Architecture is a blend of technology and art.
Architects plan and design buildings and the spaces around them, making sure the design facilitates the kinds of activities that will take place in and around the structure.
Increasingly today, aesthetics is becoming an important consideration in architectural design. Clients expect that the appearance of the structure will be attractive and appropriate for its setting. This has given rise to the application of computational strategies to the design process.
According to Ainaini Hamimi Abdul Rahin, 29, the use of computational techniques enables architects to understand and predict the consequences of their design actions through computational processes, integrate their predictions into the design process, and carry out self-sufficient research into new methods and processes.
“Computational design requires you to think logically and in a step-by-step manner. Each step requires specific parameters. By thinking all the steps of the design problem and considerations in all the inputs and outputs, you effectively create a process that can be understood and repeated,” said the recent Master of Architecture (Architectural Design) graduate from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom.
Ainaini, who earned her Bachelor’s degree from Universiti Teknologi Mara, implemented computational techniques in her master’s degree research work.
“My master’s research at The Bartlett was about fusing glass with metal at an architectural scale to create building skins that are continuous and discrete. It really challenged my architectural technical abilities both manually and computationally beyond boundaries,” she shared.
The project won a Bronze Prize award from The Bartlett School in 2018. Ainaini and two other team members — Sun Meng Yan and Jian Feii, led by tutor Dr Kostas Grigoriadis, developed a new multi-material that enabled a more direct, immediate and orderly building technique, forgoing the current practice of messy tectonic assemblages.
A multi-material combines the properties of different materials to optimise the end product.
“The research explored new procedures for designing and building with material gradients to anticipate radical developments in manufacturing and construction. Targeted towards the rethinking of the 21st Century modernist leftover, the curtain wall, the first part of these explorations was concerned with the digital assimilation of graded information and the distribution and engineering of digital sub-materials to meet aesthetic, structural, and functional criteria,” she explained.
A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, utilized only to keep the weather out and the occupants in.
“The second part of the research was to physically mix and manufacture our digitally designed multi-materials. We achieved the fusion of bronze alloys with glass,” Ainaini explained.
Passionate about the research, Ainaini is looking to develop the technique to produce other architectural elements with different properties and functions.
She said one of the next steps for the project would be to continue to explore the multi-material aspect: “Developing the combination of the two materials for a building facade”.
“We are working at the moment with UCL, and also potentially with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in London. These would enable us to develop the research, new materials and techniques to create large-scale structures in the future,” said Ainaini.
Whilst currently working as a research assistant to Dr Grigoriadis, a teaching fellow at The Bartlett School of Architecture, Ainaini is planning to pursue the Part 3 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) qualification in the future.
“Dr Grigoriadis, my former tutor at The Bartlett School of Architecture, has been awarded the inaugural R+D in built environment fellowship, organised by Google in collaboration with XL Construction company based in California. Fellows in this project are from different countries all over the world.
“My role as a research assistant to Dr Grigoriadis, being an integral part of this research, is to rethink the component-based make-up of a curtain wall panel that is typically composed of a multitude of parts and instead, to provide an alternative in the form of a continuous multi-material.
“We are working as a team, developing the multi-materials curtain wall research, design and fabrication process. We aim to manufacture the panel in one facility as a continuous piece with a fraction of the materials typically used. This can enable radical energy savings, while allowing for greater design customisability of the panelling,” she said, adding that she is the only Malaysian on the team.
R+D for the Built Environment group is an amalgamation of makers, designers, architects, and engineers working on innovative solutions for commercial and residential buildings.
Based on current trends and the exciting future ahead, asked if she has any advice for students thinking of pursuing architecture after school, Ainaini said believe in challenge and determination.
“To all generations of designers/ architects, I would say, challenge yourself continuously and always step out of your comfort zone. Keep learning, develop new skills, be agile, so that you can respond to each challenge you face creatively. Surround yourself with a dynamic team and work with people who bring different skills to the process and grow. Architecture is about people, besides the great work is a certain amount of humanity,” she said.