EARTHY: Generative Design for Earth and Masonry Architecture

Instructors: Ir. S.Azadi, P. Nourian, Ir. J.J.J.G.Hoogenboom, C. Andriotis, F.A. Veer Responsible Instructor & Studio Director:

EARTHY is a generative design studio for designing and engineering earthy/masonry buildings, intended for mid-term accommodation of displaced communities. Our goal is to design buildings that can be ideally built by their prospective inhabitants. Earthy buildings are virtually 100% recyclable and, compared to tents, they offer much more comfort. The use of earthen materials necessitates the knowledge of complex geometry e.g. in designing and technical drawing of vaults, domes, and arches in optimal shapes. The focus of the course is on the relations of materials, shapes, and structures, explored computationally. Automated construction design and generation of assembly instructions are extra challenges to be tackled computationally. The course is focused specifically on Computational Mathematics and Scientific Computing using Python for Structural Analysis and Form-Finding.
After finishing this course, the student is expected to be able: to analyse the urban context, social-spatial structure, and vernacular traditions and develop an idea and a concept for the design responding to the context; to understand the mathematical underpinnings of discrete structural analysis; to computationally design, utilize algorithms and underpin the architectural configuration of a settlement suitable for mass-customization in a circular construction process with low-cost materials, local labour, and low-tech construction techniques; and to optimize complex geometric shapes for a desired structural performance, given a local material and functional requirements.

In this course, students learn computational methods for spatial configuration, design, and construction of a settlement for displaced communities (e.g. refugees, victims of natural disasters), focusing on high-tech design for low-tech construction with earth (earth architecture), possibly together with decently recycled/reused waste materials (earth-ship architecture), relying on local labour, low-energy content, passive climatic design strategies, and maximum circularity of the materials. Computationally exploiting the relations between natural material properties, architectural geometry, and structural performance will be central to this course.

The objectives of the course are threefold:

  • to learn to analytically develop an urban/architectural configuration
  • to learn to utilize complex geometry and complex topology in designing form-effective and functional buildings and settlements by means of (visual) programming
  • to learn and utilize the physical relation between structural functionality of forms and structural properties of materials
Image Credit: Student Project Bazaar

Students will learn the fundamentals of computational form-finding for geometrically and topologically complex configurations and structures. The educational challenges are about: 1. Configuring:

  • Formulating a functional program of requirements for the displaced community settlement;
  • Designing a settlement by means of computational configuration methods; 2. Shaping:
  • Researching nature-inspired computational geometry;
  • Designing nature-inspired configurations, forms, and structures;
  • Designing a community building (such as school, crafts workshops, community centres) 3. Structuring:
  • Designing a zero-waste, circular construction sequence for using the local materials and low-tech construction techniques;
  • Making proof-of-concept physical models of the design All subjects are covered both in lectures, a series of workshops for computational design and programming, and design studios. The aim of the course is not only to design a building in a settlement but to design, document, and disseminate the design workflow as an open-source project.
Image Credit: Student Project Terra_Tetris , Student Project Adobe_CC , Student Project Bazaar , Student Project Makers_Bazaar