Design Rationalization

Ioanna Symeonidou

Published Apr 14, 2021

With the use of digital media for the design and production, the architectural form has been liberated from standardization giving rise to new morphogenetic strategies and a broader range of formal variation. Non-standard architecture requires a deep understanding of the entire workflow from design to production, redefining the role of the architect as the one orchestrating a series of events, processes, and transfer of information. In a culture of mass customization, each fabrication process has its own special requirements, some of which may relate to the fabrication process while others have a direct impact on the design phase. Especially when complex freeform designs are to be materialized, the workflow complexity requires specialized knowledge and customized computational tools to control all phases of the design and fabrication process. There is no universal software that can directly link a design undertaken in a CAD system to different types of manufacturing equipment embedding design constraints and optimization strategies (Schmiedhofer et al., 2014), therefore geometrically complex projects are materialized employing ad hoc design solutions and fabrication processes. Few large scale architectural and engineering practices have developed their own software tools to manage the construction complexity of their projects, however, this only represents a small portion of the construction industry. Advanced Geometry Unit (AGU) at Arup, Adams Kara Taylor (AKT), the Specialist Modelling Group (SMG) at Foster and Partners, PLP Research, are among the practice-led teams working towards the advancement of knowledge in design rationalization (Kocatürk and Medjdoub, 2011). In order to fill this knowledge gap and provide the missing link within the digital workflow from design to production, specialized multidisciplinary companies that provide consulting related to non-standard geometry and fabrication have come into existence (Brell-Cokcan and Braumann, 2010). This emerging new profession that combines the skillset of computer scientists, geometers, architects, and mathematicians, is rapidly contributing to a global core of applied research and practice, offering consulting services, specialized software, and training. Several university-led research groups that initially conducted scientific research projects within the academia have evolved into independent consulting services giving rise to companies such as Evolute (Eigensatz et al., 2010), Design-to-Production (Scheurer, 2010), Feasible Geometry (Schmiedhofer et al., 2014), who have been conducting research advancing the knowledge in architectural geometry and CAD/CAM technologies.


Brell-Cokcan, S., Braumann, J., 2010. A new parametric design tool for robot milling, in: Proceedings of the 30th ACADIA Conference. 

Brell-Cokcan, S., Schmiedhofer, H., Schiftner, A., Ziegler, R., 2009. Structurize – Planarize - Materialize Designing Arbitrary Multi-Layered Freeform Building Envelopes with PQ-Meshes, in: Innovative Design & Construction Technologies - Building Complex Shapes and Beyond. Maggiooli Editore, Milano. 

Demaine, E., Demaine, M., Koschitz, D., Tachi, T., 2011. Curved crease folding: a review on art, design and mathematics, in: Proceedings of the IABSE-IASS Symposium: Taller, Longer, Lighter, London, England, Sept. Citeseer. 

Eigensatz, M., Deuss, M., Schiftner, A., Kilian, M., Mitra, N.J., Pottmann, H., Pauly, M., 2010. Case studies in cost-optimized paneling of architectural freeform surfaces. Advances in Architectural Geometry 2010. Springer. 

Flöry, S., Pottmann, H., 2010. Ruled surfaces for rationalization and design in architecture, in: Proceedings of the 30th ACADIA Conference.

Huard, M., Eigensatz, M., Bompas, P., 2015. Planar Panelization with Extreme Repetition, in: Block, P., Knippers, J., Mitra, N., Wang, W. (Eds.), Advances in Architectural Geometry 2014. Springer. 

Kilian, M., Flöry, S., Chen, Z., Mitra, N.J., Sheffer, A., Pottmann, H., 2008. Curved folding, in: ACM Transactions on Graphics. ACM. 

Kocatürk, T., Medjdoub, B., 2011. Distributed Intelligence In Design. John Wiley & Sons. 

Kolarevic, B., Klinger, K., 2008. Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture. Routledge. 

Liu, Y., Pottmann, H., Wallner, J., Yang, Y.-L., Wang, W., 2006. Geometric modeling with conical meshes and developable surfaces, in: ACM Transactions on Graphics. ACM. 

Postle, B., 2012. Methods for Creating Curved Shell Structures From Sheet Materials. Buildings 2, 424– 455. 

Scheurer, F., 2010. Materialising complexity. Archit. Des. 80, 86–93.

Schmiedhofer, H., Reis, M., Rist, F., Suter, G., 2014. A Framework for Linking Design and Fabrication in Geometrically Complex Architecture. Presented at the ACADIA 14: Design Agency, Los Angeles. 

Tachi, T., 2010. Freeform Rigid-Foldable Structure using Bidirectionally Flat-Foldable Planar Quadrilateral Mesh, in: Ceccato, C., Hesselgren, L., Pauly, M., Pottmann, H., Wallner, J. (Eds.), Advances in Architectural Geometry 2010. Springer. 

Wallner, J., Schiftner, A., Kilian, M., Flöry, S., Höbinger, M., Deng, B., Huang, Q., Pottmann, H., 2010. Tiling Freeform Shapes With Straight Panels: Algorithmic Methods. Advances in Architectural Geometry 2010. Springer.