Saturday, June 20, 2009

Abstract 2009 ACSA Conference

STRUCTURAL DNA: Genetic Exploration of Biological Micro Structures for Architectural Applications

Complex biological structures, designed by forces of nature, frequently serve as inspiration for new developments in the field of building technology and architecture. Well know examples in the work of Gaudi, Paxton, Otto, le Ricolais and others demonstrate the inspiration of natural morphology and patterns for structural design. The use of digital technologies to investigate the translation of natural micro structures into architectural macrostructures offers a valuable exploration tool for both designers and engineers working in the field of architecture.
The approach demonstrated in this paper uses Evolutionary Computation (EC) to enhance and modify structural form based on biological micro structures. The forms are modified to conform to new boundary conditions associated with architectural structures. The process is based on a Genetic Algorithm (GA) which uncovers for the designer a range of good performing solutions within the design space. The application of the GA is combined with parametric software, in this case Generative Components (GC), to allow the designer to navigate through a range of solutions which follow morphological patterns taken from the biological form. The method, referred to in this paper as a GC-GA, uses a finite element analysis to determine the structural performance of the forms. This allows the designer to manipulate and optimize a parametrically defined model based on predefined criteria and parameters.
The opportunities and limitations of this design process are explored and evaluated based on an experimental case study using the forms of radiolarian skeletons. Radiolarians are a group of marine protozoa found in the open ocean which have ornate siliceous skeletons. The Radiolarians are analyzed in relation to their environment and special qualities. Based on these findings, a parametric model of an architectural, space enclosing structure is defined and used in the GC-GA exploration loop, taking into consideration new boundary conditions and load cases. The paper demonstrates how the GC-GA cycle of selection, recombination, and evaluation is used to optimize and explore a large range of solutions. Finally, there is a discussion of the quality of solutions found based on both structural and architectural performance. In conclusion, comments are made regarding the general application of design exploration methods like the GC-GA as design tools both in the context of practice and studio.

Keywords: radiolarians, nature, structure, genetic optimization, structural analysis, morphology.