Paneling Architectural Freeform Surfaces

The emergence of large-scale freeform shapes in architecture poses big challenges to the fabrication of such structures. A key problem is the approximation of the design surface by a union of patches, socalled panels, that can be manufactured with a selected technology at reasonable cost, while meeting the design intent and achieving the desired aesthetic quality of panel layout and surface smoothness. The production of curved panels is mostly based on molds. Since the cost of mold fabrication often dominates the panel cost, there is strong incentive to use the same mold for multiple panels. We cast the major practical requirements for architectural surface paneling, including mold reuse, into a global optimization framework that interleaves discrete and continuous optimization steps to minimize production cost while meeting user-specified quality constraints. The search space for optimization is mainly generated through controlled deviation from the design surface and tolerances on positional and normal continuity between neighboring panels. A novel 6-dimensional metric space allows us to quickly compute approximate inter-panel distances, which drastically improves the performance of the optimization and enables the handling of complex arrangements with thousands of panels. The practical relevance of our system is demonstrated by paneling solutions for real, cutting edge architectural freeform design projects.

BibTeX Entry:

      author = "Michael Eigensatz and Martin Kilian and
                Alexander Schiftner and Niloy Mitra and
                Helmut Pottmann and Mark Pauly",
      title = "Paneling Architectural Freeform Surfaces",
      journal = "ACM Trans. Graphics",
      year = 2010,
      volume = 29,
      number = 3,
      note = "Proc. SIGGRAPH, to appear",
      url = ""

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