers werestarted to be used in the architectural industry.
In the first place CAD was usedfor 2D drawing as a replacement for hand drawing. It was the way forward inarchitecture because drawings were produced faster but it did not change designprocess. Some designers rejected computer modelling arguing that it killscreativity. But other accepted computer modelling and became as design tool andit was until this time that changes happened in the field of architecture.It was a slow process in architecturalindustry to adopt CAD software, but now digital modelling is widely used byarchitects.
3D form finding can be seen in projects of architects like FrankGehry, grimshaw architects, Zaha Hadid just to mention a few. A lot ofexperiments in digital form finding have been at Architectural AssociationDesign Research Lab (AADRL). Zaha HadidIs one of the prominent architects thatcontributed a lot on digital form finding. Her works are known to be fluid andfree form. When talking about her work.
“My architecture takes the fluid dynamism of the sketching hand asa literal option for an architecture that is driven by new developments indigital design and enhanced manufacturing capabilities” -Zaha HadidKartal pendik master plan is a winningcompetition project that Zaha Hadid architects used minimal pathways andbundling system a design tool. It is a redevelopment of an industrial area atthe east of Istanbul turkey. The site lies where important nodes of differentinfrastructure come together like highways connecting Europe side and Asia, railwaysconnecting to the city, ferry stations and bus stations. Having this nodes onsite Zaha Hadid tried to link the infrastructure to the urban context. Shejoined all major roads with the intersecting points with a straight linecreating a network. She then started to bundle them together to find theminimal path required to connect the major points. She then placed a regular grid on top ofthe site which it can adopt to the surrounding. The grid was stretched throughthe site to form programmatic areas.
Using lattice in maya software, other areaswere pulled up to form towers others formed the street and certain placescompletely fade away to form open spaces and green areas. The grid also extendsto the sea and creates marinas and shops which has a very strong relation tothe rest of the master plan. Zaha Hadid also applied differentconstraints like attraction and repulsion to simulate the movement of peopleand generate different spaces while the constraints act as the attractors. Bystudying the simulation, it created open spaces on the master plan, created buildingclose together and created a network which connected the whole master plan.With digital experimentation Zaha created a smooth transition from one part ofthe masterplan to another. From high rise end to completely flat area. Architectural Association Design Research Lab (AADRL)Architectural schools are conducting a lotof research on form finding to come up with minimal material used andstructurally.
How we build our project has changed due to advancement in 3Dmodelling and fabrication. There is debate that is architectural research andthe digital society are at per? Or is architecturalresearch far ahead compared to the built environment? Well experiments done in universitiesreally pushes boundaries on how we are used to build or come up with forms inarchitecture. The advantage of digital over analog experiments is that itallows to experiment on a very large model, can come up with infinitealterations within a short time and it is easy to analyze structuralproperties. Architectural Association school ofarchitecture have invested a lot of effort and time in digital research. Theyhave graduate design program that focuses on advanced architecture.Architectural Association Design Research Lab was founded in 1997 by PatrickSchumacher. Today it is regarded as one of the best in digital architecture andarchitectural research. Will discuss a few researches based projects done atthe AADRL in digital form finding.
Experiment 1This project was conducted by threestudents at the AA and they were investigating solutions to temporary housing.Their goal was to come up with a lightweight structure and sustainable. Theycontrolled the design by using computers and started experimenting.
Startedwith a basic shape and by adding constraints they were bundling the line toachieve minimal surface and enhance on the performance. The group generateddifferent iterations to find the best form. Fabrication was key to in this research asthe machine controlled digitally rotates around to give the minimal materialrequired. Due to different programmes of the project the material circulateddifferently. Experiment 2This research was based on investigating fibrousmaterial on how it can produce construction method that has both aesthetic andperformance. The project was in a fish market in Japan where the students wereto improve the circulation. They studied by making simulation of movement byadding constraints and analyzing the structural capabilities of tensile fibers. A controlled woven systemwas achieved by densifying the tensile fibers and connecting them digitallywith some boundaries.
By adding constraints on the woven system like gradientand applying external forces the tensile fibers settled and formed a spatial vocabulary. Bibliography· ShapeFinding or Form Finding? By Nicholas S. GOLDSMITH, FAIA LEED AP· Self-OrganizationalArchitecture: Design Through Form-Finding Methods thesis by Allison Jean Isaacs· Thompson,D’Arcy. 1961.
On Growth and Form. Cambridge university Press: Cambridge.· Otto,Frei and Bodo Rasch. 1995.
Finding Form: Towards an Architecture of theMinimal. Deutscher Werkbund Bayern.· Flores,Carlos (2002). Les lliçons de Gaudí (in Catalan). Translated by Glòria Bohigas.Barcelona· Gaudi:His Life, His Theories, His Work by César Martinell translated by Judith Rohrer· Computationalform-finding of fabric formworks: an overview and discussion· GenerativeDesign: Form-Finding Techniques in Architecture by Asterios Agkathidis· Suzumori,S., 2006.
‘Formwork as Design Tool’, Master thesis, Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology.