Big data gets creative

Nick Myall
05 May 2017

This project takes big data and materialises it as a CNC milled, double layered aluminum, back-lit screen wall

Synthesis Design + Architecture and IBM Watson Analytics have collaborated to merge data analytics, parametric modelling, and digital fabrication to create Data Moiré, a large scale interior feature wall recently completed for the IBM Watson Experience Center in San Francisco, California.

Big Data (data sets so complex or expansive that conventional data processing is insufficient) has continually had a big impact. It is affecting the worlds of commerce, media, and design amongst many others, becoming an industry in itself. IBM Watson Analytics has emerged as the leading commercial technology platform for uncovering insights into large quantities of highly curated unstructured data.

In parallel, the media world has witnessed the emergence of a new form of storytelling, as “Data Narrative” whereby the crafting of stories is through the collection and analysis of new or existing sets of Big Data.

These data stories utilize data visualizations embedded with narrative components to produce a form of narrative visualization that tells a story through the analysis of data.

Similarly, recent conversations in architectural discourse have theorized on the emergence of data-driven design as a paradigm shift which leverages computation in using the expansiveness of Big Data to conceive of an architecture that is understood as the registration of Mario Carpo refers to as “reality as it appears at any chosen scale, without having to convert it into simplified and scalable mathematical notations or laws.” The term Data Spatialization has emerged to describe novel architectural materializations that utilize computational design processes to generate novel architectural expressions and spatial opportunities informed by Big Data.

Data Moiré is a large-scale data-driven feature wall that merges the territories of “Data Spatialization” and

“Data Narrative” by using the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM Watson to inform a data-driven generative design process to articulate a vast quantity of data as a spatial experience and marketing narrative for the IBM Watson Experience Center in San Francisco, California. The result is a digitally-fabricated physical installation which illustrates monthly spending cycles by mapping the growing influence of mobile devices on all digital sales from 2013-2015. The data is materialized as a CNC milled, double layered aluminum, back-lit screen wall that produces a moiré like effect through abstract visual interference patterns produced by the overlaying of two mappings of the same data set as the cladding of the Watson immersion room. 

Alvin Huang, AIA is the Founder and Design Principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture and an Associate Professor at the USC School of Architecture. He is an award-winning architect, designer, and educator specializing in the integrated application of material performance, emergent design technologies and digital fabrication in contemporary  architectural practice. His work spans all scales ranging from hi-rise towers and mixed-use developments to temporary pavilions and bespoke furnishings. 

Please follow the link to view a promotional video of this project… 


The WAN Awards Future Projects category is now open until 30th June.

Click here for more details or email wanawards@haymarket.com


Key Facts

Education Urban design
United States

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team