This is a preview of a parametric conceptual design tool for architectural practice that I have been developing at NBBJ. I wanted to develop a system that allows designers to quickly organize and understand complex architectural programmes in three dimensions.
It is an advancement of the traditional bubble diagram; it solves adjacency requirements automatically and suggests planimetric and sectional relationships. The resulting diagrams are not formal solutions; they are simply organizational diagrams with solved adjacencies and accurate required areas. The diagrams are raw materials, meant to be manipulated sculpturally, or even squeezed into a formal container.
The tool was created in the Grasshopper plug-in for Rhino. Custom components, written in VB.NET, read programme data directly from Excel into Grasshopper. The tool uses the Kangaroo engine for realtime spring dynamics simulation.
One of the unexpected consequences of the 2008 economic downturn has been that the debate over the value of architecture and design is now focused less on style and the exquisite, designed object, and more on the economic and societal value added by design. And that is because almost everyone now acknowledges that we need new design values as much as—perhaps more than—we need new designs. The most promising development, in this regard, and one that affects architecture and design practice as well as design education, is the growing recognition that design is not only a product—a table, building, plan or landscape—but is also a creative process and a powerful engine of innovation. This new understanding of design helps us begin to see what new values of new design practice and education might look like. Cheap, fast and adaptable, so that hundreds of iterations can be designed, sorted, and discarded. Big, bold, and dumb, so that clients, stakeholders, even other designers, can engage in transparent, productive discussion that might lead to better problems and better solutions. And finally, apposite not perfect, so that if the design needs to adapt to changing conditions, it can do so with minimal effort and cost. If architecture, in particular, is to thrive during and after the current economic downturn, it will have to adapt to these and other values of the “good enough” revolution, where the quick and dirty have eclipsed the slow and polished and the cheap and simple have eclipsed the expensive and complicated. But if architecture, and more importantly, if architecture schools, are unwilling or unable to innovate, communicate, and adapt, they will soon be left behind, comforted only by the memories of those expensive, incomprehensible, perfectly designed things that not too long ago fascinated us all.