September 24, 2014

How to Design a Building by Playing a Game

A game developer named Cedric has recently created a series of GIFs called Procedural Brutalism that visually explain the thinking behind the architectural theory. What the images show are unique ways of generating a data-based architecture. Brutalism grows out of the repetition of functional units that are grouped together to form a unified whole. By coding these units, and using Unity’s rendering engine, he was able to morph the buildings from small instances to complete and recognizable structures. You can view more of the images on BLDGBLG.

ESI Design recently got the opportunity to work on a Brutalist building in Boston. Part of the Christian Science Plaza, 177 Huntington Avenue was designed by I.M. Pei in the 1970s. It is the tallest structure on the plaza that is a monument to Brutalism. Four buildings on the plaza share the style. 177 stands in modern contrast to the ornate, gothic Christian Science Church on the opposite corner of the plaza. The address is a type of lesson in point and counterpoint in architectural history.

Image: Procedural Brutalism by Cedric.

Image: Procedural Brutalism by Cedric.

But Unity is not the only game engine that is being used to create architectural images. Popular Science recently published an article on how the Canadian construction firm, DIRTT Environmental Solutions, is using the source code from the classic game DOOM to produce blueprints for prefabricated buildings.

From the Popular Science article: “The Doom engine is a computer program that can render 2-D blueprints into a 3-D space. Because the engine is open-source, DIRTT was able to adapt it for their own needs–for example, ICE “melts” with other design softwares, including AutoCAD. An engineer or an architect can use ICE to mock up a room, and create a live data set for every aspect of a space, including the electrical engineering, millwork, and piping. When those blueprints are taken into the shop, everything is constructed at the same time and put together so that there are no inconsistencies. Instead of working on each component at different times by different people, they’re all done at once by the same machine.”

So the gamers of the world are helping make the world a different place in more ways. The usefulness of the engines that render digital worlds, is now transferring to the physical world. It is really just a matter of time before we will be using the mechanics of games to crowd-source and augment buildings to better suit a larger, interactive population. Until then, you should just remember to look out for aliens around that next corner.