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Sun, 7 Jan 2024

Parametric Architecture

— SjG @ 4:13 pm

In ye olde days, I designed stuff in POV-Ray to render whatever fantastical scenes I was imagining. I’d spend hours figuring out textures and constructive solid geometry to create images. It was a slow process. Files were extremely slow to render. On my trusty Intel 80386-based PC running DOS, a scene of any complexity would take all night to render at 640×480 pixels.

Now, 30-some-odd years later, I still play with a constructive solid geometry modeler — in this case, OpenSCAD. The idea is that I could output the models to a format like STL, and then 3D print them into physical being. I haven’t actually done very much printing of models, but it’s an interesting possibility nonetheless.

By Pieter Brueghel the Elder – Levels adjusted from File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-The_Tower_of_Babel(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg, originally from Google Art Project., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22179117

Below are some images from a work in progress. I was inspired by seeing the Breugels painting above in a YouTube video. The tower is not only a great metaphor, but an interesting image and architecture.

My architectural thoughts go more Gothic (more flying buttresses), and parametric. By parametric, I mean that I figure the design can be based on a set of variables, for example, the ratio of height to width of a wall segment. For each value of the variables, the code can generate the appropriate geometry.

My ability to create this way is limited by two things: my trigonometry is not particularly strong, and my ability to keep a stable 3D point of reference in my head is even worse. So I start with sketches and pages of cosines and arctangents, and then end up doing a lot by trial-and-error. Because thinking in this mathematical space is hard, I end up getting frustrated and putting the project aside for days or months before picking it up again. Not to mention, even with today’s super-fast computers, as the complexity increases, the time to render an image increases!

So, my tower of Babel is not complete. There’s been some progress. I played with it a little today. Maybe one day I’ll finish it. Perhaps I’ll even print a model.


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