Shape Computation Lab

Shape Machine Studio: Reworking Durand

ARCH 8666: Design and Research Studio

Fall Semester

School of Architecture

College of Design

Georgia Institute of Technology

In 1802 Jean-Nicholas-Louis Durand published his book Précis of the Lectures on Architecture with no less ambition than to revolutionize architectural pedagogy and production. Emphatically, and obsessively, Durand completed his book with the chapter “Procedure to Be Followed in the Composition of any Project”.


The Design and Research Studio Back to the Future takes on Durand’s theoretical proposition and uses it as a platform to inquire and test its claims, conventions and expressiveness and to ultimately elicit a constructive response by each student to this body of theoretical work in the form of a design proposition embedded within current theories and practices of architecture. The studio consists of two stages briefly outlined below.


The first stage focuses on the rigorous reconstruction of Durand’s method in the Shape Machine for Rhino – a software application that is currently developed at SCL at the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech. The students will read the Précis, draft the compositional rules that are explicitly stated in the book and postulate the design of other rules to make a complete specification of a rule-based system to generate the designs illustrated in the Précis (and more too). The specification of the architectural parti, architectural parts and architectural elements should be recast in the form of shape rules (LHD --> RHD) in the Shape Machine in an iterative fashion of making and evaluation. The Palladian grammar by Stiny and Mitchell (1978) will be used as a paradigmatic example to showcase this translation between text and illustrations and shape rules. In a similar fashion, the students will speculate shape rules in an analog setting (pencil and paper) simulating what the text and the examples suggest, but significantly, they will test their rules in the Shape Machine to make sure that they are properly defined and explore their generative power especially towards the examples Durand uses to illustrate his method in the Part III of his work on the architecture of building types.


The second stage shifts the focus of the studio to individual expression and critical engagement with current theories and practices of architecture. The module will kick-off with Schinkel’s transformative strategies in design and use them as a springboard to invite a range of contemporary transformative strategies suggested by each student. The deliverables for the second half of the semester will include formal specifications of building types and/or complete specifications of site-specific projects.


A workshop on rule-based composition in Shape Machine will kick off the studio. Parallel enrollment in the Shape Grammars class is highly encouraged but not required.


Current Student Work

Study 1: Into Durand (Shape Machined variations of Durand's Précis)

Robert Vaivodiss: Theater variations

Study 2: Out of Durand (Shape Machined variations)

Robert Vaivodiss: Theater variations


The Shape Machine Studio is the current iteration of a series of computational design studios built upon formal research on design languages and their ability to address specific constraints, programs and contexts. The research agendas fueling these studios have converged into three trajectories foregrounding diverse techniques and methods including digital or analog (material-based) or hybrid computational methods and various scales of operations: a) the kindergarten weave grammars in the Landhuggers Studio; b) the recursive skinning of a complex programmatic brief in the f(x): Shaping Justice Studio; and c) the multiple integration of formal pedagogical processes in the Design Machine Studio. The cumulative body of work provides a rich platform to test the ideas and premises of computational design in architectural composition.

A list of selected projects from these undergraduate and graduate studios is given < here > to provide a sense of the work and the ways key ideas of computation, ambiguity and emergence inform seeing and doing in design. Whenever possible, parallel compositional processes in music and the visual arts are brought forward to inform design inquiry and form making.


Past Studios