Emergentium is a research project, co-founded by Nour Abuzaid and Shervin Azadi with the objective of building a dynamic and interactive design platform that integrates both the interface and the computational logic necessary to create bottom-up scenarios for urban design. It aims to create a workflow where different rulesets are developed by users and implemented using a simulation model, to investigate the emergent effect of their large-scale application.
The project builds upon the potentials provided by the digital turn in architecture in imitating the natural growth processes, creating abstract urban simulation models, and providing mediums for sharing knowledge in the AEC industry, like BIM. Nonetheless, it aims to further explore these potentials by activating the participatory aspect of urban form-making, simulating urban growth based on the use of architectural/geometric elements, and creating a design platform for the participation of non-professional actors within a ‘gamified’ simulation.
The failure of many participatory design attempts can be attributed to the lack of a rigorous framework for structuring the complexity associated with conflicting goals and requirements. We argue that this complexity can be facilitated with the use of computational design systems that work as a mediating layer and a methodological framework for dealing with large-scale design problems. Therefore, the proposed model is consistent with a web-based graphical interface essential for engaging the different actors, and a ‘backend’ computational solver that structures the associated complexity based on given rulesets.
An important aspect of this research is studying the relation between design rules and the emergent spatial configurations. Therefore, participants need to formulate their preferences into a formal grammar (ruleset), which will later be implemented using an agent-based simulation model. The implementation of these rulesets reveals the different qualities associated with their wide-spread application in the urban configuration. This in return helps the participants in evaluating the rulesets themselves and developing them accordingly within feedback loops. Within such a model, the role of the designer’s shifts from creating products to creating systems that act as vehicles for participatory design.