WAN-PING GAO Graduate Institute of architecture, National Chiao-Tung University 1001 Ta Hsueh Road, Hsinchu, Taiwan 300, ROC wpyng@arch.nctu.edu.tw

Abstract. During this information age, spatial form in the field of architecture has advanced to a new level. Digital free-form space is commonly seen as the use of computer media has increased. Computers are used in various stages of this process with regard to form, structure, supplies and planning. Many designs seen now are computer generated and have come about as a result of the development and implementation of new computer software and hardware. Tectonic knowledge representation of construction, which emphasizes structural joints and attention to detail in creativity, displays architectural form by means of poetry of construction. However, present day digital architecture emphasizes dynamic surface, with its three-dimensional curves, and the interior and exterior continuity of its topological spaces. This is all quite different from the spatial form produced by traditional tectonics view, making it impossible to explain these modern designs within the field of traditional architecture. This study uses the FEIDAD Award as a basis for analysis, and attempts to define the phenomena and aspects of digital tectonics. This study reflects the technique and mechanism of the process of digital design production, which, through the use of computers, becomes digital tectonics. Digital free-form architecture can only be understood through digital tectonics.

1. Introduction

The most direct manner that architecture presents itself is by means of spatial form. When the process of architectural production undergoes change, then changes in the form of architecture follow. A combination of structure



and materials moves the power of architecture to become a real, existing building (Giedion, 1967). According to tectonic related thinking, spatial form production is the interrelationship and conformity of material, joints, detail and structure. In this way, architecture can reflect specific features of modern technique and technology. This is a prime characteristic of architectural modernity (Heidegger, 1953; Giedion, 1967). On the other hand, architecture has become an art form. In this way, attention is focused, not only on the building as a means of protecting, but on knowledge representation of construction. In the field of tectonics, the use of modern technology means considering how to use new techniques, new materials and new building methods to produce structural harmony, thus allowing architecture to produce a new spatial form, being established on an inseparable relationship between architecture and site context, producing an interaction between people, nature and culture. In the end, architecture can take its place in history as a messenger of civilization (Giedion, 1967; Frampton, 1992). Tectonics emphasizes the use of structural materials as a means of revealing technology’s role in the process of architecture production making and displaying detailed creativity in structural joints. Meaningful use of both materials and space reflects a state of architectural harmony. It could be said that spatial form is the result of manipulating transformation by the uniting of logical organization with the whole context (Semper, 1951; Gregotti, 1983; Frascari, 1984; Frampton, 1990). In this way, buildings can express the poetry of construction and manifest representation, and can reveal originality and ingenuity of design in the process of architecture productions. This is to say that architecture spatial form should be studied and examined through tectonics, forming an inseparable bond between architectonics and tectonics (Semper, 1952; Heidegger, 1953; Frampton, 1995).

Building technique is not a tool for solving the problem of form, but is just the source for considering architectural spatial form (Giedion, 1967). Computers, an important technological feature of the new generation, have already produced important breakthroughs in spatial form. By use of digital computer technology, construction methods have gradually become a product of computerized techniques. Computers are not just used in graphical stages of design production, but are used in every step of the construction process. Using many new techniques, such as CAD (computer aided design), CAE (computer aided engineering), CAM (computer aided manufacturing) and CNC (computer numerical control) etc, spatial form has reached an entirely new level. Thus, computers have become an indispensable interface in architectural design and construction (Mitchell,



1998 a; Kloft, 2001; Ruby, 2001; De Luca and Nardini, 2002; Ham, 2003). With the aid of computer animation software, designers can handle complicated form. Computers can also assist in transforming design into construction. Computer software and hardware can be used to create an interaction between design concept and manipulation of objects. The development of digital free-form is the most obvious aspect of digital techniques (Imperiale, 1996; De Luca and Nardini, 2002; Ham, 2003). In the history of architecture, the curves of free-form and the unconventional geometric approach that produce a flowing form have always been something that architects have wanted to produce. However, hindered by progress in techniques, only a figurative representation of this vision could be produced. With the completion of the 20th century Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, architecture entered a brand new era. The use of computerized techniques opened a new page for free-form architecture; digitally produced architectural form began to appear (Mitchell, 1998 a; Pongratz, C. and Perbellini M. R, 2000; Liu, 2001). Additionally, traditional emphasis on site architectonics, its motionless space and stability, along with limitations imposed on structure, was gradually overtaken and replaced by a multidimensional and virtual digital environment. Now a designer could explore a much more abstract world of design, a space filled with limitless possibilities for new design. This would expand the possibilities for design well beyond previous limits, leading the mind of designers into a threedimensional or even four dimensional space for design concepts (Mitchell, 1998 b; Wigley, 2001; Leach, 2002; Nardini, 2003). 2. Problem and Objective Could the use of computers as a medium in design be considered a new type of tectonics? Even though computer-media is spacious and materials are very flexible, and with the ability to imitate, our understanding of the details of tectonic production in a digital environment is very limited. The result is that computer use in this area has only been considered to be a tool to produce a translation or representation of form. Under the control of visual senses digital free-form has become an imaginary, mechanical, complicated form in the computer, while at the same time failing to investigate the corresponding relationship between architectural composition and technology. Obvious architectural form is changing. Digital free-from production is becoming more common. The appearance of many new architecture forms are computer generated (Imperiale, 1996; Leach, 2002). But traditional architecture, with its stagnant interpretation of structural joints and materials, can never explain the surface characteristics and the dynamic state of



digitally produced spatial form ( Mitchell, 1998 b). However, in a digital environment, the layer and structure, the interior and exterior do not differ significantly. In a multi-dimensional digital environment, the physics of space, proportion, material quality, etc., do not depend on elements of the real world, such as those involving the use of materials, construction, or structural standards. This is because the architectural form is gradually dematerialized in such an environment (Imperiale, 1996Mitchell, 1998 b; Wigley, 2001 ). But, does this mean that there is an undermining of tectonics? With the aid of computers, the controlling interface of the digital environment is derived from a different source than methods controlling traditional design. If architecture spatial form could be viewed as the derivative result of tectonics, then digital architecture form could, by means of tectonics analysis, be understood and examined. Under these circumstances, in a digitally designed environment, the role of tectonics would vanish or change. Would there still be dependence on what is emphasized by tectonics: the corresponding relationship between materials, joints, details, structure, technique and technology? Or would a new digital tectonics need to be defined? The goal of this study is to explore the use of computers in the process of design control and the resulting architectural phenomena, to study the technique and mechanism of digital architecture, and in the discussion of the process of producing digital free-form design, to explore the development of complicated form by using computerized methods. The study also expect to examine the expression of spatial features under a digital environment, and to view the process of digital control as a new form in the study of tectonics, and to make the leap from the state of spatial abstract to defining style in modern architecture. By means of digital tectonics, we could progressively understand the interrelationship between contemporary architecture spatial form and the manipulation of digital design, a foundation for digital freeform and other complicated expressions of architecture production in this socalled information age. 3. Methodology and Steps In order to understand the phenomena and special features of digital architecture, this research will first focus on a case study of digital free-form architecture. The case study has chosen the FEIDAD Award (The Far Eastern International Digital Design Award) for this purpose. FEIDAD Award is a digital architecture design competition based on the virtual platform of the Internet. Contestants were from all over the globe, including professional architects, designers and students. The jury is composed of specialist from all over the world who communicated on the



matter of judging via web pages and email, thus choosing the winning digital architecture product. Every year the number of contestants exceeds one hundred. The contest was first held in the year 2,000, and this year is the forth consecutive year that the contest has been held. Every year the best published products are selected. The purpose is to encourage creativity in virtual digital architecture. It’s an opportunity to bring into existence (albeit in a virtual world) concepts and architectural expression that would be impossible to produce in the real world and it also affords the opportunity to see cutting-edge design concepts and brand-new spatial form. Therefore, the 10 winning entries from the years 2,000 to 2,002 are selected that display strong digital free-form characteristics as objects for this study. This study of spatial form has been comprised three parts: First, observing the use of computer media to produce digital free-form and to understand the difference between digital controlled design and traditional architecture. Second, through the case-study explore the processes of digital free-form architecture in a digital environment and analyze the interrelationship between logical manipulation of design and digital freeform production. In this phase, the cases are explored how this is different from traditional architecture which emphasizes the structural relationship of knowledge representation through structure. Finally, the technique and mechanism involved in the design process of digital architecture are analyzed and to present the phenomena expressed through digital architecture. Moreover, the relationship of digital tectonics and the field of traditional architecture are discussed.

3.1.1. Special Characteristics Produced by Digital Free-Form Design In regards to digital free-form, computer software plays a very important role. In addition to computers basic role in controlling the design process, extensive use is made of computers to control the precise setting of parameters, for example NURBS, blob, mesh, folding, etc. Recently, even more dynamic design methods have been used in digital free-form design, for example animation key-frame. By using mathematical equations and computer program aided computations to obtain weaving parametric surfaces or via automatically morphing alter the picture of an animated object in a specified range, etc. (Imperiale, 1996; De Luca and Nardini, 2002) This study has confined its analysis to these characteristics in a digital environment, and with the aid of a designer using computer related techniques has produced digital free-form which has become the focal point of this study. The research hopes with a wider range of computer software usage that could examine digital design and tectonic related themes.



3.1.2. The Difference between Digital Design and Traditional Tectonic views Semper (1951) thought that architecture could be categorized according to building methods, pointing out that tectonics was all about spatial form represented by the relationship between construction materials and construction methods. Also, it is not just a functional concept, as if architectural expression were just a mixing of materials and intentions. For example, an architect will consider how to use glass to highlight the various characteristics of light, or how to use concrete to present volume and capacity, etc. Use of materials also calls for considering source quality. In order to illustrate purpose through pillars, walls, beams, panels, doors, or windows various materials and elements with differing functional qualities must be used to achieve such representation. Aside from describe specific knowledge and comprehension, using appropriate materials can also reflect intent of design concepts. For example, the relationship of pillars and wall on the plane how to affect depth of expression through shadows and light on the elevations, etc. Design in architecture has been affected by computer. When 3D models, animation, simulation, deformation and other computer based techniques are used in the design process, this allows the designer to have greater control over the manipulation of the product design. And when using a computer, a designer can transform material objects into dematerialized objects through digital imagery manipulation. This can produce substantial changes in effect. What was originally a concrete, static state of expression with specific characteristics can be changed dramatically with the aid of computers. For example, such things as distortions, explosions, copying, etc, can be expressed in this manner. Fixed, cognitive expression of architecture is no longer important. By using computer software, special, logical manipulation of design can be achieved. Frampton (1995) extended Semper’s views regarding construction. He felt that joints play an essential role in architecture. Joints at various levels of a building bind the structure together, making it a united whole. By giving attention to the minutest details, material and construction components of different properties can be bound together. For example, consideration needs to be given to load-bearing and proportion when deciding how to join beams and pillars. So it can be seen that different principles and elements of architecture can be represented through joints. Tectonics expresses the unique qualities of materials and elements of architecture by means of a meaningfully designed structure. In the digital environment, free-from the limits imposed on architecture in the real world, a fixed object like joints becomes freer and more flexible. A digital multidimensional design environment needn't propose the principles that govern the real-world, such as mechanics, proportion, and materials, etc. For example, free-form spaces are defined through interior and exterior



layers in the digital environment and the main structure system depending on surface geometry shows the difference from the conventional frame approach of construction. The entire structure and the interaction of its various parts undergo dramatic change. The computer can manipulate all phases of free-form design and construction, and can decide place and position of each curve. Original order of design and construction becomes unimportant. What is produced by computer design is a brand-new form of architecture and a new spatial experience. 3.1.3. Dynamic Digital Design Manipulation Processes From Semper (1951) to Frampton (1995): During this time the prevailing theory in the field of architecture was that intent was represented through design, an abstract state transformed into a reality. Through material, construction components, structure, etc, the act of construction could reflect spatial form. In this scheme, the smallest component, the joint, binds the entire entity together. Through various stages of design, after transition and change, spatial form is the structure that comes into existence by the development of an idea. What begins simply as construction materials and planning slowly becomes a special form. Everything involved in the process, small and great, interior and exterior elements are all interdependent. From what was said earlier about digital design manipulation and comparison with traditional tectonics, it can be seen that in a digital environment where manipulation occurs under set parametric conditions, using the dynamic digital design manipulation technique and mechanism, this method of design production is different from the static process of traditional architecture design, and is the next important point of discussion in the study. This study addresses the five areas below, and analyzes 10 digital products, exploring special features of the dynamic design manipulation processes and how these influence form. (1)Concept: Digital design is often developed from ideas by means of dynamic process. (2)Manipulation: Exploring the relationship between technique manipulation by computer and form development. (3)Construction: Examine the state of materials, components, structure, etc. in digital form. (4)Form: Digital form allows design manipulation directly on the model, appearance is more directly revealed. (5)Space: Digital spatial form emphasizes how interaction affects form.

The 10 top winners in the 2000 to 2002 FEIDAD Award are selected for this case study. (TABLE 1) These 10 projects display strong digital free-form characteristics and include different awards. These products come from Asia,



the Americas, and Europe. Designs scale from small private space to quite large community area. Some designs are quite clear; others are very complex, from single unit structures to the study of a city. It is hoped that by examining a number of processes involving manipulation of digital spatial form, it could better understand the various applications and characteristics. Most of the source material for this study came from information obtained from a book published by FEIDAD Award, which reports on the yearly digital design competition. By studying these images and texts, the concept are understand, manipulation, construction, form, and space of the processes used by the 10 winning entries.
TABLE 1. Index of 10 study cases
Case-1 Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Project Designer Country Prize / Year Ambient Amplifiers-The Logics of Uncertainty OCEANnorth / Birger Sevaldson + Phu Duong Norway + USA Design Merit Award / 2000 DynaForm-Cablecar Station Kuo-chien Shen Taiwan Design Merit Award / 2000 iNSTANT eGO Adrien Raoul + Remi Feghali + Hyoungjin CHO France + Lebanon + Korea Special Prize for Digital Creativity / 2000 AEGIS HYPO-SURFACE(c) Patent pending dECOi Architects France + UK Outstanding Award / 2001 Dynaform-BMW Frankfurt Motorshow 2001 Pavilion ABB Architekten / Bernhard Franken Germany Design Merit Award / 2001 Pneumatrix : Pneumatic Architecture in the digital Judit Kimpian UK Design Merit Award / 2001 video FIELD, Institute for Video Art, Hollywood Chia-Hung Wang Taiwan Special Prize for Digital Analysis / 2001 Post agriculture Achim Menges UK + Germany Outstanding Award / 2002 Stream in Field-Analogue Calculating Design Ying-Chang Yu + Wen-Yu Tu Taiwan Special Prize / 2002 Metro Canopy Max Asare USA TOP 10 / 2002












Every cases are examined the design manipulation processes whether the same as described in previous observations. How do they differ from traditional design? The study explores the traditional design process how to upgrade a new dynamic process. All products of dynamic design process are recorded to present clear computer utilization appearances. By this we understand the relationship between digital computer techniques and the creation of digital form. The logic of digital architecture manipulation is explained below. 3.2.1. Concept: Motion / Action The most obvious characteristic of digital architecture is time continuity and the fact that the dynamic process of space takes place within this continuity. These features especially are showed in case-5(Figure 1.) and case7(Figure 2.). Because of this, computer techniques can easily simulate the sta te of many actions, making it a model when considering design manipulation . This allows the designer to explore much more complex and nebulas conce pts, like speed, molecular activity, hydrodynamics, etc, changing from dyna mic simulated action to action and to reaction. This can not only be expresse d in idea and design, but can be demonstrated in the process of studying stru cture and form. This suggests that digital architecture emphasizes responsive ness to the appearance of spatial form, and we could, through the special feat ures of digital free-form, conduct our study of these matters.

Figure 1.Case 5: When a car drives through tubematrix, a series of force-field simulations is turned out to be an interactivity form.



Figure 2.Case-7: Using two interrelated morphologies to simulate the movement of the strands as a whole entity and the implicated sub-zones in the alterations of some strands.

3.2.2. Manipulation: Deformation / Generation Using a variety of computer techniques, through powerful computer editing, Designers could manipulate changes directly on objects. For example, Case1 presents the four states of unfinishedness: Footprint, Foundation, Frame and Core which shows the key-frames of deformation creating the generative form for the site (islands). Case-6 through the dynamic shape changes to develop pneumatic forms. The spatial and tectonic concepts are surfaced as a result and have been incorporated in the design. This method of manipulation replaces the uniting of traditional architecture elements and construction components (and traditional vocabulary). This would move designers to give more detailed consideration to structure, construction components, materials, etc, and to use computer techniques in the manipulation process. Parametric settings often produce an unpredictable result in design form. This helps to explain why digital free-form can produce such unreal form characteristics.

Figure 3. Case-1: The relationship between four states of shaping and site (islands).

Figure 4. Case-6: The deformation diagram of pneumatic architecture



3.3.3. Construction: Information / Adaptation In a digital environment, materials exist in an immaterial state. A designer can create new materials that real environment are not existence. The wide use of imagery changes one’s view of materials, and in a digital environment, all materials are changed into the form of information. Materials become parametric information input. Most cases reflect this theme in the design process and typically change the “parametric information material” to study form and then response to construction adaptation. (Figure 5 and Figure6 present this design process.). We cannot use the traditional concept of materials to study this kind of material-turned- information phenomena. The result of this is that material takes on new characteristics like color and light reflection. By means of parametric settings, this information becomes a dynamic message, causing the information / material to change the texture and state of the structure itself. This can result in construction components manifesting different qualities and an adaptation of these components toward each other. This natural dynamic state causes the entire form to blend together.

Figure 5. Case-2: It transforms information (the force, field, and traces) as the references for design. The state of the form is controlled by the parameters of media scripts. After the volume, surface, and slabs are created, structure frames would be made.

Figure 6. Case-4: It simulates a dynamically surface could caption information (events, movement or sound, etc.) of surrounding environment and respond to form changing as a sensitive device.



3.2.4. Form: Emotion / Expression One outstanding characteristic of digital from is that it is full of expression, especially that displayed by digital free-form. It is not like abstract form of traditional geometric form, a representation in space. Rather, it is full of emotion, it is able to use a very active and direct method to affect immediate changes and thus display emotion in design. In Case-9(Figure 7), the project attempted to create a movement of particle flow model of architecture design which is based on the "internal setting" and "external condition", and then to find a new way to discuss the "Fluid" concept. Through various actions form can express itself, such as Case-10 (Figure 8), this project study in structure, materiality, light and shadow in the digital environment. The movement of commuters on the escalators is seen as the vehement expression to through speed and darkness. The images easy demonstrate how space and form exist together.

Figure 7. Case-9: flow description of architec ture composition.

Figure 8. Case-10: spatial form express ion.

3.2.5. Space: Sensation / Interaction Many cases regarding space expression have hoped that structures could posses enough sensation so that spatial interaction could result, so that the environment could be stimulated to produce the right reaction. Case-3, Case4, and Case-8 are revealing the very strong conspicuous design attempts on interactive spatial form.Case-3 is a individual privacy space which are plugged on clothing for waiting to be unfolded and depending on life behavior. Case-4 description a sensitive wall could reflect environment information to change surface expression.Case-8, a large structure system, it demonstrates the development and assessment of the structure is not simply limited to its load bearing capacity but to a whole set of other performance criteria, such as accordance with light and climatic intensities to operate spatial condition. Actually, traditional tectonics emphasizes the interaction between architecture, environment and people. However, digital architecture takes this a step further and reflects this view in a dynamic



structure, allowing the building to be more that just a structure, but to posses a body with life. Maybe this is the ultimate goal of digital architecture.

Figure 9. Case-3, Case-4 and Case-8: The constructions from digital tectonics are not only the expression of form but also emphasize more sensibility capacity to interact with surrounding world.


From this case study it can be seen that in a digital environment, form can be seen early in the dynamic design manipulation process. Abstract thought and abstract from can coexist. Changes can be made directly on the object, by manipulating materials, components, structure, etc. replacing traditional design habits. Because the thinking related to the manipulation of digital design is very strong, the finished product is usually a space that reflects a unity of the simple and the complex, quite different from what is emphasized by traditional thinking: spatial form of orderly functions. Spaces weaved together make for a very complicated state, boundaries become blurred status. There is even the possibility of creating an interaction between many more spaces. 4. Conclusion Digital tectonics: an extension of tradition and a brand-new spatial form. By means of computer design manipulation, what is emphasized by traditional architecture — the corresponding relationship between material, joints, detail, structure, etc.—undergoes a complete transformation in a digital environment. Regarding digital free-form design production with the logic it produces, a special characteristic is that it uses dynamic architecture logic and thus, in a most direct fashion, can produce form. Only by a study and understanding of digital architecture can one comprehend the complexity of forms created by means of digital free-form. The process of manipulating design by computer can be viewed as digital tectonics. It’s a display of digital design thinking. The demonstration of knowledge relative to the technique and mechanism of the process of



digital architecture production proves that computer technique is not just a tool for design, but is also a medium for inspiring thinking in the realm of design, a means of producing the logic behind even more complex forms. Digital tectonics and traditional tectonics have already had a profound influence on each other. In this information age, we could say that computers, the home of material reborn as information, are the means of displaying a very special spatial form. It does this by means of a dynamic process. Digital architecture not only carries on in the knowledge and intention of traditional architecture, it also extends the vision of traditional tectonics. It extends manipulation of the static plane, causing it to posses a dynamic vision. Architecture design is not just the manipulation of form. Actually, traditional tectonics is concerned with context. Later studies could have the goal of exploring how computer manipulated design affects other types of digital architectural forms, and the making of a spatial structure in a physical environment. Acknowledgements
Most study materials are selected from FEIDAD Award web-site and publications. I especially like to thank Prof. Yu-Tung Liu for extending my vision to look into this theme. Besides, thank Dr. Chen-Cheng Chen and Dr. Teng-Wen Chang for giving me digital design view and computing concept.

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