Skip to Content

Rebuilding Architecture

Software is allowing architects to design buildings in radically new ways.
December 21, 2010
Frank Gehry, whose firm designed the 2004 Stata Center at MIT (above), was an early pioneer in software that went beyond conventional computer-¬aided design (CAD). Unlike earlier CAD programs, parametric design programs calculate changes to the entire structure necessitated by, for example, changing the slope of a wall.
Architects are now using software not just to help realize designs they have in mind but to create new ideas. The pattern of the walls in Toyo Ito’s 2002 Serpentine Pavilion in London (above) came from a computer program.
Builders also use parametric software to help figure out how to construct complex curved forms such as those that architects designed for the Beijing National Stadium (above and next image), which was showcased in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Beijing National Stadium (above and previous image) was showcased in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The engineering firm Arup Sport used such a program to calculate the specifications that workers followed when they cut curved steel branches like those in the picture above, which was taken from inside the stadium during construction.
Parametric design could change construction methods even more radically in the future. Once software lays out the detailed designs, robotics, three-dimensional printers, and other computerized technologies can be used to execute them. The façade of the Gantenbein Vineyard in Fläsch, Switzerland, is an intricate brick pattern that looks from a distance like a basket (above).
The design required bricks to be placed at precise angles that would have been impossible for a human mason.
The firm Gramazio & Kohler built the façade with a robot repurposed from the automotive industry.
The rendering above is a whimsical project by François Roche that suggests future directions for structures built almost entirely by machines. Gigantic three-dimensional printers could fashion intricate biomimetic skyscrapers modeled on coral skeletons.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A view of clouds illuminated by sunlight
A view of clouds illuminated by sunlight

We can’t afford to stop solar geoengineering research

It is the wrong time to take this strategy for combating climate change off the table.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

Death and Jeff Bezos
Death and Jeff Bezos

Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever

Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.

ai learning to multitask concept
ai learning to multitask concept

Meta’s new learning algorithm can teach AI to multi-task

The single technique for teaching neural networks multiple skills is a step towards general-purpose AI.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.