Morphocode at IUAV: the workshop

A few days ago we came back from Venice, where we had an intensive two-day workshop with IUAV‘s Master of Digital Architecture Class (M.A.D.I.). In this post we are going to share our impression of this event and in the days to come we will also share some of the usecases, that we did with the students during the workshop.


IUAV is one of the oldest schools of architecture in Italy. It is currently organized in three faculties: Architecture, Regional Planning, and Arts and Design–, all of which have grown out of the original School of Architecture (founded in Venice in 1926).

M.A.D.I. – Master of Digital Architecture Program

The Master of Digital Architecture is among the latest features in IUAV‘s master program list and it’s activity is most likely to be expanding within the next few years. The class currently consists of 25 students and is fully dedidated to the exploration and application of digital technologies in architecture.

The program is structured in five modules: It starts with a theoretical module, providing the necessary understanding of conceptual frameworks and strategies related to digital technologies and fabrication in Architecture. The program goes also through the exploration of different modeling and rendering techniques. It continues with a fourth module, dedicated to animation and interactive models; and finishes with rapid prototyping and digital construction module.

Morphocode’s workshop took place as part of the Modeling module.

The Place:  Magazzino 6

Our workshop was held in Magazzino 6 – one of IUAV’s numerous locations across the city of Venice.

The building was originally a port warehouse but has been restored in the recent years to house studios and workshops for courses in graphic and multimedia design.

Nearby you’ll find Massimo Scolari‘s “Aliante” Installation: Originally designed for the 1991 Venice Biennale and allocated on the Fondamenta della Tana back at that time. It has been reinstalled and is currently displayed on top of the new building of the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia.

Photo courtesy

The Workshop

We started our 2-day workshop with a lecture about the history of digital tools and their use in contemporary architecture. Here are a few samples of our lecture slides:

In the practice sessions that followed we introduced the students to the basic concepts behind McNeel’s Grasshopper such as dataflow and algorithmic processes. In a project-oriented way and by using real-world examples we’ve explained typical techniques and design patterns used in the process of generative design.

We showcased the latest work-in-progress version of our plug-in Rabbit, covering in brief topics such as self-organization, emergence, chaos theory and pattern formation. Rabbit 0.3 W.I.P. was used to create a life-like growth and an excitable media simulation.

One of the examples that we’ve done together with the students:

Thanks to

We would like to thank Fabio D’Agnano for his invitation. It was a pleasure for us to contribute to M.A.D.I.’s program.

Iris van Herpen: Reinventing form in fashion

Iris Van Herpen is a dutch fashion designer who combines fine handwork techniques with futuristic digital technology. Her motto is: “Normal rules don’t apply”.  People like Lady Gaga and Bjork often dress in her avant-garde clothes. Looking at Iris ven Herpen’s designs you’ll find a truly architectural approach:

“By bringing form, structure and  materials together in a new manner, I try to suggest and realize optimal tension and movement.”

For the “Escapism Couture” collection, where most of the models are 3d prints, she collaborated with

Daniel Widrig.

More about Iris Van Herpen you can learn from the video:

Parametric models

We posted a few parametric models in our Lab lately. We decided to show them here:

The goal was to model a space system, driven by a number of parameters:

This approach allows quick metamorphosis of the system’s state. The variations in the geometry facilitate the form-finding process.

The results are abstract and fall under the ‘form-finding’ category, but these principles of modelling could be used successfully in real projects just as well.


‘L’… for ‘Life’

“While certain imitation of nature copy its superficial appearance in a formal reproduction, others attempt to decipher its modes of growth. Consequently a fundamental difference between a copy and an imitation prevails: while a copy is only the repetition of a particular object that fails to grasp the idea behind its epiphany, an imitation projects the idea of an object into another object……Biomimicry in this respect does not imply copying nature’s apparent forms through analogy, but comprehending its structure and methods of production – the obvious consequence then being an absence of verisimilitude or implicit naturalness.

Thus, nature can be imitated not in what it makes, but how it makes it- or in other words : one can imitate nature in its action.”

from Natural Metaphor: Architectural Papers III by Florian Sauter


Nature in its action have actually already been revealed in 1968 by the Hungarian theoretical biologist and botanist Aristid Lindenmayer (1925–1989). He developed a formal language called L-systems. The language was originally conceived to describe the process of development of simple organisms and now have numerous applications in diverse fields – not only biology and botany but also architecture. The core of L-systems is their recursive nature, often used to describe fractals and self-similar morphologies.

L-Systems’ architecture:

The language: A set of terminal and non terminal symbols. Non terminal symbols are symbols that may generate new strings of symbols of the language. Terminal symbols always remain the same.

The generative grammar

Axiom: a string of symbols of the language set used as a starting point each process.

Rules: a rule is a string of any symbol of the language set that will replace a non terminal symbol.

The substitution process: This is a recursive process that apply the rules to every non Terminal symbol of the axiom, thus generating a new and larger string. This new string will be used as axiom for a new substitution process. This process can be repeated many times, generating bigger and bigger strings.

L-systems are a very interesting generative tool and in fact they let explore hidden morphologies and rules of growth within natural forms; they can also add scientific knowledge to artworks and architectural design, if well implemented they can offer an interactive laboratory for the investigation of nature’s strategies in creating adaptive forms and optimized structures by using a set of simple rules.

Here is Lindenmayer’s original L-system for modeling the growth of algae plant.

variables : A B
constants : none
start : A
rules : (A → AB), (B → A)

which produces:

n = 0 : A
n = 1 : AB
n = 2 : ABA
n = 3 : ABAAB
n = 4 : ABAABABA

As you see a simple rule after a few iterations becomes a complex structure of relations. In fact, L-Systems are quite simple to implement, but the complexity of the growing process is what makes them so powerful.