Epidemic Modelling | Venice, Italy | Unit 21 | 2020

Awarded Distinction for Design

Click to see Thesis
Click to see 4th year work

The success of human host-pathogen coevolution creates dynamical and stochastic systems of transmission and adaption. In 1432, Venice established what is considered to be the first quarantine hospital during the Black Death, followed by the construction of a second hospital on a different island in the same year. Venice’s response to the plague crisis serves as a model for modern cities and nations facing unpredictable threats. 

Within epidemiology, computer simulation models are well-established tools, that have proven useful and accessible for evaluating and informing health care decisions. A few existing computer models are tested to study the mechanism of epidemic, including the course of infection and the framework of the epidemic dynamics. 

This project is not a study of pathogen and hospital. The project aims to elaborate an architectural generative design process, based on epidemic simulations. Inspired by the propagation pattern of transmitted disease, this design process defines architecture as the framework of emergence of contrasting spatial qualities, such as isolation and contact, the internal and the external, and the public and the private.

While this project is developed, the world has been considerably affected by Covid-19. This coincidental event has become a demonstration of the utility of epidemic simulation and the relevance of this project

Final iteration of agent-based particle simulation constructs a three-dimensional space hosting a collection of moving susceptible agents, represented by particles distributed around one regional center and three city centers. Transport hubs illustrated by grey boxes are constructed around the center and are linked by routes, which have the capacities to host transmission. Agents are simulated to commute to city centers and travel within the region. 
A color-coded system is applied to demonstrate the cycle of infection, with green representing the susceptible, orange representing the latent, red representing the infectious, blue representing the immune, and black representing the dead. Three methods of transmission are considered: Network transmission through transport route; contact transmission through direct agent-to-agent contact, and vector transmission according to relationship between agents. 
Based on the infection rate, different epidemiology and population geography concepts are applied to the system. This includes medication, antibiotic resistance, vaccination, mutation, travel ban, quarantine, behavior-alternating virus, fertility, mortality and migration

Considering epidemic as an architectural manipulation method, improved versions of agent-based models are tested for the design of architecture objects such as a cup, a staircase, and existing Venetian façade. 

The first version of façade simulation defines the epidemic as a formal deformation. The status of deformation is introduced to the architectural elements located at the bottom right corner. This initiates a chain of infection through the contact between architectural elements. After a few turns, infected architectural elements heal, become immune and return to its original form and location.  

In order to generate dynamic and inheritable spaces through façade manipulation, the model is developed to simulate the structural deformation of the façade, which is then combined with the elemental deformation to a combinatorial deformation simulation. 

Agent-based facade simulation is also used to explore the concept of genetic mutation. This simulation differs in element’s ability to react. After the infection, each element can choose to either return to its original form, preserve the deformation as a scar, or move away from the spreader. This process creates a façade system where the architecture can learn from the history of infection cycles, and evolve to become more resistant to the infection. 

Using epidemic simulation as a design tool, the project aims to construct a multi-purpose global emergency operation center for crisis, including disease outbreak, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis. The site is located between the cruise ship terminals and venetian residents in Venice, which serve as two contradicting urban qualities. 

The final architecture simulation has adapted an architectural generative system that constitutes a problem hierarchical structure to decompose complex architectural design problem into tractable subproblems. Each of the subproblems is defined to generate a specific architectural element. 

 ‘Scarring’ feature allows the determination process of each agent group to be initiated differently. This feature can be triggered automatically or manually. Once the designer is satisfied with the spatial quality of an agent group, the designer can activate the scarring process to make a design decision. This stops any further infection and perverse the statuses of the infected agents.  Similarly, the designer can manually trigger the healing option to eliminate any undesired agent groups.