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Workshop 4 report

The fourth Digital Crafting Workshop ”Generative logics: How to grow” was held at the Aarhus School of Architecture January 17-18 2011.  Roland Snooks who is partner in Kokkugia and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and at the University of Southern California (USC) led the two-day workshop. During these days the participants worked with agent-based scripting using the open source software ”Processing”. Discussions and lectures during the workshop related to the question of how designers can use agents-based scripts as a means to explore spatial and formal configuration and how these configurations can relate to material performance and structural logic.

The first day kicked of with a crash course in ”Processing” introducing the basic structure and functionality of the software. From this starting point a basic script was gradually developed to incorporate more complex capabilities exploring agent-based behaviour. These explorations were based on swarm theory as formulated by Craig Reynolds. Reynolds’ work with ‘boids’ describes how individual agents can form swarm behaviour as seen in bird flocks or fish swarms by having each individual agent adjust its position to other agents by considering separation, cohesion and alignment.

The first day was concluded by a reception at the opening of a student exhibition of space installations related to the ‘Morphogenic Studio’ run by Niels Martin Larsen, Sebastian Gmelin and Claus Peder Pedersen at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

The second day was spent on further developing the agent-based scripts. They were expanded to incorporate interfaces that allowed for a more direct and intuitive manipulation of the various parameters controlling the agents hinting at a more general discussion on how to work with scripting as a design tool. The development also included discussions on how to interpret the animated agents and the resulting complex data structures into spatial configurations. This part of the workshop focused especially on using isosurfaces as a way of creating formally coherent structures from clouds of points.

The workshop contained a presentation by Martin Tamke that discussed how agent-based scripting could be used to design a tectonic structure. The presentation was based on an exploration of zollinger construction-principle, where short interlocking members create statically stable construction. Moving from a top-down to a bottom-up organisation Martin discussed how a successful design strategy was developed by encoding individual elements of the structure with instructions on how to attach to other elements, rather than by subdividing a large surface.

The last part of the workshop explored how agent-based behaviours could be used in cellular automata scripts. Finally movies were exported from the scripts to wrap up the workshop. They document some of the different behaviours and variations created through the two days.

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