Informed structural parametric design

Creating informative graphs parametrically from data contained in structural models.


Investigating the distribution of internal forces in a gridshell based on new visualisation approaches for structural design.

Comparing different design alternatives on their structural behaviour with the help of new ways to visualise structural data.

Computational tools such as for instance parametric design and form-finding allow structural designers to quickly generate different structural design alternatives. The structural designer then typically wants to understand the differences between the behaviour of these generated structural models. By this understanding, informed design decisions can be made. In engineering practices, it can be observed that the commonly used finite element tools are not always appropriate to quickly and qualitatively compare the structural behaviour of various structural models. The structural results of these finite element tools provide in general quantitative data in tabular format and visual representations such as force diagrams. Where these tools mainly aim at the understanding and analysis of a single structure, interpreting a set of alternatives might become time consuming.

Within a computational design workflow, a lot of structural data and results can be obtained immediately. This research project investigated whether the structural understanding and comparison of the behaviour of various structural design alternatives can be facilitated by using interactive visualisations of the available structural data. Various case studies illustrate the novel informed structural design approach and the project broadens the field of informed structural design in an unexpected manner.

Based on the inkbeagle software implementation as developed by Lennert Loos, the practical use of interactive structural data visualisation was investigated. Inkbeagle is a plugin for Grasshopper that offers a way for (structural) designers to gain insight in the structural behaviour of multiple design alternatives and to compare these, by means of interactive data visualisations. In short, the designer will define a series of structural models with the help of Karamba3D. This is a Grasshopper plugin that allows to run finite element analyses based on parametrically defined geometries and boundary conditions. Inkbeagle allows then to retrieve the structural data contained in these structural models and to represent it by interactive data visualisations in the web browser of the user. Various inkbeagle components allow to parametrically plot different kinds of graphs, based on the structural data the user/designer would like to visualise. A real-time interaction between the structural geometries and the data visualisations in the web browser is established in the implementation of inkbeagle. This allows designers to quickly relate structural data with the geometry of the structural model. For instance, a selection of data points can be made in the graphs and the associated structural elements will be highlighted instantaneously in the Rhino viewport. Also the other way around, a selection of structural elements can be made in Grasshopper and the related data points can be highlighted immediately in the graphs.