[RvsR]₂ – 3rd Parametric Design + Physical Computing Platform Workshop @ [ARC], University of Nicosia, CYPRUS



[RvsR]₂ Workshop will run @ [ARC] University of Nicosia from the 19th – 23rd of November 2012.


Workshop Brief:

During the 70s, Nicholas Negroponte suggested that architecture would be greatly benefited from the integration of computing power into built spaces, thus creating better performing and more rational buildings. In 1991 Mark Weiser published a paper in Scientific American titled, The Computer for the 21st Century , where he coined the term Ubiquitous Com¬puting describing a seamless integration of computers in our surroundings and everyday life. A few years later, in 1999, Neil Gross in an article in the Business Week suggested that: In the 21st century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations. This skin is already being stitched together. It consists of millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKGs, electroencephalographs. These will probe and monitor cities and endangered species, the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations, our bodies–even our dreams. Today, in 2012 we are not far from such futuristic visions. Our work spaces, our homes, our automobiles are all retrofitted with mini computers performing all kinds of tasks. At the same time our handheld devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) are equipped with numerous sensors able to collect and process various sorts of data. The digital skin of Neil Gross is definitely inseparably interwoven to the physical world and it acquires new virtual layers and extensions year by year. At the same McCullogh highlights that: when information technology becomes part of the social infrastructure, it demands design consideration from a broad range of disciplines. Social, psychological, aesthetic and functional factors must play a role in design. Appropriateness surpasses performance as the key to technological successes. Appropriateness is almost always a matter of context. We understand our better contexts as places, and we understand better design for places as architecture.

While we can almost safely assume that information technology is nowadays part of the social infrastructure, architects and designers are soon to be called to take an active role in exploring and weaving considerable parts of the above mentioned digital fabric. As Andrew Payne mentions, Designers in the future will be called upon to create spaces that are computationally enhanced. Rather than simply design traditional buildings and then add a computational layer, it is better to conceive and design this integration from the outset.

Over the last fifteen years there has been a constant shift towards preparing the ground towards the above direction. During the process, design tools and methods have been reinvented and advanced digital construction and fabrication techniques have been applied in design. At the same time, the architect’s education and research fields have been expanded well beyond the traditional domain of architecture in areas like mathematics, robotics and computational engineering. Will this new emerging digital toolbox and the constantly expanded knowledge tank provide the means for realizing Negroponte’s initial propositions for better performance and rational? Can we even surpass performance and strive for appropriateness for better design in architecture?

In the above context, the 3rd workshop of the series will explore the notions of adaptability and interactivity in architecture and aims to expand beyond the use of the computer and digital fabrication, into robotics, electronics and physical computing platforms. The dyad reactive/responsive has been chosen as the theme for this workshop which aims to highlight the fine differences between the two terms. For the scope of the workshop, the property of Reactiveness is synonymous to impulsiveness and as such is lacking in processing as opposed to Responsiveness. The workshop will strive to highlight intelligence in systems and pose the problem of multiple contradicting parameters in digital design. Following [RvsR] and [DvsI] the [RvsR]₂ workshop will focus in creating physical interactive prototypes responding to certain parameters/information.

Grasshopper and plugin Firefly paired with Arduino programming language and computing platform will be introduced to students as possible tools for experimentation.

Workshop Outcome





[DvsI] 2nd Parametric Design + Digital Fabrication Workshop @ [ARC], University of Nicosia, Cyprus

The 2nd Parametric Design and Digital Fabrication Workshop has concluded @ the Architecture Department [ARC], University of Nicosia. The workshop was held from the 21st – 25th of November 2011 and the participants were called to explore the dyad data/information [DvsI].

The workshop theme emerged from the mere observation that digital data is nowadays abundant, ubiquitous and more accessible than ever. Simultaneously, the various computational tools embraced, developed, and widely used by designers today, facilitate the handling of such digital data. Given the above circumstances, one can potentially foresee a valuable source for steering or even founding our designs.

Digital Data come in various forms and structures but it is often supported that they are not of any significance if they are not organised or perceived within a certain context. According to Informationpedia, ‘Data is a set of unrelated information, and as such is of no use until it is properly evaluated. Upon evaluation, once there is some significant relation between data, and they show some relevance, then they are converted into information. Now this same data can be used for different purposes’. Similarly, during the last Smart Geometry Conference 2011 titled, Building the invisible, and according to Marc Thomas the following directions were clearly highlighted: ‘We should not be distracted or seduced by the existence of massive amounts of data — we actually need the processed comprehensible information that arises from data. We also need to avoid being trapped in data silos and be able to utilise information from many diverse sources.’ We can gather as much data as we like but that data only becomes information once it has been processed, interpreted and then presented in a form that is comprehensible to the recipient.’

[DvsI] was structured as a sequel to last year’s workshop [RvsR], which examined the differences between the processes of repetition and replication. For the purposes of [RvsR], the data/information used to drive replication has been assumed or logically declared. However, it came to be a common direction of all the participants that gathering/generating, filtering and conveying information is a new frontier for Parametric Design.

Before exploring such frontiers, and as it was clearly mentioned above, one had to clearly define the relation and interdependencies between data and information. [DvsI], aimed in researching, understanding and utilising the dipole data/information, and applying it in design through the possibilities facilitated by parametric design and digital fabrication tools and methods.

The workshop was consequently expected to address the following questions:
Where can we search for such data sources and how can we transform them into usable design information? How do parametric design tools and digital fabrication methods allow harvesting, mapping and exploiting data/information? Can we support and drive our designs based on such informational foundations? What are the gains from applying these methods for both the design process and product?

[DvsI] consisted of 5 teams, with 3-4 persons each. Marhta Tsigkari, Odysseas Georgiou, Michalis Georgiou and Kyriaki Pafitou, formed the tutoring team.

Grasshopper and plugins Kangaroo and DIVA where introduced to students as possible software for research and experimentation. Each team was asked to develop and present a project that would demonstrate the process of data transformation (gathering/generation, filtering and visualization) into meaningful information able to support and drive their design proposals.

The results are presented below:


Team A: Rotrackable 
Team: Nataly Papandreou, Constantinos Kounnis, Pantelis Panteli
Digital Tools: Grasshopper, DIVA

The team implemented a series of Parametric Design strategies aiming in reducing the overall energy consumption of a hypothetical building. Among others, the group examined form-finding methods based on self-shading and developed an opening mechanism, the ‘Rotrackable’ that allows sunlight during winter while providing shading and ventilation during summer. The team attempted to find an optimum balance between the amount of solar radiation measured on the façade of the building and the overhang of the roof. At the same time, the Sun Vector definition, adapted from Ted Ngai and developed by Andrew Heumann was implemented to define the rotation and angle of the ‘Rotracable’ in respect to the position of the Sun throughout the year. The incoming light levels in the building were subsequently measured to verify compliance with Lighting Standards. This last step has also defined the minimum number and size of the openings carrying the ‘Rotracable’ mechanism which could be completely automated (if paired with a sensor-actuator system) or work as a low-tech device (with a number of fixed positions, manually operated by the user).


Team B: Solar Sieve
Team: Papaonisiforou Maria, Christodoulou Kyriakos, Gavriel Yiota
Digital Tools: Grasshopper, DIVA, Galapagos

The team implemented Parametric Design tools to achieve optimum lighting conditions for the entrance/yard of the Fabrication LAB of the Architecture department [ARC] of the University of Nicosia. The group proposed a canopy that works as a regulating membrane, permitting or restricting light wherever necessary. The team constructed a parametric model which enabled modifying the geometry and perforations of the canopy while simultaneously monitoring and calculating the resulting daylight factor and illumination values. As a final addition to the parametric definition, a genetic algorithm was implemented to iterate between all possible design solutions and determine which canopy provides the optimal daylight conditions for the space under study.

Team C: Optimal Shades
Team: Maria Chrysanthou, Antonia Loizou, Stavros Voskaris
Digital Tools: Grasshopper, DIVA

The aim of this project was to develop an intelligent, low tech, exterior shading skin for a hypothetical building that could regulate the annual solar radiation on its facades. The team approached the problem by subdividing the façades of the building into smaller panels and calculating the amount of annual solar radiation on each panel. The group came up with a parametric definition that relates the radiation values on each panel of the façade with the number and size of generated louvers per panel. To facilitate construction, the results were reduced to five categories per facade allowing modularization. Consequently, the East and West facades consisted from panels comprising 1-5 louvers, whereas the south facade consisted from panels comprising 5-9 louvers. As a final step the team calculated the new annual solar radiation on the shaded façades to verify their design strategy.


Team D: Tensegrity Module
Team: Polina Demetriadou, Anna Margaritova, Darcy Osting
Digital Tools: Grasshopper, Kangaroo

The project team aimed in studying, comprehending and digitally simulating a simple tensegrity module using parametric design tools. The process included digitizing the physical properties of two different elements (rigid and tensile), wooden rods and steel wires, and experimenting with finding various equilibrium positions of the digital apparatus by varying several of its parameters. As such the experiment regarded the initial position of the rods and the initial dimensions of the steel wires. Once several stable formations were achieved, the team investigated the possibility of assembling a number of modules together. Finally, the information taken from the simulation (element sizes) was directly used to successfully construct a 1:1 physical module, thus verifying the validity and the future potential of the digital model.

Team E: Fa[Brick]
Team: Stefani Kyriakide, Anna Tsareva
Digital Tools: Grasshopper, DIVA, Kangaroo

The team started by investigating the physical properties of an elastic piece of fabric. By physically measuring the elongation of the fabric in both x and y directions under a fixed load they came up with a parametric definition, digitally simulating the above deformation. The concept formed the basis for their design proposal – to provide shading for a specific part of the Department of Architecture [ARC] of the University of Nicosia, Cyprus which hosts the staircase of the building. Consequently the team subdivided the glazed façade of the staircase into smaller panels (tiles: 300×300mm) and calculated the annual solar radiation for each panel. The fabric was stretched according to the radiation values obtained on each panel. To facilitate construction, the results were reduced to five categories that resulted into 5 different types of tiles covering the façade.




Parametric Design+Fabrication Workshop @ [A.R.C] Nicosia – the outcome

February 2nd

The Workshop has concluded and all four teams have successfully presented their real scale prototypes.

RvsR started as an attempt to highlight the difference between the processes of repetition and replication, with the last being the requested outcome. The workshop has therefore implemented Parametric Design Tools (PDT) to investigate the above notions. In addition, RvsR intended in demonstrating the function of PDT as platforms for creating new design tools and geometry control mechanisms, as well as handling digital fabrication.

Repetition, in the workshop context, has been approached as the process by which the multiplication of an object, with certain properties, produces a whole. On the other hand replication has been studied as the process of multiplying an object while altering its properties to produce a whole. Consequently, by varying those properties of the replicable objects, one is able to explore multiple design solutions within a generated family of results. As such replication was able to generate adaptable systems which corresponded to certain design requirements.

For the purposes and the tight schedule of the workshop, the information that drove replication has been assumed or logically approached.  However, it seemed a  common direction of all the participants that generating, receiving, and filtering the feeded information is a new frontier for Parametric Design.

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