Städelschule Architecture Class

Oliver Tessmann

Oliver Tessmann ist Architekt und seit 2015 Professor für Digitales Gestalten am Fachbereich Architektur der Technischen Universität Darmstadt. Er betreut außerdem Forschungsprojekte an der Königlich Technischen Hochschule (KTH) in Stockholm, die er dort in seiner vorherigen Tätigkeit als Assistant Professor (tenure track) initiiert hat. Oliver Tessmann forscht und lehrt im Bereich des computerbasierten Entwerfens und der digitalen Fabrikation.

Nach seinem Diplom an der Universität Kassel arbeitete er für Coop Himmelblau und andere Architekten in Mexico, Wien und Frankfurt. 2008 promovierte Oliver Tessmann nach vierjähriger Forschungs-und Lehrtätigkeit an der Universität Kassel bei Manfred Grohmann und Ludger Hovestadt (ETH Zürich) zu dem Thema „Collaborative Design Procedures for Architects and Engineers“. Im Anschluss leitete er im Ingenieurbüro Bollinger + Grohmann Frankfurt die performativeBuildingGroup, die an der Schnittstelle von Tragwerksplanung und Architektur neue gemeinschaftliche, computerbasierte Arbeitsweisen entwickelt und in der Praxis testet.

Oliver Tessmann war von 2010 bis 2012 Gastprofessor an der Staedelschule Architekturklasse und wirkte dort mit an der Entwicklung der Spezialisierungsrichtung Architecture and Performative Design (APD). Von 2012 bis 2015 arbeitete er als Assistant Professor (tenure track) an der KTH in Stockholm. Dort lehrte er im Studio 9 des Master Programms und leitete das Forschungsprojekt Concrete Performance, finanziert von Formas dem schwedischen Forschungsrat und betreute die erfolgreiche Antragstellung des Projektes InnoChain (, ein interdisziplinäres Netzwerk von 15 Doktorandenstellen im Bereich Digitale Prozessketten von Entwurf bis zur Fertigung im Horizon 2020 Programm. Das Projekt wird von der EU mit 4 Millionen Euro für drei Jahre gefördert.


Habitat 1000 – Can we crowdsource design?

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. 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 and 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. The goal is to let the experts (architects) algorithmically analyse and learn from the large number of generated solutions.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Viola Abu-Salha, Mehmet Erkan Eker, Robin Find, Alexander Kay Mayer, Annabell Koenen-Rindfrey, Julia Schäfer, Sarah-Maureen, Joern Rettweiler, Yingbo Sun, Yadi Wang, Alessia Weckenmann, Weidlich, Roger Winkler, Lufeng Zhu


Anton Savov, Oliver Tessmann


Johan Bettum, Ben Buckton, Bjoern Hekmati, Martin Knöll


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.

A Thousand Floor Plans — COURSE OVERVIEW


(image credits: COSTINATOR app concept by Nicole Klumb and Maximilian Pfaff)


One of the most basic tasks for an architect is floor plan design. Imagine you have thousands of design options for the same house represented as floor plans. Which criteria can you use to sort them? Is there a “best” one? How can we empower an architect to choose one of thousand options for their clients? And most importantly, how could we empower the home owner to choose one design for their house?

The course “A Thousand Floor Plans” looked at techniques to compare and sort thousands of variations of residential floor plans for the same design brief. The course explores apps and app making as a potential new task for the architect searching how to stay relevant in a society with an information overload.

Each team of students was asked to sort a large set of floor plans based on one of the following features: views, energy, daylight, orientation, water, costs and time, spatial organisation, etc. They developed a Grasshopper tool for architects to navigate the set of designs.
(video credits: VIEWSPOTS Grasshopper definition by Anjuscha Helbig and Philipp Vehrenberg)

Students also created a graphical concept for a mobile app targeted at homeowners wanting to browse through thousands of floor plans. The main challenge was to consider strategies for translating the numerical results of an analysis routine into experiences from daily life which the home owners can relate to. For example: “having a sun spot on the breakfast table with my morning coffee in the kitchen.”

app concept chaselight
(image credits: CHASELIGHT app concept by Mariona Carrion, Morgane Hamel and Louise Hamot)

Each team conducted a survey with homeowners to narrow down the focus on the most important aspects to analyse. Download the survey in English or in German.

(image credits: DDU)

Students learned basic concepts of computational analysis and how to implement them in Grasshopper. At the end of the semester, students delivered:

  • a digital analysis routine implemented in Grasshopper;
  • a 2 minute video explaining how to use the Grasshopper definition;
  • and a booklet documenting the analysis and the mobile app concept.

See the projects results from the course:

  1. CHASELIGHT by Mariona Carrion, Morgane Hamel and Louise Hamot
  2. COSY HOME by Jörg Hartmann, Stefanie Joachim and Max Sand
  3. ENERGETIC ASSESSMENT by Luisa Ruffertshöfer, Marc Ritz and Gerrit Walser
  4. SAVING MONEY by Ana Sophie Sánchez Wurm and Ana Baraibar Jiménez
  5. COSTINATOR by Nicole Klumb and Maximilian Pfaff
  6. VIEWSPOTS by Anjuscha Helbig and Philipp Vehrenberg
  7. YOUR PERSONAL VIEW by Natascha Damaske and Dina El Gindi
  8. CUSTOM FLAT by Zhiyin Lu and Mengxue Wang


Course dates: Winter Semester 2016/2017

Course lead by:

Anton Savov


Roger Winkler

Felix Dannecker



A Thousand Floor Plans — CHASELIGHT

Project and Text by Mariona Carrion, Morgane Hamel and Louise Hamot.

Don’t you want to live in a house with the best daylight? A daylight that matches your way of living and habits? If yes, Chaselight is for you!

The aim of the app is to empower homeowners to find the best floor plan where they can enjoy their daily activities, such as drinking coffee, with the suitable levels of daylight.

Daylight is measured in intensities (luxes) but how can you explain it to a non-expert?
We thought about referring to activities — different actions need different light ambiances and therefore intensities. Users select the activity and the app links this activity to a range of intensities in which should be suitable to do this activity. How do we translate these results to a floor plan? Users see a floor plan with every room painted in a different color. The darker ones are the rooms where it is less suitable to do the action and vice versa for the lighter ones.
In case they want to know more about a floor plan, they can click on one room and see exactly where they can carry out these activities and when.

It’s then in the user’s hands to say if the floor plan suits them or not.


for more information check out the booklet!


A Thousand Floor Plans — COSY HOME

Project and Text by Jörg Hartmann, Stefanie Joachim and Max Sand.

Das Video zeigt das Ergebnis des Seminars „Tausend Grundrisse“ am Fachgebiet DDU – Digital Design Unit der TU Darmstadt. Die Aufgabe bestand darin eine App zu konzipieren mit der man den für sich idealen Grundriss erhält.

Wir haben die Aufgabe soweit auslegt, dass wir anhand des Wandaufbaus, die vorgegebenen Grundrisse dahingehend mit Honeybee überprüfen können, welcher zonierte Raum die höchste Dichte an Behaglichkeit aufweist.

Das App-Konzept nutzt Rhino und Grasshopper, sowie die Plugins Ladybug und Honeybee mit deren Hilfe ein Algorithmus erstellt wird, der uns als Ergebnis die drei passendsten Grundrisse für den User ermittelt. Die Grundrisse zeigen uns das Haus mit seiner Kubatur und dessen Energieverbrauch, anhand des Wandaufbaus. Davon leiten wir dann den Raum mit der höchsten, in diesem Falle thermischen Behaglichkeit ab.

Die Parameter für Grasshopper beziehen sich auf den Standort, den Energieverbrauch anhand des Fassadenaufbaus und die Fassadenöffnung um die Behaglichkeit zu ermitteln.

Die Analyse läuft über Honeybee, das z.B. Klimadaten für den ausgewählten Standort auswertet.
Die Ergebnisse werden farbig visualisiert ausgegeben um den Vergleich darstellen zu können.


for more information check out the booklet!



Project and Text by Luisa Ruffertshöfer, Marc Ritz and Gerrit Walser.
The consideration of renewable energetic gain of a building becomes a main focus of contemporary sustainable assessments.
As a first approach the following survey, covering many aspects why people choose floor plans, shows different aspects but renewable energetic gain is one of the most important. With this app people can analyze various floor plans, on how much energy they could provide through solar systems in a whole year. With several floor plans they can calculate the kWh production per m2 which are connected to the roof surface. The kWh result of a floor plan allows us to calculate the heat and the electric gain through a solar system. These calculations and their technical aspects we tackled with a combination of several floor plans, we drew in Rhino and connected them afterwards with Grasshopper, respectively Ladybug. Through these programs we calculate the energetic outcome per year, produced by any given square meter floor plan based on a specific location. To mask those rather complicated, technical aspects, we developed several app mock ups to display one of many possibilities for a user-friendly usage.


for more information check out the booklet!


A Thousand Floor Plans — SAVING MONEY

Project and Text by Ana Sophie Sánchez Wurm and Ana Baraibar Jiménez.

There is a lot of factors that affect people when looking for a new home. Layout, orientation, and personal preferences are some of the most important ones. But what about money? Most people have to work with a limited budget when buying a new house, and the electricity, water and heat bills will be a fundamental part in the expenses of the family from the moment they start living in the house. That is the reason why we focused our effort in making a tool that allows users to calculate how large some of the bills will be while living in a chosen house, particularly the electricity ones, based in the living style of the homeowners. Our app also shows the users how the selected house can help them reduce these costs using solar panels to provide their own solar energy and thus saving money. Each house has its own „saving“ rate, and the app sorts them to make easier for the future homeowners to choose their dream house.

for more information check out the booklet!



A Thousand Floor Plans — COSTINATOR

Project and Text by Nicole Klumb and Maximilian Pfaff.

“How could homeowners choose a floor plan between thousands? And how could this floor plan fit their needs?” This question was the topic of the course “1000 floor plans” lead by Anton Savov.

Through conducting a survey we found out that the building costs for a house are very important for the homeowners. And that is how our idea was born.

We decided to create an app that calculates the costs of construction out of a floor plan.

To keep the app as user-friendly as possible, it only calculates the construction costs for the shell. That makes it easier for the user to understand and to get a feeling for the floor plan. Checkout our booklet and the video to get further information of how our app works.


for more information check out the booklet!




A Thousand Floor Plans — ViewSPOTS

Project and Text by Anjuscha Helbig and Philipp Vehrenberg.

ViewSPOTS is an app that helps people find the perfect floor plan based on their own visual preferences. It analyzes the view connections to the outside and the visual connections between the different rooms in the inside of the house.

ViewSPOTS uses Grasshopper to analyze the views of a floor plan. From any given point the direct and indirect internal and external views are calculated. A grid of many points analyzes the entire floor plan and creates a view connection diagram. The diagram displays the amount of internal views among the rooms and the external views of each room separately. A heat map is generated from the external views which gives an overall impression of the amount of building envelope openings.

Each person has different needs and requirements when it comes to their own living spaces – our app recognizes this and allows the user to find a floor plan that best suits their needs based on their own view connection diagram. Their diagram is matched with a floor plan from a databank of thousands of already analyzed floor plans and thus, the users finds their own perfect floor plan.

ViewSPOTS Video:

for more information check out the booklet!

thousand floor plans_Booklet_Helbig_Vehrenberg