Sodium Design

ARCH 5204 / 6050 / 6306

Techniques in Design Thinking: An Unpacking of Design Algorithms

This project is simple, for every week of the semester there will be readings assigned and a class discussion / presentation. This assignment calls for each student to read all of the requisite readings and fill out the ‘Reading Annotations Template’ that is provided on the class website. This template should serve not only as a note taking device for you as you read through everything but also serve as a means to kick start the class discussion and have helped your form an opinion to contribute to the discussion.

For centuries, humanity has been dissecting things in order to understand them more fully - animals, human bodies, mechanical devices and the like. To gain a more fulsome understanding of an object it is helpful to understand the things which we cannot see, this exercise seeks to understand the aesthetic design of a simple / everyday object by understanding its underlying geometry. Generally, beautiful objects are wrought from a beautiful and rigorous process that is largely unseen, we are seeking to understand this process

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The idea of an algorithm as a generative methodology is routinely discussed as something new, a new way of creating architecture. This is patently false. While the process of creating architecture through the articulation of an algorithm has become en vogue it is essentially a procedural stand in for the use of the computer in design. Any number of our architectural forbearers have utilized the algorithmic process to create designs in either whole or in part.

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A critical element of an architectural education is your ability to cogently comprehend, digest and amalgamate a diverse set of information and be capable of disceminating that to others either graphically or verbally. As such a portion of this course will focus on this ability and will require you to lead a class discussion(s) based on a series of assigned readings.

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January 21, 2020 - The State of Architecture
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As we embark on a semester focuses on ideas of rigor, investigational study, systematic logic and functional algorithmic though it is important to understand the current and past state of architecture. As nothing in architecture is seemingly without precedent this class, and the next few are structured to help provide a baseline from which to build and form a foundation from which we will investigate those who've come before us and attempt to reinterpret, reconstitute or reapply their thoughts and methods in the contemporary environment.
January 28, 2020 - The Tools of Design
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The manner and tools with which things are created innevitably leave traces of themselves behind and influence the final product. The idea that these tools influence our product makes it paramount that we understand the capacity of our tools. As architects we must understand the appropriate tool (i.e. digital and analog) to use for our desired outcome but also understand the medium in which we will be communicating (diagrams, plans, axonometric, renderings etc.) and leverage them to their fullest capacity.
February 04, 2020 - Digital Foundations
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The computer has and continues to alter the manner in which design is conceived, and yet, there is no consensus as to how much. Strangely, there still remain those who maintain that we should be seeking to manipulate the computer to perform as previous tools have in order prop up an established dogma that may now be outmoded. While others maintain that an entirely new architecture, spawned from these wonders of technology, is the only worthwhile pursuit.

Where do you stand?
February 11, 2020 - The Algorithm
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The algorithm can be simply described as a discrete series of orchestrated operations but this is a vast oversimplification of their capability. The algorithm is has become transformative idea as the world has been rapidly digitized over the past thirty years. The algorithm has fundamentally reordered the world in which we live as data has become the most valuable commodity in the world.
Fundamentally, architecture is not capable of escaping this inevitability but we must consider the impact that the methodology has on the manner in which we conceive and realize the built environment.
February 18, 2020 - A Historical Algorithm
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The algorithm is not new, it has merely become and en vogue point of recent discussions in the field. Many historical methodologies have employed the algorithm as an exercise in process without expressly utilizing the terminology of todays, now more digital, society. One example of this is Louis Sullivan, whose process or ornamentation cleverly utilizes the tools of his day to explore design utilizing algorithmic means.
February 25, 2020 - Methods in Precedent
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Architecture is one of the original art forms, it has transcended time, location, style and culture. To generate an idea or a building from pure original thinking is at the very least unlikely but more probably impossible. Instead, we search for novelty by reappropriating and / or reinterpreting ideas and methodologies that have come before. By understanding and studying those that have come before we can continue to build new and innovative architecture and make ourselves a part of the Architectural continuum.
March 10, 2020 - Process and Beauty
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The processes we use to design the world have shifted. Similarly, the underlying theory and through has evolved with our contemporary society yet, our evaluation of beauty (in its purest form) remains relatively unchanged. How can understanding the opportunities in technology, theory and taste help us exploit new processes to more consistently create 'beauty' in architecture.
March 24, 2020 - Design Generation - Natural, Automatic and Otherwise
The means and methods for the generation of design is manifold and the techniques varied. Whether variation, simulation, simulacrum or some hybridized approach the relationship of the computer and design exists on a graduated hierarchical spectrum that can only be properly interpreted through their final outcomes.
March 31, 2020 - Variation
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By developing a complex understanding of the systems that create design we can leverage the simplicity of their ideas in the creation, or building up, of complex elements that elicit feelings, forms or even new styles that are manifest utilizing new design thinking.
April 07, 2020 - Quintessence
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If the esquisse it the first mark of an artistic object it first must be preceded inspiration. It seems the design process is an extensive series of ephemeral events that, we hope, evolves into a perfectly balanced and well articulated design.
April 14, 2020 - Hidden Logic
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Rigor, logic, complexity and simplicity often go hand-in-hand. Working in unison they mutually benefit one another and when the balance between them shifts oftentimes the quality of the product is reduced. Ideally, design is the constant pursuit of balance amongst these items with the final product being visually bereft of these characteristics, hidden behind beauty.