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To What Extent Has Digital Design and Computerised Memory Influenced an Architect’s Approach to the Tectonic Form and Tectoni

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
John Sharp
De Montfort University Leicester UK
This dissertation is an evaluation of the extent to which digital design and computerised memory has influenced an architect’s design methodologies towards tectonic form and tectonic expression. Using as its focus three of the most important essays from Post-Modern architectural theory on tectonic expression; Frampton’s ‘Rappel a l´ordre the case for the tectonic’, Gregotti’s ‘The exercise of detailing’ and Frascari’s ‘The Tell-the-Tale detail’. Through this exploration of this critique my particular concern is the extent to which the digital can affect the tectonic through the application of algorithms, the dynamic relaxation of structure, object orientated masses, CAM and rapid prototyping.
I have structured my thoughts into three respective areas of study; firstly I analyse these three essays, drawing out key viewpoints of these theorists with particular reference to Frampton’s assertion that architects have got the concept of tectonic expression wrong in the post modern era. Moving then to a discussion of the current understanding of tectonic expression highlighting such methodologies as; computer algorithms, object orientated massing, swarm tectonics and shape grammar each giving a meaning of expression through a digital concept. This area of study also highlights the importance of the impact of the computer on structural design. Structural design has been heavily influenced by the computer; In the first instance the computer was only able to make small calculations but now it can perform complex calculations that give us such definitive concepts as Dynamic Relaxation and self-optimising structures therefore providing a great future for the design stage of architecture.
Finally I look at complex algorithms using generative orientated random designs together with the integration of memory within the digital and tectonic realm. The main focus of these conclusive points is a discussion of Maud algorithm; looking at its potential profound effect on architectural design. This discussion highlights the similarities and differences between human emotional memory and a computer’s data memory and storage capacity and the relevance of the computer’s role in this process and the potential of the existence for a unique relationship between the computer and the human designer, each aiding the other in the design state.

John Sharp

This Dissertation:

provides a thorough demonstration of the author's understanding of Digital Tectonics, giving detailed explanations of the work of its major practicing exponents based on a detailed study of secondary literature and first hand interviews.

applies a theoretical understanding of DT as a development from the tradition of architectural rationalism. It questions the purely quantifiable determinants normally used in DT, with suggestions that memory, shape language and even unconscious elements might be incorporated into a computer model.

uses theory and existing computing practices to open up a substantial new ground for future creativity in architectural design.

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