The Design Modelling Symposium Paris 2017 Humanizing Digital Reality will be held in Paris, France at énsa-v, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Versailles. Workshops: 16 - 17 September 2017, Conference: 18 - 20 September 2017. 

Instead of asking what is the influence of CAD on buildings, city-planning, fabrication and its processes we could invert the question: What is the influence of the human in controlling the CAD and so how much is human in control of its surroundings?

In the line of the positivist movement some 150 years ago, anthropocentrism seems to be a logical continuation of progress where humans control the built and unbuilt environment and are furthermore central in bringing and implementing solutions. Ever better computers emulate and control ever better natural phenomena evolving to a hoped for all encompassing matrix for the future cities to be.

So far okay, but how far does our reach as humans really go? Do the complex algorithms that we use for city planning nowadays live up to their expectations and do they offer enough quality? How much data do we have and can we control? Are today’s inventions reversing the humanly controlled algorithms into a space where humans are controlled by the algorithms? Are processing power, robots to the digital environment and construction in particular not only there to re-discover what we already knew and know or do they really bring us further into the fields of constructing and architecture?

The next Design Modelling Symposium is an interdisciplinary platform to explore certain of the recent developments, its meaning and place in the environment of Architecture -Engineering -Art. Therefore, the next conference will try to offer some answers and exchange on the following questions within a framework of professionals and academics alike.

Day 1: Design and Modelling of Matter

What are the benefits and the possibilities in design with robotics? Are they just a tool or is the use of robots a goal in itself? Should we find ways that the very technical approach of robotic design defines future design solutions? Is there a new archi-botic paradigm?

How much can we construct nature? What is nature/material; a perfectly controlled algorithm, which can be used or abused as one wishes? Which role does geometry play? Is it merely a descriptive science and trying to describe the best possible way natural possibilities or can it uncover laws of nature? Can behavioural science inform building processes?

Module 1: Material Practice

Current design practice in architecture and engineering is undergoing radical changes. The ability to integrate advanced simulation in the early design phase and live sensor data from the environment of site, production or material, fundamentally changes the act of design from one of pure projection to one of calibration of behaviour. The speculative and creative process of design now engages tools that change the way we understand performance across the scales of environment, structure, element and material giving us the ability to conceive new hybridised structural morphologies and rethink and invent their underlying material practices.

Module 2: Structural Innovation

Structural Innovation often comes from the association of several aspects of construction: technology, form, structure, materials, force. Felix Candela associated a specific form (Hypar) and a specific technology (formwork with straight planks) to generate innovative thin shell. On the other hand, Frei Otto, associated as specific type of form (anticlastic) and a specific method to find the equilibrium of forces (Force density method) to generate innovative tensile structures. Nowadays, modern numerical tools help to get a deeper understanding of the interplay of these 5 parameters and allow a faster and more visual search in the design space. Design methods (modern graphical static, grammar based design, construction aware design…) provide insights to the designer and are promising tools to facilitate structural innovation.   

Day 2: Design and Modelling of Data

What is Big Data? What does it teach us and in which fields? Is it pre-conceived or only processed data? How is the flow of data, towards or from something? Intelligent cities? How is city-planning changing by the data knowledge, what are its algorithms running ever-smarter elements? What are its flaws?

What is data sharing, workflow, collaboration? How do digital tools create an environment for helping team designing projects? Is it disruptive constructive or linear? How do we inform the process and then control the output until the physical result?

Module 3: Data Farming

As in the food chain, data can be farmed in different ways from small systems at the domestic scale through low cost and DIY sensors, to big data scrapped by server farms in which algorithms extract patterns from human interactions through digital platforms. Data should be understood as a resource, which needs to be collected, stored and processed, and for that we need a whole family of tools: from sensors to algorithms, to servers, to interpretation and visualisation tools. Data is a tool to generate information, to understand patterns or to program behaviours that are transforming the way we design the inhabitable world. Just as food farmers need manual or automated tools, seeds or tractors, data farmers need to have access to create and choose their own tools for data driven design at different scales. In this Session we want to question the tools, the processes and the political issues behind data farming.

Module 4: Data Shaping Cities

Almost no type of commercial trade in cities remains untouched by digital interaction and access to big data. Most evidence points to a correlation between data openness and prosperity. But are the design of the fabric and infrastructure, and the social and environmental imperatives in cities as well served by the abundance and availability of data as the commercial beneficiaries? What does the data fail to tell and which, and whose, data is not flowing into the system? Who remains unrepresented? Is there equity of access to representation and benefit? Do our legacy systems themselves yet make use of newly abundant open data? In 2015, a joint report by the RIBA and Arup "Designing with Data: Shaping Our Future Cities" made three recommendations: improve coordination between government departments; digitize the planning process; and get governments and urban planning experts to work together. To flow, data needs the human and system conduits to interconnect. Finally, should we fear the facelessness of data gathering and application? Do we have real access to our own data and agency in its use?

Day 3: Design and Modelling Physics

How can emulation influence the project? What is the relation of hypothesis, analysis, physical testing, and post-rationalisation when we can fully predict the reactions in the real world? How can post-construction measurements inform projects in real time - during design and construction? As Computational Fluid Dynamic analysis and the gathering of data through drones and other real time data is gaining ground, how is the digitalization of the weather, of the total physical environment, of realtime data influencing design?

Module 5: Thermodynamic Practice

Computation which began to be used in architectural design from the 1990s, was first used for designing the visible, the solid, its forms in 3D, resulting in spectacular blobs, parametric structures and other continuous surfaces characteristics of an aesthetics of the years 2000. From the years 2010, it is in favour of the design of the void, the energy and the climates that new computer software are beginning to be used, allowing to structure the urban and architectural projects around parameters more invisible such as illuminance, albedo, pressure, wind movement, CFD, Heat transfer, convection, thermal performance, solar radiation, etc. Our session is waiting for contributions showing how the use of these new physics design tools could improve and change the architectural design. 

Computation came from the robotic world, machines, resulting in material approaches for computation. Since computation is taking place more and more in the virtual world and pushing ever more processes into processing power, people are ever more interested in analysing the directly visible with data (e.g. Big Data). The architectural field is no exception and so every detail from body temperature to amount of air, moist, pollution particles is being not only registered and controlled but fed into powerful data models in order to pre-determine future solutions.

All of the available data on these topics will be gathered on a digital and physical platform, which we hope would enhance further discussion and - who knows - progress!