Is Algorithm the Future of Architecture?

Algorithm is the Future of Architecture

In the late 1980s and 1990s, computer-aided design (CAD) gave the architects a new way to design. Architects were able to experiment with new organic forms, free from the restraints of slide rules and protractors. The result was some famous curvy buildings, which looks futuristic and astonishing. Today, computers are taking the help of algorithms that can inform, refine, and even create new designs; even weirder shapes are just the start.

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Algorithms can now work out the best ways to layout rooms, construct the buildings, and even change them over time to meet users’ needs. In this way, algorithms are giving architects a whole new toolbox with which to realize and improve their ideas.

At a basic level, algorithms can be a powerful tool for providing exhaustive information for the design, construction, and use of a building. Building information modeling uses comprehensive software to standardize and share data from across the architecture, engineering, and construction that used to be held separately. This means everyone involved in a building’s genesis, from clients to contractors, can work together on the same 3D model seamlessly.

Recently, new tools have begun to combine this kind of information with algorithms to automate and optimize aspects of the building process. This ranges from interpreting regulations and providing calculations for structural evaluations to making procurement more precise.

Today, taking advantage of the algorithm, the architects are deriving a better understanding of the design stage as well. The algorithm is revealing the hidden patterns and proposed constructions—be it spatial or geometrical characteristics such as the ratio of public to private areas or the natural airflow of a building. Or they can be visual and physical connections that show what people can and can’t see from each point of a building and enable us to predict the flow of people around it. This is particularly relevant when designing the entrances of public buildings so we can place services and escape routes in the best position.

Algorithms can also be used to extend the capability of designers to think about and generate shapes and arrangements that might not otherwise be possible.

Instead of personally drawing floor plans according to their intuition and taste, architects using algorithmic design input the rules and parameters and allow the computer to produce the shape of the building. These algorithms are often inspired by ideas from nature, such as evolution or fractals (shapes that repeat themselves at ever smaller scales).

Combining the three uses of algorithm—managing complex information, revealing patterns, and generating new spatial arrangements—the next generation of algorithmic design will really change our ability to improve the built environment. For example, Zaha Hadid Architects, already known for its unusual curvy constructions, uses algorithms to automatically test thousands of internal layout options or find an arrangement of facade panels that will prevent an irregularly-shaped building from being prohibitively expensive.

Algorithms are also essential to novel constructions, such as the Filament Pavilion at the V&A museum, and adapted over time in response to structural, environmental and visitor usage data.

Utilizing the various aspects of the algorithm, even office arrangements are being produced for the COVID-19 pandemic. Algorithm is providing solutions about how the highest number of employees can work in a building maintaining safe social distance. Algorithms can also create a self-organizing floorplan for a care home, laying out the rooms in the best configuration to improve the experience of dementia patients by combining the three types of algorithms.

Rather than replacing architects, as some have pessimistically predicted, algorithms are becoming an important tool for building designers.

This is reflected in the technology’s growing prominence in postgraduate courses, research centers, and international firms. As advancements in computer science and technology are growing exponentially, it is difficult to imagine how algorithmic design will evolve in the future and how the building industry will change. But we can certainly predict that the use of algorithms will soon be a standard way of designing the buildings.

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P.S: images are for illustration purposes only.


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