thr34d5 (“threads”) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary and international Computational Design network powered by students from the Advanced Master Design by Data (École des Ponts, Paris).
thr34d5 is born out of the will to shape the future together with you. Interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, antidisciplinarity, whatever the name, this is what drives us.
We believe that in a very connected world Science and Art should be the basis to build a common language. By acknowledging our cultural differences we recognize the value of the melting pot. One of thr34d5′ commitment is to ensure various points-of-view projects, including artistic engagement.
computational design practice
Now, Computational Design is about a wide range of activities and practices – from data science to architecture and art. The main goal of this field of practice is to assess complexity. There is a saying about a human being able to handle no more than seven variables at a time in a problem. Now consider a building for example and some of its different layers of understanding: politics, urbanism, logistics, energy performance, time and culture localization, structural engineering, national history. Now consider that there is obviously more than one variable for each layer. Here you go, this is where Computational Design can help.
What defines this design practice is basically procedural thinking. We won’t draw an object, but the process that will generate it. And an infinite amount of potential solutions. Then you can tweak the process (parameters) to do form finding, structural optimization, flows analysis and so on. This is a design by data, an informed process.
Computational Design is our way to connect those nodes between social & human sciences, and engineering & materiality.
The procedural approach starts at the very beginning of the data collection. The quality of the data, its ownership and ways of collection (meaning accuracy, scale, nature,…) are critical to ensure the overall quality of the process and outputs. There are many ways of collection depending on each field of application, as picture analysis can rely on drone based capture, public webcams or satellites for example.
The process does not stop at the design phase, the full interest is reached when having a lean and continuous approach to production. Digital fabrication processes such as laser cutting, CNC milling, robotics based and 3D printing in fablabs and makerspaces, but also way more complex production processes as seen in industry, are able to communicate, be analyzed, used and optimized through Computational Design tools.
When dealing with reality, Material Science and emergent material behavior has to be considered as a major factor in the process. To be able to set a good Computational Design approach one has to produce trials and errors and set up a learning process for those (data collection). Complexity can not be pretended to be understood and designed if, even acknowledging that computers are of great interest for us in particular environments, we tend to simplify the process for any reason. Emergence is a key approach to this practice, opening an exponential innovation space (or discovery of unexplored paths).
At thr34d5 we consider technology as a leverage to foster societal progress – meaning progress to reduce inequalities and to enhance local communities.
That being said, the procedural approach we develop is also a mindset that can be applied without the direct use of Computational Design. Setting rules within the development of a program, using the power of collective intelligence rather than digital database, this can be called a real-life algorithmic approach. Or organizational setting.
In an era of ecological urge and recognizing the Anthropocene concept as a key one to lead current initiatives, the right use of technology and computation is a permanent question when we define a program. Sorry, we might even only use our computers for the final report!
In the context of the explosion of the researches in Biology and Synthetic Biology, and always with the Anthropocene concept in mind, we tend to promote an ecological approach to our programs. This means thinking in terms of balanced-systems & conceptually recognizing other natural organisms as citizens of our environment, and therefore to embed nature in our programs, at least as a stakeholder.