The After/Afterparty

This responsive software explores the opportunity that exists for generative processes to inform the design of architectural forms. Can a piece of software create not only single forms but families of forms that, from one generation to another, evolve along some inevitable, yet unknown, trajectory? How can lineage be exposed in the interface? What are the opportunities for cross pollination, when an architect is paired with software developer?

[Aerial photo of the Afterparty, nearing the end of construction / photo:MOS]

The After/Afterparty is a collaboration between Michael Meredith, an architect, and myself, a software developer. Michael approached me less than a month ago, asking if I'd like to make a generative version of the Afterparty, a series of furry cone structures that his firm MOS was in the process of installing at PS1 this summer. This seemed interesting so I immersed myself in the project during the past few weekends.

1. The first iteration of the project was not generative, but rather a manual system in which one can draw three-dimensional cone-like huts in a simple gestural way. if one were to put such a tool online, could the design of architectural forms be crowdsourced? Could there be an architectural equivalent to Amazon's Mechanical Turk? Might there be an elephant path of designs that emerges from broad use? If one left the tool and returned a week later, could one's design have grown, adapted, or reproduced during one's absence?

2. The second thread I explored was an explicitly generative one. This small animation investigates how a mutating voronoi grid can be used to generate a constantly morphing set of buildings in plan view.

3. The 3rd and most recent iteration represents cells (polygons) within the voronoi grid as furry 3-dimensional cones. Some fine details:

  • The inner radius of each cone is computed as a fraction of the shortest distance between the polygon’s center and vertices
  • This figure is used to compute the height of the cone, so that cones with small radii are generally taller than those with large radii
  • Edge segments are interpolated in 3D space to create arches
  • The software is interactive. It allows exploration of the 3D scene through rotation, translation, and zoom

This is a work in progress. It is not yet a thorough investigation into the possibilities that computer science offer to architects. The underlying algorithms are relatively simple, and could be enhanced by truly encoding a genealogy into the huts (rather than relying solely on voronoi). Could a blend of nature and nurture be represented in the visualization? Can a cone absorb attributes of its neighbors? This is also a tool being made after-the-fact; the potential for this tool to influence the final built forms is inherently limited. However, this initial work points the way to a flexible, organic work process between architect and software developer for future collaborations.

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