Conceptual studies in structural design : pointSketch - a based approach for use in early stages of the architectural process
Abstract: The development of computer hardware and software has progressed rapidly in recent years. Nevertheless, the development of software concerned with load-carrying structures and intended for the architectural design process has lagged behind, the majority of it being developed by and for engineers, often making the architects who are involved unduly forced to rely on the know-how of the engineer. Two case studies in the context of furniture design were carried out to investigate the requirements that a computer-based design aid intended to support collaboration between the architect and the engineer at early stages of the design process should fulfil in order to be of genuine help. Computer tools based on the Finite Element Method (FEM) were used for performing structural analyses in both studies. Observations made in the case studies enabled a set of characteristics to be suggested that it would be desirable for such a computer-based design aid to possess. These characteristics made it possible to propose a basic approach referred to as pointSketch, within the framework of which the characteristics in question were developed further, were organised, and were described in greater detail. The pointSketch approach was put into concrete form through the development of two computer programs, pointSketch2D and pointSketch3D. The programs were evaluated in three separate steps involving both small informal groups and a workshop attended by participants familiar with the collaboration between architects and engineers. Throughout the evaluation process the pointSketch approach was well received. The opportunity users are given to experiment freely with structural behaviour was appreciated in particular, both in a professional and an educational context. The pointSketch approach and the two programs associated with it show how structural mechanics can act as a design parameter on equal footing with traditional design parameters and can lead to the creation of new and innovative structures.
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