The Applied R+D team (Applied Research + Development) is an integrated multi-disciplinary team of architects and engineers, who are also expert programmers. Our expertise ranges from art, aerospace engineering, and computer science to landscape architecture, structural engineering and applied mathematics.
We conduct state-of-the-art research and development to solve complex design challenges, taking the latest advances out of the lab and into the hands of architects and engineers. We have specific expertise in computational design, performance analysis, optimisation, fabrication and interaction design, and works with new technologies such as augmented reality, machine learning, and real-time simulation. This underpins the practice’s integrated approach, where architects and engineers can combine the best of human intuition with computational rigour.
The team uses modelling, computation and manufacturing to help deliver innovative projects. They work with a remarkable variety of materials (wood, metal, glass and concrete) using fabrication techniques including computer-controlled cutting, bending, milling, and additive manufacturing.
The expertise and the computational tools that have been developed in-house continue to inform new projects, undertaking research collaborations with universities to further enhance our knowledge about design and construction.
The work of Foster + Partners has always embraced the needs and constraints of a building as opportunities -- "drivers" -- for innovative design solutions. As our capacity improves to reflect the real world through a digital one, we are able to model these constraints more accurately and powerfully in order to test our designs before construction begins. This allows us to study what happens as we change the factors that influence a design ("Performance-driven design") and it also allows us to find best solutions for particular design challenges ("Optimisation").
At Foster + Partners design is inherently collaborative. We are a multi-disciplinary, integrated design practice and accordingly we benefit from every opportunity to improve communication and the flow of information. The Applied R+D team has been developing tools and systems to help with design collaboration. These innovations include immersive, multi-use Extended Reality design systems and real-time design data exchange solutions. The team has also created innovative systems for transforming physical models and hand drawings into corresponding digital models and drawings that can be analysed and further manipulated in our design software.
Technologies such as virtual and augmented reality allow us to design such experiences before physical construction, but also offer the possibility of hybrid spaces that combine the best of the real and the digital.
As Extended Reality provides us with sensory experience of space, digital twin technology provides us with data about the world around us. A digital twin is a computer model of a thing or process in the real world. Our Applied R+D team is building bespoke cloud systems for managing and visualising digital twins and smart buildings. We use the knowledge gained from this R+D to help our clients develop smart buildings that combine the best design and the best technology for an integrated experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
In the past five years we have seen huge advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, resurrecting the interest on these technologies and the effect they can have in the way we work. The Applied R+D group is embracing machine learning to enhance our knowledge, instincts and sensitivities, free us from routine tasks, and to optimise and push the boundaries of design. We are investigating ways by which data can be gathered, organised and used to help us train systems to help us with or even inform our design decisions.