Architecture is a cultural artifact of humanity that has progressed alongside with the development of human civilization. Architectural research, although motivated by practical necessity, has become an essential part of human knowledge and innovation. The impact of digital technology in the 21st century has changed the ontology of architectural research. On its 20th anniversary, the Association of Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia (CAADRIA) becomes the oldest digital architectural research organization in the region and continues to be a source of academic innovation. This special issue is an attempt to align the state-of-the-art computational architectural findings in CAADRIA with the findings published in Frontiers of Architectural Research (FoAR).
Since their invention in the 1940s, the innovation of electronic computers has been the focus of applied research in the past 70 years. By contrast, architectural research is a more recent phenomenon that was initiated by studies on computer graphics in the 1960s and artificial intelligence in the 1980s, such as The Science of the Artificial ( Simon, 1981 ), Computability of Design ( Kalay, 1987 ), and Introduction to Shape and Shape Grammars ( Stiny, 1980 ). Digital technology gradually fit into the architectural research paradigm and became a new domain, thereby leading to computational design in architecture. That is, both the physical and virtual worlds are now considered. In the computation-based technology paradigm, the computational design domain determines the ideal balance between the ideas of an architect (Akin, 1987 ) and automatic design generation ( Eastman, 1973 ; Flemming, 1986 ).
CAADRIA was founded in 1996 in Hong Kong, and its objective is to promote teaching and research in CAAD in Asia. By organizing an annual conference held in the Asia-Pacific area, CAADRIA attracts high-quality original research works not only from Asia but also from all over the world. Through these conferences, CAADRIA provides an opportunity for teachers, students, researchers, and practitioners to meet one another and learn about the latest findings in the field, particularly in the Asian context.
On the basis of their topics and research innovations, 15 papers presented in 2012 and 2013 CAADRIA conferences were invited in this special issue. Their presentations, as well as the quality of the written papers presented in the CAADRIA conferences, were evaluated. Authors were required to extend and revise their conference papers into journal articles and were instructed to include new findings and extensive reviews to meet the FoAR standard of originality. Each article underwent two steps of review process by three international reviewers. Eight articles were accepted for publication. Among which, five are included in this issue, and three are published in two earlier issues of 2014. The four groups of studies were categorized into two sets: computational design thinking and applicable advanced technology in architecture. In computational design thinking, design cognition as well as parametric and generative design paradigms are explored. Meanwhile, virtual reality application in design and smart space technologies are two current issues in advanced technology in architecture. These topics are explained in detail in the following paragraphs.
Design cognition is a widely explored topic in the field of CAAD, yet it still remains as one of the most interesting. Design cognition attempts to understand the mechanism of the cognitive process that occurs in an architect׳s brain while designing in order to develop intelligent programs that can design innovatively or assist people in innovative design. Tomas Fisher has discussed the indeterminism in design with Heinz von Foerster׳s portrayals of non-triviality in his non-trivial machine and has demonstrated the potential of circular re-entry for novelty generation. Meanwhile, Lo, Chang, and Lai have adapted methodological mapping (jigsaw) and consequential analysis in the design process to facilitate the association of different design information, which is an important behavior employed by people during early design phases for inspiration.
Parametric and generative design methods have drawn a considerable amount of attention and have been progressively applied in different design phases in recent years. Based on geometrical rules or other form-related mechanisms, these methods greatly extend an architect׳s ability in design. Tsung-Hsien Wang has introduced a tessellation method for complex free-form surfaces. The objective of this method is to create tessellation patterns of an architectural envelope that can fulfill the requirements of construction and display the specific esthetic appearance pursued by the architect. The paper of Sambit Datta et al. (published in issue 2, 2014) also addressed the problem of surface tessellation. However, in contrast to the previous study, they attempted to establish a system of pentagonal panels that can be controlled responsively according to environmental changes.
Virtual reality (VR) might be the most well-known technology among those that can connect the digital and physical worlds. Supported by the integration between advanced computer hardware and software, VR systems nowadays exhibit much better performance and more flexible application when serving as the interface between humans and computers, that is, the interface between the physical and virtual worlds. In the paper of Lei Sun et al. (published in issue 1, 2014), people׳s perceptual difference of spatial form in physical and virtual models were compared. The authors attempted to demonstrate how well VR can convey spatial forms. Another paper of Lei Sun et al. (included in the present issue) focuses on the application of VR. Annotations and sketches were integrated with VR systems to facilitate the collaboration and communication of people in design.
Finally, researchers have also paid attention to the occupation stage of architecture. Sheng-Feng Nik Chien et al. have presented a room-level support system for integrating smart technologies based on Open Building principle. Smart home and ubiquitous computing are technologies that integrate modern information technologies into the building environment. These innovations have improved the quality of people׳s occupancy by introducing intelligence and communication in the electronic equipment network in the building. Meanwhile, Glen Wash Ivanovic has developed a method for visualizing personal space based on the data of people׳s spatial distribution (published in issue 1, 2014). Such visualization has the potential to reveal the status of space occupancy and can thus be considered a starting point for future designs.
From the proceedings of CAADRIA, practitioners and researchers in computational architecture have presented diverse research works on practical and academic projects that maximize the benefits of digital technologies by building connections between the virtual digital world and the physical architectural world. As shown in the articles in this special issue, the benefits of such connections can be summarized into two aspects. One is the promotion of computational intelligence, which aids people in thinking, evaluating, predicting, and experiencing from the perspective of machines. The other is communication that connects both humans and machines with information from diverse sources around the world. Digital technologies have been applied to different phases of architecture: from design to occupancy. Widely applied and explored technologies include design cognition, parametric and generative design, building information model, interactive and responsive architecture, virtual or mixed reality, digital fabrication and construction, and smart home. This special issue is just a glance of the 20 years of CAAD in Asia. These technologies would continue to develop and evolve rapidly in the next few years and would provide significant and exciting impacts on architectural research in the future.
Special thanks should be given to the CAADRIA committee for supporting the curation of this special issue. CAADRIA takes the promotion of CAAD research in Asia as its own responsibility, and is enthusiastic in supporting and promoting digital architectural research globally as well as in Asia. We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Prof. Peng Tang of Southeast University, who first proposed the idea of collating a CAADRIA special issue. She also helped establish the collaboration between FoAR and CAADRIA. We also would like to recognize the hard work and contributions of all the authors.