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Art, Project Focus

An Evolutionary Solution for an Evolutionary Problem

By Marquis Williams · January 17, 2020

Figure 1: Fundamentos Líquidos (Liquid Foundations), 2018, bricks, wood, queen conch shell, 120 x 200 x 100 cm

The artist Stefania Strouza engaged CRAFT to assist in actualizing the concept for her piece Fundamentos Líquidos (Liquid Foundations)Fundamentos Líquidos is a sculpture which speaks to the relationship between the infrastructure of Mexico City and the history of its ground water. As the city population grows, the continuous draining of primary water sources below causes shifting in the city’s foundations. The sculpture depicts the crux of the issue: the displacement of a brick structure, a symbol of Mexico City’s buildings and architecture, by an unexpected force from below, hinted at by a singular shell.

Figure 2: Close up of Fundamentos Líquidos

To bring this message to fruition, the team at CRAFT was asked to provide a method to give the illusion of a singular shell pushing up a brick structure (Figure 2). Such a solution would require placing the center of gravity of the brick structure as close as possible to the center of the base, to guarantee resistance to overturning. 

CRAFT was given two parameters with which to find the ideal placement of the center of gravity: the height and width of the sculpture, both determined by the quantity of bricks. Because the ideal solution required the optimal interplay between multiple parameters, the analysis was well-suited to an iterative solver. The Galapagos Evolutionary Solvercreated by David Ruttenprovides a tool with which to adjust multiple parameters to find the optimal solution, or “fitness landscape”, of a particular model. The fitness landscape in this model was the singular output variable of the location of the center of gravity. The solver’s process systematically eliminates low-performing parameter values and focuses on improving the remainder through an iterative multistep process. Galapagos simulated thousands of volumetric permutations (three sample options seen in Figure 3) and determined the optimal, or “fittest” solution (Figure 4).  

Figure 3: Sample iterations for two variables (quantity of bricks in two directions)
Figure 4: Geometric optimization in Grasshopper’s Galapagos Solver

Utilizing Galapagos in this project only scratches the surface of the solver’s potential. While the Galapagos Solver was able to bring Strouza’s concept to reality (Figure 5 and 6), it also has significant implications for solutions to geometrical issues with a larger number of variables and/or complex shapes. Used as a tool in the design/feedback loop, this process can contribute to cost and material efficiency while also adding a layer of conceptual development. Its ability to handle multi-variable data sets can interface with parametric geometry and complex problem solving. This kind of technology allows for optimized structural designs to assist in CRAFT’s work with architects, artists, and designers of all scales.

Figure 5: Another angle
Figure 6: Final Installation