Thursday 14 January 2016

Generative Design

Zaha Hadid Architects is using generative design to optimise the position of artefacts in its maths gallery for the Science Museum
Think of generative design as architecture by algorithms. Fully developed generative design could allow every element of a building to be generated by a computer by inputting large amounts of data and corresponding algorithms to simulate  their influence.

This, according to Shajay Bhooshan, an associate at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), is the “holy grail” and, although we are undoubtedly many years away from this being a reality, elements of generative design are already being used by architects.

“Now is the right time to talk about generative design,” says Bhooshan. “Every day, in all industries, there is more talk of data-driven processes like the self-driving car or algorithmic trading. Architecture doesn’t operate in a vacuum and generative design is architecture’s version of these data-led disruptive ideas.”

Key to generative design is that the numerous inputs that determine a building’s form and structure — such as structural and manufacturing constraints, planning requirements, site restrictions, ground conditions, environmental conditions – will all be available in a digital form in the era of Open Data transparency.

Zaha Hadid Architects is using generative design to optimise the position of artefacts in its maths gallery for the Science Museum

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and increasing amounts of information being digitised, this data is becoming available and architects are beginning to take advantage of it.

Innovations such as Google’s Flux – currently only available in Austin, Texas – which can create a maximum envelope for buildings by incorporating all the national and local planning regulations overlaid on a 3D map, show the ideas being implemented on an urban scale.

The concept is already in use on live projects. Bhooshan explains that ZHA used generative design at the Science Museum in London, to determine the overall spatial configuration and the arrangement of artefacts in the maths gallery.

Data points such as dimensions, lighting requirements and collection groupings were determined for each artefact. These were then inputted into a digital model that could assimilate all the inputs and determine the artefact’s optimum arrangement. As the model is flexible, if inputs change – in this case the choice of artefacts to be displayed – the arrangement can quickly be recirculated.

“Generative design is becoming more mainstream, and it is one to watch for the future,” concludes Bhooshan

Extracted from:, (2016). Construction Manager - Agenda. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2016].