Andy Payne Lecture



Maryland Institute College of Art | Fred Lazarus IV Lecture Hall
October 1st, 2:30-3:30

Architects have had a long engagement with the idea of making devices which can extend their capacity and ability to manage problems and forms that would not be possible otherwise. Starting with the Baroque, as designs became ever more complex, architects needed to supplement their design knowledge with precise geometrical and mathematical procedures and instruments. Such tools, such as the Geometric Pen designed by Giambattista Suardi (1752) gave architects the ability to experimentally expand the range of visual geometry. The Geometric Pen was a compound drawing instrument which was used to create circles, conics, and more complex epicycles and hypocycles. Through the permutation of different geared disks, Suardi’s device had the ability to generate over 1,700 distinct curves with specific aesthetic and topological properties, opening the vast aesthetic possibilities of mechanical systems.

Experimentalists have expanded on this type of thinking over the last 250 years; developing completely new classes of combinatorial design tools. However, more recently we have seen a shift away from the purely mechanical to the digital where new software tools allow the exploration of an almost unlimited space of parametric permutations. In this presentation, architect and computational designer Andrew Payne will look at the trajectory of tool making and its impact on the field of design and how new techniques are giving designers the ability to explore virtual and physical prototypes with unprecedented fluidity.

Andrew Payne is the co-founder and lead developer of Firefly – software plug-in dedicated to bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds. Firefly allows near real-time data flow between the digital parametric environment of Rhino/Grasshopper with physical input/output devices, programmable microcontrollers (like the popular Arduino) and other data acquisition devices. It leverages Grasshopper’s visual programming environment as a new model for microcontroller programming, making it ideal for visually oriented professionals such as architects and designers who prefer creating programs by manipulating elements graphically rather than by specifying them textually.

Andrew is a registered architect and senior building information specialist at Case-Inc. He holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He currently lives and works in Greenville, SC.

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