Formal Mutations

Designing a transformative experience
Digital Design Studio @ RISD, 2007

This digital design studio focuses on the dynamic aspects of architectural environments–environments that adapt and interact in a similar way as life forms need to do in nature. The expectation will be to apply digital tools to simulate morphological variations in architectural forms while considering a space’s functional requirements.

Students will be given an existing architectural environment and will be asked to design a space that can be a home, a workshop and a museum, however we are not looking to design just a generic multipurpose space that could accommodate all three program components simultaneously. On the contrary, we are looking for three separate, highly specific, idiosyncratic spaces sharing some common threads each with a unique character. Later, we will look into ways to digitally transform these spaces (map one to another) using their common threads as morphing trajectories and explore ‘in-between’ solutions that often emerge as ‘missing links’ in architectural environments. As a result, these three spaces (home, workshop, museum) will form distinct stages of a single architectural metamorphosis not unlike many organisms undergo in nature.  One simple analogy in nature would be larva, cocoon to butterfly.

cTransformations: Sketch assignment to practice morphing tools


project by Nick Brunetti, RISD’2006

project by Laura Lister, RISD’2006

The design is executed by applying simple rules and behaviors to the original form. Each of these rules represents limited vocabulary and produces very recognizable effects, like the ‘bend’ transformation. However, by compounding even a small number of simple transformations, the forms’ complexity and design possibilities are growing exponentially and escape predictable visual patterns.  The phenotypic results of a single transformation may often appear not to change qualitatively its resultant form, but the transformation is still present in its genotypic definition of an object waiting to emerge. This dormant transformation may be later responsible for a rapid emergence of the form/design once other transformations are applied leading to complex and sophisticated forms. This rapid form emergence results from narrowing the difference between the phenotype and genotype potentials