How a Rendering of Pluto’s Sunset Reveals the Algorithmic Future of Architecture

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How a Rendering of Pluto's Sunset Reveals the Algorithmic Future of Architecture

An architecture student at the University of Calgary, Yuen has used photographs of Pluto’s sunset to create a bubbled parametric wall, a potentially load-bearing sculpture that leverages algorithm to make extraterrestrial imagery into an eye-catching Earthly achievement.

Everyone in Yuen’s fabrication class was provided the same photo of Pluto’s sunset from NASA’s New Horizons team then asked to remove data from it using various coding systems. As Yuen explains, his approach had more to do with creating a sustainable system than with attempting to reach a set goal. Yuen employed parametrics — or the process of using algorithms to manipulate the relationship between certain design elements — to re-render the image in geometric form.

“You’re not designing a project but rather designing a process,” says Yuen. “Everyone’s displaying the same data but in different ways.”

If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is. First Yuen imported the image into a program called Grasshopper, which came up with data points based on the black and white gradient of the image of Pluto’s sunset. An algorithmic process called Delaunay Triangulation connected the data points into triangular shapes, which were then made into wooden frames using an industrial-sized laser cutter for the next step: melting the plastic to create the protruding mounds you see in the finished product. […]