For those of you who are not exactly sure what an algorithm is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, an algorithm is ‘a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer’. In layman's terms, an algorithm for getting dressed in the morning would involve putting your jumper on before your coat. To do it the other way around would result in you wearing your jumper over your coat which isn’t very practical and wouldn’t work. So, the order of instructions is very important, get it out of sequence, and things are going to go wrong.
The buildings that shape our skyline today are formed the way they are because there is a need for them to be cleverly designed in order to function efficiently later. According to Johnson Fain, “Algorithms can optimise performance criteria while presenting a dizzying array of visual forms and patterns,”. Using algorithms to design buildings means that architects not only have the ability to address building issues such as structural, thermal, electrical and mechanical performance, but they also allow for design optimisation so that the best possible building performance can be achieved with the highest reliability and or lowest cost. They have become a necessity to build more complex, effective and efficient buildings as is demanded by the global market and help to create unique structures that perform at the highest possible level. This is 21st-century architecture that is mindful of the environment and the next generation of users.
We cannot rely on algorithms alone to design the buildings of the future. Although we know that using these computer-generated methods is important in the design of structurally and energy efficient buildings, there are still factors such as social and cultural needs to take into consideration which all require an element of a human design process. The increasing demands of mankind on our environment means that the use of algorithms can resolve environmental issues, functionality and spatial issues, but they cannot do it alone, and other elements are required to achieve optimum performance from the structures that are needed to fulfil the demands of a future generation.
The Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg is probably one of the most intricate and infamous algorithmically designed buildings today. The algorithmic masterpiece of this wave-like structure is the auditorium with its cavernous interior constructed of 10,000 individually designed acoustic panels that form the ceiling, walls, and balustrades. The gypsum fibre panels line the interior of the concert hall like interlocking sections of a giant puzzle and feature 1,000,000 ‘cells’ that look like they were carved with a seashell. It is these cells that shape the sound generated in the auditorium. This impressive building is the epitome of modern-day architecture, the result of the creative human mind and technology working in harmony.
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