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Automated Parametric Design of Optimized Climate Responsive Facades Using Multi-Objective Logic

Dustin Altschul
Advisor: Dan Faoro


Climate and weather, the coupling that creates both discomfort in humans while also providing resources of energy that are not environmentally depleting. Architecture sits at this intersection of reconciliation between the natural and human habitation. The building facade needs to be optimized to relate to climate while utilizing the energies within winds, the sun, and precipitation as resources. In order to reduce dependency on environmentally depleting processes of creating energy that are used for the singular purpose of achieving environmental comfort in human occupancy, alternate methods of design should be adopted. Methods that are capable of reducing design time to arrive at climatic responsive solutions, but are optimized for discovering energy reductive designs that consider the multi-variable intricacies of climatic forces.

Pre-modern days, climate responsive design were mostly achieved through the application of” rule-of-thumbs”. However, we now live in a time where our understanding of climate conditions have extended from generalized assumptions to finite collections of hourly weather data. In doing so our collective perspective of climate responsive design is not simple, but rather a complex consideration that must consider extreme multifaceted temporal changes that can have profound energy ramifications. It is hypothesized optimal climate responsive design can be achieved through the use of design methods that can address more complexity than the human mind, while still supporting the tradition of architectural design.

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Digitally based methods of envisioning a design, as the design is being developed, are becoming normative within the architectural design process. This is particularly true as designers fully utilize computational resources to arrive at designs non-deterministically. In doing so, the computer can fully imagine a design response that may be beyond the capacity of the human mind, thus achieving elevated objectives of spatial programming, optimization, complex geometric form finding, volumetric reasoning, etc.. Climatically, these types of form finding exercises could identify how negative solar radiation can be mitigated best and used as an energy resources for direct power production and natural lighting, and/or how wind can passively cool buildings. Architect and researcher Achim Menges discusses in both Computational Design Thinking and Algorithmic Architecture how the use of computer technologies are modifying design processes to achieve unanticipated results. The use of digital aid, therefore, alters cognitive design thinking. Design thinking that is situated in establishing generative relationships and not preconceived outcomes- a dramatic indifference to “rules-of-thumb” climate design.

In the realm of climate responsive design, computational tools are rarely being utilized to find non-deterministic outcomes provided by the computer. Instead, these designs rely on a process of analysis after a design has been created. While post-analysis results introduces information that a designer can utilize for refining a design and reducing the design’s energy demands, it also introduces a number of issues. For instance, analysis requires time. The time used to analyze turns into design latency and cripples the traditional fluid nature of designing; a potential determent to the energetic, creative process present in architecture. The design-analyze model could also potentially limit the ability to reach complete energy use reduction optimization because only a limited amount of design iterations can be studied within the duration of a project. In Post-Parametric Automation Keith Besserud expresses this phenomenon as time taken away from finding the absolute ideal design solution. And in Convergence in Architectural Agenda for Energy, author and co-director of Energy Environments and Research Lab at Harvard University, Kiel Moe also poses that design decision making and energy use ramifications should be synonymously integrated. Moe outlines how the practice of architectural design needs to have self-awareness to the interconnectivity of design decisions and energy impacts. When design and energy analysis are treated as separate functions, so are their integral understanding and design response manifestations.

A significant knowledge domain issue also exists with design-analyze practices because analysis results are objectively scientific based; unlike like design which considers science-based principles in conjunction with social phenomenon. If the designs of buildings are purely stimulated by scientific findings of analysis, there is grave danger that much value will be lost in the design process and therefore the outcomes. Designerly Ways of Knowing: Design Discipline vs. Design Science, an article by researcher Nigel Cross, identifies and supports that design practice and design science are separate entities, while cautioning the negative effects of design practices becoming a science discipline and vice versa.
The proposed thesis explores how a computational methodology can be developed for the purpose of self-generating climate responsive façade geometry by viewing the establishment of data reading algorithmic relationships as the principle design input. This thesis will also inquire if climate based multi-variable optimization can be automated, and if so, how this computational process will facilitate critical discussions within the architectural practice, as well as the realms of digital design, design process/thinking, energy efficient design, and façade tectonics.

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Dissemination of Baroque Architecture Within Brazil

Student: Emily Matt
Advisor: Deirdre Hennebury

This thesis investigates the dissemination of Baroque architectural and cultural ideas from Portugal to Brazil through the vehicle of colonization. In addition to evaluating propagated characteristics, the research highlights the variations in Brazilian Baroque that are distinct from Portuguese architectural developments. While primarily architectural in that it refers to the formal typology and decorative programs of churches built in the Baroque period, the thesis contains intrinsic references to other disciplines including sociology and urbanism, which fit within the overarching discourse of colonialism.

Relying on historical interpretive analysis as the primary research method, this thesis features
comparative case studies of churches in Portugal and Brazil. The analytical framework, emerging from extensive reading on Baroque architecture and a detailed survey of Baroque church characteristics, focuses on four primary Baroque interior and facade architectural characteristics:
(1) dynamic, yet spatially unified floor plans that expanded Renaissance orthogonality by introducing more complex geometries such as the octagon;
(2) elaborate decorative programs featuring dramatic quadratura paintings, azulejos (tilework), and narrative sequences;
(3) a dominant, centralized entry which in Iberian countries was most frequently expressed through a
two-tower façade; and finally;
(4) the pilgrimage stair, a design feature that emphasizes the processional journey for the devout as they move from the secular space of the city to the sacred realm of the sanctuary.

Through detailed architectural analysis, this research aims to supplement existing Iberian and Iberian-American Baroque scholarship to create a more complete picture of the Baroque as a whole from its general aesthetic vocabulary to the specific details, from illusionistic paintings to city planning. While the church as a cornerstone of urban settlement is a common theme in European settlements, a study of Brazilian cities during the Baroque period provides another lens through which to evaluate the architectural relationship between the Portugal and its colonies. This typological analysis of Brazilian Baroque architecture might reveal insights into the material, social, political, and historical contexts of Brazilian colonialism and thus contribute to urban and sociological discourses.


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Border as Infrastructure

Student: Ramya Swayamprakash
Advisor: Anirban Adhya

Borders are pervasive (McDougall & Valentine, 2004); they ‘fix’ space. An embodiment and attempt at permanence of state power and jurisdiction, the process of marking a border is a continuous one. Indeed borders are constantly “being made” (Houtum & Pijpers, 2007) (Kolosov & Scott, 2013) — a border is not just a physical, static outcome of socio-spatial dynamics but also a dynamic functional process of fixing/making/ defending (by state agencies). On land, political borders manifest themselves through border infrastructure (e.g. check posts, fences etc.). Today, borders continue to structure the landscape around them by creating permissible zones, points of entry etc. Natural frontiers such as rivers have often coalesced into political borders; however making an infrastructural stamping difficult, if not impossible. In my reading, it is the insertion of the border on to the terrain of water that is an interesting moment—spatially—where the infrastructure of a border has (thus far) been absent. Political borders over water create a fluid condition that is difficult to map, man and police. Through this thesis I aim to understand the marking of the US-Canada border along the Detroit River and uncover the spatial implications and imagery rooted in this formation.

With at least 28 islands through its 32 mile course, the Detroit river forms the international border between the US and Canada. All the islands along the Detroit River are owned by an institution; individual; or a commercial enterprise — a practice that has continued ever since the region came under exploratory eyes. Indeed, it seems like the border was decided with respect to ownership of islands.

A central hypothesis of this thesis thus is: private ownership is (and has been) a powerful actor in the shaping of the US Canada Border (as it has shaped the rest of the US and indeed the idea of the US) along the Detroit River.

Thus far, the field of border studies has centered on the actors that make, maintain a border, even impose a border (McDougall & Valentine, 2004). The border as a space and infrastructure of culture and ecology has been under researched (Kim, Border as Urbanism: Redrawing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, 2012). I contend that through their shaping, borders themselves become infrastructure of culture (and through that ecology). The urban/regional Detroit River is an important case study, it is as the only International heritage river between the US and Canada, in addition to being a non-militarized border condition.

Taking a cue from Jean Baudrillard’s description of architecture as that “in which the space of the thought itself” (Baudrillard, 1999, p. 32), Andrei Piotrwoski asserts that “a piece of architecture is the space of representation” (Piotrowski, 2001, p. 43). Turning the statements on their head, I contend that as a thought/idea first, a political border is a place for architectural intervention; secondly, as a space of state representation/ threshold/boundary, a political border is an infrastructural and architectural enterprise.


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