Sunday, February 5, 2012

field trip response.

Last Wednesday morning, our IAR 311 class met at the Freelon Group architecture firm in Durham, after which we toured one of its projects: the Durham County South Regional Library. It was a noteworthy experience to visit a real design firm and to hear firsthand about its inner workings. We gathered in the conference room, where the firm's two interior designers took some time to discuss the scope of their responsibilities. The two of them collaborate to design the interiors of the Freelon Group's building projects. The firm's work is clean, simplistic, and practical. I especially appreciate the library design's focus on sustainability and on accommodating the needs of children. The simplicity of its interior form is complemented by materials and finishes that add warmth and vibrant color. Large expanses of glass on the building's facades fill its interior spaces with natural light, enhancing an open and uplifting atmosphere. As a class, we have been working on modeling the library in Revit, and it was insightful to be able to experience the space in person rather than through bland construction drawings.

The design projects that our guest speaker Paula Carr showed us earlier in the semester appeared to demonstrate a more artistic, sculptural approach to design. Paula is an interior designer for TVS Design. Regarding design process and strategies, she gave some meaningful tips. Among them were the importance of learning to sketch quickly in order to communicate ideas; focusing on the most important elements first; generating a concept early in the design process; and keeping a holistic viewpoint. After seeing the design projects she presented, I found that I was able to further solidify my own preferences through an examination of aspects that I appreciated and those I was not as fond of.

Exposure to the projects and processes of actual design firms was helpful in understanding the career possibilities available to us after graduation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Assignment 2: Building Information Modeling

Response to “Understanding BIM”

In parametric modeling, a designer uses a computer program to create virtual objects that have real-world qualities. Components within the computer program interact in a realistic manner. Because all data can be stored in a single file containing a single “three-dimensional” model, there is no disconnect among different elements of a project. For example, when information is changed in one view, it is automatically updated in all other views. Construction drawings and project data are intrinsically tied to the “three-dimensional” model and therefore updated automatically whenever the model is altered.

Revit, a building information modeling (BIM) program, is quite different from other computer programs such as AutoCAD, Rhinoceros, and SketchUp. In AutoCAD, a project is represented by abstract, two-dimensional lines, shapes, and colors. Various drawings describing a single project must be generated separately from each other; their properties are not governed by a single, consolidated, “three-dimensional” model. Thus, a section or elevation drawing is not updated automatically when information is altered in a floor plan drawing. In Rhinoceros and SketchUp, information appears “three-dimensionally” in a single digital model, but is nonetheless represented by abstract geometry instead of separate, information-rich components. A “wall” or a “roof” is not recognized as such.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Response to “Computing in Architectural Design”

In chapter four of his book Architecture’s New Media: Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design, author Yehuda Kalay begins by describing computation as it has related to the field of architecture throughout various times in history. Intelligent and efficient computational methods were most certainly necessary for the construction of architecture in pre-Renaissance times; however, computational methods and tools became particularly crucial during the Renaissance, when architects obsessed over “perfect” architectural forms and how they related to the geometry of the human figure (expressed in the Vitruvian ideal). Hand tools such as compasses and straightedges were critical in the execution of precise work.

Computer-aided design emerged in the twentieth century and was first applied to architectural purposes as a means for engineering analysis. Gradually, the role of the computer evolved to become not merely a tool to simplify and expedite the design process, but also a way to visually represent design deliverables such as construction and perspective drawings. Most importantly, computer technology has matured to become a crucial contributor to the nature of finished designs. In other words, it has been advanced to the extent that it can actually influence the development of a designer’s thought process and work. This decades-long transformation can be seen in the development of first-, second-, and third-generation computer-aided design systems. The author explains an interesting phenomenon in CAD developmental history by observing a distinction between first-generation systems as “building design systems” and second-generation systems as “drafting and modeling systems.” In other words, “the emphasis on the unique attributes of buildings was sacrificed for the sake of generality. … Architects thus gained computer-assisted drafting and rendering capabilities but lost the analytical capabilities that formed the basis for the introduction of computing into the profession in the first place” (Kalay, 70). Third-generation CAD systems have since resolved this problem with the reintroduction of these analytical capabilities, and have far surpassed the influence of first-generation systems as computer technology has become increasingly more capable and intelligent.

In addition to providing historical information on the development of CAD systems, the author analyzes the various roles of computing in architectural design. The author observes two basic ways of viewing the development of computer-aided design as it relates to architecture; it can be viewed firstly as “the search for technology that can fulfill certain preconceived roles” or secondly as “the search for the most appropriate role, or combination of roles, that technology can play in the architectural design process” (Kalay, 74). As design tools, computers cater to a designer’s needs by operating as instruments that enhance his or her ability to execute work in an accurate and timely manner. As a means of communication, computers are invaluable as tools to provide connections among individual designers and therefore ideas. Computers as design assistants contribute to the simplification of the design process, replacing human minds in the execution of tasks considered more “mundane;” as an extension, they can also exceed the capabilities of human designers. The author also explains three ways in which computer technology has altered various environments. More than simply tools, computers have become design environments, indicated by a designer’s need to work “within” the computer. The influence of computer technology has also continued to seep into the physical realm by constituting habitable physical environments via “computer-controlled temperature, humidity, and lighting, security systems, elevators and doors, even electronic building ‘skins’ … creating seamlessly networked and ever changing electronic landscapes” (Kalay, 79). Thirdly, computers have played a unique role in the development of virtual environments, exemplified by the Internet phenomenon known as “cyberspace.” This role of computers represents a radical shift in the way human beings have come to experience the world and their interactions with others. We exist at a unique position in history as observers of and participants in a new iteration of metaphysical existence, one that continues to have a profound effect on numerous aspects of our everyday lives.

Source cited:

Kalay, Yehuda E. Architecture’s New Media: Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design. The MIT Press, 2004.