Woven+Reciprocal wooden structures

PAD summer school 2014_2

Aalborg University Summer School

Woven + Reciprocal wooden structures

Performance Aided Design (PAD)

Credits: 5 ECTS

28th July -15th  August

Utzon Center

Aalborg, Denmark

The aim of the summer school is to apply new design tools in the field of reciprocal wooden structures. The design tools involve parametric design based on application of Rhinoceros and Grasshopper (PAD: Performance Aided Design)

The goal of the summer school is the development of an experimental 1:1 scale prototype of a novel system that sits at the boundary of the typologies of woven and reciprocal structures, particularly promising with respect to material and constructional efficiency.

The focus will be directed on the joint development and on the design and manufacturing of an architectural body whose formal appearance is determined by the specific properties of the material in use and by the response to a large array of performance factors.

Finite Element Method, iterative loops, in-house developed Grasshopper plugins, and physical models will be used, while constantly looking and learning from the traditional culture of building in wood.

Course description




Students do not need specific knowledge of Rhinoceros and Grasshopper

Utzon´s legacy

When looking at the constitutive elements of Utzon’s designs, it is possible to discover original approaches to variation and repetition. Because of his awareness on the issues of construction the repetition of a component becomes the expedient by which complex geometrical and constructional problems can be rationally solved, in such a way as to achieve a unified form that while incremental is at once flexible, economic and organic.

Conversely, the variation of a component is related to his refusal of reductionist approaches: in his design he aims at embracing the complexity and the multifarious.

Among the possible ways to reconsider Utzon legacy, one can look at his strategies for variation and repetition in the light of the recent development of parametric modeling, computational techniques, digital fabrication and their application in architectural design. Parametric software enable the possibility to explore almost effortlessly infinite geometric variations that can be coupled with performance simulations, optimization, and iterative design processes, enriching and infinitely expanding a design space whose roots can be found in much of Utzon’s work.

These approaches are translated in a computational environment to Performance-Aided Design (PAD). Performance-Aided Design (PAD) indicates a shift in the use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools from the mere translation of the work once carried on paper, to an evolving paradigm where the increasing integration of parametric tools and performative analysis is changing the way we learn and design.

Performance Aided Design (PAD)

The summer school investigates novel tools, methodologies and technologies that foster creativity and innovation in architectural design and trigger new forms of integration between engineering and architectural issues.

PAD approach investigates the role of digital tools in architectural design within the following factors: embedded tectonics, performance simulation and computational methods.

Several questions will be addressed during the summer school:

-how complex geometry can be used to develop architectural bodies that aren’t simply formally expressive, but more adapted to an increasing array of performance factors?

-how the results from diverse performance analysis, eventually conflicting one with another, can be integrated in a creative architectural design process?

-do new technologies enable the conditions for intuitive, creative work, that support the designer in its attempt to make a synthesis of opposite requirements, when dealing with problems that are too complex to solve by pure designer´s intuition?

Summer school theme

The summer school will explore the significance of those questions when dealing with timber construction. The point of departure is the typology of reciprocal structures.

Reciprocal structures embody a changing relationship between form structure and fabrication in architectural design in the sense that the nature of the joint and the elements in use cannot be distinguished from the overall structural and morphological conception. Elements are usually assembled in direct contact one to another, not separated by steel plates. This condition offers the designer the opportunity to deal with the specific properties of wood, to craft joints that express the forces paths, and to explore novel approaches to tectonics in digital design environment.

Reciprocal structures have been recently classified along other woven structures, with the peculiarity of using short and stiff elements with respect to the size of the entire structure. The summer school will investigate the boundary between reciprocal structures and woven structures, with the design and manufacturing of an architectural body whose formal appearance is determined by the specific properties of the material in use and by the response to a large array of performance factors.


Parametric design

· Grasshopper interface, logic and tree data structure

· Essential applied mathematics and geometry

· Grasshopper custom scripting components


Performance Analysis

· Structural analysis and design using interactive Finite Element Method (FEM) tools and linking parametric tools with advanced FEM software

· Design-related performance analysis can include acoustics, light, wind and other environmental analysis


Embedded tectonics

· Construction-aware design

· Incorporation of the logic of construction and detailing in the initial design phases


Computational methods

· Search algorithms

· Gradient-based optimization algorithms


Physical experimentation

· Joints construction and testing

· Digital fabrication

· 1:1 construction of the final prototype



During the summer school we will make extensive use of the software Rhino and Grasshopper. Plugins developed in house will also be provided to deal with the design issues proposed in the summer school.

The summer school will welcome both the beginner and the advanced user of Grasshopper.  The beginner might be required an additional effort in the initial days.  Guidance and several training exercises will be provided. Here below some example of tutorials that will be offered to level up the knowledge of grasshopper in the class.

Parametric brick wall (inspired by Winery Gantenbein facade by Gramazio & Kohler)


yellow render










Parametric tiling (inspired by MC Escher)


render yelow


















Parametric roof of the Zentrum Paul Klee by Renzo Piano


render _yellow







Freeform grid with variable extrusion height



Application, Fees, Accomodation

Application deadline extended to May 31st

Please send an application including CV, short portfolio of selected projects and motivation letter to:

Dario Parigi  dp@civil.aau.dk

Upon application acceptance to complete the registration please follow the instructions at the address:


Fees (tuition fees + social activities)

100€ if your university has an Erasmus exchange agreement with Aalborg University (AAU) and you send a signed credit transfer agreement, or if you are an AAU student.

600€ If you have no credit transfer agreement:

1400€ if you have a non-EU/EEC citizenship (no credit transfer agreement)

Accommodation+meals+bus pass : 900€ (optional)



Students must bring their own laptop




Dario Parigi, Ph.D from Politecnico di Torino, is Assistant Professor in Innovative Design of Structures at the Department of Civil Engineering, Aalborg University. He focuses his work mainly on the development of tools, methodologies and technologies that foster creativity and innovation in architectural design. His specific attention is on computational methods, optimization, performance simulation, fabrication, advanced geometry and mathematics, and their role in leveraging new forms of integration between engineering and architectural issues. His research areas are related to adaptive structures, computational morphogenesis and reciprocal structures. He is also a member of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS).


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