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Computational Design and Construction
Fall 2018
University of Virginia
ARCH 5500-003: Special Topics in Architecture
Ehsan Baharlou, Dr.-Ing.

Introduction to Computational Design and Construction

“The manifest form—that which appears—is the result of a computational interaction between internal rules and external (morphogenetic) pressures that, themselves, originate in other adjacent forms (ecology). The (pre-concrete) internal rules comprise, in their activity, an embedded form, what is today clearly understood and described by the term algorithm.”

— Who is afraid of formalism?, Sanford Kwinter.


The elective course “Introduction to Computational Design and Construction” was complementary to the advanced research studio “Wood Proto-architecture I”, offered the same year. Advances in computational design and fabrication techniques provide new possibilities for designers to explore the manifestation and materialization of form. This course introduced students to these methods in design and construction. These approaches allow architects to consider material and fabrication characteristics in the early stages of the design process.

This course provided students with basic knowledge of developing computational design techniques in architecture that can be seamlessly integrated into design and fabrication processes. This introduction enhanced students’ knowledge in computational design by developing associative and algorithmic design strategies. Students investigated relatively simple mathematical and physical principles to generate complex geometries in the context of proto-architecture. This generative approach provided an algorithmic understanding of developing physical materialization.

Concurrently, the course focused on digital fabrication processes that integrate computational manufacturing techniques’ limitations and possibilities into design processes. Students learned robotic fabrication and advanced robotic control for digital fabrication. Accordingly, students gained hands-on experience working with the industrial-scale robot, KUKA KR AGILUS. Thus, students were introduced to a fabrication-driven method that provides a new approach in the design of complex geometric forms.

Image Credit

J. Höll and G. Kazlachev, ICD, University of Stuttgart, 2013/14.