Procedural Shading for Architecture: Adoption, Fabrication, and Implications

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Matthew Lewis: Procedural Shading for Architecture: Adoption, Fabrication, and Implications. In: Generative Art 2006.



While the use of generative modeling processes has become well established in architecture for creating experimental forms and volumes, there is significantly less creative usage of procedural techniques for specification and control of localized variable surface qualities such as color, reflectance, pattern and deformation. The field of computer graphics has a long history of developing advanced processes for algorithmic specification of such shading properties in virtual environments for film and video games, but there has been minimal adoption of these techniques in architecture. This paper considers approaches for making this shift feasible, motivations for adopting such techniques, and conceptual implications and opportunities. Contemporary generative modeling tools permit interactive parametric modeling via recursive hierarchies, iterative traces, particle and cellular artifacts, as well as myriad additional techniques. While some architects are adopting algorithmic approaches to form generation, there are few comfortable points of entry into procedural shading that don’t assume a great deal of mathematical and graphics programming knowledge. This paper presents an effort to contextualize the core concepts of procedural surfacing into an architectural framework, mapping relevant computer graphics constructs into a lexicon more aligned with experimental architecture. Extrapolations from current 3D physical fabrication technologies are considered in the context of the performative capabilities and evaluation of generatively produced surfacing properties with intelligent localized behavior. In addition to modulating attributes such as color, density, or displacement across a surface in response to curvature, structural proximity, program, etc., integration with emerging responsive technologies that permit reactive light, color, and sound are also mentioned. Finally, a number of theoretic research directions emerging from the above concepts are introduced. The meta-design of spaces of procedural surfaces/materials is discussed, as well as their visualization and navigation via interactive evolutionary design. The radical shift from explicit representations of discrete forms and materials, to the specification of implicit surface properties in terms of localized differences (as mandated by both virtual representation and physical fabrication) is considered in terms of Deleuzian metaphysics. Finally, the issue of pedagogical strategies for integrating interdisciplinary theory is raised.

Extended Abstract


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