Optimization Studies: Patterns, Natural Structures, Iconic Buildings

During the past decades, the professional profiles of architects and engineers have been increasingly diverging - even though they initially have a common origin. Considering the complexity of building procedures and of specialist knowledge, this process is comprehensible; considering the demand for holistic understanding and planning on the other hand, it is destructive.

New design approaches and tools in architecture and engineering contribute to blur the borders of what is architecture and what is engineering. Designers of diverse backgrounds discuss and develop new methods from design development to construction.

The studies carried out in this contribution include amongst others:
1. Structural parametric patterns. Parametric geometries or structures are based on the systematic variation of patterns, with their variation sometimess revealing characteristic elements. Studies carried out by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (Thompson 1961) deal with patterns of growth and form, while systematic variations of boundary conditions of structural form finding studies, such as carried out by Frei Otto and his team (Bach 1988), show the interaction of structural boundaries and shapes. Parametric shape studies today can merge aesthetic and structural studies using methods of structural optimization.

2. "Re-design" of natural structures. The work of Frei Otto and his team is permanently and widely quoted when dealing with efficient lightweight natural structures: it was his merit to demonstrate the descriptive pureness of structures found in nature, with the scale ranging from microscopic diatom structures to large-scale towers. Re-designing these natural structures using optimization methods implies the grasping of their characteristic structural behaviour and enables the designer to perform natural optimization studies extending to billions of years within some computation runs.

3. "Re-design" of iconic buildings. Buildings become an "icon" of architecture through their uniqueness in design and technology. Re-designing those icons results in an intense study of shape and structural performance, be it roof structures or bridges.


The Author

Prof. Dr. Irmgard Lochner
Biberach University of Applied Sciences