A Graduate Design Studio of Computational Design

This semester, I taught ARCH651, a new graduate course that focuses on Computational Design methods. The studio project explores post-parametric adaptive façade design methods for a prospective boutique hotel at an urban infill site (17 W Kemp Ave, Watertown, SD 57201). The objective is to develop an algorithmic formal generative and evaluative workflow that produces alternate design iterations optimized for changing design conditions and goals. During the studio, students research and recognize major design conditions that determine the goals and restrictions for a boutique hotel facade (e.g., interior spatial requirements, structure and construction, mechanical system, zoning ordinances, and urban visual environment). Engaging the real-world variability of these design conditions and the changing relationship between stakeholders and actors involved in the co-production of the hotel estate, students develop visual scripts in multiple parametric design software platforms for computational façade design generation and evaluation. These scripts integrate multiple formal design parameters to construct adaptive design solutions in response to changing design conditions.

Students developed multiple interactive design games with Unreal Engine 4.22. Their products demonstrate a synthesis of computational design and real-time visualization. We contributed these media products to the City of Watertown for their development of downtown design guidelines. City council members and Watertown locals utilized the games to generate many facade design iterations for comparison and discussion.

The games helped Watertown to deal with a difficult equilibrium: on the one hand, these design guidelines should discourage outrageous design schemes that would incur destructive visual effects undermining the historic values of downtown Watertown; on the other hand, introduction of the design guidelines should not make the permitting process too demanding to stifle potential real estate investment in downtown Watertown. The games generated and visualized a wide range of design options, for people of Watertown to identify the optimal range that will define their downtown guidelines.

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