Not Fit For Humans

Take your sticking paws off our floorplans, you damn ants.

Evolving Floor Plans is an experimental research project exploring speculative, optimized floor plan layouts. The rooms and expected flow of people are given to a genetic algorithm which attempts to optimize the layout to minimize walking time, the use of hallways, etc. The creative goal is to approach floor plan design solely from the perspective of optimization and without regard for convention, constructability, etc. The research goal is to see how a combination of explicit, implicit and emergent methods allow floor plans of high complexity to evolve. The floorplan is ‘grown’ from its genetic encoding using indirect methods such as graph contraction and emergent ones such as growing hallways using an ant-colony inspired algorithm.

Conceptualizing these floorplans in my mind is weirdly disorienting. I mean, logical and all that, but spacially I would just have no idea what I was doing or where I was going.

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12 thoughts on “Not Fit For Humans

  1. The church I grew up in was built kind of like that. There wasn’t a square corner in the whole building. After he finished designing it, the architect committed suicide.

    One of the problems in his approach is that it’s producing non-rectangular rooms which don’t even have straight walls. Those can be hard to utilize efficiently because furniture tends to be straight. The gym area would be especially problematic because basketball courts are rectangular.

    You see some of these issues in geodesic dome houses, with few good solutions to them.

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    • He talked of his dreams in a strangely poetic fashion; making me see with terrible vividness the damp Cyclopean city of slimy green stone—whose geometry, he oddly said, was all wrong—and hear with frightened expectancy the ceaseless, half-mental calling from underground: “Cthulhu fhtagn”, “Cthulhu fhtagn”.

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  2. I suspect they’d make sense once you started moving around in them. Lots of neighbourhoods are full of loopy swoopy streets like that – both in medieval cities where they sort of grew more organically, and in modern ones where the streets were deliberately laid out that way (and the degree of organic fit or failoure to fit to human movement was discovered afterward).

    Medieval cities are not bad to walk around in, in my limited experience – as long as you don’t try to think of them as a grid…

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    • Yeah, they can be uncomfortable for newcomers to navigate, but very easy once you are familiar with them. In places like that – parts of Montreal, Montmartre, the town I grew up in – I’ve found that once you are oriented, even as a newcomer, you can just sort of let your feet direct you without paying much attention, and end up in good places. Much more easily than on a grid.

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      • When I was in Zurich last month, I chose a hotel that was about a 20 minute walk from the office (not anticipating it would be 90 degrees out. Oh well.) It was nothing like a grid, so the first day I needed Google Maps to get there. But the route divided into sections nicely with good landmarks, so thereafter it was automatic, and possible to appreciate the people and the shops I passed without worry about getting lost. (Having the Maps app as a backup lowered stress about getting off-track, of course.)

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    • Getting into or out of downtown Denver always irritates me mildly. Downtown proper is laid out on a NW-SE, NE-SW grid parallel/perpendicular to the nearest stretch of the river. The rest of the city and metro area is laid out on a N-S, E-W grid. Some odd three-way and five-way intersections result. Also, downtown calls numbered things streets, and the rest of the metro area calls them avenues. The intersection of 20th Street, 20th Avenue, and Glenarm Place, with different bits one-way or two-way, is interesting for beginners to navigate.

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  3. So are some hapless kids going to run into the Minotaur as they go through these labyrinths? How are school officials going to tell parents that their kids had a mishap involving Greek mythology?

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  4. In architecture school, the early years would focus on assigning a design problem that had only a few simple parameters- maximizing natural daylighting, and efficient structure, or emphasizing some conceptual idea, with minimum material, and so on.

    Only in the later years did the design problems expect a response to the myriad of parameters actual buildings face- express a strong concept, plus, meet code, plus take advantage of a difficult site, plus this and plus that. And even then, the more thorny real world issues were softened or ignored.

    The diagrams in the article are like first or second year design solutions, where they only respond to a couple simple requirements.

    But as long as we are talking- the article touches on something that I keep harping on, which is how powerful algorithms are taking over areas previously thought untouchable by machines.

    Those designs were not laid out by a person, but by an algorithm, which is still laughably primitive, but you can see the writing on the wall. There isn’t any structural reason why AI can’t design buildings/cars/machines/airplanes with only a minimum of human involvement.

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