Freeplan: as a concept
There are early modernist concepts such as open plan, free plan, and organic plan. Briefly, they are very similar concepts with different approaches. The common point is breaking the conventional box as we know it and letting the components free to create more complex or more different volumes other than the box. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright removed the corners and sometimes had turned them into glasses to create an uncommon feeling of space. Le Corbusier discarded the supporting structural walls and left the space free. Mies van der Rohe added large openings, glass walls, and flat roofs to the composition that look very light unconventional.
Freeplan: as a generative artwork
Frank Lloyd Wright has a sentence in an interview; “…the box was a fascist symbol and the architecture of freedom/democracy needed something besides the box.”. As an architect, I decided to follow this idea for a project. After couple of experiments, i discovered that a perfect way to do this would be to code the whole system for an architectural project and let the algorithm determine the volumes without an architect or a human touch. The algorithm would create unconventional spaces as early modernist architects did.
Art Blocks: a generative art platform
The generative art community already knows about Art Blocks and how it set the world alight. For the people who have no idea about it, Art Blocks is an Ethereum-based, first-of-its-kind platform that generates original digital artwork pieces on the blockchain via an algorithm that an artist created. When a collector mints, the algorithm uses the transaction id (hash) as the input of the script and creates the output. So, each output is unique and different from each other. The collector doesn't know what the result looks like before minting neither the artist does. For more information about Art Blocks and how it works you can visit here.
Anatomy of a Freeplan
Background parameter refers to paper types that architects use in their drawings or sketches. It can be clear, dotted, grid, or cross grid. They help to understand the grid as they are placed in each unit module.
Context shows where the structure is built. If it is plain land, nothing appears on the background layer. If it is sloping land, there are isohypsis to define it. These isohypsis are randomized bezier curves.
Like every structure, freeplans need to be approached somehow. A simple path can appear on the left or the right of the drawing. They also help to visualize the overall scale and space.
The floors are the rectangle areas covered with tiles. Every freeplan has two of them. They can intersect or be distant from each other. There can be different sizes of tiles in sthe range between the quarter of the unit module to the whole unit module.
Some freeplans have a round pool. The location and size of the pool are randomized. It is free to intersect with other elements like walls, structures, and floors.
Most of the outputs have a few trees on the upper part of the drawing. The location and scale of the trees are randomized. The count of trees can be between 0 and 5.
There is a chance for freeplans to have column structures in addition to walls. They appear on the grid as square, circular, or cross columns like the ones in Barcelona Pavillion by Mies.
Walls are the most complex elements of the algorithm. All the freeplans have an equal chance to have between 3 to 7 walls. The length of these walls varies. The code creates each output to have walls with different lengths as much as possible. The location and orientation of the walls are randomized with some limitations like no intersections with the frame, and no overlapping with another wall. In addition, they can have thick or thin widths, be filled with solid or ANSI31 hatch, and outlined with a simple rectangle or extended lines.
Some freeplans have a flat rectangle roof to enhance the feeling of the space. These roofs can be represented by solid rectangles or as dotted outlines.
As every architectural drawing does, freeplans have a title block to frame and label the project. Tittle block includes a drawing number, project name, a scale bar, and a north sign. In addition, there is a chance to have section lines.
Freeplans have seven different representation styles in total. The most common one is rendered and has fillings to pop the drawing. The style with just lines follows it. There are also red and blue line versions. Sepia style is added to have an old drawing look for some outputs. The black style is inspired by CAD drawings. Finally, there is also the self-explanatory blueprint version.
Freeplan: as Art Blocks project
The process took three months, including the concept, coding, and minting phases. The project was online on the 20th of January 2022 with 128 maximum mints. In a couple of hours, half of the freeplans sold. The project was sold-out almost on the same day. Now, there are around 70 collectors of work (constantly changing with the secondary sales).
Statistics and Facts
Here are some statistics and facts people wonder most about Freeplans. The rarest features are black and blueprint representation styles as it is expected. The red pen style follows them because there are fewer red pens than there should be.
After the representation style category, the rarest features are cross and circular columns. As half of the freeplans have a type of columns, only 13 of them have cross columns, and again another 13 of them have circular columns.
The most interesting one is the wall count. The possibility for walls is the same from 3 to 7. So there should be around 25 freeplans for every wall count. However, there are only 16 freeplans that have six walls. So the ratio is 12.5% instead of 20%.
What does a Freeplan actually mean?
For most people, it is hard to visualize a plan drawing in mind. Three months after the release, I decided to model a couple of freeplans to see what they would look like in 3D. Some of them were selected based on their architectural qualities. There was a couple of request from the community and collectors. Here you can find the twitter thread and all 3D Freeplans.
It was a challenge to create an architectural project and make it look both designed and not. I should also thank the community and hearing good feedback about the project makes me glad. I am also still amazed by the outputs. Most of them provide spaces that architects would not imagine. On the other hand, some look like an architect designed them. Although I feel like freeplan achieved its objective, I cannot stop thinking about the possibilities. Generative tools can help architects to break the conventional boxes and think differently. It is not hard to imagine a use case for a similar process to create a project that includes repetitive tasks and design constraints such as mass housing projects, franchise projects, and maybe even urban design.
I see the outputs as just samples/iterations. More than them, freeplan as an architectural generative algorithm offers itself as the expression of aesthetics. As an architect, it is the first time that I have the aesthetics not on but inside the walls.