Digital Design Final Project Proposal

To explore and document the process of creating generative brick designs that relates to the function of the building and context of its surroundings. Using the program Processing, the aim will be to create a set of rules and code which will generate patterns that have a strong narrative and clear meaning. If successful, the pattern will be an integrated part of the building rather than a surface decoration.

Background and Context
The concept for this proposal came about through a conversation with my boss in regards to a possible design study for a project my firm was working on. However, since then that project has moved in a different direction but the concept of using generative design to create evocative brick patterns still intrigued me so I decided to continue with the idea and see what results would arise. As time is limited I will use similar design constraints to my firm’s project as it grounds the project in the here and now rather than some make believe place in my head. The constraints I will be working with are;

  • Located on an educational institute
  • New multifunctional building split into 3 sections that are represented by 3 different materials.
  • The section I will be focusing on will be the “brick box” which will be utilised as lecture theatre.
  • The final pattern should reference the two types of brick used for the surround buildings: cream and red

The research I did for this proposal covered two areas that sprang to mind, one was the role patterns have in architecture and the other, examples of buildings which have patterned brickwork and why.

Throughout history, decoration and ornamentation has had an interesting relationship with architecture. In the early days of Ancient Egypt saw the beginnings of symbols and patterns appear on walls, in Ancient Greek saw the influence of the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian forms, but it was the 20th Century Modernism that had a large impact on the way we view patterns in Architecture today. They believed in the “form follows function and less is more” approach and reacted against all forms of ornamentation to produce solely functional structures and for a long time Architects had shyed away from being associated with any form of pattern or ornamentation. However, recently we are beginning to see the emergence of patterns in architecture more and more and as technology advances it allows for architects to rethink the way patterns can be used and how structures can be built. [1]

The closest example to what I’m trying to achieve is the AustralianWildlife Health Centre designed by Minifie van Schaik Architects in 2007. While there has been a lot of thought gone into the form and program of the building, the part that appeals to me is the way they have treated the external brick facade.  Bringing mathematics and architecture together, Minifie used a “cellular automaton” algorithm and computer to create the fascinating brickwork pattern. The advanced programming was able to recognise elements were such as doors and windows and therefore the pattern could respond when there were changes in building form. [2]
During my research I also found other interesting brick patterns, however as far as I can tell they did not use sophisticated technology as seen in the Australian Wildlife Heath Centre. The colourful brickwork of Botswana High Commission by Guida Moseley Brown Architects was designed to reflect the traditional patterns used in famous Botswana baskets. [3]
The Mornington nursing home by Lyons Architects is clad with embossed bricks that resemble timber to create a beach like home rather than the hospital is designed to be. [4]
The New Technologies Building at Curtin University designed by Cox Architecture used different coloured brick stripes to enrich the building typology and create a more striking and lively articulation of brick work. [5]
And lastly the new Frank Fenner Building at the Australian National University has interesting facade patterns though I have not been able to find a meaning behind the design as yet. [6]
Image by someone at my work. 

As mentioned above the aim of the project is to create a set of rules and code which will generate patterns that have a strong narrative or clear meaning. At the moment I am still unsure as to what meaning I would like to explore, but as the function of the “brick box” is a lecture theatre, I was think about looking into sounds/acoustics and the mathematics around it. That way the meaning ties in with my goal of relating to the function of the building and the learning environment. What I hope to achieve is a program that will produce designs that can adapt and transform when the building changes. If successful, I hope the pattern will look to be an integrated part of the building.

For this project I plan to explore the possibilities of creating generative brick designs that relate to the function of a lecture theatre in context of an educational institute. So far my idea was to look into the patterns created by sound and create some rules that which could be translated into code. The program I will be using to create the generative brick patterns will be Processing, and I also hope that once the sketches are up to a standard I am satisfied with, they could be uploaded to Open Processing so other users can tinker with. In addition, I hope to post weekly on my blog to keep a record of the process as well as make sure that I’m actively working on the project as twelve weeks is not a lot of time. As for the end result, I’m still undecided too. Besides the Processing sketches and blog, I would like to produce something that would best represent the project. Firstly, I thought of doing 2D work such as print outs or maybe even canvas artwork (Aboriginal art came to mind) would be nice to look at it but sort of feels like it would be lacking and not showing the program to its full extent. So, I propose to do something big but on a small scale, and hopefully don’t run out of time. So in conjunction to writing the program which will generate the patterns, I will create small scale models of different shape buildings made from white card. From there, using a projector I would like to project the running program onto the model and film the results. This would be repeated for the different model building types and hopefully the program will be able to modify itself to the new form. Of course, I will need to test and set up every time the building changes which will be a pain, but I believe well worth it if it all works out. What I hope to see is that with every change in building form the pattern will alter to something quite different though still retain the overall character.

Ethical Approach
During the course of this subject I hope to uphold a high standard of ethics. Beside the main principle of acknowledging all ideas and text not my own, I think the biggest issue for me is that I don’t reference too closely to the design that my project was originally based on. Yes, I have use some of the same constraints but that is as far as the similarities go as I would not like to encroach on the intellectual property of the firm I work for. I have informed them that a current project is the basis for my university assignment and they are happy for me explore the possibilities. Maybe what I create could be used in a future building, who knows?


List of References
[1] Ornament (art). (2011, December 23). Retrieved February 07, 2012, from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:
[2] Stead, N. (2006). Australia Wildlife Health Centre. Architecture Australia , 95 (2), 80-87.
[3] Botswanna High Commission. (2010). Retrieved February 05, 2012, from Australian Institute of Architects:
[4] Clark, J. (2009). Mornington Centre. Architecture Australia , 98 (1), 76-83
[5] Philip Cox, C. L. (2008). COX Architects & Planners. Melbourne: Images Publishing, 140-141
[6] New ANU building honours great Australian scientist Frank Fenner’s sustainable dream. (2011 , October 28). Retrieved February 04, 2012, from Architecture & Design:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s