Integrative Design Research by the Institute for Computational Design

Achim Menges
Institute for Computational Design (ICD), University of Stuttgart


Computation, in its most basic meaning, refers to the processing of information. In this way, both machinic processes operating in the binary realm of the digital, as well as material processes operating in the complex domain of the physical can be considered computational. While there is a strong bias towards the former in contemporary design, sporadic investigations of the later have also occurred in architecture. What is more rarely explored, though, is the territory where machine computation and material computation potentially overlap, where they not simply co-exist but intensely interact in the design process. Such an integrative approach to machine and material computation forms a central part of the research pursued at the Institute for Computational Design at the University of Stuttgart. This paper will introduce the related design research through the presentation of three research projects.
The first part of the paper focuses on the explanation of the theoretical framework of the Institute’s approach to design computation, which finds its conceptual roots in the integrative processes of biological becoming rather than the striated processes of established technological production. It seeks to outline novel possibilities for a higher level of integration of form, information and performance in architecture through the possible synthesis of machine and material computation in morphogenetic design. The second part of the paper will provide specific examples of such a computational approach by introducing three related research areas. The possible integration of material behaviour as an active driver in computational design processes will be introduced through a first research project focusing on bending-active structures constructed from thin plywood lamellas. The second research project constitutes an example for the integration of materialization characteristics by encoding the possibilities and limits of robotic fabrication for modular wood shell structures in design computation. The third research project introduces the integration of material structure by embedding the complex reciprocities of form, material, structure and performance resulting from robotic carbon and glass fibre filament winding in a generative morphogenetic design process.

design computation, computational morphogenesis, robotic fabrication, integrative design



SAJ Vol. 5, 2013, No. 2