Discourse on Digital
by B.J. Novitski
Every October, about 100 academics from around the world get together to share ideas and research results in the field of architectural design computing. Members of ACADIA — Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture — present discoveries about how to use CAD technologies to improve design and design education. They also speculate on future developments and how they might contribute.
At the ACADIA 2003 conference, in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by Ball State University, Andrew Maher was one of several dozen presenters. He described work undertaken at RMIT with Mark Burry to develop a model of a pedestrian bridge for the new Selfridges store in Birmingham, England. The curved, steel-structured bridge had already been designed, analyzed, and fabricated, but the structural analysis by Arup engineers, using the firm's own analysis software, had required three person-months to complete.
The researchers sought a parametric method for design and analysis so that multiple design options could be studied with little additional effort. Using a new version of CATIA, they developed a 3D design model with geometrical constraints linked to both loading analyses and fabrication methods. They demonstrated how the bridge could then be iteratively regenerated and optimized towards targeted solutions.
In the parametric model for the bridge, the researchers constrained the geometry of the underside to standard steel-plate fabrication methods. They constrained the shape of the canopy to methods for bending the steel tubes that would support the polycarbonate cover. They then subjected various configurations to finite element analysis. >>>
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Parametric model of a pedestrian bridge developed by at RMIT for one of the projects presented at the 2003 ACADIA conference.
Image: Andrew Maher
The pedestrian bridge in the steel fabricator's shop.
Photo: Ed Clarke/ Arup
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