This project demonstrates how parametric modeling techniques can be integrated into the conceptual stage of design-build studios, and used as a basis for developing new approaches to digital fabrication. Previous studies have shown that parametric modeling can have substantial benefits when used as a drawing-generator for digital fabrication; most notably it can enable the designer to experiment with numerous new design and tooling possibilities. The use of parametric modeling to inform these processes has also been described as initiating a “psychological change” in designers’ approach to form-creation, and it is often seen as leading to a more adaptive and responsive design outlook.


The design-build studio that formed the basis of the current study was executed in four phases: (a) inspiration through nature leading to form-generation, (b) tessellation exploration, (c) assembly techniques and connection, and (d) fabrication. First, we examined mathematical analyses of naturally occurring geometric designs. This helped the students to better understand the basic concepts of parametric theory. Using this natural inspiration we then sketched out a basic pavilion design using a coordinated parametric formula, and explored the possibilities of the design using 3D-modeling software. 

The form of the pavilion was developed using a parallel process of digital form-finding (parametric modeling tools) and analogue form-finding (physical models). The basic shape was created using parametric methods, and then we explored tessellation systems based on the Voronoi algorithm. One of the challenges in fabricating Voronoi-based tessellation is the complex assembly process that is often required. In our final tessellated form, for example, we had 98 Voronoi cells comprised of three- to six-sided polygons, all with different angles of assembly. This challenge led us directly toward a consideration of creative assembly techniques for the structure. Eventually we settled on a spring-based computational model to help fabricate the pavilion. Inspired by Gaudi’s form-finding and structural optimization, we designed a flexible mesh consisting of Voronoi cells. We digitally evaluated various possible form relaxations for the structure, and determined optimal anchor points from which we could hang the dynamic mesh, allowing gravity to help shape the form. After the mesh was hung, we fabricated metal bars to replace the flexible mesh connections, thereby solidifying the organically shaped structure. Finally, the structure was disassembled, flipped upside down, and re-assembled in an upright position as a pavilion. We used a Spandex fabric to create covered components within the Voronoi cells, providing a more enclosed feeling for the structure.

The most significant outcome of LuxMotus project is to demonstrate that parametric modeling is not only useful for form-generation, but also can be a valuable tool to develop new fabrication techniques. The project is a result of computational design thinking that includes elements of bio-physical morphogenesis, algorithmic and mathematical approaches, and the cutting-edge translation of such approaches into physical fabrication. Potential applications for this approach to design include the physics-based assembly and structural optimization of organic and complex forms, and the use of such structures in reconfigurable material systems.

Credit to: Design & Augmented Intelligence Lab 

Research Team: Christie Andresen, Chelsey Foster, Laura Filardo, Erin Golden, Lyndsey Greene, Frances Manley, Rachel Letterman, Roxanne Meza, Amanda Helfer, Sharla Thiesen

Year: 2015