Integrated Adaptive and Tangible Architecture Design Tool


CAAD development, Human Computer Interaction, Tangible User Interfaces, Design Process, Design Tool development

As an ever evolving discipline, during the past few decades, the WIMP based CAAD tools have been redefining the foundation of architectural design and made extraordinary contribution to architectural practice. Meanwhile, it is also reshaping the typical workflow of architects and designers. Nowadays, with the further development of computer system and CAAD techniques, the expansion of building scale, the increasing complexity of architectural practice and collaboration, the existing CAAD exhibits a series of drawbacks while the new emerging technologies are changing the people’s cognition of design activity. In this paper, we identified two majority issues of current CAAD development situating from the standpoint of CAAD history and the nature of design. In addition, we proposed a possible potential solution with HCI approaches to fix these issues.

On one hand, current CAAD tools are not adaptive enough for early design stage, since most of CAAD tools are designed to be mathematical correct. In this paper, we conducted a detailed survey of CAAD development history, and find out that most of the techniques of Computer-Aided Design applied into architecture are always adopted from engineering track. Because of the practicality, reliability and stability of architecture are emphasized, it is almost impossible for any form of experimental reforms to firstly happen in architectural industry. Just like the invention of the elevator led to the rise of high-rise buildings, the practical needs of architectural technology will not exceed the needs of social productive forces. Hence, adopting technology from other areas is understandable. But the learning process that current CAAD tools required, dis-intuitive input and unfriendly interface, is leading to architect’s heavy workload and unnecessary repetitive work. The nature of architectural design is a materialization process reflecting the designer's creative thinking. The design process is imagination interacting with the assistance of all kinds of tool. The think pattern behind this process is from abstract transiting to concrete, from flexible to accurate. But the current CAAD tools which adopted from engineering track are mostly numerical driven asking for an accurate numbers to be employed even the design is still situated in the early stage. But the mathematical approaches for design decision-making are not capable of handling uncertainty, multidimensional complexity, and flexible compromises. In addition, according to Simon's book: The Sciences of the Artificial, design as an iteration process, repetitive work is unavoidable. The optimized CAAD tools should provide sufficient adjustable space allowing designers to make changes to reduce the repetitive process. Designers and Architects are expecting to be provided with assistance of establishing relationship with flexibility from CAAD tools instead of emphasizing accuracy.

On other hand, the interaction between Architects\Designer and CAAD tools needs to be enhanced. The currently CAAD tools are fundamentally limited within WIMP interface, which employ 2d based input manipulation and 2d based output display. Design objects are operated by 2d based tools such as keyboard, mouse as well as monitors which are less capable of comprehensively representing physical 3D building objects. Architectural designers with typical background are trained and practiced in the means and methods of design. Design is an act of seeing, thinking, and making. It is combining eyes, brain and hands. Architectural designers are responsible for designing the aesthetics and spatial details of a building -- the building's size, shape, space utilization, and site requirements. That requires that no matter which tool designer selected, pencil, mouse or something else, design aids should assistant the coordination of interacting among eyes, brain and hands while designer is observing, thinking and making. Through the association of brain, hands and eyes, architectural designers are aware of information; through the repetitive creation, architectural designers would have chance to re-define information and get feedback so that they can make the right decisions.

We introduced a new prototype of design tool, Hyper Clay, to reflect the vision of this research. The prototype contains sets of user-friendly input and tangible representation to optimize the designer’s interaction with design tasks. Hyper Clay can be shaped by designer’s direct gesture into any kind of form, meanwhile its shape and location information can be digitized into computer in real time. The prototype provides a chance that designers could produce digital design information by operating physical representations. Hyper Clay is made up of regular clay mixing with a sets of azimuth sensors, placed in an infrared environment. The research prototype explored the techniques of how adaptive material can be digitized into computer, what kind of tools would facilitate designers to master it quickly and smoothly, and what would be practical approach to optimize repetitive work. It also offers an alternative way for designers to represent design objects.

Based on a comparative observation of several application scenarios among two groups of undergraduate architecture students, the research can be as follows: the prototype proved to be a practical approach to directly translate information from the physical world to the digital world within a larger context of Architectural design space. Architects and designers could benefit from utilizing adaptive and tangible design tools, especially during massing studies in the early phases of architectural design. The prototype allows designers to efficiently alter the topological properties of building geometry in the physical world and also accomplish a digital model in the process. Meanwhile, as the target group of CAAD tools development, we encourage architects and designers to be involved into CAAD tools R&D process more frequently to share experience and expectation with developers. In addition, the study space of designer oriented design tools remains partially unexplored. The research we've led that far makes us realize that the study will not be accomplished, understood, and delivered within the domain of architectural design study, or the domain of Human-Computer interaction research. Instead, the work I propose resides in the connection between multiple areas - an interdisciplinary environment such as which is a necessary condition to support.

Created by:

Teng Teng

Qinying Li

Research Paper:

Teng, T., Qinying, L., “Hyper Clay: Integrated Adaptive and Tangible Architecture Design Tool” in the proceeding of 35th Annual International Conference of eCAADe – Educational and research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe. Rome, Italy, 20-22 September 2017.

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