The trendiest term used in architecture nowadays is “computational design.”  What was set about as Digital Design a few decades earlier branched out into several domains (like parametric design, generative design, adaptive design, interactive design, performance-based design, and so on) that now fall under the umbrella of Computational design. The term computational design interprets a design approach that entails computational application and thrives on the algorithmic development of ideas to assist designers in begetting accuracy and efficiency in the design process. 

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Perception vs Reality-Computation in Architecture_©

This trend has caused an outburst of excess content oozing on the internet, just like this article. While it is great to have access to documented thoughts and information concomitantly, it is difficult for the reader to get lost in the information glut. And, with the information overload, one never reaches the depths and remains to float between what is significant and insignificant to them. The key downside of which is the people’s perception constantly deviating from reality.

The root of the formation of myths | Perception vs Reality

Architecture is an all-domains-inclusive field; it is impossible to learn its principles and practices during architecture school. Therefore, the training at school only manages to tick basic essential topics off the ‘to-learn list’ of architecture. With the intensive program imposed constantly, students are only acquainted with the customary architecture practices. Resultantly, one never comes across terms like ‘computational design,’ or even if they do, they don’t understand it essentially. Having a very traditional notion of architecture, people tend to think of computational design as a tool that terminates after the form-finding exercise in the design process. Although it is understandable why one would misconceive computational design, many people today use computational design differently than intended.

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Computational Design Process_©

Wrong Practices

With software used for computational design providing the user the ability to explore endless geometric possibilities, computational design has become synonymous with organic and abstract art. Therefore, the purpose of it was reduced to create unbuildable, so-called ‘cool’ 3D art. In the process, one often disregards anthropometry, ergonomics, and the concept of proportions, three columns upon which stands the functional aspect of architecture. 

The right approach would be to utilize these dynamic tools to create a digital 3D environment. And employ the ability to tweak every single one of its architectural and design features. While unconventional form is one of the output, there is more to computational design than just aesthetics!

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Perception vs Reality-Computational Design _©

Computational Thinking

The whole idea of using computational design methodology is to overlap the ongoing design process with rationally derived design features and obtain automated real-time feedback. This approach also allows one to revisit and make changes in any phase of design conception through parameters defined at various stages of designing. With being able to transcend a 2D plane along different axes, the computational design workflow allows to steer through several planes of the 3D output. Proving that computational design isn’t an alternative to the existing methodology, but in fact, acts as a catalyst in the design process. Eventually, one begins to look at architecture with a problem-solving-based approach establishing the dominance of rational over irrational.

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Perception vs Reality-Computational Design Thinking_©

Biomimetic Architecture and Computational Design

The most common myth of computational design is that it incorporates curves and ‘non-right angles.’ But, even in the most unconventional organic shape, any particular line drawn is a mathematically derived computer-generated output supporting the skeletal structure/framework.

People have always sought inspiration from nature. But, the complexity of naturally occurring forms has always eluded designers from adapting nature’s principles to built form. While nature provides us with the best examples of structural systems, the computational design approach aids in the transformation of nature-inspired configurations into the built environment. Computational design tools set out the most optimum and efficient way to execute based on the structural needs and other constraints.

Computational Design of a nature-inspired architectural structure – The Fractal Tree _©

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The first step to delve into computational design for an architect would involve learning software like Rhino3D, Grasshopper3D, and many others. But people fail to understand that this software isn’t a mere drafting application or form-finding tool; instead, they are design tools that would help combine the conventional wisdom of architecture with the technological prowess of contemporary times. 

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Perception vs Reality-Digital Fabrication_©

Here, instead of drawing something out of imagination, we instruct the computer to generate the desired output while getting the updated visual feedback after every command. Besides assisting the design process, computational tools posit the most efficient way to fabricate and execute the desired object/product. The use of computational design isn’t just limited to the creation of unique shapes and patterns. Wrt a particular project, the computational design offers a one-stop solution from the design conception phase to the fabrication and execution phase.

On the whole, the world of computational design is endless and has revolutionized architecture. The computational design approach amplifies architecture by incorporating a holistic approach through research, experiential design, human-centric design, and sustainability. And inspire architects to embark on radically new designs by inducing pioneer design thinking. In terms of exploration, the realm of computational design is endless. It bridges the gap between different professional domains and also brings nature and architecture closer.


Archana is a lover of architecture, a dreamer of Pritzker, an admirer of nature, a painter with words, a photographer of aesthetics, a thinker of design concepts, a writer of thoughts, an executioner of challenges, a follower of Harvey Specter, a collector of memories, and an appreciator of life...