Paper sigradi2008_099:
Teaching Architectural Design through Computer Modeling, Rendering and Digital Fabrication

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id sigradi2008_099
authors Kotsopoulos, Sotirios; Lawrence Sass
year 2008
title Teaching Architectural Design through Computer Modeling, Rendering and Digital Fabrication
source SIGraDi 2008 - [Proceedings of the 12th Iberoamerican Congress of Digital Graphics] La Habana - Cuba 1-5 December 2008
summary The paper examines the process of introducing the rudiments of architectural design and computation through computer modeling, rendering and digital fabrication. The scope of the paper is educational. The context of the paper is the teaching of the course Introduction to Design Computing to a group of sophomores at the Department of Architecture, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Computational concepts from the modeling, rendering and fabrication techniques developed for the course, as well as the students’ response, are discussed in the paper. Precedents The descriptive and productive contribution of computation in design has been studied for decades (see for example, Mitchell W. J. and McCullough M., 1991). The use of generative mechanisms confines a new domain in thinking (see Stiny 2006) but also, in design education (see for example, Duarte, J. P. 2002, Celani, M. G. C. 2002). Finally, rapid prototyping and digital fabrication have been used as transferring mechanisms between the physical and the digital (see Sass, L., 2007, 2005). Particular to this study is the use of digital fabrication from virtual models and drawings. Objective This paper concerns how computational methods and means affect design education. The teaching of an introductory course to computational design is used as case study. Objective of the course was to teach architectural design with CAD drawing, 3d modeling, rendering and rapid prototyping. The paper analyzes the performance of the digital tools, the students’ work, and outlines the vigorous in-class exchange of ideas that this work stimulated. The presentation covers technical and teaching issues. It is critical of design and teaching principles and of production methods. Methodology A specific case study is presented: the teaching of an introductory course on computational design, to a group of sophomores of the Department of Architecture, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the spring 2007-08. The group included thirteen students nine of which were majoring in architecture and four in computer science. Students were required to design from scratch a summer cabin, on a given site at Cape Code, Massachusetts, by building digital models. The models leaded them to a series of architectural explorations with computers and digital fabrication. The presentation follows the tripartite division of the course: modeling, rendering, production. First, the designs were modeled abstractly, as forms. Second, the performance of the produced spatial configurations was tested. Third, the designs obtained construction components and details for manufacture with digital fabrication devices. Conclusions In the case study, young students created design descriptions in CAD, namely drawings and 3D models of construction details. The models were used for performance testing and for 3D printing or laser cutting. A key aspect was that the students had limited time to focus on a single technical issue: i.e. the modeling, or the fabrication component etc. Instead, they had to move from one objective to the next, having in mind the end goal: the design. Another key aspect was that the students had to abandon the idea of “one model”. Multiple representations had to be used for different purposes. Geometric complication found in descriptions, was an obstacle at the fabrication stage, and rapid prototyping methods used to build the earlier 3D models were found inefficient in transferring to larger scale product representation, and assembly.
keywords Design education, digital representation, production
series SIGRADI
email eskots@gmail.com
content file.pdf (361,114 bytes)
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