Digital FormFinding: Mesh Relaxation

"A physical model (as verb) is excellent because, bound as it is in actual reality (AR), it is qualitatively rich: full of dense information about physical forces and strains, construction sequence and detail. It is very difficult, however, to get quantitative information out of this kind of model.1 Digital models, on the other hand, are excellent because they are rich in quantity: indeed, they are composed of quantities, and this content makes them invaluable in any building culture that must calculate before constructing." Mark West/ CAST

We experimented with digital formfinding methods, simulating the process of making the analogue prototypes. Different generations were produced, as well as the assembly logistics of the building components

We experimented with digital formfinding methods, simulating the process of making the analogue prototypes. Different generations were produced, as well as the assembly logistics of the building components

Results: AnaHYBIOS 2.0 & 2.1 _First Draft

Research Development: New FormFinding Methods_ Experiment 2.1

The objective of the second attempt was to manipulate the geometry from the interior to the exterior. The focus was to hide and reveal while stretching, to make the spaces of the interior more inhabitable. Disks were utilized to create light-wells to draw light into the interior spaces. The fabric was painted with thin layers and was sprayed with compressed air at the top to distribute the mix into the strings. The result was a pixelated gradient of transparency along the light-wells creating interesting lighting conditions.


Research Development: New FormFinding Methods_ Experiment 2.0

For the second formfinding method, we utilized a frame-based system where the sides of the frame are marked with holes on a grid. Two overlapping layers of fabric were used, the fabric was stretched by pulling string through the holes.  Different methods of stretching were utilized, such as overlapping the nodes, stretching one layer into the other and tying the edges. The fabric was then painted with thin layers of plaster, glue and water consecutively. The strings were cut when the shell has hardened and the HYBIOS was sanded and cropped around the edges .


The Evolution of Designs

Philip Steadman of the Bartlett School of Architecture, his brilliant book entitled 
The Evolution of Designs: Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts

“The most important requirement for an object that is considered to be beautiful is that it fulfills the purpose for which it is destined, not as if it were a matter of gathering together problems solved individually and assembling them to produce a heterogeneous result, but rather with a tendency toward a unified solution where the material conditions, function, and character of the object are taken care of and synthesized, and once the good solutions are known it is a matter of taking that one which is most fitting to the object as deduced from the need to attend to its function, character, and physical conditions.” (Martinelli 1967, p125)

Results: AnaHYBIOS 1.3 & 1.4

After refining the material formation process, the analogue modeling method yielded interesting geomoetries. These geometries were observed and measured, especially for their spatial and structural qualities. 


First Analogue Prototypes

Our first few attempts at the analogue prototypes. The method tested was to hang fabric and pull it at nodes by applying a force, in this case the weight hung. Different weights were tested on a voronoi cell frame with differentiated cell sizes. The process was refined through testing different models and some failed protoypes. The method works by tensioning the fabric and freezing it with a plaster compound. The materials utilized resemble the properties of tensioned membranes (fabric) and compression properties of concrete (plaster).

C.A.S.T Team of the University of Manitoba

An interesting article featured in the AD Magazine 'Protoarchitecture' by the cast team at the University of Manitoba. Mark West talks about creating architectural protoypes using innovative analogue methods and materials. The article focuses on the feedback loop between the analogue and the digital when investigating these prototypes.


Heinz Isler's Frozen Pavillions



Otto utilized formfinding methods and was a master at translating nature's principles to laws of physics and then to architectural design. His IL series is a great documentation of his methods. This is a summary taken from reading 'Pneu and Bone'.

“Pneu (greek : Pneuma = air) as an all-embracing term for a structural system which can be clearly distinguished from many other systems and which has particular characteristics” Frei Otto.

Pneu :
One of the most efficient technical structural systems is the pneu. A pneu is a structural system consisting of a ductile envelope which is capable of supporting tensile stress, is internally pressurised and surrounded by a medium. The pneu allows forces to transferred over considerable distances with a minimum use of materials , and extremely wide span structures to be erected.
Pneu is the structural system of the living nature.
Pneu as a structure used to transfer forces and also as an agent for form generation.

Whenever parts of such objects solidify and become hard like the carapaces of a single cell organisms(eg: radiolaria) like the wood of plants and the shells and bones of animals (shells of insects, internal skeletons of vertebrates). These components are rigid and take compressive loads.(they are no longer pneus) but retain the shape of the pneus from, the structural pneu system is always preserved in principle. It represents the active and living part, whilst the hardened parts maybe regarded as non living or at least less alive substance which can also have load bearing functions. They evolve as pneus , harden in that shape and become other structures such as structural members, skeletons, or shells or in brief: they become non- pneus in the form of structural members, beams and shells. Maybe its through selection from an infinite number of mutations and environmental factors.

Most objects in living nature can be regarded as 3d fibre nets with varying mesh sizes. In most cases however the mesh size in the outer fibres is smaller thus creating high tensile areas of closely spaced fibres which act like fine nets or membranes.


A great research paper by Philippe Block. Formfinding has been used in architectural models to create spatial forms that are optimized for structure while in the design phase. The Phd Thesis proposes a digital formfinding tool as an alternative to traditional formfinding methods adopted by Frei Otto and Gaudi. The paper gave us a lot of insight on how to start with our design experiments.

Workflow Diagram / Timeline

This is our work flow diagram. A proposed map to help us reach the main objectives of the abstract of our proposal.

Turtle Shell

The evolution of the turtle shell is seen as a biological model that offers possibilities of structural hybrids. The analogy is drawn from the turtle shell that the smooth gradient between fundamentally different types of structural systems offers possibilities for novel and differentiated spatial qualities.