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  • SpaceStream

    ZHEN Shan, MENGYING Li, WENJIAN Yang, & SHAORU Wang, "SpaceStream."
    london UNITED KINGDOM

    Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
    GAD, Research Cluster 6
    critics: Stefan BASSING, Soomeen HAHM, & Daniel WIDRIG.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    ZHEN Shan, MENGYING Li, WENJIAN Yang, & SHAORU Wang: SpaceStream project, developed at the Bartlett UCL, explores generative digital design methodology using agent based lattice stigmergy calculation, which is realized by metal welding technique.

    The project uses generative computational strategies to generate series of special stream paths within 3D space frame, giving it structural stiffness and aesthetic values. The generative algorithm is based on use of multi-agent systems, shortest path calculation, lattice stigmergy and structural analysis. The goal is to create continuously thickened bundle paths within the fuzzy 3D space frame structure, where the bundles double as camouflage and reinforcement for the joints/seams between the welded components, allowing for fabrication of large scale structures, mediating between the discreet components and continuous system.

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    Space Stream is a student project which aims to explore influence of rule-based design systems on low-tech fabrication technique of welding. The research concentrates on wireframe structures, which are strengthened through subdivision of basic geometrical units and bundling and reinforcing of the main structural strands. The custom software used for this project is centered on Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm in combination with agent-based modeling techniques.

    Design Methodology:
    As the application was being developed in parallel with the design project, the software itself went through several iterations. From the very beginning, following up on the initial fabrication research, the basic design setup consisted of 3 dimensional array of space filling polyhedrons. These initial geometrical units are subdivided in 3 iterations through the application of Multi-agent system, which runs through the spatial grid in accordance to defined guide paths. Soon, as a conclusion of fabrication tests, it became apparent that in order to strengthen the 3D lattice, bundles of varying densities would have to be introduced into the system. As next step, bundles were generated through agents interacting with the lattice. Shortest path algorithm known as Dijsktra algorithm was applied as the solution to the bundling problem. It proved as a suitable solution due to its computational efficiency, as through optimization it benefited the speed of the design process.

    Design to Fabrication:
    Since the initial setup always consisted from polyhedrons of known dimensions, any design iteration from the digital applet was easily translatable into physical model made of welded metal wires. Likewise, as each of the shortest path bundles (agent’s path) produced within the applet would record its value over the wires it crossed – similar to stigmergic calculation, the exact number of bundles and their length was known at any given moment. This way, the computational model acted as a direct blueprint for fabrication, with the ability of updating the instructions in real-time.

    Stream House:
    Finally all of the design elements are tested synthetically as an architectural proposal – the “Stream House” – which manifests the structural and aesthetical properties by showcasing the 3D structural flows branching and transitioning seamlessly from vertical columns, to horizontal elements (floors, ceilings) and staircases, while forming the structural support as well as unifying all building elements into one coherent design.

    Prototype:
    A prototypical chair and a part of staircase from the “Stream House” were built 1:1 and were exhibited at the Bartlett School of Architecture’s B-Pro show in London, which was held during 29 September to 10 October 2015, as well as featured in the Exposition/ Exhibition Synthetic in Paris during 26 Nov – 18 Dec 2015.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    YS, ML, WY, & SW: N/A.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    YS, ML, WY, & SW: N/A.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    YS, ML, WY, & SW: N/A.

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