Category: Program Generated Architecture


Iidabashi Subway Station

“A seed, given water and light, extends its roots, grows leaves and comes into flower. It spreads its roots in search of soft soil and places its leaves so they receive as much sunlight as possible.” The Iidabashi subway station is very much an architectural version of this statement. Watanabe starts 35 meters underground with the “roots” – the tubes of the station, and as they extend up they create a wing” or “flower” which is the ventilation tower for the station.
 
The exposed structure of the station was one issue of design that Watanabe wanted to hold strong to, as it was part of making the invisible visible. The tunnel-ways of the station are composed of three cylindrical tubes, joined together. The two outer ones are for railways and the center is for the station and access ways of passengers. When exposing structure there is always the issue of waterproofing and such, which Watanabe solves by such: by placing slabs in both adjacent tunnels of the station where ducts could be installed, the need of a duct over the station tunnel could be eliminated. The remaining space under the station platform was used for a pit where pipes and wiring could be strung. Gutters for waterproofing fitted beneath overhead beams, collecting water and directed it through pipes through supporting columns.
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Architecture generated by computer programs definitely seems a futuristic way to deal with architectural design. It is entirely probable that the design studios of the future would comprise of computer programs that accomplish most of the logical, calculative and repetitive tasks replacing the manpower. The architect only have to intervene when a subjective decision is to be made which can be conceived only by the human mind, such as aesthetics.

These ideas finally lead us to Program Generated Architecture ( PGA ) by the Japanese Architect Makoto Sei Watanabe. Watanabe uses PGA in his Induction Cities projects in a variety of ways including programs to place building blocks based on sunlight exposure, program to plan the streets in a city, program to create towns according to the relationships between different necessities, program which does structural optimization etc. In this post, I aim to explore one program in particular – the Program of Flow.

Makoto Sei Watanabe used the Program of Flow to design the facade of Kashiwanoha-Campus station. The design process involved two parts- the human part and the program part. The human part feeds a graded design input into the program which the program then analyses and  produces an output which it believes to be a better design. The designer grades the output and feeds it back. This process is iterated till the desired “best design” is produced.

This also leads us to the concept of genetic algorithm. Genetic algorithm basically represents the algorithm in which a living organism propagates. The steps in genetic algorithm represent steps in biological evolution such as natural selection, cross breeding, survival of the fittest etc. In the beginning, the design produced is a primitive one. After each iteration, the program develops an artificial intelligence and becomes able to differentiate a good design from a poor one. A new generation of design is developed after each iteration which consists of the best qualities of the previous generation. In this way the design evolves, like a living organism.

Below is an example of how the Program of Flow works :