Adding Real-Time Evaluation-in-Design Support to Parametric Methods

Architects today have access to commercial CAD programs for efficiently developing 3D forms and making 2D drawings about 3D forms. The frontier of CAD technologies features various generative digital tools (e.g. Grasshopper and Dynamo) that further expand the designer’s capability to produce novel and complex forms. While many crave for these generative methods, I aspire to research and develop evaluative methods, especially the evaluation-in-design tools that facilitate the “iterative dialectic between problem-framing and problem-solving” (Schon, 1983). In a typical design process, the design problem is ill-defined and open-ended as evaluation actions constantly feedback into problem-framing. Without effective evaluative methods, the designer cannot navigate the swamp of formal ideas populated by advanced generative methods. I have witnessed too many students proficient with generative methods such as Grasshopper or Dynamo and yet still cannot execute a coherent and productive design process.

There are some existent computational methods (either as readymade software add-ons or user-customized scripts) for the designer to evaluate a 3D form in the process of its creation and modification. These “evaluation-in-design” methods currently are predominantly about quantifiable and objective design evaluative criteria, for example, photometric performance, structural integrity, and energy efficiency. There are, however, few evaluative methods available for revealing the qualitative, experiential aspects of design.

HumanUIExample02
Grasshopper Plugin that Visualizes Quantitative Data about the Developing Form

I suppose real-time design games can enable and encourage architectural designers to make informed design decisions by evaluating their proposals’ human experiential qualities, helping mitigate the discipline’s long-existent, problematic insensibility toward everyday users’ needs and perception.

Therefore, I build another real-time design game to demonstrate the potential of pre-design visualization as a strategy for supporting evaluation-in-design about human factors. This one is for visual simulation of an interactive, parametric brick wall design. The designer-player can create and customize multiple design instances, then evaluate their visual implications by observing them at different distances and in different daylighting conditions. I utilized the game in my undergraduate studio. Students learned the evaluative knowledge about human visual experiences of building façade details. The parametric wall in the game is based on a procedural blueprint that integrates just 11 variables as geometrical inputs: two Boolean variables (with reveal or not and running bond or not) and nine float numeric variables (wall height, wall width, brick height, brick width, vertical joint, horizontal joint, random brick offset, reveal height and reveal interval). The designer-player can choose to adjust several variables at the same time while observing the evaluative feedback of visual perception as simulated by the game. I am now working on a work flow to export the geometries generated in the game to Rhino through Excel and Grasshopper.

ProceduralStudy (64-bit Development PCD3D_SM5) 3_29_2019 9_46_48 AMHighresScreenshot00008ParametricWallGame (20)

The game files can be downloaded here

Below is a summary of major advantages of pre-design visualization as a computational “evaluation-in-design” method:

  1. Help the designer, especially an inexperienced one to identify the relevant evaluative criteria and constraints
  2. Improve the awareness about alternate evaluative perspectives
  3. Help recognize problematic solutions (explicit visual warning as standards or implicit problem that player interactions would expose)

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