Rethinking conceptual design: methods for the simultaneous integration and evaluation of tower subsystems

Elif ERDINE *1

*1 Architectural Association School of Architecture


The research presented in this paper formulates the key areas of the methodological approach and evaluation methods of a recently completed PhD thesis. The principal argument is the demonstration that the initial phases of the long and complex chain of design development can be shortened by the designer working in the computational environment of a typical laptop, and utilising mainly free open source software. The design domain is the Tower, and the focus is on developing a generative system of design that offers simultaneous integration and differentiation throughout the subsystems of a concept for a tall building during the conceptual design phase. As such, the research focuses on the incorporation of the functional parameters of the tower system with principles of biological models in order to propose computationally generated dynamic systems for the tower typology. In this framework, the tower subsystems are grouped as the structural system, floor system, vertical circulation system, façade system, and environmental system.

The developed methodology, termed as multi-parameter integration, employs real-time generative form-finding techniques, described as bottom-up processes where design output emerges from the interaction between autonomous agents and their environment in the Object-Oriented Programming environment, Processing. Initially, various design parameters obtained from previous research on current tower subsystems and selected biomimetic examples are grouped into functional parameters, geometrical parameters, and topological parameters so that the focus is on convergence and integration. Design parameters are integrated with a hierarchical approach where interdependencies across multiple tower subsystems arise on a multitude of levels, and design explorations demonstrate how a change in the parameters of one design driver has repercussions in

other subsystems.

A metric has been developed for measuring the level of integration on two discrete levels, firstly within the design process itself and secondly on the overall performance of an example of design output. Integration in the design process of the tower system is realized by the implementation of real-time generative form-finding techniques in the open-source platform Processing. As a result of the selected tool and methodology, the total time it takes to deliver design iterations becomes significantly shorter, enabling the designer to create more iterations in a specified amount of time or concentrate on the analysis of the design iterations. The overall performance of the tower system is measured via progressive Finite Element Analysis (FEA) procedures, conducted in McNeel Rhinoceros Grasshopper’s add-on Karamba, in order to calculate the changes in the structural behaviour as each subsystem is introduced to the overall tower system. FEA analysis has been chosen as the primary method to analyse the changes in the performance of the tower system as a result of the implementation of multi-parameter integration, since the most essential condition which the tower needs to fulfil is its structural performance.