Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Peachtree Legacy

My thesis began as an investigation of a paradox. Why, in this era of technological progress and virtual dimension, are architectural firms not taking advantage of parametric modeling and building information modeling?

Parametric modeling software is not smarter than an architect, but it is an exceptionally smart tool. Trimming, remembering to update schedules, drafting - are things of the past. Autodesk - a popular software among typical architectural firms - offers a desktop product that incorporates parametric modeling called AEC objects, each with its own set of defined parameters, specific to a project.

Building information modeling (BIM) takes this same technology into fabrication. With a direct connection between design and fabrication, the submittal process is significantly changed and manufacturing time is saved.

What exactly is the advantage? It brings value to the work of an architect and results in a thouroughly better project. With less time spent on drafting and on checking submittals, more time is gained to design and coordinate the actual construction process and phasing. refabricating ARCHITECTURE by Kieran and Timberlake investigates the assembly process of cars and airplanes, namely, Ford and Boeing. These industries design the fabrication of collections of complex systems through BIM, at one plant, all together, then each unit or module (collection of parts) is brought to its final assembly location. It meets a small number of similar units and the final assembly is expedient and precise. 'The fewer joints, the less work' is the idea. Although buildings are site and project specific, there is promise in this technique. If an element can be multiplied to create a system, this mass production can evolve into mass customization.

Site intervention:
How does this theory of a new design and construction process inform the choice of a site? Or is it the other way around. . .Well, this is my thesis, and it was up to me to choose the place. I had a bit of trouble making a connection between idea and place, and I needed a lot of help.

As a point of departure, I arbitrarily decided to choose a site in north Midtown. My only contributing advantage was that I could visit the site frequently and become familiar with the site because I work in Buckhead, only a few miles north via Peactree St.

After only a couple times of driving the four mile strip I noticed something peculiar. I never identified it, but felt it. Once, I turned east into a neigborhood. The neighborhood had a definite sense of place - a community of families with children, schools and coffee shops, toys in front yards, and alma mater flags waving proudly.

The street, Peachtree Street, is a major artery in Atlanta. But between Buckhead and Midtown it is undefined - a 'no-place'. The street is undefined, neither of one or the other. Still, with people, children and dogs walking along the sidewalk as evidence, there is a sense of community here.

In their quiet brilliance, my professors pointed me toward the creek, suggesting the vista and how nice it would be to get down to it. Even reminding me that the very significant battle was fought right on it. . .

So, now I was lost. How do technology and a battle meet?

I felt a tense pattern. I thought of old and new, Buckhead and Midtown . . .Dichotomy.

This is my site. The intersection of Peachtree Street, Peachtree Creek and the Peachtree Battle, now.

There is a duality emerging - a binary relationship between process and result, Union and Confederates, landscape and hardscape, mass and circulation, organic earth and infrastructure, placeform and productform - sterotomic architecture and tectonic architecture.


My museum will commemorate the 6,506 lives lost for the future in that battlae. It will bridge time through a journey to that event - it will tell the story of our Civil War.


My first thought about this project is an itinerary to connect progressive technology with cultural history. I want to use a new design process to tell an old story in a spectacular way. A museum will mark this place, defining it as the place where fate met history and to bridge the gap between here and there.

It is important to make a connection between the street and the creek. The bridge itself is the building - a memorial.


I have made several conceptual models with foam and sticks - arranged in a way to develop space within the tension between carved mass and linear structure. My next step is changing materials to concrete (quickrete) and wire, but in addition, an organic and plastic skin will envelope both systems. With these models, the relationship between the built road and the existing creek will be more accurately represented, as opposed to conceptually represented.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Bernard Tshumi
Architect, New York
Dean, Columbia University
Columbia University
February 26, 1997

By Michelle Howard
: bodies in space"

Bernard Tschumi is a Swiss born deconstructivist architect. Leading not only through his architecture, he is equally, if not more influential as a writer and academic. He is a permanent US resident, and from 1988-2003, he was Dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
As Post-Modernism became increasingly commercialized the public began to expect something new. Post - Modernism surrendered to a consumer mentality it celebrated, and was short-lived as it was displaced by deconstructivism which began with Russian Constructivism in the early twentieth century. Tschumi's work responded as well to a postmodernist architectural theory that was approaching conclusion. He offered an alternative to the prevalent theoretical work that was becoming more unrealizable and extreme, like work from Superstudio, one such branch of theoretically oriented architectural postmodernists. Those projects, which functioned as counter design and critique of the existing Modernism style, suggested the end of architecture's capacity to effect change on an urban or cultural scale because they had lost grounding in the practical and had reached a theoretical extreme. Through the deconstructivist process, Tschumi maintains the theoretical concepts without compromising the practicality and realization of architecture.

The Falling In-Love Machine,

The Guardian,

The basis of deconstructivism includes ideas of fragmentation, non-linear processes of design and experience. Deconstructivism aims to reduce the whole to its elements, then to disassemble in order to reassemble them as a new interpretation of the whole. Deconstructivism is not synonymous with de-structure; instead de-construction it is concerned with critical analysis and reinterpretation. This process of design rejects conventional forms-follows-function uses of space by developing new relationships between systems and narrating theoretical text through an architectural language resulting in interstitial ‘in between’ spaces and semiotic philosophy.
Other deconstructivists include Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelblau, Rem Koolhaas, and Daniel Libeskind.

Musee de Confluence,
Lyon, France
Peter Eisenman and Coop Himmelblau

Walt Disney Concert Hall,
Los Angeles, California
Frank O. Gehry

Aquatic Center,
London, England
Zaha Hadid

Seattle Public Library,
Seattle, Washington
Rem Koolhaas

Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Masterplan,
New York, New York
Daniel Liebeskind

Deconstructivism ideas are borrowed from the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who explained that his philosophy of deconstruction as a virus that destroys structures, that introduces disorder into communication. By focusing on the primacy of language and text, James Steele considers that Derrida is at odds with the entire semiotic structure of Post-Modernism. Derrida’s influence on Deconstructivism and Tschumi were his ideas of text and words, semiotics, as inevitably ambiguous yet potentially unlimited. Derrida says in Domus Review,
“The fact that this intervention in architecture ... represents the failure or the limitation imposed on a universal language says something about the impossibility of mastering the diversity of languages, about the impossibility of there being a universal translation. This also means that the construction of architecture will always remain labyrinthine. The issue is not to give up one point of view for the sake of another, which would be the only one and absolute, but to see a diversity of possible points of view.”
-Bernard Tschumi

Tschumi’s and Derrida’s philosophies regarding architecture are also that of same ‘deconstructed’ pieces of the whole, those traditional conventional re-organized and re-interpreted elements can be reconstructed in a liberating approach. Tschumi reveals the text of theory through his design process of deconstructivism; it is "part of a research into the dissolving limits of architecture." These are the words he used at the 1988 First International Symposium on Deconstruction in London. In Architectural Disjunction the notion of limits are explored and he refers to the convention of colloquial language as operating within boundaries but poetry as performing at the limits. Still though, architecture needs limits in which to operate which he notes in Architecture and Limits.

Wexner Center For Visual Arts,
Ohio State University
Peter Eisenman

Parc de la Villette
Bernard Tschumi

For Eisenman, deconstruction is in understanding "the between" and Derrida’s influence can be seen in his Wexner Center as in Tschumi’s Parc de le Vilette which parallel each other. Tschumi’s Le Fresnoy Art Studio is a succession of boxes inside boxes – the interstitial space holds the energy and becomes a place for event and chance encounter. These paths create collisions of space – overlaps in use, which can be used by students for a variety of functions. The space between the roofs of existing buildings and an added, huge umbrella roof above them creates the interstitial zone of program on ramps and catwalks. In a critique of Eisenman’s Aronoff Center at UC Frank Gehry said, "The best thing about Peter’s buildings is the insane spaces he ends up with. All that other stuff, the philosophy and all, is just bullshit as far as I'm concerned."

Le Fresnoy Art Studio in Tourcoing, France
Bernard Tschumi

Le Fresnoy Art Studio in Tourcoing, France
Bernard Tschumi

Le Fresnoy Art Studio in Tourcoing, France
Bernard Tschumi

Le Fresnoy Art Studio, Event
Tourcoing, France
Bernard Tschumi

Le Fresnoy Art Studio, Event
Tourcoing, France
Bernard Tschumi

Tschumi’s Philosophy
Since the 1970s, Tschumi has argued that there is no fixed relationship between architectural form and the events that take place within it. Rather, he engages balances of power through programmatic and spatial devices. In Tschumi's theory, architecture's role is not to express an existing social structure, but to reinterpret that structure.
His work explores new relationships between form and function through processes of de-equilibrating, de-structuring, super-imposing, and cross-fertilization of program. The new spaces and relationships he creates – those interstitial in-between spaces, are the introduction of a new dimension – the event – which is as fundamental to his design as the influence of philosophers Derrida, Barthe, and Wigley.
In the 1970’s Tschumi taught at the Architectural Association (AA) and developed projects such as The Screenplays (1977), influenced by Finnegan Wake and The Manhattan Transcripts (1981), influenced by James Joyce, that evolved from pastiche techniques taken from film. Tschumi selected key words fundamental for his Manhattan Transcripts and are as follows:

The Manhattan Transcripts demonstrated a narrative of complexity and trans-architectural philosophic foundations as events marked through cinema/photo-graphy. By arguing that there is no space without event, he designs conditions for a reinvention of living, rather than repeating established aesthetic or symbolic conditions of design. Through these means architecture becomes a frame for "constructed situations," a notion informed by the theory, city mappings and urban designs. By advocating recombinations of program, space, and cultural narrative, Tschumi asks the user to critically reinvent him/herself as a subject.

"In America, it's more difficult because architects have lost a lot of power; power has fallen into the hands of the builders... the general strategy is determined by the client himself... That's a big problem. And that's what we want to avoid,"
-Bernard Tschumi.
Tschumi’s The Pleasure of Architecture defines the relationship of the city center with respect to the periphery as “erotic dimension”, influenced by Barthe’s Semiology and Urbanism. In a 1987 article, Tschumi formulated his revealing idea of pleasure in architecture: "[m]y pleasure has never surfaced in looking at buildings, at the 'great works' of the history or present of architecture, but rather in dismantling them." The Parc de la Villette principle manifests itself in the superimposition of three different ordering systems. The superimposition of these three layers allows for some form of interaction between three autonomous systems. According to Mark Wigley, the superimposition is a "series of ambiguous intersections between systems […] in which the status of ideal forms and traditional composition is challenged. Ideas of purity, perfection, and order, become sources of impurity, imperfection, and disorder". In the case of Parc de la Villette, Tschumi challenges traditional humanist and functionalist architectural discourses. Tschumi’s ideas about ambiguous program and transgressive cross-programmed movements are borrowed from Frankfurt School Marxism.

Parc de la Villette Systems,
Paris, France
Bernard Tshumi
Tschumi also has a strong attitude with respect to poltics and culture and believes architecture is connected to its time’s socio-political climate. In this way, Tschumi's work is ethologically and culturally guided, and is reflected in his sensitivity to the existing urban fabric and history, although there are Neitzschean individualistic undertones. Just as the cohort and zeitgeist evolve and transform, architecture and the view of architecture cannot remain static, but mutate over time.
MOMA Design Competition Entry

Proposed MoMA Expansion, Perspective Along 54th Street
New York, New York
Bernard Tschumi

Carved spaces trace an urban itinerary through the zone driven existing building’s envelopes. This in-between space forms the circulation and links the functions and exhibition spaces required in the proposal. Tschumi has designated that the fixed galleries be placed around the periphery of the Museum, allowing for the best light as well as addressing the logic of construction: The most fixed part of the building is the outer skin and connects the streetscape to the building. Tschumi describes his proposal as an ‘interior city’ with a transparent façade in the sense that it reveals the interior logic of non-program-program, event and interstitial space.
The variable galleries, as required by the competition guidelines, are located at the center, where the construction, principally nonstructural partitions, is the most flexible.

Site Plan
New York, New York
Bernard Tschumi

Tschumi’s entry is also his "Urban Museum Manifesto," where he counters the idea of the new Museum of Modern Art as a self-sufficient totality. Instead he terms it a "heterotopia" that "combines three distinct types on its site: a received type, the 25-foot-square column grid and doubly bay of the historic MoMA . . . ; a borrowed type, the columnless factory type, for its temporary exhibitions; and a new type, our proposal for fixed spaces, variable spaces, and interspaces, for the permanent collection."

Tschumi concisely summarizes his approach to redeveloping the site: "Our aim has been to find the proper 'interlocking' between the old and the new so that the culture of the institution is regenerated into a new urban and spatial type."

The New Acropolis Museum
"It's a museum inside the city, so we would like to be able to combine the most up-to-date technology and ancient materials.
The two main materials are glass and marble. We will also use very beautiful pre-cast concrete. These materials are very respectful of the city of Athens as well as the Acropolis."
-Bernard Tschumi

The New Acropolis Museum, Model
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The new Acropolis Museum is located at the southern base of the Acropolis, at the ancient road that led up to the historic "sacred rock".
Set only 800 feet from the legendary Parthenon, the museum will be the most significant building ever erected so close to the ancient temple.

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Rendering
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

Bernard Tschumi's winning design for The New Acropolis Museum was chosen from a shortlist of twelve who competed in three competitions. The museum overlooks the Makriyianni excavations. Tschumi has taken great care in exercising historical respect.

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Rendering
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Manipulated Image
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The New Acropolis Museum, Model
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The three primary concepts are light, movement and a programmatic element. First, he uses natural light to showcase the displays through a tensile curtain wall system that simultaneously allows for a visual connection with the acropolis outside those walls. Secondly, circulation and the spatial relationships between them correspond to historical chronology beginning with the archeological excavations below to the Parthenon above. Tschumi narrates histoy’s story and the occupant participates through movement. The middle of the museum features a large double-height trapezoidal form that will house the museums galleries from the Archaic period through the Roman Empire. Above a mezzanine will contain a bar and restaurant with breath-taking views of the Acropolis.

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Rendering
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The upper most spaces, the Parthenon Gallery form a rectangular transparent hall for the Parthenon Marbles in the proper proportions, and orientation of the original monument. The characteristics of this transparent space will provide natural light for the sculpture while being in direct view to and from a precise reference point - the Acropolis. Thus, the Parthenon Marbles would actually be viewable from the Acropolis above though the intended view will be from below.

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Rendering
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The New Acropolis Museum, Computer Rendering
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

The New Acropolis Museum, Model
Athens, Greece
Bernard Tschumi

University of Cincinnati Athletic Center

Baseball Field and Athletic Center
University of Cincinnati, Ohio
Bernard Tschumi

Here Tschumi takes advantage of the site constraints and extrudes his structure up to five stories. He creates the same interstitial spaces as described above in his Fresnoy Studio – spaces for interaction. The main event is clearly the field, but he intends for it to be shared, as well as the auditorium, classrooms and UC Club. At a larger scale, the building itself serves as a joint between the north and south street entrances.

Baseball Field and Athletic Center, Computer Rendering
University of Cincinnati, Ohio
Bernard Tschumi

Parc de la Villette

Parc de la Villette, Computer Rendering
Paris, France
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Parc de la Villette, Event
Paris, France
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Parc de la Villette, Event
Paris, France
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Derrida...asked me why architects should be interested in his work, since, he observed, "deconstruction is anti-form, anti-hierarchy, anti-structure-the opposite of all that architecture stands for" "Precisely for this reason," was my response.
-Bernard Tschumi

Russian Constructivist, Sketch
Early 20th Century

Parc de la Villette, Folly
Structure and form of ambiguous program Influenced by Russian Constructivism
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Parc de la Villette, Folly
Structure and form of ambiguous program Influenced by Russian Constructivism
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Parc de la Villette, Folly
Paris, France
Bernard Tschumi and Jacques Derrida

Marne School of Architecture

School of Architecture
Bernard Tschumi

Tschumi designs the auditorium to be the movement generator as an object within space. Their thesis begin by looking ahead of Ecole de Beaux Arts or Bauhaus influence – toward the future of potential space that accelerates the socio-political transformations already taking place within our culture. Scrupulously programmed spaced are deconstructed to re-program stages for a variety of events. Celebrations, performances, juries, debates and more, will occupy these event spaces.

School of Architecture, Auditorium
Bernard Tschumi

School of Architecture, Event Space
Bernard Tschumi


K-Polis Department Store
Zurich, Switzerland
Bernard Tschumi

In this competition, Tschumi’s concept is seductive invitation for display. He wants to invite you into the store by making the building an object of desire. He focuses on a tension created between the dynamic nature of the person and the inert quality of the product, or comsumee. In keeping to his design theory, he introduces circulation, a ramp, to activate the building and define areas of use.

Rouen Concert Hall

Concert and Exhibition Halls
Rouen, France
Bernard Tschumi

This project was built on an abandoned airfield and reflects Rouen’s financial growth and cultural development. The two buildings are designed for polyvalency; to accommodate large assemblies and more intimate groups of professionals. An asymmetrical seating arrangement in the concert hall allows for spontaneous interaction.

Lerner Hall Student Center

Columbia University Lerner Hall
New York, New York
Bernard Tschumi

Glass ramps organize program which include a nightclub, a dining hall, a cinema, meeting rooms, rehearsal rooms – all activated by the use of the mailboxes. The ramps themselves are a set stage for impulsive and unprompted performance to take place. A glass façade orchestrates the relationship between the interior exhibition and the public view into the building. Tschumi combined large expanses of glass and masonry treatment prevalent in the original McKim Meade and White master plan.

Columbia University Lerner Hall
New York, New York
Bernard Tschumi

• Archipedia,
• Deleuze, Gilles, Foucault, Sean Hand (trans.), Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press (1986)
• Hollier, Denis, Against Architecture, Betsy Wing (trans.), Cambridge, MIT Press (1989)
• Nesbit, Kate, Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, NY (1996)
• Sadler, Simon The Situationist City, Cambridge, MIT Press (1998)
• Sadler, Simon An Avante-Garde Academy, Blackwell Publising (2001)
• Salingaros N., Hanson B., Alexander C., Mitiken M., THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES ANTI-ARCHITECTURE AND DECONSTRUCTION, Umbau-Verlag, Architectural Review, 2005-02-01
• Steele, James, ARCHITECTURE TODAY, Phaidon, London, (2001)
• Sullivan, Patricia, Jacques Derrida Dies: Deconstructionist Philosopher, Washington Post, Sunday, October 10, 2004; Page C11
• Tschumi, Bernard, Architecture and Disjunction, Cambridge, MIT Press (1994)
• Tschumi, Bernard, Event-Cities (Praxis), Cambridge, MIT Press (1994)
• Tschumi, Bernard, The Manhattan Transcripts, London, Academy Editions (1994)
• Wikipedia,

Friday, February 03, 2006

First Exercise

The first exercise I need to execute is an attempt at validating Stehen Kieran's and James Timberlake's assertion that off site fabrication is choice and more efficient than on site 'piece' construction.

[for my thesis book i will have a descriptive detailed analysis of the book]

The book applies the manufacturing process of cars, planes, trains, ships, etc. . . to architecture. One important constituent is the assembly or Modulor idea. Essentially, pieces and parts of the construct are pre-assembled. These modulors are brought together and merged; the idea is that fewer parts = fewer joints and the process of final finishing assembly is simplified.

My trepidation lies in the removal of one piece or alterations to one piece. If these pieces are in effect groupings, does the group change? Perhaps parametric modeling is a helpful tool, but once the physical piece is built and a piece is revised, is the impact greater than pieces with more individual relationships? There is always a domino effect. . .will one modulor’s alteration affect the joint between it and other modulors?

The second matter of concern lies in the concept of the building as a machine for making the modulors. Fabrication and assembly is moved inside. I see an nherent problem with this theory – the unforeseen site conditions are ignored. This could potentially increase the cost of construction ten-fold.

My experiment addresses the latter distress. There will be two phases to the test.

· Build a site context model [SCAD in atl and neighbors?],
· Build iterations of an intervention while looking (only)at the site and then,
· Merge. Identify all problems and propose possible solutions.

Repeat this process except in 3D model (ADT). Anticipate problems and employ proposed solutions.

This research will concurrently examine the parametric modeling tool in designing.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

program needs help

Parametric design software is accessible and economical, but not common tool in design firms. Most firms are designing with two-dimensional lines and construction documents are constructed as a drafting process, rather than a three-dimensional virtual building practice. While there are some pioneers among architects such as Frank Gehry, Gensler and KPF, they are a lonely group. Nevertheless, three-dimensional constucts and building information modeling, (BIM) is on the horizon.

Outside the world of building design and construction, advanced virtual design practices are implemented and proving successful. Vehicles, film design, aeronautics and telecommunication are examples of industries that have successfully utilized this technology. However, there are some differences between architecture and other professions.

One difference between architecture and these other professions is the relationship between the designer, owner and maker. Ford, for example, designs a 2007 Jaguar XJR - and owns the car. Modules, or portions of the car are contracted to various fabricators, then the assemblies are brought to the factory and joined in the final steps before the car is driven off the lot. The fewer parts left to assemble at this time, the easier the aggregation, because there are fewer joints to coordinate.

Typically, a developer hires two independent entities – a designer and builder. It is in this way that parametric modeling is important to the future. Software that virtually ‘builds’ a construct is read by a fabricator’s software. This radically changes the submittal process because the intent of the design remains unfettered. BIM links the designer and the maker in directly, facilitating a smoother process. [what are the legal ramifications?]

Another reason architecture is lagging behind in the technology era is the up front cost of initial investments and training. Eventually, developers will shoulder the initial financial push and demand this as a standard, and it is up to the activists of our business to lead.

There are many makes of vehicles, many models – new every year. The variety is wide but the variety and specificity of buildings is broader. Mass fabrication is possible though, if buildings are thought of as a synthesis of assemblies. Project particular design can be coordinated to high detail with material manufacturers.

With all this technology enabling the design process, the product -the architecture itself, must evolve. The industry itself cannot achieve this alone; schools are already involved in the change. SCAD, Auburn University and Stevens Institute of Technology are involved in new design-fabrication processes that employ new technologies. Director John Natsasi believes a new process offers “sophisticated ways to build sophisticated architecture.”

How can architecture be expressed through a new building type and design-construction process?

How can this way of making reveal new paradigms in architectural design and fabrication?

Architects that have forged ahead are [I’m pulling a list together – need more sources] with projects such as [“].

Using these projects and methods as precedent, I will design an urban architectural study center in Atlanta. The program will include the following:
• SCAD dormitories, approximately 8,000 SF
• Offices including studios, approximately 12,000 SF
• Development to support live and work activities: approximately 20,000 SF
o Eateries
o Bookstore and library
o Entertainment
o Dislpay

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

thesis - researching Architectural Record (Bently and Generative Comjponents)


GenerativeComponents is a parametric and associative design system, giving designers and engineers new ways to efficiently explore alternative building forms without manually building the detail design model for each scenario. It also increases their efficiency in managing conventional design and documentation.

GenerativeComponents captures and graphically presents both design components and abstract relationships between them. This capability lets GenerativeComponents go beyond making geometry explicit; it makes design intent explicit as well. Although designers are working graphically, based on intuition and experience in architectural design, their work is captured in logical form, in what is, effectively, a program.

GenerativeComponents is the design tool of choice for creative
architects and engineers who appreciate that design is best when
it emerges from a combination of intuition and logic.



SmartGeometry is "architectural design with computational design tools".


Generative Components is a model-oriented design and programming environment which combines direct interactive manipulation design methods based on feature modelling and constraints, with visual and traditional programming techniques and represents Bentley's response to the requirement for a "programmatic design" environment, that is a fusion of geometric modeling and software development. What we are searching for in the development of Generative Components is the minimal abstraction of design, that when implemented in software and used by creative designers, provides for the most expressability, the most extensibility. The Smart Geometry Summer School will be an excellent opportunity for architects and designers to explore and develop their design concepts with these innovative tools. (Illustration from the design for a conservatory created by Kevin Rotheroe from the FreeForm Design + Manufacturing Studio in New York.)

thesis - researching Architectural Record (TriPyramid)

Schubert Club Band Shell
Architect: James Carpenter Design Associates, Inc.Structural Engineer: Skidmore Owings and Merrill; Schlaich Bergermann


Icahn Genomics Laboratory, Princeton University: Cable Wall

Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects
Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners

This virtually transparent glass wall allows
light to enter the space unimpeded by
structure, but regulated by the large
exterior rotational sunshades. The cable
net structure used a hydraulic-activated cable tensioning system by TriPyramid to
pre-tension the vertical stainless steel
cables at installation.


Tokyo International Forum Glass Hall

Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects
Structural Engineer: Structural Design Group

TriPyramid was a consultant for the support structures for the roof and walls of this very large (200 meters long, 60 meters high) glass building. TriPyramid collaborated with the architect and the structural engineer to develop the connection details for both roof and wall systems. TriPyramid then worked with Japanese heavy industry to apply the latest Japanese manufacturing technology to the unique rods and fittings required for the roof structure.


Mori Art Center

Architect: Gluckman Mayner Architects
Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners

The dramatic shingled glass entrance structure is supported by a sophisticated cable net with aesthetically pleasing cable clamps, provided by TriPyramid, which tension the cables.

The structure, in Tokyo’s Rappongi Hills, involved an international team of architects and engineers working with Ashahi Glass and TriPyramid. TriPyramid’s curved cable clamps use the latest in computer design and manufacturing.

Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History: Glass Cube

Architect: Polshek Partnership
Structural Engineer: Weidlinger Associates

The glass box surrounding the
sphere of the planetarium is supported by TriPyramid rod and fittings with minimal visual impact.

thesis toughts and Architectural Record

Technology transfer remains a nascent movement,
but more architects take up the challenge
By Lynn Ermann

In 1999 Mike Skura, vice president of architectural design at CTEK, a company that specializes in prototype glass for cars and airplanes, was startled by a phone call from architect Frank Gehry. "He said he had searched high and low for someone to do complex, compound curved glass," recalls Skura, "and wanted to know if we could do it." They had to try, of course. Skura broke a lot of glass struggling to bend large sheets into the tight curves of the Gehry-designed, glass-enclosed cafeteria in the Condé Nast headquarters in New York, but the eventual success solidified a partnership between Skura and Gehry and their separate industries. After that, CTEK got so many calls from architects for glass projects that it introduced a separate architectural division to accommodate the huge demand for complex, curved architectural safety glass.

By searching outside the confines of standard construction-industry methods and materials to find a business that supplies the automotive and aerospace industries, Gehry engaged in what is called technology transfer—simply the movement of processes or materials from one industry to another. (Of course, he had already made that leap with his much-publicized adaptation of CATIA—aerospace design software—to help rationalize the exotic geometries of his buildings.)

Technology transfer is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it's increasingly widespread in all industries, facilitated by both the Internet and federal legislation. The Space Act of 1958 required NASA to make its discoveries and inventions available to private industry. Early imports into the consumer marketplace from the aerospace industry included power drills, medical devices, Velcro, and Mylar. Countless other inventions have come from the military, including plastics, titanium, the earliest computers, rockets, and transistor radios, to name a few. Since 1980, when the Bayh-Dole Act allowed universities, not-for-profits, and small businesses to have ownership of inventions created with government funds, technology-transfer facilities have sprung up at universities across the country. Legislation in 1980 and 1986 made all federal laboratory scientists and engineers responsible for technology transfer, while over 700 laboratories were gathered under one umbrella organization, the National Technology Transfer Center.

Studio as laboratory
A renewed interest in materials and processes may also be related to the imaginative, fluid forms made possible by sophisticated software programs, especially in university architecture programs. "We feel we can control materials more now," observes Ron Witte, an associate professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Design (GSD). Osram Sylvania, for example, one of the largest manufacturers of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), has sponsored LED studios at the GSD for research, while scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories have worked with students to produce aerogel tiles from a solid form of the material.

Architecture schools that are closely allied with engineering programs tend to have more financial support for technology-transfer explorations. The Illinois Institute of Technology's (IIT) direction is particularly promising: The architecture program requires all undergraduates to take an Inter-Professional Curriculum (IPRO)—a series of courses that require students from different disciplines to work together on "real-life" projects. One such project for Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) in Chicago had the students focus on the integration of energy-saving elements into SOM's newly designed convention center in Phoenix. The IPRO teams investigated the effect of using a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system, particularly in the exterior walls. The results were positive and provide an example of how IPRO-generated innovations have spawned a strong relationship with IIT's technology-transfer department.

Slow but steady change
The introduction of unusual materials to architecture is incremental. In the near future, technology transfer will find its way increasingly into the development of more efficient construction methods and processes, such as factory-built components. "For the most part, exteriors are still glass, steel, and concrete. A builder is more likely to use a new lamination process borrowed from the auto industry or a joint from the sailing industry than to incorporate a totally revolutionary material or process," speculates Andrew Dent, director of the New York–based Material Connexion, a library of over 3,000 carefully reviewed innovative materials, including foams, fiberglass weaves, and photovoltaics.

There are other embedded obstacles. According to Mike Skura, part of the problem stems from the fact that insurance policies are not lenient, and there's a chain of liability that can result in expensive litigation if materials or systems fail. There are also issues of regulation. For instance, national testing requirements generally dictate that materials be tested and rated for flammability only, but local testing regulations around the country can be more restrictive.

And yet there are success stories. Even before the experimental Gehry found a company to bend glass for him, New York–based FTL Design Engineering Studio was emerging as a hybrid practice—part design, part engineering, part R&D, all innovation. Twenty-five years ago, Nicholas Goldsmith, FAIA, and Todd Dalland, FAIA, founded FTL to pioneer lightweight, tensile-structure design and other fabrication technologies. According to Goldsmith, this pursuit has less to do with inventing technologies than with finding new applications for existing ones, which is another definition of technology transfer. "We didn't invent photovoltaics," says Goldsmith. "But we did figure out a way to embed them into tensile structures." This transfer, of course, is not a simple or risk-free one. FTL conducts extensive analysis with its customized software and uses digital simulations to model the performance of materials and complex fabrication techniques.

More recently, CTEK's Skura and New York architect Joel Sanders designed a prototype for a chain of budget hotels in London called easyDorm. Prefabricated fiberglass units will be installed in the shells of gutted buildings. Mass customization allows the unit costs and maintenance costs of the hotels to be reduced so that the savings can be delivered to the customer. The modular system facilitates ease of installation, allowing the length and width of the rooms to be modified according to the dimensions of a given building or site. In rehab conditions, the system is not constrained by exterior window/wall configurations: A prefab translucent window/wall panel built behind the existing façade allows the transmission of borrowed light. The prefab components can be easily assembled on-site using local, standard construction methods and materials.

In another example of applied technology transfer, architect Christian Mitman was experimenting with a metal mesh created by a honeycomb process first used in the aerospace industry when he became so enamored of it that he developed a whole line of panels. Trademarked as Panelite, it was first used in interiors, but is now used in high-profile outdoor commissions, such as Rotterdam-based architect Rem Koolhaas's curtain wall for a new student center on the IIT campus, a panel that lets in natural light while muffling the rumblings of a nearby elevated train. Mitman's company has now progressed from adapting materials from other industries to developing them in-house, including a proprietary panel for the Koolhaas-designed Prada stores, as well as mica laminates and structural fabrics.

Technology-transfer advocates, Philadelphia-based architects Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, (page 34) are convinced that technology transfer will eventually change the way buildings are designed and constructed. "Our hope," says Kieran, "is that there will be regular affiliations and alliances with materials scientists and product engineers, working together as models of collective intelligence, making large parts of buildings in high-quality, controlled settings, using materials they're not using now, purposeful materials, not just collections of neat-looking materials."

Images courtesy of FTL Design Engineering Studio

FTL Design Engineering Studio applied its expertise in lightweight, flexible structures to design (in collaboration with Honeywell and Clemson University) an inflatable airlock for NASA. The two-layer fabric container (click above to see) is made of about 180 pounds of fabric sandwiched on either end by metal hatches that together weigh about 3,200 pounds. On other earthbound fronts, with its eye on the future, the firm has developed a recyclable, portable skyscraper (above) with the innovative use of standard clip-on construction methods, borrowing event-industry stackable toilets (click above to see), and housing the infrastructure and HVAC systems in truck trailers on the ground.

Images courtesy of Illinois Institute of Technology

At the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), students must participate in the Inter-Professional Curriculum (IPRO) program—a semester-long, multidisciplinary research and design studio that emphasizes “real-world” scenarios. The team project shown here focused on integrating energy-saving building components for a new convention center in Phoenix, designed by SOM. The group investigated applying Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) systems, particularly in the exterior walls.

Images courtesy of CTEK

CTEK has extended its capability as a supplier of complex safety glass to the automotive and aerospace industries (see Ford’s Forty-Nine Dream, click photo above) to create complex contoured forms for innovative architectural applications. Gensler chose CTEK to manufacture glass landscaping boulders (click above) for a theater and retail complex in Hollywood. CTEK made templates based on real rocks and coated the final pieces with its proprietary weatherproofing resin. CTEK has also done a building system and cladding study for a new Frank Gehry sculpture (above), which will eventually be covered in titanium shingles.

Images courtesy of Joel Sanders Architects

EasyDorm is fabricated out of prefab modular mix-and-match panels (shower, toilet, sink, bed/storage, and flex-strip) that combine to create two standard room types. This kit-of-parts permits the fabrication of customized units as well. Materials are high-performance and easy- to-clean. Waterproof fiberglass, painted in the company’s signature orange, is used in wet and high-traffic areas. Mattresses and cushions are wrapped in durable vinyl. When guests depart the entire room can be wiped clean with only a damp cloth.

Images courtesy of Fran Pollit

Panelite is a remarkable bonded sandwich construction using aerospace technology. The honeycomb cells act like the web of an I-beam, making the panels resistant to deflection. Panelite’s in-house material development division researches, creates, and tests new materials. It also collaborates with designers to develop efficient fabrication processes, such as the two New York projects shown here: govWorks (above) by A + I Design and a loft (Click to above see) by Archi-tectonics.


Unitized Systems Are Raising the Level and
Complexity of Curtain-Wall Design
Factory-built components let architects achieve the quality clients now demand

By Sara Hart

Facade engineering has always been science. Now it’s art, too. As reported in this magazine last August, a building’s skin is no longer a passive wrapper articulated with spandrels, mullions, and low-e glazing. Because of growing client demands and technological innovations, making a curtain wall now requires a team of collaborators—designers, engineers, and fabricators. The linear path to creation has been supplanted by integrated teamwork.

A staircase behind the Burberry facade creates a zone that enlivens the showrooms for several floors, blurring the line between inside and out.
Photography: © Chun Lai Photography

This developing paradigm of collaboration is the logical consequence of a shift away from so-called stick building to unitized systems, especially in those projects that require small margins of error and demand a high level of craftsmanship. Whereas in stick construction everything is done in the field, as raw materials are processed and assembled on-site, much of unitized construction takes place off-site. The facade is engineered as a system of components, which are fabricated in the controlled environment of a factory or workshop. The components are shipped to the site, where they are usually hoisted into place by cranes and connected to each other.

Unitized construction is particularly well suited to the demand for high thermal performance, weather tightness, and increasingly, quality detailing. Although quite different in program and execution, the success of all three projects discussed here depended on a close collaboration among all the disciplines.

Written on the wall

Burberry, the London-based haberdashery founded in 1856, is so well branded by its signature check pattern of camel, black, red, and white that the clothes need no other brand identification. In New York City, where there is an epidemic of high-end, high-concept flagship stores, the dignified purveyor wanted a competitive presence on tony 57th Street without the flashy demeanor of Niketown across the street, yet as elegant as the opalescent LVMH tower a few doors east.

Burberry, New York City

At the Seele factory in Gersthofen, Germany, architects, engineers, and fabricators collaborated to detail the metal-mesh sections (right, far right). Eventually, the mesh was changed from steel to aluminum to reduce the weight of the wall. Seele determined that X-bracing (above) was needed to stiffen the members. The team built prototypes to study the connections.

Burberry commissioned the New York office of Gensler to create an envelope to enclose the elegant interiors crafted by interior designer Randall A. Ridless [record, March 2003, page 203]. The site of the new building consisted of the shells of adjoining town houses, the former location of fashion house Escada, and the current, aging and inadequate Burberry flagship.

Burberry, New York City

At the Seele factory in Gersthofen, Germany, architects, engineers, and fabricators collaborated to detail the metal-mesh sections (right, far right). Eventually, the mesh was changed from steel to aluminum to reduce the weight of the wall. Seele determined that X-bracing (above) was needed to stiffen the members. The team built prototypes to study the connections.

Before the “gymnastics of making two facades into one”—as the challenge was described by design principal Lance Boge, AIA—could begin, the architects had to investigate the integrity of the two independent shells, each one a structural hodgepodge, the result of decades of renovations. “There were three or four different types of construction,” says Belinda Watts, project manager for the envelope and structural renovation, and the problem was further complicated by the fact that the floor plates in the two structures did not line up.

The architects evaluated different ways the two buildings could be combined to meet the client’s growing needs. The resulting feasibility study summarized five options, ranging from the demolition of the existing buildings and the construction of a new medium- to high-rise tower to a minor renovation that would leave the dividing party wall intact. Analysis showed that a new building would require a long construction schedule and high capital expenditures. Due to a compressed time frame, the architects ruled out razing the stores and chose to perform a radical renovation instead, which included demolishing the structural masonry party wall and replacing it with a series of steel columns and beams to support the new floors. The redundancy of services—elevators, stairwells, bathrooms, and storage—could then be eliminated, capturing more square footage for the sales floors.

Gensler created a refined, layered facade for the Burberry flagship store in Midtown Manhattan out of Magny stone, clear glass, and bronze-colored aluminum. The partially unitized curtain-wall grid was manufactured in a factory in Germany (above).

Finally, with a plan to fuse the existing buildings into one, the architects could turn their focus onto creating a refined but visually animated facade. The complexity of this problem cannot be overstated. In typical New York infill buildings, the facade is often a generic curtain wall that repeats the rhythms of its neighbors and addresses the streetscape with varying degrees of distinction. Because of the stature of the client, Gensler’s mandate was more difficult. For Burberry, company image and urban context had to blend effortlessly.

From the onset, Gensler pursued the facade design as the expression of the iconic Burberry check, while understanding that the image had to represent a modern, revitalized purveyor of luxury goods. “It’s hard to take one context and reinvent it in another medium—the warp and weave of fabric to glass and steel,” explains Boge. Countless iterations yielded a sophisticated, asymmetrical, and layered grid, which was eventually rendered in Magny Jaune stone, glass, and bronze-colored metal mesh. Needless to say, there was a lot riding on—and written on—this facade, so craftsmanship in its execution became a significant priority.

The facades consist of a unitized structural, silicone-glazed curtain-wall system, assembled off-site in modules (below left). Stainless steel and granite clad the envelope of this building. Vertical marine-grade stainless-steel fins (left and below) project through the structurally bonded glazing to create strong vertical elements on the facade.

Gensler enlisted Dewhurst Macfarlane, a structural engineering firm headquartered in London with an office in New York, to act as the curtain-wall consultant. Its facade-design group is known for innovative solutions for glass envelopes. Their primary role was to ensure that the facade was fully engineered before bidding the job, in order to stress the high level of craftsmanship to the bidders. The German curtain-wall fabricator Seele GmbH won the bid with a proposal for a modified unitized system. “Other bidders’ proposals were for more of a standard system approach, with room perhaps for some customization,” says Carlos Espinosa, project architect. Had they gone the standard route, “We would have had a very different facade,” he explains.

The facades consist of a unitized structural, silicone-glazed curtain-wall system, assembled off-site in modules (below left). Stainless steel and granite clad the envelope of this building. Vertical marine-grade stainless-steel fins (left and below) project through the structurally bonded glazing to create strong vertical elements on the facade.

Before the bids even went out, though, Gensler explored the limitations of the materials by making several mock-ups in a local ornamental metal shop. The team had chosen a mesh metal for the larger grid, and they wanted to see how it would bend. “If not for the thermal and structural requirements of the facade, it could have been fabricated in an ornamental metal shop, because elements were that thin and precisely detailed,” explains Belinda Watts. Mock-ups and experimentation continued at Seele’s plant in Gersthofen, Germany, where Seele, Dewhurst Macfarlane, and Gensler worked out the detailing together. Eventually the steel mesh became aluminum to reduce the weight, and bracing was added to make it rigid.

Unitized systems have another advantage. The Burberry site had almost no space for staging. When all the materials arrived, they had to be immediately installed or erected. The curtain-wall components arrived in batches that corresponded to the erection sequence of top to bottom. Tolerances were tighter than normally seen in U.S. construction, not greater than 3¼4 inch overall for alignments to base building and adjacent structures, but then shrunk to a few millimeters for the mullion system. The result of such finesse (matching the quality of the interiors) is a delicate scrim that evokes the iconic Burberry check without mimicking it.

Facade on delivery

George’s Quay is a commercial office development in central Dublin, Ireland, designed by Dublin-based Keane Murphy Duff Architecture for Cosgrave Developments. Buro Happold Facade Engineering, the international consulting engineering firm with offices worldwide, designed what it claims is the first example of a fully glazed, preassembled facade in Ireland, which required close supervision of collaborating local and international building-envelope contractors.

George’s Quay, Dublin, Ireland

Stainless-steel louvres clad seven pyramidal penthouse suites that form the roofline. The glass is coated in pure silver, which reduces heat gain and glare while giving a sheen to the building. The section shows the louvers and the inward-opening hopper vents that allow natural ventilation to be controlled locally.

The structural silicone glazing (SSG) was factory-installed. It was clear in this case that bonding double-glazed units to an inboard aluminum framework of horizontal and stainless-steel vertical mullions was best done in the clean and controllable environment of the shop. Over the past 30 years, structural sealants have earned a reputation for reliability, given that in many cases, such as during earthquakes, they have prevented glass from falling. Structural sealants also protect against other outdoor environmental factors such as sunlight, thermal changes, water, and atmospheric pollutants. “The silicone, therefore, acts structurally to hold the glazing in place, resisting positive and negative wind pressures,” explains Winser. “The vertical load of the glass, however, must always be supported by discreet supports sited along the glass unit’s bottom edge.”

Does unitized construction cost more than stick built? “Not necessarily,” is the answer from Winser. “This procurement strategy is not unusual for preassembled facade systems, as shipping costs are very competitive, and the cladding industry supply chain is fairly fragmented. It is the responsibility of the cladding contractor to organize this logistical network. In Ireland, this challenge is exacerbated by the lack of expertise with this type of preassembled facade system. Hence the partnering arrangement with a U.S. company [Kawneer].”

The hybrid solution

One Plantation Place is a multitenant development in central London, and at over one million square feet, it is unusually large for that part of town. In contrast to the Burberry and George’s Quay projects, the client here, the British Land Company, was very specific about function and maximum flexibility, as it expected to attract up to 70 individual tenants.

The program mandated that Arup Associates, the international engineering firm’s full-service architecture subsidiary, provide the highest quality of internal air quality, with the additional requirement that the design must accommodate the particular needs of a variety of tenants. Facade design, then, played a major role in providing flexibility while regulating the internal environment, which, in addition to air quality, addressed the need for maximum daylight penetration.

Plantation Place, London, England

Two Plantation Place (above) is sealed and air-conditioned. However, air-conditioning intakes are as high as possible in order to maximize the freshness of the outdoor air. CFD modeling helped determine the environmental conditions throughout the year in both buildings. Blinds incorporated in the wall cavity are opened and closed by local photo sensors. Wind sensors lift the blinds in windy conditions to protect them from damage.

Whereas the facades for Burberry and George’s Quay are best described as unitized high performance, Arup facade engineers chose an unusual strategy for Plantation Place. They created a hybrid curtain wall—or perhaps a series of independent systems—that acknowledges that the environmental conditions existing at street level are different from those at the upper floors. For instance, the base of the building is sealed by a high-performance system and fully air-conditioned. It made no sense to promote natural ventilation where floor plates were too deep for fresh air to circulate through, and where the noise from the traffic would be uncomfortably loud. However, mechanical engineer Michael Beaven notes that, while he assumes the windows will remain closed, they are indeed operable, reflecting a cautious optimism that we may enjoy “silent, clean transport in the future.”

According to Russell Winser, project engineer, “preassembly ensures superior workmanship, because all fabrication is undertaken off-site in a factory-controlled environment. This type of system also allows the facade to be assembled independently of the on-site works, thereby mitigating overall building program risks. Also, there is no need for external scaffolding, as the preassembled units can be lifted into position using a floor-mounted crane.”

Unitized construction is often a global effort. Winser explains, “The aluminum framing sections were fabricated in Toronto and shipped to Dublin, while the double-glazing units were fabricated in Cork (using high-performance glass sheets—that is, coated with an invisible solar-control layer, made in Germany). Glazing units and framing members were finally assembled in Dublin and then delivered directly to site. Architectural Aluminum (AA), a Dublin-based cladding company, fabricated and installed the curtain wall.” Although AA had overall responsibility for the glazing system, detailing of how individual components fit together was developed by a separate contractor, Kawneer Special Projects, based in the U.S.

Above the seventh floor, where the building begins to clear the surrounding buildings, Arup introduced a double-skin facade. Above the noise and carbon monoxide, it exploited the potential for natural ventilation and maximum daylighting, while remembering the client’s instructions to give tenants options. Generally, a double-skin system consists of an external screen, a ventilated cavity, and an internal screen. Solar shading is placed in the ventilated cavity. The external and internal screens can be monolithic glass or a double-glazed unit; the depth of the cavity and the type of ventilation depend on environmental conditions, the desired envelope performance, and the overall design of the building, including systems.

The ventilation in the cavity can be either natural (buoyancy driven), forced (mechanically driven), or mixed (both natural and forced). The direction of the airflow (upward or downward) depends on the type of ventilation and the general system design. The internal screen can be operable for cleaning and maintenance. Depending on the system design, an operable inner screen allows for natural ventilation of the indoor environment.

Two Plantation Place is a separate, but connected, 10-story building—a discrete element of the larger Plantation Place scheme—and it adheres to some of the principles developed for the site as a whole, while establishing a clearly distinct identity for itself. The building is linked through its entrance to established public routes. Its massing is derived from its prominent corner location and the architects’ desire to respond to the surrounding context without losing the building’s visual and functional obligation to the greater whole. The use of load-bearing masonry in the perimeter wall is an innovative approach to the energy-led requirement of minimizing glazed area in similar office buildings. In terms of environmental control, this project is much more complex than the other two. Embedded with wind and photo sensors for natural ventilation, the facades have a certain autonomy because they can operate independently from the other building systems.

These three projects show decisively that “unitized” does not mean “uniform.” Each is very different from the others. Burberry’s strategy was explicitly tied to the craftsmanship associated with the Burberry brand. The designs of George’s Quay and Performance Place, being speculative projects, were driven by client demand for flexibility and energy conservation. In virtually all cases, when “high performance” is the demand, “unitized construction” in a controlled environment will continue to be the answer.


Monday, January 30, 2006

thesis thoughts and Architectural Record articles

All the following are aticles from Architectural Record.
This post aims to exhaust Architectural Record as one source of information.

A body of articles will become the foundation of my research and will help generate specific areas of research.

The information in this post is directing me to my first precedent, John Natsasi, director of the design (build) school: Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute and Harvard. . . "sophisticated ways to build sophisticated forms".


VectorWorks Architect 12
Nemetschek North American
Windows and Mac

Improvements in the latest version of this CAD package focus on increasing productivity and the ability to work simultaneously with 2D and 3D information. One new feature, live sections, lets users slice 2D sectional views through a building, which are updated automatically as the building’s design is modified. Developers also improved built-in libraries for building elements like wall styles, doors, windows, roofs, and stairs. Enhanced compatibility with DXF and DWG files lets users share drawings and design data more easily with clients and collaborators. The software now supports 3ds format, a popular 3D file type used online, and embeds RenderWorks radiosity for realistic presentations.


Copper 2005Element Software
Windows and Mac

This Australian company recently released a Web-based project and customer-relationship-management tool that’s won over architectural clients because of its simple interface. An administrator creates or imports users, clients, contacts, and projects, and then project teams may log on. Functions and features include calendars, project time lines, and task management.


From Architectural Record, by Ken Sanders, FAIA:

"Are you doing it?" During last January's Technology in Construction conference in Orlando, Florida, designers posed that question to each other about building information modeling (BIM), long billed as the technological sine qua non for efficient and cost-effective design and construction. But most designers, it seems, are taking a wait-and-see attitude about BIM\interested in its benefits, but hesitant to adopt it unless assured of a return on the significant investment it entails. Nearly 10 years after his seminal book, The Digital Architect, was published, architect Ken Sanders weighs in on the BIM discussion.
Building information modeling (BIM) is the latest rebranding of a 25-year-old idea that architects should create intelligent 3D models instead of paper drawings to communicate design ideas and guide construction. Today, it’s hard to peruse a professional journal or an AIA practice conference agenda without reading about BIM, and software vendors and consultants continue to promote it as the solution to waste and inefficiency in building design and construction. After all, why can’t we make buildings like Boeing makes airplanes?

Yet, after decades of research, software development, and consultant evangelism, the industry has yet to reach the tipping point where a critical mass of owners, designers, and builders embrace the methodology and its use becomes commonplace. If the idea is so strong and the return on investment so attractive, why hasn't that happened? A decade ago, the technology seemed two or three years away; today, it still seems two or three years away. Like the dilemma confronting TV weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day, how and when will we awaken to a different reality?

Wheels and wings versus bricks and mortar

The design community must first recognize the differences between the design and construction industry and manufacturing industries that create mass-produced products. As software developers borrow ideas from the latter industries, they also need to recognize what makes ours unique: how its economics are different, and how creating complex, one-of-a-kind products requires a broadly distributed, specialized work effort and method of decision making.
The automobile and aerospace industries, for example, enjoy economies of scale that building design and construction don’t. Mass production allows amortization of costs: It’s easier to pay for detailed digital models, including initial and ongoing training costs for personnel, when you’re building hundreds or thousands of the products being modeled. Products that can be easily transported are more suitable for start-to-finish factory construction—but unlike airplanes or cars, the final assembly of most buildings must occur on-site. Even when architects and contractors offer services that involve customized mass production, such as implementing a new retail store prototype, they confront a dizzying array of conflicting local codes and regulations, as well as varying standards and methods of the local construction trades. Finally, and most importantly, cars and planes are the products of an integrated design-build process: The designer and builder are one and the same entity. This is rarely the case with building design and construction.
Do these differences mean that architects shouldn’t pursue new delivery methods, or investigate new technologies, or adapt ideas from other industries? Of course not. But recognizing the distinctions is an important first step.

Paving new roads

Although BIM has yet to achieve widespread use among design firms, many new buildings realize the benefits of digitally enabled manufacturing each day. A variety of building components and subsystems are factory-built using digital processes: doors and windows, carpets and fabrics, furniture systems, mechanical equipment, elevators. Although our profession has benefited from these manufacturing innovations, most architects can neither claim credit for them nor extract much value from them.
Some architects are collaborating with manufacturers to accelerate this trend. In their fascinating book Refabricating Architecture (2004), for example, architects Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake describe how increasing the size of premanufactured “chunks” of buildings, and reducing the number of assembly joints between them, can help lower costs and streamline construction.

The key prerequisite to achieving these innovations, however, is not more digital technology. It is creating new partnerships between owners, designers, and builders; developing organizational cultures and educational programs that support them; and inventing new delivery processes to leverage them. Gehry Partners is often held up as the paragon of this approach, and rightly so: The firm collaborates directly with contractors, fabricators, and suppliers in order to realize Gehry’s unique designs, and strives to overcome the legal and institutional barriers that impede the process.
Without these fundamental changes in the culture of our profession, the value opportunity of BIM will remain out of our reach. Trying to implement BIM without first focusing on organizational transformation is like trying to drive a car on an ungraded, unpaved road: It’s a long, hard slog.

Timing the market

Where is the client demand for BIM? After starting slowly during the 1980s, the adoption of 2D CAD among design firms rose quickly in the early 1990s as owners began requesting digital drawings from architects, and powerful computers became cheap and ubiquitous enough to deliver them cost-effectively. More than 10 years later, however, broad client demand for 3D building models has yet to materialize.
A modest but growing number of public and private clients, however, including GSA, Disney, and Intel, are starting to explore BIM and pursue integrated delivery approaches. Their common interest is ownership of facilities that extends beyond construction completion. Many clients wonder why designers and builders aren’t offering new delivery solutions that address the unpredictability and adversarial nature of the traditional design-bid-build process. The Construction Users Roundtable (CURT), whose objective is to maintain an “owner’s voice” in the industry, has emerged as a powerful advocate for process innovations. Since its founding four years ago, CURT has grown to include over 50 of the largest corporate clients in the U.S., including Citigroup, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, and Procter & Gamble. [Note: record publisher McGraw-Hill is a member.]

Without a strong client advocate, or an integrated approach to design and construction, BIM technologies remain difficult to leverage. It’s challenging to confront the risks inherent in implementing new processes that seem to reward one party for costs and risks incurred by another. Indeed, one might argue that it’s easier and cheaper for our profession to continue to practice using our traditional methods.
But clients are clearly asking for something different. As architects, we have a professional responsibility to learn how to package our services in collaboration with those who construct our designs; to resolve the imbalance between investment and reward; and to create an integrated solution with fewer elements of risk for all parties. The growing influence of organizations like CURT highlights this as-yet-unrealized opportunity for our profession and for builders.

New perspectives

Phil Connors escaped Groundhog Day by gaining new perspectives and discarding old habits. Many in our industry should follow his lead. The AIA and Association of General Contractors (AGC), for example, should expand their collaborative relationship, focus on their shared interests, align their lobbying efforts, and work together to dismantle the legal and institutional barriers to integrated design and construction. As a first step, the AIA and AGC should work closely with insurance providers and client groups such as CURT and merge their competing design-build agreements into a single, unified standard.
CAD software developers, including Autodesk, Bentley, and Graphisoft, should also establish new collaborative partnerships and develop consistent, reliable methods for sharing 2D and 3D data among their programs. Earlier this year, after 15 years of bitter rivalry, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems set a great example by agreeing to a new framework of interoperability between their products. Both companies responded to customers no longer willing to shoulder the cost of integrating incompatible technologies, and it’s time for CAD vendors to do the same.

The leading candidate for standardized digital building descriptions remains the Industry Foundation Class (IFC) standard, developed by the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI). [Note: record publisher McGraw-Hill was a founding member of IAI.] The IAI needs to focus on implementing standards they’ve already proposed, and recognize that rigid compliance with a one-size-fits-all solution is less important than the adoption of well-documented, flexible data-sharing protocols (“digital handshakes”) among multiple software programs.
In the meantime, architects shouldn’t wait for any of this before collaborating with their clients, consultants, and contractors to develop streamlined delivery methods using existing technology. BIM and 3D CAD aren’t necessarily prerequisites to doing so; a substantial volume of reusable data can continue to reside in 2D representations of buildings. The critical path isn’t BIM, but rather process innovation squarely focused on people, partnerships, shared expertise, and timely decision making.
With the economy on the rebound and the construction market holding steady, there has never been a better opportunity for architects, owners, and contractors to work together to reinvent and streamline the building design and delivery process. The remaining question for architects is simple: Will you lead or will you follow?


No longer just pretty pictures, digital models are becoming workhorsesSlowly, firms are starting to combine digital building models with wider-scale geospatial data and other information as they design, analyze, build, and maintain their projects.

Although global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), 3D modeling, and graphics technologies are standard tools in many design firms, architecture is still executed through a somewhat disjointed progression of 2D and 3D representations of buildings. While this is problem enough for single building projects, the resulting jumble of spatial and graphical information makes it especially hard to grasp the details of larger-scale work that involves campuses, city blocks, and urban development schemes.

Geospatial data and 3D CAD are helping KPF design London’s tallest building. The firm created this image to study the building’s impact on the neighborhood.Image: Courtesy KPF/Cityscape

But sophisticated design and graphics packages have opened up formal possibilities, while GPS, GIS systems, photogrammetry (measuring objects from photos), and laser range finders have brought greater accuracy to the measurement and representation of buildings, objects, and spaces in 3D. These tools are helping firms get a better grasp on what designs are possible, how they will fit into their neighborhoods, and how to build them. As long-time proponents of building information modeling (BIM) have long pointed out, the potential benefits of designing with a “master” 3D model (or 4D if the element of time is added) span all aspects of design and construction, from project management to maintenance to cost containment and community review. And while no single company provides a “Swiss army knife” tool for 3D design, modeling and project-management applications are becoming more interoperable, and architects are learning how to meld these tools into everyday practice. As a number of firms are finding, such models can improve design, communications, budgeting, and construction.
Using 3D to stand tall in London
In designing Bishopsgate Tower, which will be London’s tallest building at 1,008 feet high, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) has had to be keenly sensitive to the building site’s surroundings. The city has traditionally guarded the view corridors around St. Paul’s Cathedral, Parliament, and other landmarks, but recent planning decisions have made way for high-rises that some contend will block key sight lines. Because of these concerns, the tower’s design has been thoroughly analyzed and reviewed to determine its visual impact and to otherwise check its compliance with relevant codes and standards. The project was commissioned by the German developer and fund manager DIFA.

KPF created 3D models of Bishopsgate Tower in London for study and design purposes: A view of the tower from the Tate Modern Gallery across the Thames River.

On this project and others, KPF has made extensive use of 3D visualization and modeling software along with geospatial data, according to Lars Hesselgren, KPF’s London-based research director. To aid in conducting site studies, KPF worked with a 3D city model of London generated from a traditional map, photogrammetry, laser-point clouds derived from a scanning of site features, and radio triangulation data (which is similar to GPS, but uses radio signals instead of satellite transmissions to gather and transmit information).


Tech Briefs
Seismic framing technology and smart siting aid a California community collegeBy Deborah Snoonian, P.E.
Click images to see larger view
Lighting animates the health sciences building and emphasizes its angles.

Several years ago, during a seismic study of the San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) in California, engineers discovered that a portion of the San Jacinto fault, a branch of the San Andreas fault system, lay right underneath the school’s campus—endangering the integrity of nearby buildings and threatening the safety of students and faculty. With the help of design architect Steven Ehrlich Associates, along with engineers at Arup and associate architect Thomas Blurock Architects, SBVC recently opened three new buildings that employ unbonded brace frames, or buckling-resistant frames, as they’ve come to be known, a Japanese technology that’s been making inroads in U.S. seismic design for the past five to six years. The new buildings are part of a larger master plan and rebuilding effort that reflects and even celebrates the existence of the fault under SBVC’s 60-acre campus.

More strength, less material

The three new structures—a health and life sciences center, a library and learning center, and an administrative and student services building—opened earlier this year. (An arts center and campus center, also designed by Ehrlich and his collaborators, are slated for completion in 2006.) They share a common material language of structural steel, glass and metal panels, and stucco cladding; their angular, dynamic volumes, folded roof plates, and triangular forms are meant to suggest the plate tectonics of the shifting ground planes they sit on. “This was a unique opportunity for the architects and the college to change an entire campus with a consistent voice,” Ehrlich says. He and his collaborators worked closely with the SBVC community to solicit input on what the new structures should look like.
All the buildings are framed in structural steel, made in the U.S., and augmented with the buckling-resistant braces, which were made in Japan. Unlike typical structural steel braces, buckling-resistant braces perform as well in compression as they do in tension. The brace consists of a steel core, typically in a cruciform shape, slipped inside a steel sleeve or tube filled with lightweight mortar. A special coating is applied to the core steel so that it doesn’t adhere to the mortar, meaning the core can slide back and forth, much like a piston, inside the tube. When tension forces are applied, the brace can elongate like a traditional brace as the core slides within the tube. When hit with compression forces, the combination of the mortar and steel core provides enough stiffness and strength to prevent the brace from buckling, which can reduce the stiffness and strength of the entire building, leading to catastrophic collapses.
The buckling-resistant braces have other advantages, as well. They allow the structural frame to be built using less steel overall, but more important, their increased compressive strength simplifies the design of member connections and lowers the foundation’s strength requirements, says Atila Zekioglu, a principal at Arup’s Los Angeles office and the structural engineer on the SBVC project. Although the design team also considered using concrete shear walls for lateral stability, the weight and thickness necessitated by the fault’s location made them infeasible both aesthetically and technically.
The buildings are strong enough to withstand earthquake forces twice the force of gravity in the lateral direction. To put that in perspective, the buildings would be structurally sound if they were turned on their sides and acted structurally as cantilevers, Zekioglu says.

Planning for future growth

Arup’s Los Angeles office has been consulting with SBVC on seismic and geotechnical issues for more than 10 years, and the architects tapped the firm’s expertise not only for engineering the new buildings, but also for finessing tricky siting and planning issues.
As per state code, SBVC had to establish a no-build zone within 50 feet of the fault trace on each side; as a result, seven existing structures were razed. At a design charrette early in the project, Zekioglu explained to the design team that the strongest forces during an earthquake run either parallel or perpendicular to the San Jacinto fault line. He recommended that the master plan require new buildings to be aligned in these directions (rather than the existing campus grid) to reduce torsional forces on the buildings in the event of an earthquake. This decision also uses open land efficiently around the swath of the no-build zone, which is at least 150 feet wide in some areas of campus.

A changing field

The rebuilding effort at SBVC may serve as a template for the design of future buildings in seismically vulnerable regions. The three new structures are the first approved by California’s Division of the State Architect (DSA) that use buckling-resistant braces, and perhaps more critically, the first to employ performance-based seismic design rather than relying on prescriptive building codes. The codes can be troublesome because they don’t always accurately reflect what’s going on at a particular site. “At SBVC’s campus, the general seismic hazard code underestimates the severity of possible seismic activity at the campus by 100 percent,” Zekioglu says. Arup’s design experience with the new braces, which began several years ago when they used them in projects at U.C. Davis and U.C. Berkeley [record, October 2002, page 185], helped convince state officials that they’re a proven method. “Advocating any unique system requires intense investigation and collaboration,” he says, “but DSA is breaking new ground here. We’d be happy to see other projects follow suit.”


Mini-Mits XD60U
Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America
Windows and Mac

Although it’s smaller than a three-ring binder and weighs less than a half-gallon of milk, Mitsubishi’s Mini-Mits XD60U packs powerful projection capability for on-the-road presentations and slide shows.
The compact projector accepts analog, digital, and HDTV signals from laptops, desktops, and TV sets. Its bright, long-life lamp and high native resolution allow users to see crisp, sharp images and details. A password-protected security lock prevents unauthorized use at public presentation venues. At 3.3 pounds, the projector is the smallest, lightest model offered by the company.

Aerial images covering more regions are now available at
Windows and Mac

Gain a bird’s-eye view with this online imaging service. has relaunched its Web site with an expanded array of aerial photographs and an improved user interface. The new content, which includes different image sizes and formats, is a result of the company’s expanded alliances with photography providers. The revamped site also offers more efficient purchasing options.

Graphisoft has created a specially tailored software program for the residential construction market.
ArchiCAD ResidentialGraphisoft
Windows and Mac

This new application is geared to the U.S. homebuilder market and based on ArchiCAD’s existing modeling technology. The company has designed the software so that model floor plans for homes, which are common in residential construction, can be easily adapted, annotated, and saved for individual client needs. Key features include an option manager so that users can create and present variations on a single floor plan with just one click of the mouse, and a wall framing tool that simplifies the design of frames and construction schedules. A notes area lets architects and homeowners keep track of comments and changes during reviews.

Realtime visualization software is based on gaming technology.
RealtimeArup Research & Development
Windows only

Conceived by Arup Research & Development, this software allows users to model and explore 3D environments. It can adapt existing CAD data and 3D models, as well as create new models from 2D drawings, hand sketches, photographs, and a range of other source materials. Based on gaming technology, the software has been used to evaluate everything from appearance to issues such as ergonomics, access, and construction.


Virtual reality and digital modeling go on trial for a federal courtroom designBy Alan Joch

Arup tested the courtroom’s acoustics (top) and helped build 3D models for lighting and sight-line analysis (below). The team noticed a potential glare problem behind the jury box (below) during the CAVE walkthrough.

Justice may be blind, but some federal judges in Mississippi have been seeing in 3D. In recent months, they’ve been part of a pilot project launched by the General Services Administration (GSA) to use virtual reality in the design process. Twice last year, the judges donned red-and-green 3D glasses, like those from 1950s movie theaters, to view stereographic representations of their new courtroom in Jackson long before its construction. Sponsors of the pilot project hope the design team and client can flag problems with sight lines, lighting, and materials before the courtroom is built, to avoid retrofits or costly change orders.
Federal courtrooms aren’t cookie-cutter designs. Each judiciary voices preferences for room geometries and the placement of elements like the judge’s bench, counsel tables, the jury box, and the witness stand. To visualize designs prior to construction—which is key for preventing problems with sight lines among the various courtroom parties—clients typically review 2D drawings and crude plywood mock-ups costing $50,000 or more to build. Could sophisticated imaging technology create better 3D representations and reduce errors?
This question was posed by Renée Tietjen, AIA, a senior architect in the office of applied science of the GSA, which contracts with private-sector architects for federal courthouses. The Jackson project seemed well suited for a new approach. “The space was a modified ellipse, and we thought there might be some problems,” she recalls.
PC-generated walkthroughs alone aren’t sufficient to validate the design issues the team sought to resolve. “I abhor them because you’re always looking straight ahead,” says Hugh Hardy, FAIA, principal of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture of New York, the courtroom’s architect. Instead, the judges met with the design team at Disney Imagineering Studios in California—once in June 2004 to test sight lines, and once in December to assess lighting. There, a special room called a CAVE (Computer Automatic Virtual Environment) houses a wraparound screen that stereoscopically reproduced a life-size virtual model of the courtroom. Stanford University’s Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE), a virtual design research center, built the 3D model based on CAD drawings, with help from the engineering firm Arup in New York.

During the model walkthrough, courtroom elements could be rearranged based on the feedback of judges and others. After getting the judges’ response, Hardy and the GSA refined a number of design elements, including lowering the view-blocking rail on the top of the judge’s bench, and the CAVE sessions also resolved where the counsel tables would be located.
To validate the design’s acoustic characteristics, the GSA relied on a 3D sound model created by Arup Acoustics, which was tested last summer at the firm’s sound lab in New York, where judges could hear accurate simulations of speech. “If there are any problems, we can proactively work to fix them,” says Raj Patel, principal consultant at Arup. Acoustic revisions in the Jackson courtroom included changing some surface shapes and adding sound-absorbing materials to improve speech intelligibility.
Paul Marantz, the project’s lighting designer and a partner of Fisher Marantz Stone of New York, notes some of the limitations of the virtual-reality process for lighting analysis. Contrast ratios below what’s perceptible by the human eye block out shadows and highlights in the 3D environment that people would normally see in a real room. Nevertheless, because lighting isn’t evaluated at all in a plywood courtroom mock-up, Marantz feels the CAVE experience was valuable. “We were able to fix a half-dozen issues—none of which was fatal. But it gave us the opportunity to improve the design.”
Tietjen, who declines to say how much the pilot cost, says the technology proved itself as a design tool. Now the challenge lies with the GSA to streamline the feedback process. “We need to bring the technology to clients, not the clients to the technology,” she says. But for Judge William Barbour, U.S. District Court judge for the southern district of Mississippi, the jury is still out. “We won’t know if virtual reality accurately simulated the courtroom until we get through with the building,” he says. “But my initial impression is yes, it definitely did.”


Comprehensive Building Modeling
by Larry Rocha
"What happens to the cost of the building if we add 40 square meters to the lobby?" "What happens to the total height of the building if we use a steel frame instead of a cast-in-place system?" "How will changing the structural system affect the construction schedule?"
Answering these questions during design used to take days or even weeks. Using current technology, some designers are answering them in a matter of minutes or hours. This is because they create an "intelligent" digital model — which combines data and geometry — as a part of their design process. This approach is sometimes referred to as using an "integrated building model," a "virtual building model," a "single building model," or, more recently, a "building information model."
Not Just a Pretty Picture
Designers have long used three-dimensional representations as part of their analysis and communication processes. Three-dimensional computer models have been used since the 1970s. Renderings and massing models are part of many building design projects. In most conventional software systems, these 3D representations of the building are created and maintained separate from, and requiring coordination with, the 2D contract documents, or construction drawings.
Changes to a design always require coordination between the 2D and 3D representations. In conventional systems, it is the designer's responsibility to make the necessary changes to maintain consistency. With integrated models, the 2D and 3D representations come from the same dataset, so the adjustments can be automatic.
By "slicing" a virtual building, the design team can generate 2D "reports" — such as floor plans, elevations, sections — anywhere more study or clarity is needed. With the integrated building model, contract documentation can be smoothly coordinated, evolving representation of the building's design, a byproduct of the design process.


Two-dimensional design representations are largely symbolic, presenting design intent as a set of symbols and annotations that the design and construction community has come to understand as a common language. Because 2D symbols are often not literally representative of a building component's actual size and shape, there is a possibility for misunderstanding during construction. For example, a water closet symbol does not precisely represent the actual product. During installation, such imprecision can lead to interference with other objects.
An integrated building model may be built by the design team by assembling the building object by object, system by system, in a digital environment. This not only allows the designers to visualize 3D representations at any point during design, it can also enable the design and construction teams to extract, almost instantly, much richer information than they could get from 2D drawings.
Several well known firms in Europe, Japan, and the United States have worked with consultants and manufacturers using digital building models to solve complex design and construction problems on unique portions of a building. For example, Norman Foster has worked with Bentley Systems, and Frank Gehry has worked with Dassault Systemes to build extraordinary forms.
But the technology is also useful for less experimental constructions. Using an integrated building model as a design tool can push the design team to solve systems-integration problems during design, long before the project goes into construction. The potential for cost savings by reducing "errors and omissions" is huge.
This is not to say that all integrated building model design activity is necessarily conducted in 3D. Most design activity may still occur in traditional 2D views.

Building Savvy

The level of "intelligence" contained within a completed building model depends on the quantity and quality of data embedded in its objects. At the beginning of design, the design team is more likely to construct basic representations of the building, to study form and function with simple, generic representations of building objects such as walls, doors, and windows.
As the design progresses, such simple objects need to be replaced with more data-rich ones. Sometimes these objects are provided by the product manufacturer and include information such as model number, cost, weight, and scheduled delivery.
Reliance on manufacturers to provide intelligent objects for unique situations may help everyone, from owner to builder, understand the implications of specific design choices. This is a different challenge from drawing a graphic symbol with minimal data attached and simply postponing any problems or conflicts that might arise during construction.
By sharing the integrated model with consultants, builders, and owners, some design teams have taken advantage of this approach to realize significant gains in efficiency and error reduction in the field. Some have claimed estimates of up to 14 percent design and construction cost savings.

Realizing the Potential

Integrated building model tools are not necessarily more expensive or more complicated to use than more widely deployed CAD systems. In fact, these tools can be easier to learn in some ways than conventional CAD because they make coordinating 2D and 3D representations more intuitive. When using integrated 2D/3D design tools, architects can focus on design and the integration of building systems instead of on drafting. So why haven't they been more widely adopted?
In their early days, the leap from traditional manual drafting into a 2D/3D computer world was especially daunting. Also, the software and the computers to support them were expensive, sometimes costing $100,000 per seat in the days before the personal computer. Until the mid-1980s, when cheaper computers became available along with technical drafting software, hardware and software both represented serious investments.
Now, of course, most design professionals accept electronic tools as a means of delivering design projects. CAD systems are ubiquitous, and the industry is poised to accept the next generation of software. These will be design tools, not drafting tools.
There is still a simple directness available with single-purpose, design-oriented 2D drawing tools and 3D modeling tools that some designers may prefer for certain design phases. These tools stand in contrast to the potentially Swiss-Army-knife approach of an integrated building modeling system. But such distinctions may not last forever.

Real-Time Feedback

Intelligent integrated building models can give design teams instant access to relatively complex design information. Area calculations are one example of a mundane and tedious but necessary exercise that designers perform dozens of times during the course of sorting out a building program. Good building modeling tools allow the designer to derive and update area calculation results effortlessly whenever they modify the building design.
Similarly, cost information can be quickly calculated by attaching to any object the cost per length, per area, per volume, or per item. The software can count or measure the objects and insert them in a schedule, providing fast access to cost information whenever a change is made.
Decreasing the amount of time required to evaluate the effects of a design change can help designers focus more on design study, leaving the computer to perform repetitive calculations. Also under development for many years are "design agents" that perform structural, mechanical, and code analysis calculations and give the designer real-time feedback on the implications of design changes. Integrated into the comprehensive building model, such agents can be powerful design accessories.

Changing the Process

The largest obstacle to realizing the benefits of the integrated building model may lie in the complexity of changing design, documentation, and construction processes. We have learned, taught, and built industries around symbolic 2D communications. Millions of person-years of effort have been invested in developing our current systems of project documentation and delivery. All of our legal precedents are built on those methodologies.
Delivering an integrated building model instead of 2D drawings to a contractor, local building official, or client will require a major change in process and a shift in responsibility and liability. This has been a major obstacle to adoption of the integrated building model in the U.S. construction industry.
Now, however, the design and financial advantages have motivated many firms to begin the transition between old methodologies and new ones. A number of organizations (BAA, The Movement for Innovation, and the Lean Construction Institute) are forming alliances based on their use of integrated building models and other technologies.
They are challenging the very culture of the industry by having owners indemnify team members with the expectation that any remaining reservations about the feasibility of the technology will be mitigated by this shift of responsibility and liability.
These are today's pioneers; the rest will follow eventually. It has taken the industry most of a generation to make the transition from manual drafting to CAD. Some insisted that it would never happen. But it happened, just as the transition to the integrated building model will happen. Based on its potential cost and time savings, clients will demand it, and the industry will require it. Those who understand how to manage the implementation of this type of technology will have an advantage.
The comprehensive or integrated building model can help deliver on the longstanding promise that the computer can help us be more productive. More importantly, the automation of drawing coordination and building information management can give us more time to do what we like to do and what we hopefully do best — design.


Advances in manufacturing technology are bringing mass customization closer to reality for home building.
For a number years, building suppliers have manufactured made-to-order components with a high degree of automation. Now, a supplier called MF Technologies is using a CAD-driven system called MasterFit, developed in Japan, to churn out custom-cut, engineered wood frames for single- and multifamily houses.
The Minneapolis-based company opened its first fully automated U.S. plant in June 2004. Company officials tout the system’s frugal use of materials, which makes for less factory waste, as well as its ability to produce tighter frames and shells, reduce production and assembly time, and simplify labor requirements.
The MasterFit system consists of a proprietary CAD tool (an AutoCAD add-on) to which data from standard CAD files, hard-copy drawings, or sketches are added. The tool then lays out the frame and cuts studs, joists, rafters, and trusses from engineered wood using a computer numeric control (CNC) system. Frame components are labeled and shipped to building sites as a kit of parts. Because they are assembled with interlocking metal pegs and plates, the frames can be erected by construction teams with minimal training, rather than skilled laborers. (Prefabricated building panels used with the frames must be attached with nails or screws, however.)
The Albert Lea, Minnesota, factory can turn around an order in about two weeks. Once components are on-site, the shell of a 1,500-square-foot house can be erected and enclosed within three days, according to MF Technologies president Santos Martin.


Being a doormat can be a good thing

Jason Pollen stumbled into his new design process by accident. Two years ago, Pollen, the creator of fine-art textiles and chairman of the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute, organized a class trip to a local manufacturer of floor coverings to show his students how the company turned cotton into commercial products. During the tour, Pollen chanced upon the company’s 7-foot-wide, 40-foot-long industrial inkjet printing machine, which sprayed nylon-pile floor mats with permanent acid dyes—the same type of dye Pollen used in his work.

Jason Pollen (above) designs mats that are made with a digitally controlled printing process he discovered while touring a plant with his students.

The digitally controlled machine sported nozzles for 12 different colors and was capable of reproducing corporate logos and other complex design elements. Pollen’s fascination with the process was immediate. He began to picture possibilities for his own work. After convincing the company president to indulge his curiosity, “I spent a year hanging out at the plant and playing with new designs,” he says.

Architects and interior designers are beginning to use the mats in modern spaces; their durability and ease of maintenance are major selling points.

Unlike Barnes, Pollen doesn’t use custom-built software to automatically generate design options. Instead, he relies on combinations of off-the-shelf software like Photoshop, scanners, and digital control equipment that guides the inkjet printer he uses. Many of his early ideas came from physical objects he encounters in the natural world. In one case, he created a design for a floor mat called Taormina, named after the Italian seaside city, where he once found shards of glazed tile washed up on the beach. He scanned the multicolored shards into an image, edited the image in Photoshop, and ultimately developed three different variations on a basic pattern. Lately, Pollen is using a similar design process to produce a second line of mats made of a material he calls Pollenium, the rubber-mat backing with colored vinyl threads that are melted into it during the manufacturing process. The result is “a very elegant, hybrid product” without the nap of his original line, he says.
His floor mats have been springing up at museum gift shops and on the floors of contemporary interiors across the country. Pollen says he’s receiving particular interest from architects and interior designers who do “very contemporary designs, people who want to make a new statement.” Cary Goodman, FAIA, with the architectural firm Gould Evans Goodman Associates in Kansas City, says Pollen’s creations are as appealing for stone entryways as fine oriental carpets are for wood floors. “You just want to have the mats on your floor because they’re so beautiful,” he says.

Machine intelligence can’t replace know-how

Technology can’t increase a designer’s talent. Nor will digitally delivered designs replace the importance of feeling and touching a carpet or textile sample before putting it into large-scale production. Yet these case studies demonstrate the potential for technology to enable designers to be more productive and more exploratory in their everyday work. The end results—more choices, faster time to market—are welcome by-products of this evolution.


As the competition for plum appointments and perhaps a partnership at a choice firm heats up, architects look for every advantage to distinguish themselves from their colleagues. Increasingly, these competitive strengths include more than just design skills and a creative eye. Educators and principals at large architectural firms say that IT skills, if promoted correctly, can sometimes open the door to the boardroom. “The firms we are feeders to are very committed to computing,” says Dr. Mark J. Clayton, executive associate dean of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University in College Station. “There is clearly a career path for architects who focus on IT.”

Young architects are typically very computer-savvy, but just knowing how to use software won’t get them far without other crucial job skills. Photography: © Jon Feingersh/Corbis

But a basic proficiency with PCs and CAD software isn’t a rare skill set anymore. “Technical expertise is not the badge of honor it used to be,” says Ken Sanders, FAIA, vice president and chief information officer in the San Francisco office of Gensler Architecture, Design & Planning. To make an impact on progressive practices today, architects need to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of many different types of technologies. In addition to stalwarts like CAD, rendering, and modeling software, architects hoping to use technology as a fast track also must be adept with applications that streamline communications with clients, manage project schedules, and crunch return-on-investment numbers. Added points come with the ability to create Web sites, as the Internet becomes a ubiquitous communication tool for firms wanting to connect with clients and community groups. Similarly, Web technology helps practices create intranets to distribute in-house expertise to the entire staff in the form of electronic resources such as detail and image libraries, marketing materials, and project schedules.
However, IT training in itself isn’t enough. Fast-trackers also need the creativity to see how new technology can be applied to their firms and projects in innovative ways. “It’s less a skill set and more an openness and willingness to look for new ways of doing business,” says Jonathan Cohen, AIA, principal of Jonathan Cohen and Associates in Berkeley, California, and chair of the AIA’s Technology in Architecture Practice committee.

Old school lives

Unfortunately, not every architectural firm embraces technology as a strategic business tool. Firms vary widely in their views of the importance of technology and may either promote or pigeonhole technology-savvy architects. Some staid firms regard technology as an annoyance or a support function, and in those cultures, becoming “the IT guy” may be a fast path to nowhere, Cohen says.
He recalls one consulting assignment with an East Coast architectural firm that was managed by a group of founding principals approaching their 70s. This “very old-school” firm benefited from a second tier of managers who had risen through the ranks and came to understand that architectural practices were changing. “They had an inkling that technology was becoming an integral part of that practice,” Cohen says, “but they couldn’t penetrate the existing culture.” If a firm’s principals won’t listen to new ideas, lower-ranking architects may find it challenging or impossible to bring about technology-based changes, and in turn, they may not secure career rewards for their expertise. “Firms that have been successful [in the past] often cling to the oldest methods,” he adds.
On the other hand, progressive firms view IT expertise as having strategic value that pushes the boundaries of their practice to attract new clients and bring about greater work-flow efficiencies. “In firms like that, a person sits at the management table and helps set the direction of the firm,” Cohen says. “Those are the firms doing exciting things.”
By following her IT interests, Jill Rothenberg, principal and chief information officer at ADD Inc in Cambridge, Massachusetts, landed a seat in the boardroom. Joining the firm in the 1980s as a junior-level interior designer, she became involved with the IT group because of a desire to do “something new,” she recalls. A decade ago, the firm named Rothenberg head of IT, a role that eventually became an entrée into senior management. “Many architectural firms would only consider making an architect a principal,” she says. (Rothenberg herself is an architect, but given her career path, prefers not to use her AIA designation). “But technology has become integral to our practice. Because of this, the executive management values my contribution to the direction and success of the firm.”


New Gehry Technologies will enable many to boldly go where only Frank has gone beforeBy Deborah Snoonian, P.E.

Image courtesy of Gehry technologies

The expertise that made buildings like the Disney Concert Hall possible, coming soon to a studio near you.
Frank O. Gehry, FAIA, is taking his expertise to the masses. This fall marks the launch of the sidekick to his architectural practice, Gehry Technologies (GT)—a business venture he hopes will raise the level of technological fluency within architectural practice, as well as cement his legacy as one of the field's foremost innovators.
Heading the new company as chief executive officer is senior partner James Glymph, who has worked alongside Gehry for more than a decade. Dennis Shelden, Gehry Partners' director of computing, will serve as GT's chief technical officer.
The vision for GT is to create a " ‘building ecosystem' tackling innovations in construction practices and associated technologies," according to a press release. Essentially, it will be a consulting practice, providing technologies and expertise to teams who are building specific projects as well as to the industry at large. "Manufacturing industries have completely transformed the way products are designed, built, and delivered," says Glymph, "but the building industry remains entrenched in a paper-based, two-dimensional world. We realized that substantial opportunities existed in bringing advances in practice that we have discovered to the rest of the industry." He adds that faster, cheaper computers make it feasible for firms of all sizes to use the digitally driven process that Gehry follows in his practice, and that the process is suitable for a variety of project types, not just the high-end cultural buildings for which Gehry is renowned.
GT may also serve as a software developer, creating specialized interfaces or additional capabilities for existing design software such as CATIA, the aerospace program the firm has used on many projects. Such tools could be developed on a project-specific basis—a common practice in manufacturing and other industries—and then licensed for a fee to the software maker for widespread use, or sold to the company paying for the project work.
The AIA, the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF), andthe Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory have already agreed to collaborate with GT; the projects they will take on together have yet to be fully scoped. In time, the company hopes to create partnerships with the entire range of organizations that have a stake in the design and construction of the built environment.
What Glymph wants to achieve is "a fundamental reshuffling of the roles, responsibilities, and compensation structures for participants across the industry as a consequence of the digital revolution," he says. This could mean, for instance, that all participants in a construction project share the liability for its completion on time and within budget, or that project deliverables be submitted in digital rather than paper form. Many technology enthusiasts believe that requiring architects and their collaborators to rely on digital design information is a necessary step toward reestablishing the architect as a master builder, as well as shortening the time needed to design and construct buildings.
Whether the business model for GT can succeed in a down-market for design and construction services has yet to be determined—firms aren't spending on training and technology like they once were. But like many innovators, Glymph and his staff aren't cowed. "We've been pretty lonely pioneers," he says.


Hertzberger's Watervilla prototype
pushes Dutch houseboat design to new levels
By Raul Barreneche

The Watervilla, a prototype floating house designed by architect Herman Hertzberger, is supported like an oil rig, on a frame of hollow steel tubes. Inhabitants can reorient the house to optimize its solar orientation.

Photography: © Patrick Fransen

For centuries, the Dutch have shown great ingenuity in keeping the water that surrounds their low-lying country at bay. That's allowed them to preserve land on which to build housing for the dense population of the Randstad, the crescent that runs from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger has turned the idea on its head by putting houses in the water. Of course, there have always been houseboats in Holland. The architect says traditional Dutch houseboats were his inspiration, but notes that as places to live these quaint, colorful anachronisms look better than they work. They're uncomfortable—too much boat and not enough house, he says.

Hertzberger's Amsterdam-based Architectuurstudio designed its first “watervilla” back in 1986. It floated on foam-filled concrete—not exactly a traditional material. Since then, the studio changed the floating foundations from foam-filled concrete to buoyant steel tubes, inspired by off-shore oil rigs. “It was necessary to change the structural system because we wanted the house to float freely in the water and be able to change orientation,” explains project architect Patrick Franzen. The design also nearly doubled in size from 80 square meters to 156 square meters, or about 1,680 square feet. (The updated model can be expanded up to 200 square meters, while the original design was fixed.) Most important, the firm was able to build a prototype of the revised house in De Veersche Poort, located in Middelburg in southwestern Holland, which will eventually be home to six Watervillas. The developer of De Veersche Poort commissioned the prototype's construction.

Like oil rigs, the Watervilla floats on a hexagonal frame of six 10-millimeter-thick hollow steel tubes roughly 2 meters in diameter. The D-shaped pipes create enough buoyancy to support 135 tons and are engineered to keep the aquatic houses stable even in choppy waters or high winds. The floating base supports a three-story steel structural frame with steel-plate and concrete floors. The cladding is a prefabricated, low-maintenance skin of made of lightweight steel plates over the 60-centimeter-deep steel frame with foam insulation. The interior can be finished in a number of materials; Hertzberger's studio clad the interior walls in 18 centimeter-thick plywood. Prefab materials allow the house to be built on a quick four-month construction schedule.

The first floor of the prototype currently bobbing in the waters of De Veersche Poort contains two bedrooms, a bathroom, and storage space. Upstairs, via a spiral staircase, is the open living/dining room and a kitchen, all surrounded by walls of floor-to-ceiling glass. On the third level is a large open space that can be used as an office or spare bedroom. Each level has outdoor terraces. An 8-meter-long gangway provides access from shore.

The prototype includes standard (for Holland) heating and cooling systems, but future options include underfloor or wall systems; photovoltaics are another energy-saving possibility, although Franzen explains that the Middelburg villa doesn't have many high-tech bells and whistles in order to keep
costs down.

Obviously, it's possible to navigate the Watervilla to a number of different locations, as much for a change of scenery as for energy conservation: Hertzberger designed the villa to rotate 90 degrees by means of two steering wheels. The Watervilla can be moved to capture the best solar orientation, facing the warming sun in winter and away from the sun in summer to minimize heat gain. Franzen says he would recommend a small onboard motor if the owner wanted to change the home's position weekly or even daily.

So far, Watervilla is an information center—consider it a floating "model home"—but Franzen anticipates occupancy by the beginning of 2004. Franzen says the studio can't calculate the exact building cost, given the high engineering expense involved in getting a prototype off the ground (or into the water), but he anticipates that the flotation system will be costlier than earthbound foundations. He estimates future houses will cost between 2,000 and 2,500 euros per square meter—currently $218 to $273 per square foot.


GenerativeComponents softwaregives "bending the rules" a whole new meaning By Deborah Snoonian, P.E.

The California firm Morphosis is experimenting with GenerativeComponents software to design a new cultural building.
Images courtesy of Bentley, developed by Morphosis
Some architects can program computers, some programmers are architects—but having the one skill shouldn't mean having to have the other, says CAD pioneer Robert Aish, Bentley Systems' director of research. New parametric design software he has developed, GenerativeComponents (formerly CustomObjects) is poised to allow even technophobes to harness computing power for customized designs.
GenerativeComponents lets designers create rules for a project—for example, a complex stadium roof of known dimensions and curvature—and form specialized components to be used to construct it. These components then "populate" a design that's generated automatically according to the rule. If the rule changes—if the designer modifies the roof's span or curvature—so too do the shape, orientation, and behavior of all its component parts, much like changing a formula in a spreadsheet affects all the values on which that formula is based.
"This process enables architects to explore design alternatives more quickly and capture geometric relationships," says Aish. This is not the case with traditional CAD, in which elements such as walls and windows are merely graphical representations of building parts. It also differs significantly from parametric programs like Autodesk's Revit, whose chief benefit is production efficiency achieved by embedding non-design information like cost and manufacturer into well-understood building components like doors. Aish has been vetting his tool for two years with a collective he helped found, the SmartGeometry Group, whose tagline—"Architectural design with computational design tools"—elegantly articulates a fundamental challenge of the CAD era. Last summer the group convened in Cambridge, England to put the tool through its paces and to educate a larger audience of early adopters. Bentley plans to integrate Generative Components into their signature CAD program, MicroStation, in 2004.
Above all, Aish wants to introduce freedom of expression in an era of digital fabrication and mass customization. Users who want to create complex sculptural forms can still do custom programming within the software, although, "if exploring modifications to a design takes too long," he says, "you just exhaust people."