A program distribution toolkit

Common cases 

Form follows function is still a main principle in architecture, especially when economic factors come into play. To have a feasible investment the space and program allocated to a plot is usually maximized. Most investors will aim for the highest values allowed by regulations and when it comes to mass studies, architects are usually constrained to use simple extrusions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this study demonstrates. Much variation can emerge from the extrusion if this technique is automated. The program bar can vary drastically even if the main constraints, plot and GFA, are kept under control using smart tools that cut down production times.

The first set of diagrams below, illustrate how the same amount of program, with fixed square meters, is distributed inside plots with different shapes and sizes. Transition is done instantly, cutting down time of work. There is a strong relationship between the shape of the plot and the function of the building that can contribute to the identity of a design. 

Following the same process the height of a building can be determined in relation to the size of the plot. For a fixed amount of square meters the height is inversely proportional to the size.

Another application is readjusting the amount of square meters required. Considering the same plot shape and size, the square meters for different functions define the mass. Below the pink and the yellow program is gradually increased.

Additional mass effects have been studied. Below two of the most common, rotation and translation, applied by program or by floor-plate. 

Various solutions for the orientation of a plat subdivision can be generated using the same algorithm. Diagrams below illustrate a 360 rotation of direction, while keeping the same amount of square meters. The mass of buildings follows the shape of plots and the program is shifted from one plot to another to accommodate to plot sizes.

Reshaping can also take into account program distribution. By having a real-time visual representation of the square meters, a certain mass can be refined. The set of diagrams below illustrate how the floor-plates adapt to new cuts or different proportions in order to keep certain amounts of areas constant.

For several volumes certain square meters can be gradually assigned and readjusted afterwards. The order of volumes can be rearranged, thus reassuring design flexibility.

Areas can be swapped from one parcel to another to help architects evaluate certain mass solutions in an urban context.

Studies can be done also on parcel occupancy by increasing/decreasing the number of subdivisions in a plat. Below, the diagrams show how mass is organized on different partitions.

Automatic distribution becomes a true necessity when managing large developments for which areas have to be arranged and kept under control. Below is a study on the Melbourne SouthBank in Australia. For this development, densification, plot ratio, height restrictions and setbacks are under evaluation. Having real-time visual input on possible solutions can help shape the planning regulations, rank different scenarios and provide data for simulations. Follow the link for more information on this project: https://xo-projects.com/projects/melbourne-cbd-growth/. The diagrams below show an increase and decrease in gross floor areas and different variations of mixed-program.

For this exercise the areas were generated at random and the algorithm passed through different scenarios of mixed use buildings. It can run on hundreds of thousands of square meters in just a few seconds.

Below, one pragmatic example of distributing a fixed amount of square meters into mass for a location in Amsterdam. 28000m² are arranged into 6 configurations, by subdividing the plot into parcels from 2 to 7. (with BurtonHamfelt Urban Architecture)

All studies were done using two Grasshopper tools. The first one distributes the program in bars following curves that define plots. The second fills a predefined volume with slabs with a fixed amount of GFA. https://www.rhino3d.com/6/new/grasshopper/