The Bartlett School of Architecture


Seda Zirek



Designing and Making through Timber and Machine Learning 

First and second supervisors 


This research proposed to use machine learning to design and build through timber’s unique properties obtained by contemporary  scanning techniques. There are four major steps of this project; scanning of wood logs, data analysis through machine learning, designing through genetic algorithms (GA), and carving designs from scanned wood logs.

GAs are deemed as useful as they mimic the natural selection process of evolution by creating a self-formation behavior while taking materials, environment, and performance into account. The implementation of GAs at an earlier than usual stage of design - they will be used as form-finding tool instead of option-making tools - on microstructural material data by interior and exterior scanning (MRI and Laser Scanning) should create a material- sensitive system that finds the right performance for a specific microstructure in a specific area of a tree. GAs will support the study of different carving options and help determine the  best possible way to pack designs in a tree trunk thus to minimize waste.

The main purpose of the research is to blending particular elements of machine learning and timber technologies towards a sustainable approach to design. The scanned data will also be used to find the most common shapes in wood logs, which could be considered as the hidden building blocks behind the internal landscape of wood. Building through these “wooden bricks” can increase efficiency and minimize waste. 


Seda obtained her Bachelor Degree of Architecture from Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul. Later, she studied at Columbia University, AAD (Advanced Architectural Design) in New York. After her graduation, she worked for Rafael Vinoly Architects (1 year) and Zaha Hadid Architects (6 years) as a computational advisor and senior designer. In 2013, she founded Seda Zirek Design focusing on residential projects and product design in London and Istanbul.

Besides her life in practice, she has been a PhD in Design student at the Bartlett, UCL since 2012. Seda has been invited to design reviews and taught courses in several universities including UCL, Columbia University and Yale University since 2006.