Grasshopper

algorithmic modeling for Rhino

Please support an effort to start a stack exchange site for computational design.

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I have to say the four example questions aren't really what I would consider representative of computational design questions. They are questions about specific applications and some very general computer programming. There already are forums for specific programs and there already are forums for programming.

The sort of questions I imagine would be interesting would almost uniformly violate StackExchange QA templates, in that they probably cannot be answered crisply and succinctly. Perhaps a discussion forum would be a more suitable environment from a question+answer forum?

David,

Those questions are submitted by people who "follow" the proposal. I agree with you about some of them, except of course the one I posted :)

I wouldn't have suggested this Stack Exchange site if I thought that the types of questions I'd like to see there couldn't be answered "crisply and succinctly". I want a place where people can express best practices, and specific technical answers, and the best answers are ALWAYS at the top. For beginners, the Stack Exchange format is better than a forum because other experts have voted one answer above the others. In a forum, a beginner is left to suss out the best answer from the arguments and diatribes.

Also, for someone who titled one of the pinned posts on this ning site "Don't be a douche," I assumed that you'd like the idea of a Stack Exchange.

Finally, I like the idea of having experts of many computational design tools collaborating in one space instead of having to bounce back and forth between forums.

I think StackOverflow is a great resource for finding answers, I think it's one of the worst places for asking questions. There's something about that forum that brings out the pedantic worst in people.

I suspect most of the example questions currently on the CompDesign stack would have been closed as 'Too specific' or 'Not a question that permits an answer'.


Finally, I like the idea of having experts of many computational design tools collaborating in one space instead of having to bounce back and forth between forums.

That might be interesting, though I foresee a lot of fan boy flame wars as well. It's just I thought that Computational Design would mean we'd be talking computation (algorithm design, performance, algorithm applicability, big data, validating results, ...) and design (architecture, methodologies, comparative design, ...) not Dynamo and Revit and Grasshopper usage.

Your point about the meaning of Computational Design is well taken. It wasn't my intention to propose a site strictly for talking about Dynamo, Grasshopper, Revit, etc. It's just that those are tools which many people use to approach this subject currently, and mentioning them by name gave some specificity to the site. If we wanted to discuss "algorithm applicability" or "big data", we'd just use Stack Overflow.

I think it would be cool to have a place where you could see implementations in Grasshopper, Dynamo, Mel script, whatever, by different people, side by side, as answers to the same question. I'm open to other ideas. The fact is that a Dynamo-specific forum helps make Dynamo experts, and a Grasshopper-specific forum helps make GH experts. I'm trying to help make computational design experts.

If we wanted to discuss "algorithm applicability" or "big data", we'd just use Stack Overflow.

I actually don't think StackOverflow would take kindly to that. If someone wants to use a Voronoi diagram to find the coverage for various public-transport stations and is interested under what conditions that coverage will poorly represent reality, then that would fit perfectly within your proposed forum, but the SO people will close it as off-topic before you can say directed-infrastructure-networks.

Or discussing which properties of a transport network would be sufficient to encode into a graph in order to give a model accurate enough for early design iterations.

Or discussing the fabrication costs under various manufacturing methods of elements (a, b, c, ...) with amounts (K, L, M, ...). ie. is it cheaper to manufacture façade panels using manual welding if I have 50*a + 50*b + 25*c or would it be cheaper to have 120*a + 3*b + 2*c?

Or discussing the visual aspects of various types of geometry. Do Bezier or Akima splines look more natural? What about them makes them look natural/unnatural? Can people tell the difference between a perfect circle and a circularish Nurbs curve with 12 points? Does it matter whether the Nurbs curve is small or big? Next to a perfect circle or not? Horizontal or vertical?

What equation would better describe experienced time by humans travelling from A to B rather than measured time?

How can I find out under what wind conditions this sharp edge on my building will start whistling?

How much might the potentially bad smell of this cheaper material lower the value of my building?

Q: How would one calculate the optimal placement of transport stations in a given area such that they serve the maximum number of passengers whilst minimizing the number of stations required.

A(-10): Here's a processing routine I used in grad to create a particle swarm to randomly zing around. You can freeze it and use those points for your bus stops!

A(+50): A voronoi diagram could help here. Here's an example of a similar problem that I solved using a grasshopper definition.

Q: My fabricator has told me that manual welding will cost me $x/in. How could I optimize a panelization of my facade to maximize surface area of the panels while minimizing edge length?

A(-5): Just use a robot. Robots are awesome and they make everything cheaper.

A(+10): I worked on a problem like this in Catia a while back. Here's an image of the problem, and the vbscript that I used to solve it.

A(+20): Here's a dynamo definition and an adaptive component that do exactly this. The layout is done using points on a surface, and the surface area calculation is done in the component.

Q: I have a large quantity of a material known as Swampgasium. It's incredibly durable, and has wonderful surface properties, but emits a potent sulfuric odor. How can I calculate the benefit of the reduced maintenance cost against tenant retention.

A: (Closed as off topic).

Actually, Dave's questions are the kind of questions we discuss in design and coordination meetings, or among project team members while working out a design problem. They may not be exactly representative of discussion in an architectural office most of the time (which is the environment I work in), but I think the point is that they have no focus at all on software. They are focused on solving design problems. As we discuss these subjects and find answers to them, we become more knowledgeable designers. The fact that we solve these problems by using programming as an integral part of the process doesn't change the fact that we are still designing.

It's not that we don't talk about software at work. It's just that the discussions on software do not necessarily make us better designers. They are still important though. Ian, what is a computational designer for you? Is it simply a Dynamo user or a Grasshopper user?

Sounds like the shared point of interest here that we have a sort of Rosetta Stone resource for methods in using off-the-shelf designer oriented computation applications, and a place for discussion of "algorithm as design tool". Common themes would likely be that users are: not professional programmers, have a need for best practices that are common across end user programming tools, and discussion in a language that is less Computer Science and more design-intent focused.

There's plenty of precedence for this already: a cross-application discipline that has obvious dominance of specific applications. Check out the Graphic Design Stack Exchange
http://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/

This one has clear emphasis on specific tools, Photoshop being the 900 lbs gorilla, and lots of Gimp. But there is a really nice distribution of application specific questions ("Add a layer on top of all the others to specifically add transparency in GIMP", "Photoshop Action to combine Multiple Photos") and general concepts ("Make text look like it's part of icon").

Hopefully this is still on-topic. I know you're talking about a stack exchange.

I'd be interested in a platform-agnostic forum that has sections like:

1/ Establishing a common language for computational design.

2/ Optimization

  2.1/ in prefabrication

  2.2/ combinatorial

  2.3/ approach comparisons (i.e. deterministic vs stochastic)

  2.4/ share your research

  2.5/ ... etc. the list goes on and on

3/ Share you design rationale and how computation fits in

4/ Need help with this problem...

5/ Challenges and workshops announcements

6/ CD News

7/ Share computational design projects under construction or built (akin to skyscrapercity)

8/ and so many other categories and sub-categories...

Just my first thoughts. That breakdown in optimization is just an example. Maybe 'sections' is an old-school way of seeing things, I just wanted to share some thoughts on the kind of content I look forward to seeing. It can be pragmatic topics, but also theoretical, and allow folks to share their projects and research. Some categories are specific, others broad. I suppose I'm interested in community building with regards to computational design. I think SmartGeometry attempted to accomplish this at some point in the past, to some degree. However their focus appears to be in the workshops and challenges.

I recall the silly flame wars that the CG industry had 20 years ago (lame). I'd avoid that, even if it meant forbidding the mention of any specific software in certain areas or in the entire forum. Which would be tricky, but the endless flame wars and silly comparisons were such a waste of everyone's time in CG.

Without dwelling on this too much yet, I think that the software specific questions belong in software specific forums. If we already had a common language for computational design, you'd just need to add the right description as a meta-tag to any Dynamo or Grasshopper forum post, and you'd be able to find analogous solutions in either forum effortlessly, right?

The Dynamo and Grasshopper forums lack design-centric content. The emphasis is generally on the tools and workflow. Computational design is hybrid in essence, it involves both design and computer programming (be it visual or textual). We could really use a forum for knowledge exchange where the expectation is that both are discussed with equal status.

I disagree that such a forum ought to exclude professional programmers. It should include professional programmers whom have an interest in design, and also include professional designers whom have an interest in computer programming, and everyone in between, and enthusiasts, and artists whom are curious about algorithms as a creative medium, and academics, and students, and etc etc. As long as there is rich content and activity on design as well, not only the computational bit, then the crowd will be diverse and we'll all have more to learn from one another.

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