Design of Structures


Over the past decades, digital technologies have been adapted almost universally as the predominant means of production in architectural practice. These technologies have enabled new methods of design and enlarged the possibilities of architectural expression. But up to the present, the discourse on the digital in architecture as a discipline is dominated by this focus on architectural form, its rule-based generation as well as its fabrication. This focus on making is overshadowing the transformative potential of the digital for architectural thinking.

The use of computers as active agent in the design process fosters an operative approach to design grounded in the formalization of design concepts and methods as computable function that is as transformation of data through a finite sequence of calculable rules. In an operative design approach, attention shifts away from the architectural form itself towards the logic of the underlying computational function that is to the organizational pattern that governs the interaction of the form with the context. The digital enforces a precision in the design methods and techniques with the operative as an index of this shift in thinking.

Thinking in Patterns

With the integration of the digital into the design process and the shift towards the operative in design thinking, architecture is joining a structural perspective where the organizational pattern is the carrier of information. A structure can be understood as a pattern which results from the network of formal relationships between elements of a set of examined objects. Such thinking in patterns places operative design in conceptual proximity to mathematics. This contextual proximity to mathematics is not the result of chance; mathematics is the science of patterns, whereby the fundamental patterns result from the formalization of human perception.

As a consequence, the research in Design of Structures is focused on the exploration of the pattern formation as result of the interaction of form and matter in the physical world as well as means of human expression. It is in this field between the necessity of physics and the freedom of design that the organizational pattern functions as mediator. It is through the organization of form and matter within architecture that we are getting aware of other patterns of organisation like social, political or cultural relationships that frame human life. At its core, Design of Structures is exploring methods and design techniques to bridge between the technical and the artistic by means of formal design strategies.


“Mathematics as a discipline is not so much a technical tool for precise description and forecasting but rather a way of thinking in structures and organizational pattern.”