27 April 2010

Sticky Review

We are six slides into our presentation and the jury is staring blankly at the screen.  In a last minute disagreement Dwight, So, and I reorder our presentation to show a hypothetical building section before the process.  The jurors who have never seen our project before don't have any idea how we designed the building and wall sections we are showing them.  I fidget nervously as Dwight introduces the project.  Slide eight, a video of the groups of dots forming, seems to awaken the jury.   As it plays I fumble through a few sentences about the formation of groups by the "professor" and "student" dots  (After seven years of architecture school, I still haven't mastered verbal presentations.) So explains the algorithm for the stick creation and movement:  When a randomly moving particle touches the boundary of a group it forms a line.  Depending on its neighbors,  the new line adjusts its length and orientation and is then extruded into a 3D stick. 
Rendered images of the aggregation are followed by videos on slides fourteen and fifteen of the sticks aligning and stacking much like bricks to form walls. The jury finally seems interested as they watch the lines pivot back and forth adjusting their relationships. 

"How do you simplify this to get more out of the algorithm?" Balmond asks.  He is interested in the arrangement of the sticks, and how they could start to construct real walls.  Our project is the first to address the materiality of architecture and they want us to take the sticks as far as possible.  One by one, the rest of the jury also expresses their interest in the sticks.  Rob Stuart-Smith like them so much that he suggests we get rid of the group algorithm completely and focus on the one idea.  Removing the people doesn't thrill me at all and luckily Roland sides with me.  He believes that with more differentiation based on size or designated activity, the groups can directly inform the stick alignment and the aesthetic of the building.  Daniel Bosia, who with Cecil runs the AGU and was one of the first people to apply non-linear design to architecture ends our review excitedly: "picture millions of these little wooden sticks stacked and aligned into a building. "  Relieved, Dwight, So and I nod in agreement. 
The jury reviews three other projects without interruption.  The third and fourth projects have a mixed reception, while the last receives high praise for the complexity of the code.  As is typical with architectural reviews, the jury closes with a round of general comments and encouragement--advising that we should continue to tweak our algorithms while working toward a constructible design.  On our way out, Bosia stops Dwight, So, and I and once again complementing our work, he asks if we would be willing to do a short presentation for the whole AGU in the morning.  We gratefully accept.

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