Students Max Hu, Harry Henshaw-Hill, and Hongkai (Lex) Yuan have won the AIA 2015 (NSW Graduate & Student) Award for Structural Innovation with their project Triaxial Pavilion, developed as part of the research studio SmartStructuresLab.
SmartStructuresLab is a MARC4003 postgraduate Master of Digital Architecture Research studio at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney was led by Dr Dagmar Reinhardt with Eduardo De Oliviera Barata (UFO Sydney), Rob Beson, (AR-MA), and Alexander Jung (reinhardtjung|architecture)
In this studio, computational methods, design research paralleled with practice based models in digital architectural education support intense dialogues between students, researchers, and professionals. This shift from standard educational curricula towards collaborative approaches between different disciplinary areas marks a significant change, specifically in the work between architects and engineers.
SmartStructuresLab2014 explores precedents of Frei Otto, Heinz Isler, Eladio Dieste and Felix Candela to rethink the legacy and further investigate the complex geometries of hypar surfaces. While behaviors of form and structure can be embedded in material computation through self-forming systems such as catenary chains or tensile membranes, in current computational design, the control over rule-based designs with a mathematical logic become possible. SmartStructuresLab2014 approached an engineering of architecture in process; as a dialogue between analogue design models; computational design series, engineered structural analysis and optimizations, and through continuous digital fabrication of 1:1 plywood prototypes, 1:20 skeleton structures and 3D printed form studies.
SmartStructuresLab2014 employed for the architectural design process the advanced structural engineering software karamba, developed by Clemens Preisinger in cooperation with Bollinger-Grohmann-Schneider ZT GmbH Vienna, in order to optimize spatial and structural performance. In a workshop with Clemens Preisinger, Matthew Tam and Sascha Bohnenberger, the studio explored design iterations, structural behaviour and material affordances which were fully integrated and seamlessly crossing between 3D modeling, parametric design (Grasshopper) and structural analysis (karamba) environments. Thus, a descriptive language of complex curved surfaces becomes available that combines parameterized geometry, finite element calculations and optimized algorithms in rule based scenarios at the intersection between digital and analogue modelling. As a consequence, the resulting design models develop formative principles for tension, compression, or hybrid systems, to be deployed as grid shell, masonry, concrete or membrane structures.
In this design research, a systemic process of collaborations and sharing design intelligence advances knowledge in the field of digital architecture education. By developing potentials for methodologies as interdisciplinary practice, a horizontal learning structure empowered paradigms of the digital – through advanced geometries, structural engineering, and digital fabrication- that can act as pilot on and prototypes for new architectural and engineering approaches. Prototypical structures were displayed as performative collaboration in a multi-interdisciplinary installation commissioned by ArtinThreads for the BrandX Fashion Week event, and the overall research was shown as part of the Powerhouse Sydney Design Week 2014.