Into The Mind Of An Archi-Tech: Building The Future With Coding

Throughout history, infamous wonders of the world such as the Taj Mahal, Colosseum, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral were birthed from the minds of brilliant architects. Architectural works are often regarded as works of art and cultural symbols.

Architecture is both the process and the product of sketching, envisioning, planning, designing, and ultimately constructing a building. Thanks to the advancements in technology, architects today can optimize this process with the use of computational design. Utilizing cutting-edge computer processing, computational design is a method that uses a combination of factors and algorithms to address design issues. Computer languages like C+ and Python have made it possible to realize explorations of brand new materiality and toolkits.

Gordon Gn, one of the first architects to practice computational design, is the mind behind renowned modern buildings such as Resort World Sentosa, Macau Island Hospital, and Rabat Ibn Sina Hospital.

Gordon’s works, among the best in Asia, were essential in conjuring up socially beneficial advancements. Gordon has ventured into uncharted territory in his role as Office Director at HKS Singapore, using Computational Design as the cornerstone of his work throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, North Africa, and America. He intends to explore new ways of expanding the architectural environment and instills the mindset of innovation and resilience within his team.

New Ibn Sina Hospital Rabat in Morocco, which won the first award in the Rethinking the Future Awards 2020

AtterMen had the pleasure of speaking with Gordon Gn to discuss his past works, a look into computational design, and his opinions regarding innovation, breaking barriers and implementing cutting-edge ideas.

Being an architect with iconic projects in Singapore and APAC

As a multi-cultural and forward-thinking region, Singapore &the Asia Pacific region are home to a range of extremely dynamic public projects at the frontier of design and construction innovation. Being an architect here allows one to gain exposure to exciting ideas, with the ability to prototype and push boundaries in sustainability and integrated digital delivery. While the life of an architect may be challenging amidst this fast-paced environment, the opportunity to work on some of the most innovative projects provides a true sense of purpose by enriching the lives of the community.

At global architecture firm HKS, our design for Rabat Ibn Sina Hospital is not only an icon for healing but a new community destination and landmark within the rich fabric of the city. The development has a variety of destinations promoting strong communities, health, leisure and education. Its design is carefully crafted to be responsive to the environment, maximizing daylight and thermal comfort, as well as its program spaces. Algorithmic thinking was applied to design a continuous façade that adapted to a host of different functions and porosities, while minimizing the number of unique façade panels needed to maintain cost efficiency.

Our recently completed Parkway Shanghai Hospital for IHH Healthcare is key to the company’s growth in China. As a part of the New Hongqiao International Medical Center masterplan, the hospital is the first foreign private joint venture hospital within the district. The building’s design is specifically tuned to the environment by minimizing direct heat gain while maximizing daylighting. The integration of computational design that utilized daylighting and solar heat gain simulations allowed us to derive the optimal form for building performance.

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Tasked with designing a momentous resort and casino on Cebu Island, we designed Nustar Resort and Casino by going through a series of rigorous simulation and analysis to optimize the design to respond to the variable climatic conditions within the region. It recently opened its doors to provide world-class service, accommodation and amenities to guests from all around the world, all while providing a boost to the local economy.

Working with renowned clients

We are currently working with Singapore’s Ministry of Health Holdings on two large-scale hospitals totaling close to 2000 beds in the country, with a keen focus on integrated technologies and community involvement throughout our design process. We’ve also designed and delivered three projects for one of Singapore’s leading Private Healthcare Providers, IHH Healthcare, for their growth and expansion into the Chinese market. Two multi-specialty general hospitals were designed and built to support Shanghai & Chengdu’s transformation into a medical tourism destination that also supports the local population, while a third, Gleneagles Hong Kong, will lead Hong Kong’s expertise in specialty healthcare with a focus on teaching. With Robinsonland, one of the leading real estate and property developers in the Philippines, we worked closely to deliver Cebu’s flagship leisure and entertainment facility in NUSTAR Resort and Casino which was a joint venture with the Cebu City Government. The resort would also generate 8,000 jobs and significantly increase appraisal rates for lots in the area.

Technology’s impact on the architectural landscape in Asia

As a region, the design approach practiced by many design studios have gone beyond the days of manual sketching, with most practices using digital software for the design process. However, some studios are still fairly traditional as digital modeling is a direct visual translation of what the designer has in mind. Technology can vastly transform how our profession thinks and operates, with the advent of computational design as a major tool within the architectural design and construction process.

In broad terms, computational design enables us to improve project outcomes relating to the performance of projects.  A digital model provides us with the means to test multiple scenarios through simulation, offering the ability to arrive at more optimal solutions across multiple criteria.

One example of computational design is the use of simulations to generate & analyze designs through a mathematical model that re-creates conditions in a virtual environment. There are many types of simulations we work on, such as occupancy, environmental, structural and energy simulations.  These techniques enable us to evaluate building performance prior to construction, which creates much more sustainable and efficient solutions.

Computational design in the design ecosystem

The new methods of computational design opens the possibilities of discovering unexpected novel designs through a generative manner, and navigating trade-offs between high-performing designs, their constraints, and parameters. This contrasts with the traditional manner where form generation and co-design is by humans, then subsequently translated to computer. Such methodology introduces new ways to think, make, and produce architecture, streamlining workflow – allowing us to iterate rigorously and increase collaboration efforts between designers and clients, while unlocking the creative power of artificial intelligence for architects and engineers.

As a way of thinking, computational design allows us to utilize processes outside the norm – ones that involve algorithmic design, performance optimization & automated documentation using a variety of programming languages. By leveraging emerging technologies and methodologies, it enables us to elevate modes of architectural design and production through simulation and analysis, digital fabrication, and visualization with the integration of VR and AR technologies.

Taking risks in design innovations

While our contemporary environment is always changing, our professional obligations remain.  As architects and designers of our environments, we face increasingly complex and interconnected challenges, which are different to those of our past.  In facing challenges of increasing complexity, our ability to solve for these problems can be amplified through our intentional use of complexity in our approach–and computational design offers a way to bring a broader range of diverse perspectives to the table.  Working within a shared model, we enable the type of split-agency necessary for the problems of today and tomorrow—leveraging multiple perspectives for more resilient solutions.

Architects have always seen change as an opportunity. Computational applications of the Building Information Modelling and Digital Twin processes has brought efficiency gains and automation. However, architecture has another opportunity to innovate in ensuring that we identify, quantify, and measure the performance of buildings across a designed lifespan for increased resiliency, lifespan, and durability. Departures from conventional practice may not be received favorably by all audiences, but that is a small price to pay for innovation.

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