Computational design has been increasingly gaining attention among practicing architects and researchers in recent years. Design computation methods implement digital automation in generative and analytical procedures, assisting the architectural designer in making informed decisions responsive to adapting design conditions and goals. In theory, computational design facilitates the involvement of clients and stakeholders in architectural design, especially their participation in the planning, programming, and concept design stages. However, existing computational design models need to overcome significant design communication obstacles to support a user-centered, participatory design agenda.
I advocate a fusion of game technologies and computational design that will make community participation more productive and relevant. The strategy was demonstrated by a graduate-level architectural design studio that required students to develop interactive 3D design games for exploring façade design schemes on an urban infill site. Optimized for users without any design background, these design games featured graphic user interfaces (GUI) that allowed users to customize and execute computational design procedures, accommodating a wide range of computer-assisted workflows. The games also afforded an immersive 3D game world in which users can play as pedestrian avatars to simulate design schemes’ visual and behavioral implications. Successfully promoting a community-based participatory design initiative, these design games served as an integrated platform that synthesized real-time visualization, human-computer interaction, and algorithmic formal generation and evaluation, involving people of as diverse backgrounds as possible in the design process.
Empowering non-designers with 3D formal generation and representation capabilities, 3D design games induce a reflexive dialogue between the designer, the participating interested persons, and the formal scheme under development, accommodating effective exchange of ideas that transcend professional boundaries. While the prevalence of digital automation methods seems to prioritize the objective rationalization of design activities and induce a more centralized, architect-oriented design process that excludes the unpredictable, subjective experiences of everyday life, game technologies may blaze a new trail to expand the engagement with users.