Research on Virtual Construction



From the beginning of September to the beginning of October, I successfully completed my compulsory internship. This internship really helped me a lot. In the past period of time, short-term internship not only improved my work efficiency quickly, but also allowed me to learn new skills and new thinking. I also got to know very professional colleagues. Through conversations with experienced practitioners, I also learned about the future of architecture in some aspects. Although the internship was short, it was an unforgettable experience.

First of all, I have always had a strong interest and curiosity in computational design. From some lectures in our school, I learned that some software can help calculate the simulation structure and calculation, but I do not know the deeper application. That is why I chose this internship. I would like to learn how a construction project goes from design to implementation in the real world. I believe these knowledge and practice will also provide valuable experience for my future work.

When I first entered Archiford Design ltd, our project leader explained the whole working flow in detail, patiently answer my doubts, and encourage me to ask questions when I encountered any problems, so as to ensure that I could quickly get familiar with and apply new skills in the work. In the first week, I made clear the content of the short-term internship assigned to me by our company. Our work schedule is very flexible, so I also have the opportunity to choose tasks that I am good at or more interested in. The atmosphere of the company is fair and inclusive. As an intern, I can also put forward my different views and ideas on design.



| Internship harvest |



I think the biggest change for me during this time is that I learned new skills. It is about the simulation and optimization of the structure in the landing scheme, which is a very useful content. During the internship, we used the plug-in (kangaroo, Karamba3D) in grasshopper to repeatedly simulate the structure of this project to help judge whether our design was reasonable. We kept changing some constraints (such as the material of the support structure, the radius of the support structure, the way the structure is woven, etc.) and then ran the simulation again. In order to get scientific and appropriate results among many schemes, I learned how to optimize the target through the plug-in Galapagos in grasshopper. The computer will help us find the best choice in the end. The selection of constraints and optimization objectives requires repeated thinking. For example, in the project I participated in, we first did a lot of research to select suitable materials that can be used as skeleton support, and flexible woven materials that can limit structural activities. When the materials and basic dimensions are determined, we need to further clarify what is our ultimate goal. In this project we decided to take the weaving material consumables, the curvature (or shape) of the supporting skeleton as our direction. We are trying to find out what kind of shape can satisfy our goal in terms of structural stability.


Project optimization process

This was my first attempt at structural optimization and simulation, and I was attracted by such a rational and quantifiable design method. I believe the skills I have learned here will be of great help to other companies in the future.



| Advanced idea |



I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my colleagues try to do something like this. They tried to make a bridge out of discrete structural parts. This structure is called Reciprocal Structure. This structure has great advantages because the individual parts are very regular and easy to assemble and transport. The project was not one I was involved in, but I still had the opportunity to catch up on the progress of the project at the company’s weekly public meetings. Thanks for the collective meeting organized by the company. Although I did not participate in this project, I still had the opportunity to understand the knowledge of my unfamiliar field.

Part of a colleague’s work presented at a meeting

As for discretization, I also made some attempts using the skills I acquired during my internship (for example, wasp plugin for grasshopper). Discretization gives me a lot of inspiration. It was exciting to find that this kind of strategy could be applied to my senior thesis. So right now I’m trying to do something.

Some of my own experiments

In the later stage of the internship, I also had the opportunity to contact with some ways of visualization of UE5 in the later stage of architectural projects. UE5 has powerful and rich features. It provides realistic rendering style, fast rendering speed, and allows designers to add interactive content to the building. That is why some big firms, like Zaha Hadid Architects, have started to use it extensively. After some practical operations of UE5 in my internship, I think it can indeed help us greatly save work efficiency, and narrow the gap between ideal and actual expression in terms of visualization.

Some UE5 prctice sessions

In addition, the company will also regularly hold some other lectures to help employees understand the advanced direction of architecture. Out of interest, I also participated in some seminars in our company such as building scheme optimization, machine learning and so on, which was refreshing to me. Archiford Design ltd is a vibrant firm. The founder is always exploring new things and trying to pass on new knowledge to his employees.

Of course, in addition to the
improvement of my professional ability, I also developed my learning ability
and optimistic attitude during the internship. Although I successfully completed my tasks during the internship, I was still at the entry stage of
these skills and workflow before
I joined the company. How to learn and master these things in a short period of time is really a big challenge for me.
Although my supervisor and colleagues would help me as much as possible, I did spend a lot of time on trial and error in the early stages. It’s a process I have to go through.
I used to do exercises
at the end of the day to help myself master these skills, or actively seek help from my supervisor at work. Gradually, I could use these
skills more proficiently than before, and my communication skills even improved during this time.

In a word, this internship enabled me
to quickly adapt to the working environment in a short period of time, learn new skills
and had a great impact on my thinking. It helps me to break away from the identity
of a student and think about
the future of architecture from the perspective of a real architectural practitioner, and think the
trend of the major architectural companies,
which is very helpful for my future career planning. I started to rethink what I really like and what am I good at. What challenges and opportunities for innovation are faced by traditional
architecture, and what direction should I strive for as a graduate?

Finally, I would like to thank my SAT professor, my supervisor in the company and colleagues who helped me during my internship.

Ziqi Cui


Ximing Zhong

Advisor in Archiford