“Seeing Is Believing” - Examples of Computational Design

Mini assignment 1

Task 1

Botanical World

Spiral Phyllotaxis- the arrangement of leaves on an axis or stem

Many succulents, such as Aloe, exhibit spiral phyllotaxis. This is where the leaves or petals are arranged in a spiral pattern. This pattern often follows the Fibonacci sequence or the golden ratio. This arrangement allows for maximal exposure to sunlight and efficient growth. Nick Seewald provides a great drawing that shows how the Fibonacci sequence creates this pattern.

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Zoological World

Fish Schooling

The way fish move in schools is an example of a computational-like system. Each fish follows simple rules about spacing and speed relative to its neighbors, resulting in a highly coordinated and efficient group movement. Schooling behavior is commonly mimicked in robotics and artificial intelligence swarm path planning.

“Each fish maintains a “zone of repulsion” with its neighbors where a fish automatically turns away from a neighbor in order to avoid collision.”

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Environment Built by Organisms

Bowerbird Nests

Male bowerbirds build elaborate structures, known as bowers, to attract mates. These aren’t just nests, but more like stages for courtship displays. The geometric precision with which they arrange sticks, stones, and even bird-made objects is an example of aesthetic geometry in animal behavior. Just like in an algorithm, where decisions are made based on a set of rules or criteria, bowerbirds select items based on color, size, and other features.

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Task 2

Beijing National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)

The stadium where the 2008 and 2022 Olympics were held is more than aesthetic. The construction of the Bird’s Nest utilized computational design for its intricate steel structure. The interlocking steel beams were algorithmically optimized to provide stability while creating an aesthetic reminiscent of a bird’s nest . The tricky part about construction of the structure was that no two beams are the same. Computational tools were employed to custom design each beam to ensure a perfect fit. Parametric design was also employed to allow for the architects to modify the optimized structure to meet an aesthetic vision, while ensuring each custom beam could be fabricated.

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Metropol Parasol- Jürgen Mayer

The Metropol Parasol’s design features undulating, organically inspired forms that are far from traditional linear or planar structures. Creating these complex geometries was made possible through computational design tools that allowed architects to explore and manipulate intricate forms. Parametric models were used to determine the best ways to achieve the desired aesthetic while also maintaining structural integrity. These models could adapt to various constraints, such as material limitations, spatial requirements, and load-bearing considerations. . This structure looks like it was sliced in 2D for a laser cutter or CNC.

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PotScript: a visual grammar for sculpting with functions

This was an interesting project I saw a presentation on at last year’s ACM Symposium on Computational Fabrication. Leo McElroy and Lingdong Huang built a web-tool that can be used interactively create pottery using functions . This parametric tool allows users to create, preview, and save gcode/ .stl files in an intuitive drag-and-drop UI. Their project is also open source.

Task 3

Ezri Tarazi

Chair of the Industrial Design Program at the Technion

I listened to Ezri deliver an interesting talk on his use of 3D printing to rebuild coral reefs in the Mediterranean Sea. What’s intriguing about this project is the focus on geometry. While old ships have been sunk to create artificial reefs, they don’t always provide the healthiest environment for coral growth. Ezri’s team is exploring how various 3D-printed geometries and materials can enhance growth. More details about his work can be found in a recent paper . The following video demonstrates their printing process:

Nobuyuki Umetani

Associate professor at the University of Tokyo and PI of the Interactive Graphics & Engineering Lab.

Dr. Umetani operates at the intersection of design, graphics, and engineering. His laboratory has conducted some fascinating research using digital tools for garment fitting . Another notable project involved an interactive design tool for creating wooden joints . A particularly standout project was an interactive tool for designing and optimizing paper airplanes . This project involved developing a surrogate model for aerodynamics simulation by training a neural network to predict how certain design parameters affect a plane’s flight path. Data for training the network was collected by constructing paper planes and recording their flight paths with a high-speed camera. They then provided users with a live preview of the predicted flight path of their designs in the editor. The following video demonstrates how the paper airplane design tool functions. I like the idea of using surrogate models, like neural networks, to enable real time feedback of physical properties of a design.