HMC Architects and event partners Autodesk, Hypar, IMAGINiT Technologies, and Wallacei hosted its first-ever online hackathon event on October 8-10. The three-day event featured networking opportunities, live workshops, and presentations hosted by HMC and its partners. The Hackathon brought together a diverse group of people, representing fifteen countries and six continents. Seventy percent of participants were professionals and thirty percent were students. Participant backgrounds ranged from gaming to developers, architects, technologists, petroleum industry professionals, and students.

Each workshop focused on a specific topic and software. Jacob Smalls and Aaron Tang from Autodesk demonstrated how to set up a generative design workflow in Dynamo. Andrew Heumann and Serene Li from Hypar lead an advanced coding workshop using C# and json language for online design applications. Steve Baer from McNeel exhibited software interoperability using the plugin Hops for Grasshopper. In preparation for the workshops, the participants were asked to assess their computational software experience. Fifty-seven percent ranked themselves as intermediate, twenty-eight percent advanced, and fourteen percent beginner level. The event did not require previous coding or visual programming knowledge but having some experience with the selected workshop software would reduce the learning curve. In addition, Dr. Mohammed Makki from the multi-objective solver, Wallacei, presented on genetic algorithms by diving into the history and theory behind this design approach. The topics and tutorials from these initiatives supported the Computational Design Method (CDM).

CDM was the event’s theme and is a proposed evidence-based workflow. Its purpose is to guide project teams to organize multiple design objectives into a common goal. This proposed workflow can also be leveraged to track project decisions, assign project tasks, and organize production efforts to accomplish the project goal. Participants were challenged to create a digital tool that tracks design decisions or provides alternate design options based on the design decisions. Two teams presented their projects to an esteemed panel of judges which included MIT’s Evan Patton, Woodbury University’s Ingalill WahlRoos-Ritter, 3D Finch’s Jesper Wallgren, Zaha Hadid’s Mariana Cabugueira Custodio dos Santos, Buri Happold’s Michael Hoehn, Nike and Design Morphine’s Michael Pryor, and HMC’s Brian Staton. Projects addressed topics that ranged from bridging the gap between design technologies, to inclusive and interactive design platform that required community participation.

The project “Axon” by the team Playful Hackers, “used different open-source algorithms to train hand-drawings, emotions, and sounds. This approach is meant to achieve different interactive design results. The database catalogs geometric shapes and physical reactions. The requirement from the user is to draw primitive sketch and customize the design according to the context. To do this, a user interface will allow the designer to adjust a numerical slider, or other input method to adjust the design. Subsequently, with the use of web sockets the team prototype feeds required actions into the rhino-grasshopper interface that will generate the results. This allowed constant feedback loops from the user to designer.” Continued development can elevate the design experience for both technical and non-technical users.

The project “Open-source COMPunities,” by the team Design a Public Space with Generative Design, is a “computational design platform for the built environment which provides an integrated design based on both the designers’, and ultimate users’ criteria. Initially the idea was to propose an interactive design platform to fill the gap between the design, the designers, and ultimate users’ needs and limits. The aim is to design based on a Collective Intelligence. The platform interfaces are for both professionals and users, related to the design, and construction of the built environment.” With further development this project proposal has the potential to engage with people who have access to technology.

The judges awarded the team “Playful Hackers” as the 2021 HMC Hackathon winners. Congratulations to the winners and all the participants. In joint effort with the event partners, our sponsor IMAGINiT Technologies, and an esteemed panel of judges; this event was able to share design technology knowledge and make a positive impact on those who participated.

Watch a highlight video of the event below.