School for Digital Design




This graduation project comes from a combination of a Master in Architecture and a Master in Building Technology. The project will focus on the design of the “SCHOOL FOR DIGITAL DESIGN” and a research in using digital tools to support the architect in his process of designing.

The design project

Digital design and manufacturing is becoming more and more important in the design process. The integration of digital design tools is not bound to one specific practice; it can be found in various design fields amongst which automotive, aerospace, product and building design. An improvement in one field can influence the other fields.
There is a need for more research and better education in this field, current educational facilities at the TU Delft are not fit for this purpose. Therefore a new facility, “SCHOOL FOR DIGITAL DESIGN”, which can be used by all faculties (and design fields) can lead to the much needed improvements. The building will create an environment where the different disciplines can interact and learn from each other. Furthermore the building should give the possibility to exhibit what digital techniques can do, so the building should be able to house and display the work produced both digital and physical product. At this moment the understanding of digital tools can do is very limit partly due to the abstract level of the computer models, showing physical in combination with digital models can increase this understanding.
Another important step in digital design is the translation of the digital model into a physical product regardless of the scale. At this moment the TU Delft has a number of CAM-tools (Computer Aided Manufacturing tools) scattered around the campus, therefore not easily accessible for both students and researchers. By bundling these tools in one building they can be used more efficiently and more important increase the awareness of the tools.
The building will house educational, research and supporting facilities summing up to approximately 3500 m2 and a large atrium in which all the functions should be visible. The main idea behind the atrium is the concept of seeing and being seen.

Design Concept

Designers use nature on a regular basis as a source of inspiration for their designs. The study of natural systems and patterns and how to “mimic” their behavior using the computer is applied in various stages in the design process. For this particular project the designer is interested in the use of Voronoi diagrams as a starting point for further explorations and as a stimulant for creativity.

Voronoi Principle

A Voronoi graph for a given set of sites shows the region around each site in which each point is closer to that site than any other, each cell has a maximal size. By doing so for a complete set of sites it not only describes the inner cell relations but also the relations between the cells. This is inherent to the Voronoi logic, as it calculates the graph by drawing a perpendicular line at the center of a connecting line between two sites. The Voronoi graph is a common natural pattern. It is the most effective sub-division of three dimensional space, the fundamental arrangement of organic cells and the natural formation of soap bubbles. It bears fundamental similarities to the way structures as bones tile space.

Custom Written voronoi tool in Maya MEL

Using Autodesk Maya and the integrated MEL scripting language a tool is created which generates 3D voronoi diagrams using a set of locators as input. The tool enables the designer to quickly generate and experiment with the Diagrams.


Relations in the program

The second step in the design is dealing with the complexity of the design program. The complex network of internal relations makes it hard for the designer to envision a solution that integrates all these relations. In search for a way to deal with this complexity and the ability to experiment with the various magnitudes the designer experimented with the internal dynamics engine of Maya. By modelling the relations between each of the different elements in the program the designer can visualize this in 3D. An interface is created to make is easily to manage.
Using the dynamics engine of Maya a state of equilibrium is determined between all relations and made visible using simple spheres.

Result of the sphere models turned into voronoi volumes

By taking the center points of each sphere as input for the Voronoi graph, the internal structure for the building is created. Each volume representing a “place” in the design and each surface representing a relation between the two adjacent “places”. The nature of the relationship determines is the surface is open, closed or transparent. A script is made which makes it possible to generate either of these options rapidly.

Defining the structure

The main load bearing structure follows the shape of the Voronoi volumes. The relation to nature suggest that the structure is stable using its shape. Nevertheless the dimensions of each of the individual structural elements need to be determined. In this case Maya is used to visualize the structure and perform a series of structural optimizations. This is done using a script which is able to communicate with OASYS GSA which performs the structural analyses.

Generating drawings and a Physical Model

The last step in the design process is creating the needed two dimensional drawings using a combination of Autodesk Maya and Rhinoceros. In Maya the appropriate sections are generated, which are transported to Rhinoceros using DXF. Because a proper DXF or DWG exporter is missing a DXF exporter is programmed using MEL script. In Rhinoceros the drawings are exported to the common DWG format. (see scheme above). Rhinoceros is also used to create files for 3D printing.