On the formalization of architectural composition in Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Dezember 5, 2016

Abstract (t.b.c.!) for The Grammar of Things, 20th conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology, June 14-17, 2017, TU-Darmstadt, Germany
image: sia

image: sia

BIM is the attempt to unify the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings by way of an integrated digital BIM-model representing both formal and semantical properties of the building. One key idea in the implementation of this goal – of which today exist quite a few competing approaches – is the concept of transformational grammars. Under this concept, architecture is modeled as consisting of atomic elements or types which can be composed under explicit transformation rules either in a forward or backward chaining manner, i.e. either generatively or analytically. William J. Mitchell has modeled this approach in the 1990ies under the paradigm of Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the framework of first-order predicate logic (PL1) as the intersection of three domains: a “critical language” for value judgements over architecture, a “design world” for the formal description and modification of architectural designs, and a “construction world” within which architectural designs are being built.1

The idea of a grammar of architecture, in this setup, comes into play as a knowledge-based specification of the range of the PL1-based combinatorial possibilities that are inherent in the initial definitions of elements and transformation rules, both in terms of the design world and the critical language. Even though Mitchell’s work draws profoundly on linguistic concepts of grammar, the predominant aspect in his approach to design is the geometrical model, onto which semantic properties are mapped in a second step. With the development from CAD as a drawing tool towards BIM as a knowledge-based expert system for design, however, the other direction of mapping formal properties onto truth-functional semantics attracts more attention, as for example in the definition of the structure of the data exchange format Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), where geometric forms are mapped onto semantic structures. What this paper aims at is a review of the epistemological role of formal grammar in BIM based on the Mitchell’s computational model of design as the interplay between design world, critical language and construction world.

  1. See William Mitchell, The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation, and Cognition (Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press, 1990). []

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