It seems like conferences and workshops always come in waves. Back in April and May, we were running all over the place speaking and teaching, as well as hosting our symposium. Life has settled back down a little bit, but just this past month we had the fantastic opportunity to teach two workshops back to back once again. First up was a visit to Steinberg Architects in San Francisco, where Jonatan Schumacher and Justin Nardone spent two days with a team exploring the many facets of physical computing in architectural design.

Having just recently designed, programmed, fabricated and installed the kinetic ceiling sculpture for our new San Francisco office, Jonatan and Justin were contacted by Steinberg Architects to share some of their expertise. On the first day of the workshop, they introduced a large number of sensing and actuating devices that are available to makers anywhere, and covered a number of examples of how to program Arduino boards with native code, as well as by using the fantastic Firefly plugin for Grasshopper.

The Steinberg team hard at work during a workshop at their San Francisco office.

The Steinberg team hard at work during a workshop at their San Francisco office.

The Steinberg team’s participation was impressive—so much so that we decided to spend the second day working on a number of custom design challenges that the workshop participants brought to the table. When entering the hardware-packed conference room early in the morning on day 2, it was a nice surprise to see so many of the architects already preparing sketches as well as physical and digital models of their designs. Every single person managed to achieve what they set out to do, and therefore we saw a large number of physical interactive prototypes, from LED arrays to an interactive origami sculpture, to moving blinds and a video-activated animation… Even a smoke machine was hacked, though it still proved to be useful for the happy hour-turned-afterparty, where everyone celebrated the successful workshop.

A responsive facade prototype is being laced up and programmed.

A responsive facade prototype is being laced up and programmed.

Just one week after the workshop in San Francisco, Matt Naugle and Alloy Kemp of our Building Skin group were out in Chicago for a Facades Plus tech workshop organized by our good friends over at Mode Lab. This is certainly one of our favorite conferences to attend and participate in, with such a high level of design, innovation and technology skills among its participants who all converged for the two-day event.  This year’s conference in the Windy City was a change of pace from 2013. For starters, the temperature was about 40 degrees warmer. But aside from it being a much more pleasant time of year to visit Chicago, the venue happened to be the wonderful Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. Thornton Tomasetti had a strong presence in addition to our workshop, with a number of speakers touching on all things facade related during the two-day event.

Matt Naugle discusses how to use Kangaroo for panel planarization at Facades Plus in Chicago last month.

Matt Naugle discusses how to use Kangaroo for panel planarization at Facades Plus in Chicago last month.

For our tech workshop, we went with an old favorite: Advanced Panelization and Optimization Methods using Grasshopper. We have done this one, or a variant of it, a few times now—and honestly, it really never gets old. We rounded out the morning of the workshop by covering the fundamentals of evolutionary algorithms, how and when to implement different optimization algorithms into your design (as with our Brute Force Solver, for example), and ending with an in-depth walkthrough of the Galapagos interface. Promptly following one of a handful of networking breaks (aka coffee time), we jumped into exploring how to use Daniel Piker’s Kangaroo plugin to constrain and rationalize a doubly curved facade. We of course ended the workshop with a little Platypus session to get the group fired up about the ability of sharing and collaborating with 3D models live on the web.

Not only are these workshops a blast to teach, but we get to see what everyone else in the industry is up to, meet so many great and talented people and hopefully find a few people out there looking to collaborate with us.  If you can’t seem to find an event at which we are teaching, don’t hesitate to check out some of the workshops we offer and reach out to us—we are regularly out there teaching a variety of topics and would love to come visit your office!

By Matt Naugle and Jonatan Schumacher