Government backs RMIT researcher’s sustainable architecture vision

Government backs RMIT researcher’s sustainable architecture vision

Professor Mike Xie has been awarded one of Australia’s most prestigious competitive grants to expand his research into sustainable, free-form architecture.

The Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship recognises Xie as a leading mind in architectural engineering, whose work is helping Australian designers and manufacturers compete globally.

As Director of RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials, Xie will use the multi-million dollar grant to significantly grow his centre’s research program.

“This will literally change my life,” says Xie. 

“The magnitude of support and the international profile that comes with this grant are immense and will allow our research program to attract top talents around the world and achieve even greater impact through our work.”

Mike Xie's success has come through bringing architects and engineers together, and learning from both.

“A large emphasis of the Laureate Fellowship is on creating long-term benefit for Australia, even after the five-year funding ends," says Xie.

"I’m committed to doing exactly that over the coming years here at RMIT, where I have been and will continue to be so well supported.”

Human-machine collaboration for efficient and elegant design

Xie specialises in creating innovative software tools to optimise the design of efficient and elegant structures, including iconic free-form buildings and bridges.

These tools will now undergo several exciting upgrades over the coming few years, including an increasing focus on diversity in design outcomes and room for creative input into the process. 

“We know how to use computer algorithms to design efficient and elegant structures, and architects know how to imagine and draw them,” says Xie. 

“Our focus now is on bringing these two approaches together so that architects and designers can manipulate the designs - negotiate with the algorithms as it were - to meet both the structural and creative goals of the project.”

Detail of an efficient free-form architecture design using techniques pioneered by Mike Xie and his team.

Another exciting strand is developing the next generation of advanced manufacturing technologies to produce such free-form structures with minimum waste in the process.

Together, these projects are expected to transform the architecture, engineering and construction sector and make the Australian manufacturing industry more competitive globally.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration the key to success

Xie’s academic career as a structural engineer has been guided by cross-disciplinary collaborations with architects and other professionals in relevant industries, ensuring the research is solving practical problems.

“The key to my research success has been bringing architecture and engineering together for the productive insights that each can offer to the other,” says Xie. 

“I’m lucky to be at RMIT where both these disciplines are very strong and where I can help build the next generation of cross-disciplinary researchers in this area.”

Earlier this year, Xie received an Order of Australia for his significant service to civil engineering and higher education. 

Still at the peak of his career, Xie says he has not lost any of the passion for what he does.

“I actually have a lot of fun in my work,” he says. 

“We’re constantly doing something interesting and innovative, so there are always new challenges to keep it exciting.”

 

Story: Michael Quin

16 September 2019

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16 September 2019

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