Digital Design Studio – Modular Dining

The studio presents the students with the task of designing a modular food stand and invent novel space and furniture concepts for the social activity of dining. Students will focus on parametric design techniques and build large-scale prototypes.An introduction to Rhino/Grasshopper will be provided. In addition students can choose one of three seminars offered by DDU in conjunction with the studio that introduce them to the needed technical skills. The studio is run in collaboration with the Frankfurt Fair. The final project will be exhibited at the Frankfurt Fair in Spring 2017.

Digital Design Studio – My Personal Factory

Participants design and build a modular construction that creates a temporary, interactive and versatile space for digital fabrication.

We are currently experiencing the shift from personal computing to personal fabrication. After the computer shrunk from room size to smartphone dimensions we witness a similar development for CNC milling machines, 3D printers and laser cutters.

Production is returning back into our cities. The studio addresses this phenomenon and at the same time uses these digital technologies. Participants will learn the use of parametric design tools (Rhino/Grasshopper), robotic assembly and physical computing (Arduino).

Aggregrated Landscapes Studio

Architecture emerges out of the assembly of many different parts that finally form a building. In our studio we will explore this part-to-whole relationship. Computational Design and Digital Fabrication allow for novel forms of modularity: Parametric instead of serial, combinatorial complex instead of repetitive, multi-material instead of homogenous and isotropic. This term we will explore novel modular and computational design methods for the spatial and constructional design of an infrastructural project. Participants will acquire skills in the field of Digital Fabrication and Computational Design (Rhino/Grasshopper) and their use in an architectural design context. No previous knowledge is required.

Digital Design Studio – Habitat 1000

In this studio you will design a habitat for 1000 people. We will learn from existing residential typologies how to address the need for high-density in todays cities while maintaining good quality of life. We will investigate how to empower the architect to make design of high-density residential buildings better and faster by engaging non-architects in the process using computer games.

We will use DDU’s Minecraft-based framework 20.000 BLOCKS where you will create you own design game and Rhino/Grasshopper where we will perform automated evaluations on the designs created by players of your game.

Techniques that you will master include: analysing residential designs in Grasshopper, digitally fabricating building models, presenting complex designs in drawings. The studio will be taught in English and German.

Digital Design Studio DDU – RotoForm

In this studio we will explore 1:1 prototypes and speculative design proposals based on the material system RotoForm. Participants will learn computational design strategies, simulation of material properties and materialization based on digital fabrication and robotics. Subsequently the constructive, design-related and potentials of the mineralic, hollow elements will be investigated through prototypes. In a design study the spatial, architectural and aethetic potential will be further explored. Design, digital and physical form finding, material research and fabrication and the materialisation process will be regarded as holistic and cyclic design process.






This studio explores the topic of high-density housing at a large scale. The six projects are designs for a habitat for 1000 people that negotiates high-quality living with a very compact architecture.


We are currently facing a significant increase in world population. The resulting demand for additional housing is dramatic: Within the next 20 years the world population will grow by two billion people, which equals the world population in 1930. Thus we have to double the entire volume of the built environment that existed in 1930 in just 20 years. State of the art architectural design tools and methods are not suitable to cope with this enormous challenge. Already today 95% of buildings worldwide are designed without the involvement of architects.
If the enormous crowd is the problem, we are wondering whether it can also become part of the solution?


Can we crowdsource design?


Crowdsourcing means that experts algorithmically chop a complex problem into many small tasks that are distributed in the internet. Here thousands of users complete these tasks, which are subsequently assembled by algorithms and applied for solving the complex problem. The approach has been successfully implemented in various fields: Crowdsourcing is wrapped into exciting games that help to solve important scientific problems or it is linked to the necessary Turing tests that exclude spam bots from websites.


In the framework 20.000 BLOCKS which was used by the students in the studio we sought to migrate crowdsourcing into the architectural design process.
20.000 BLOCKS is an online, collaborative, architectural design platform developed by the Digital Design Unit at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.
It addresses the early phase of any architectural design - the laying out of areas, rooms and buildings and their spatial organisation. We built the platform using the popular game Minecraft. The size of a user’s Minecraft avatar in relation to the voxel shapes they model—and subsequently iterate through in the game world—creates an immersive perception for a one-to-one architectural scale.


The framework allows architects to encode their expertise into game rules and elements. In this environment players design architecture while playing a game concerned only with getting the largest score possible. The goal is to let the experts (architects) algorithmically analyse and learn from the large number of generated solutions thus opening the discipline of architecture to new ideas that correspond with tomorrow’s way of life.




SHIFT IT UP by Robin Find and Sarah-Maureen Weidlich dissolves the conventional notion of the WALL. The project distinguishes between acoustical, visual and access separation and aims to increase the area of commonly shared spaces between the inhabitants in order to increase the residential density. An elaborate catalogue of more than a 100 architectural transitions from one space to another allows the construction of an inhabitable, artificial, high-density landscape where privacy levels gradually shift. These principles are translated to a game concept realized with 20.000 BLOCKS in Minecraft and allowed the architects to collect various possibilities to structure their proposal for Habitat 1000. The designs created by the players were analysed to check whether all living units receive sufficient sunlight. This way the game rules could be calibrated so that players do not have to think about architectural concepts such as daylight access or arrangement of functions such as sleeping, cooking and personal hygiene and yet be able to create a feasible building solely by focusing on achieving the highest possible score.


BALANCE by Viola Abu-Salha and Alexander Kay Mayer explores the territorial conflict between the solid and the void. Solid, stands for the indoor, residential spaces and is represented by black, and the void — the public, open-air, green spaces is represented by white. In 20.000 BLOCKS the black and white players take turns to mark a square as theirs while a system of rules ensures that moves that bring more points also result in buildings where residential units have more surfaces open to the outside green areas as well as that sunlight falls equally onto both apartments and gardens. The architects have devised a systematic approach to turn game results into building proposals by shifting the consecutive levels horizontally in order to create possibilities for vertical and horizontal access between the public space and each flat.


ADAPT by Roger Winkler explores the problem of high-density from the perspective of ever more varying durations of stay - from the 1-2 day AirBnB traveler to the family that inhabits the same flat for 10-15 years. The project allows more design flexibility to long term inhabitants and prescribes very efficiently organized residential units to the short term ones. The game rules position the players in three roles - Luke a long term inhabitant with his family, Mark a character interested in medium length stay and Sarah, a short term visitor. By completing five chapters of challenges the players generate different versions of the same building which the architect then automatically transforms into raw designs using a Grasshopper tool that architecturally distinguishes the three types of residential units.


SYNTHESIS by Annabell Koenen-Rindfrey and Julia Schäfer looks at the use of plants to substitute the mechanical devices employed in today’s buildings. For example an oxygen supplying plant can improve the quality of air and by that reduce the need for a larger room volume as well. The project consists of two main types of elements: hexagons, representing the various types of rooms in a flat and edges, representing various types of plants offering different benefits to the inhabitants in the building. These two elements are the basis for a story-based game that explores important architectural and environmental issues such as overheating in the cities in a humorist manner thus engaging the players. The architects give an outlook how various game results from their board game, augmented with a digital story component can be interpreted as architectural designs.


SUNNY CAVE by Yingbo Sun, Alessia Weckenmann and Lufeng Zhu works with the notion of subtraction instead of aggregation. Maximizing the entertainment factor of the game medium the project lets players use semi controlled explosions to create designs for Habitat 1000. The game is implemented in 20.000 BLOCKS and Minecraft and challenges the players to place 5 walk paths and 20 suntunnels around which housing units, community centers and commercial areas, as well outside public areas are arranged. The goal is to make the building complex 100% accessible and still lit by natural light.


ZOTIL by Joern Rettweiler, Yadi Wang and Mehmet Erkan Eker is in essence a game of three dimensional Tetris aiming to create a balanced distribution between residential units and circulation and public areas such has parks. The five tetris shapes Z, O, T, I and L form both the title of the project as well as the design proposal that players generate in 20.000 BLOCKS and minecraft. Five sets of algorithms which the architects implement help understand the qualities of the design from the perspective of walkability, access to daylight, connectivity, view of the sky and density.




Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S. J. A., & Silverstein, M. J. A. (1977). A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Center for Environmental Structure Series.


Drexler, H. (Ed.). (2012). Building the future : Maßstäbe des nachhaltigen Bauens. Berlin.


Friedman, Y. (1980). Toward a Scientific Architecture. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.


Fujimoto, S., & Meschede, F. (2013). Sou Fujimoto - futurospective architecture : [on the occasion of the exhibition “Sou Fujimoto, Futurospective Architecture” at Kunsthalle Bielefeld, June 3 - September 2, 2012]. Köln.


Negroponte, N. (1970). The Architecture Machine. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.


Sanchez, J. (2014). Polyomino – Reconsidering Serial Repetition in Combinatorics. ACADIA 14: Design Agency, 91–100.


Savov, A., & Tessmann, O. (2017). Introduction to Playable Voxel-Shape Grammars ACADIA 2017: DISCIPLINES & DISRUPTION [Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA)] Cambridge, MA 2-4 November, 2017), pp. 534- 543


Savov, A., Buckton, B., & Tessmann, O. (2016). 20,000 Blocks. In ACADIA 2016: POSTHUMAN FRONTIERS: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines [Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA)] (pp. 24–33). Ann Arbor.


Schramm, Helmut (2008). Low Rise - High Density. Horizontale Verdichtungsformen im Wohnbau. Springer Verlag




This project and the accompanying book was only made possible due to the engagement and the help of many people.

We are grateful to Johan Bettum, Ben Buckton, Bjoern Hekmati and Martin Knöll who were our guests at juries throughout the semester for their conceptual input. We would also like to thank Sebastian Oschatz and Max Rudolph who gave lectures about their work and inspired the students to explore new concepts in their projects.

The projects and the ideas in this studio benefited from the diverse expertise of our colleagues from DDU: Martin Knoll, Yvonne Machleid, Samim Mehdizade, Andrea Rossi, Alexander Stefas and Bastian Wibranek.

The book and the final exhibition would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of Lukas Loddoch, Viola Abu-Salha, Julia Schäfer and Roger Winkler.

Design: Zhili Xia, Zhi Rui, Ru Qin, Wang Mengxue

My Personal Factory

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
Ken Olsen, Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

When Ken Olsen made this famously mistaken judgement, large mainframe computers from IBM filled entire rooms and Olsen’s company Digital Equipment Corp. was famous for its ‘smaller’ computers that had the size of a wardrobe. Only three years later in 1980 the Apple II entered the market and gave people access to personal computing and we all know what followed.

Today we witness the ongoing development of personal digital fabrication. After ubiquitous computation the making of things becomes accessible through desktop 3d printers, small scale CNC milling machines and laser cutters. This novel culture of production is intrinsically tied to a digital global network of open-source knowledge exchange and a virtually endless universe of things waiting to be transformed from bits into atoms. The disruptive nature of personal digital fabrication will obviously change entire industries including architecture but what will it do to our cities?

Nobody wants to relocate huge, dirty and noisy industries back into the city center after the modernist city advocated for a separation of functions. But what about colonizing and upgrading abandoned or rarely used spaces in the urban fabric with new forms of manufacturing. After the personal computer, it is the factory that get personalized. The disruptive nature of personal digital fabrication will obviously change entire industries including architecture and it offers novel opportunities to make cities productive again. Decentralized urban production can lead to Micro Fabs, Rapid Prototyping workshops that allow for individualized products manufactured around the corner. The close vicinity to the living environment reduces communting times for employees and blurs the boundaries between working and living for good or bad. These new forms of production will definitely not replace existing large-scale industries. Cars will not be produced in the city center, but maybe the its spare parts can be 3D printed just around the corner. Such a combination of large-scale and small-scale/decentralized production might dramatically reduce the costs for those parts. Or imagine a printfarm where machines replicate themselves.

Participants of this studio were invited to design and build a modular construction that creates a temporary, interactive and versatile space for digital fabrication. The site is located below the ground of the Plaza de Pedro Zerolo in Madrid's Chueca district. It is currently used as a parking garage. Participants developed and explored concept of personal fabrication within a space which has been designed and built to store cars.

All groups demonstraded the robotic assembly of their modular systems and augmented the modules with sensors and effectors controlled through physical computing.


Productive intersections

by Ana Baraibar, Morgan Hamel, Luca Bertoni, Felix Dannecker, Tolga Ilhan

Design: Ana Baraibar, Morgan Hamel, Luca Bertoni, Felix Dannecker, Tolga Ilhan
A space for hosting multiple activities within intersecting spaces. Robots dynamically assemble and change spaces sccording to different needs and actvities.
Design: Ana Baraibar, Morgan Hamel, Luca Bertoni, Felix Dannecker, Tolga Ilhan
Design: Ana Baraibar, Morgan Hamel, Luca Bertoni, Felix Dannecker, Tolga Ilhan, Photos: Jakob Nonnen


by Etienne Allgeyer, Frederik Dauphin, Lennart Petzoldt, Anastasia Oboturov


by Zhili Xia, Zhi Rui, Ru Qin, Wang Mengxue


Course dates: Summer Semester 2017

Course taught by:

Prof. Oliver Tessmann, Andrea Rossi, Alexander Stefas





FabLab - A digital Workshop as public space

A FabLab is an open workshop that gives people access to machines and digital tools like 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC milling machines. A FabLab is a place where ideas are developed and realized. A FabLab is a place to meet, to share ideas and to disseminate knowledge. In this studio students developed architectural ideas for a FabLab in the city center of Frankfurt. On the site of the former public library the participants designed a novel building that hosts a FabLab with all its necessary program and infrastructure. Furthermore the building was supposed to show the city what happens inside and invite people to enter, learn and meet.


Design: Felix Dannecker
Build your own FabLab! Felix designs a rough infrastructural concrete skeleton and a wodden module than can be produced and assembled by the FabLab users. Thus the Lab is growing and changing over time, according to the needs if its users. Design: Felix Dannecker



Design: Aleksandra Buchalik
Aleksandra operates with a cellular logic in plan and elevation. The facade, counterintuitive from a structural point of view, opens the FabLab to the city on eye level. Design: Aleksandra Buchalik







Design Roger Winkler
Ripped tubes provide natural light to the workshop facilities and link the different levels of the FabLab. Design Roger Winkler.



Design: Samim Mehdizadeh

Design: Samim Mehdizadeh
A central infrastructural sculpture links the different levels of the FabLab that are conceived as a landscape with a dramatic topography. Design: Samim Mehdizadeh



More projects
More projects by: Norwina Wölfer, Charlotte Schauer, Merle Kogge, Stefanie Joachim and Carolin Kreutzberg



Prof. Oliver Tessmann, Bastian Wibranek,

Technical support:

Alexander Stefas