Monday, January 7, 2008


In a time where architects have become infatuated with continuity, the digital surface has become an increasingly popular medium for design. This architectural trend has been facilitated by the adoption of software intended for a different audience. The ease of production now associated with the digital surface is reflected in the pervasive examples of architectural surface continuity found today. As both the software and the proficiency of architects using it has evolved over the last two decades, so too has the efficacy of these surfaces. Contemporary techniques have led to more architecturally capable surface continuities and heterogeneity has become easier to attain. Yet, there remain tools and techniques not yet adequately explored by architects, specifically those of digital sculptors. These methods can be appropriated by architects to effectively construct heterogeneously continuous surfaces and spatial relationships.

Digital sculpting offers a very different set of tools than traditional computer-aided design. The process is constructed around basic deformation brushes that are interactively applied to surfaces. The one-to-one act of brushing topological modifications promotes surface manipulations that change in intensity and type without the common restrictions found with deformation tools. The ease that the brushes can be modulated while doing so results in surfaces of continuous variation and therefore a high degree of heterogeneity. Workflows of layered and image-based deformation afford a great amount of control within the process. Thus, controlled internal surface transitions can be achieved without sacrificing flexible manipulation.

This process of building heterogeneity into architectural models through digital sculpting represents a fundamental shift in the design of surfaces and the spaces that they define. The tools are used to directly manipulate topology on the fly, where the mouse becomes a force that acts on the surface, rather than some tool accessed through a drop-down menu and later modulated in value or placement. Digital sculpting cuts out the middleman and engenders a fluidity within the process that places instant emphasis on the topological capabilities of a surface. A surface is no longer considered as a plane, a bridge between defining curves, an extrusion, or an agglomeration. It is now an array of flexible points in space that are freely and continuously modulated at will.

The value of digital sculpting techniques to produce heterogeneous surface continuity in architecture will be tested through the design of a zoological park. The tools will first be applied to the production of an organizational heterogeneity necessitated by the desired narrative of the zoo. The organization will involve distributing and sequencing exhibits in regard to the complex relationships of biological history. This phylogenetic approach to zoo design emphasizes relationships in a way that spatial heterogeneity and continuity can play out architecturally. Digital sculpting tools will be used to formalize these relationships as a non-linear sequence and modulate them with a language of continuous variation. They will also be used to design a network of circulatory paths that negotiate this organization in a productive manner. Moments of crossover, divergence and elevational variance will be of crucial importance to the success of the circulation system. Continuity will allow these events to merge with the formal and spatial organization of the zoo, while heterogeneity will afford them their necessary idiosyncrasies. Using the programmatic requirements of a zoo, digital sculpting can be evaluated in its ability to produce architecturally productive continuities of organization, space, surface and event.

image: Walrus, by Britta Jaschinski


Blogger // JD said...

umm, what do ZORROZAURRE and CLADISTICS mean? they make me itchy.

January 11, 2008 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger chris shusta said...

the zorrozaurre is a sparsely inhabited post-industrial peninsula near the center of bilbao, spain

cladistics is the classification of species based on their evolutionary lineage, as opposed to taxonomic classification (re: classification for stupidheads)

and they dont just make me itchy; they give me nightmares

January 11, 2008 at 1:28 PM  

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