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Smarter Environments through parametric design

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rat[LAB] – Research in Architecture & Technology, is an independent research organization and network of designers & researchers specializing in computational design or similar technology-related domains. Sushant Verma, Founding Partner & Research Head – rat[LAB], shares with Buildotech his thought about computational design & parametric design in architecture, with intersections between design & technology spread across scales and disciplines.

rat[LAB] is operated as a cloud-based organization with an international network of researchers & computational designers which functions as a global collaborative and multidisciplinary laboratory facilitating design research that leads to novel spatial tectonics and smart built environments.

Adaptive[systems] exhibition at MAK Center, Los Angeles by rat[LAB]
Sushant Verma, an architect and computational designer, is involved in education for computational & parametric design. As the founder of rat[LAB] EDUCATION, which is an initiative to spread the idea of computation in design profession & education in India, Sushant is actively involved in bringing a change in design profession in India and many other countries. Through rat[LAB] EDUCATION, he started the culture of ‘independently-organized’ education workshops in India which has now permeated into the architectural curriculum in an appropriate way. The research agendas broadly focus on use of computational design & parametric design in architecture, with intersections between design & technology spread across scales and disciplines. rat[LAB] offers collaborations to architecture and design firms to develop systemic models using advanced computational techniques and carry out project-specific or agenda-specific work in all fields of design.

rat[LAB] was started in London in 2012 by Sushant Verma & Pradeep Devadass and is currently operated from New Delhi. Anchal Chaudhary joined rat[LAB] as a Partner for rat[LAB]INTERIORS in 2015 which co-operates from New Delhi studio as an Interior Design Subset of the organization. The organisation has extended to parallel design & technology domains such as Art, Product Design, Interactive Spaces, Kinetic Installations and Data Visualization. With his computational skills, Sushant aims to influence design industries by developing scalable educational models for the underexposed design students in the country as well as use computation as a tool for bringing in social change.

Parametric design or Computational design is based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify relationship between design intent and design response. So how do you describe yourself – an architect or a programmer? What is the essential difference between how mathematicians and programmers use algorithms and how architects use abstract formulae as the basis of their design process?

ExtraFabrica Workshop by Dezact – collaboration with rat[LAB]EDUCATION in Taiwan (2014).
I believe that we should not draw lines between distinct disciplines and everything should blur into everything else wherever an overlap can aid in creating novelty. Trained as an architect, I am happy to use my computational skills now to create collaborative blends between design and other disciplines that help me achieve more than what I could have, without computing skills. If a programmer is 80% computing and 20% other skills (such as design), an architect would be 80% design and 20% computing. Of course, these ratios are very generic and change as per situations. The role of architects has been changing with changing times and emerging technologies that can catalyse the design process and I have been adapting to the same through using computational techniques in my design workflow. My studio, rat[LAB], has developed a similar approach as we are collectively working towards developing new design systems using advanced computation. The role of algorithms in designing may be 20-30% in quantum but providing a backbone to the work we do.

The digital revolution has long arrived in society, whereas it only starts to gain momentum in parts of the building industry, especially in India. What chances do you see in the digitalization of buildings?

Architectural Practice in today’s date has become more globalized than ever and there is a healthy exchange of knowledge and data due to the openness of internet, mass share of data and architectural journalism being at its peak. Hence, practice challenges are as much as it would be in any country or environment. Yes, India is slightly slow in adapting to new technologies & methods, but we push hard to break the conventional boundaries for innovative work to emerge. India is a booming market and acceptance to change is becoming better with time & globalization. We, in India, are now adapting at a very good pace to new technologies that are getting embedded in our lifestyles. Take communication apps / platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter or mobility apps such as Ola or Uber, we are accepting it all in full flow and discarding anything that does not fit well. The same is the case with design industry as well, where technology has now started to be used considerably more than what it used to be, let’s say, five years back. The chances of ‘digitization’ of designing of spaces, and permeation of digital technologies in building usability are at its peak today in 2017.

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