An algorithm is a process of addressing a problem in a finite number of steps. It is an articulation of either a strategic plan for solving a known problem or a stochastic search towards possible solutions to a partially known problem (Terzidis, 2006). In the context of architectural design, algorithmic thinking means taking on an interpretive role to understand the results in relation to design criteria, knowing how to modify the code to explore new options, and speculating on further design potentials (Peters, 2013).
The majority of applications of algorithms in architecture address the developed design stages, primarily to optimise structure, test environmental performance or to resolve complex construction. This dissertation aims to explore algorithmic tools with a focus on early stage design. This design stage is often developed using traditional processes and is where algorithmic applications have been less successfully executed. This research targets the Voronoi algorithm, as it has become the “golden-mean” of computational architecture (Stefanescu 2010). The objectives are to explore the specific uses and limitations of Voronoi algorithms within early stage architectural design. This includes space planning, programme layout, form finding and form optimisation as defined in the literature reviews. This is the scope in which Voronoi methods are tested, with the ultimate aim of integrating a computational workflow into practice at the early design stage through the simultaneous calculation of a range of algorithms.
The primary methodology employed is research through design. In order to provide a range of scales and programmatic contexts to test the robustness of algorithms, the sketch design of a public transport proposal for Wellington City is undertaken. The design of the overall transport network, a regional interchange hub, and a medium scale bus shelter enable the development of a range of approaches in which additional algorithmic tools are explored to supplement the use of Voronoi. In order to demonstrate how these sketch designs can be translated, construction drawings are undertaken for the shelter. The three design cases allow the development of a range of techniques that enable a mix of intuition and automation. These techniques are bought together and further refined in a fourth design case, a second transport hub sited in a complex urban context.
In conclusion, a working method for employing algorithms that are responsive to the pragmatics of context and the subjectivity of the designer is demonstrated. The designs embed a personal predisposition for curvilinear geometry, but the method can be adapted for other types of geometry. Differentiating between existing algorithmic self-organisation techniques, the approach developed permits subjective input from the designer, allowing outputs to be tweaked and enhanced based on the perspectives and opinions of the creator.