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Computer Aided Physical Models: Introducing Nurbs And Fabrication In Conceptual Architectural Design Projects

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Instructional Innovations in AEC Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.354.1 - 14.354.19



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Paper Authors


Stan Guidera Bowling Green State University

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Dr. Stan Guidera is a registered architect and an Associate Professor in Architecture at Bowling Green State University. His areas of specialization are in Building Information Modeling and design visualization.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Computer Aided Physical Models: Introducing NURBS and Fabrication in Conceptual Architectural Design Projects


This paper documents the activities and outcomes of an advanced architectural computing class that was modified to introduce NURBS (Non uniform rational b-spline) based design tools along with 2-D and 3-D fabrication and rapid prototyping techniques. Two class assignments were used to introduce this content. Project outcomes are documented along with recommendations for faculty considering introducing similar content into their courses or curriculums.


The activity of design is rooted in an iterative process through which concept evolves both linearly and non-linearly from conceptualization to material form. Inherently, all design proposals undergo a transformation in the process of evolving from the conceptual stage to a level of refinement in which the initial concept can be transformed into a proposal that is buildable. In this process, parameters such as structure and other constraints require the designer to modify or even re-conceptualize the design concept. For example, design development phase of the initial proposals for Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House required that the parabolic curvature of the shells be significantly modified to accommodate the construction technologies available at the time it was built [1]. According to Kloft “finding a structurally optimized and geometrically clearly defined form was a necessary condition for realization of double curved surfaces in pre-digital times [2].

However, recent advances in design and construction technologies have transformed the limits of architecture, engineering, and project delivery. There has been “an extension of the formal freedom in architecture” [2]. Writing on the topic of “Engineering Form”, Kloft stated that “the emerging digital design and production environment, combined with new materials and modern technologies, makes possible unprecedented challenges in the repertoire of formal language” adding that “boldly curved shapes, a few years ago thought of as unrealizable and thought of as pure fantasies, can now be built.”

These advances reflect contemporary discourse in architecture, which has seen a shift towards a more topological conception of form and towards non-Euclidean shapes and non- discrete volumes that would have been inconceivable without advanced computational tools [3] [4]. According to Kolarec, “technological architectures are being replaced by computational architectures of topological non-Euclidean geometric space, kinetic and dynamic systems, and genetic algorithms” [3]. Similarly, Zellner stated that “architecture is recasting itself, becoming in part an experimental investigation of topological geometries, partly a computational orchestration of robotic material production and partly a generative, kinematic sculpting of space” [5].

This shift is attributed to the adoption of software applications that have been “appropriated” for architecture from other disciplines [4]. This is evidenced by Frank Gherys’ use of Catia, software

Guidera, S. (2009, June), Computer Aided Physical Models: Introducing Nurbs And Fabrication In Conceptual Architectural Design Projects Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5059

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