Tag Archives: practice

Architecture Computation Theory Writing

Defining “Building Information”

Students at Yale’s Architecture School are invited to propose topics for an annual journal named Perspecta. I co-authored a proposal with my classmate Raven Hardison intending to expand the theoretical background of building information modeling. I find that the discussion over its uses is largely focused on building process improvement, which is itself valuable, but only a narrow band of its potential. The nature of technologies as disruptive and immature as building simulation and information modeling is that we haven’t yet begun to imagine uses for it. See, for example, this week’s article about the Kinect hacking culture in the Times.

Since we were not selected, it seems in the spirit of things to publish the proposal in hopes that it can germinate other ideas in topics we ourselves were blind to. The original proposal included the names of proposed authors, which have been edited out.

 

 

A Failed Proposal for Perspecta 48:

BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING

Building information modeling has become fait accompli in the discipline of architecture. Sales of Revit subscriptions steadily rise, while technical facility becomes commonplace. Resignation to BIM’s inevitability has caused a critical blindness toward the nature, forms, and influence of those first two words,building information.”

For Perspecta 48, we propose to step back and investigate unresolved aspects concerning the use of knowledge in design and construction. As a metaphor for the discipline’s approach, consider the parable of the blind monks and an elephant.

A king brings a pachyderm to a few sightless monks as a test. He asks them to reach out and describe this “elephant” they had never before encountered. Unable to perceive the whole creature, each groped at different body parts and returned a correspondingly different answer, all rooted in something familiar. The tail became a whip, the body a granary, the tusk a plow, and one man declared the leg to be a column.

When the king revealed the elephant, he showed their wisdom to be burdened by two key epistemological errors: assuming one has the full scope of information on a subject and, secondly, relying on preconceptions to understanding new information. By approaching the issue from a business side and avoiding theory, the discipline has ceased examining information in a multifaceted way, as it once did.

Forty years ago, researchers like Charles Eastman and Nicholas Negroponte imagined software reminiscent of information modeling and parametricism. Over the next forty years they worked to realize these dreams. But at the same time, the scope of the theoretical aims narrowed from world order to interface to tool and finally to product. In order to produce viable software, designers had to cut back their ambitions to basic commercial goals. Speculation on the radical political uses of data or how digital tools transform our relationship to the physical have been left to coders at the margins.

To reorient the debate, Perspecta 48 looks at “building information” from five key angles. Taking a fundamental perspective, the authors in the first section will examine the epistemology of building. By this we mean what is considered constructional knowledge, and how the discipline organizes it. Another group will look at the ways simulation and dematerialization have transformed humans and their environment.

A third set explores the diverging ends of authority and participation on that building modeling is driving the profession to. Looking at the politicization of knowledge, one group will examine how information multiplies of power and raises new ethical dilemmas. Finally, one collection of essays will discuss the technical difficulties of realizing architecture with digital technologies, and even how to embrace them.

We aspire to reinvigorate the discourse about building information by revealing it to be not merely a technology, but rather as a fundamental element of architecture.

 

The proposal continues.

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Architecture Local

Washington’s Fort Circle, now in studios.

The Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service have announced a program that would create new designs for several national parks, Parks for the People. The program is a competition limited to entire studios of architecture students, who will propose designs as part of their education. In the program’s words:

Participating schools will work with park administrators to create model solutions for seven park sites in each geographic region of the U.S., and use these design paradigms to create a stronger national identity for our open space ideals. Throughout the competition, schools will have an opportunity to engage with the Park Service and its rich cultural and historic assets, including access to park leadership, in-depth encounters with park sites, and the chance to build long-term relationships with park staff and resources.

They have selected seven interesting sites, one of which is the Civil War Defenses of Washington, presumably including Fort Reno. It is the only site in a major city and the only site that is used for day-to-day recreational purposes.

Students will have to consider these uses in addition to the interpretive and conservational missions of the NPS. These parks are back yards for some people, and not just precious destinations. There hasn’t been a lot of work in terms of creating commemorative spaces that are also great places to spend time, since memorials shifted from illustrative work to psychologically engaging complexes (even as they got bigger.)

Another program related to DC that I would love to publish is Leon Krier’s Spring 2010 studio at Yale, which asked students to design a monumental replacement for the MLK library on the CityCenter site.

Architecture Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 090827: Uses

After some awesome long nights, the map of buildings is ready. This was a major hurdle in the project, so expect a slew of posts over the next few days. All I have left are the pedestrian paths, before it’s all analysis and design. So:

all

This is a figure-ground drawing of all the buildings, by use. Keep reading for breakdowns by use. read more »

Architecture planning

Biggest urban gamble of the past 20 years opens

The High Line opened today. The much-vaunted and extremely chic park built on a former railroad viaduct south of Penn Station will be a test of both urban design theories and the exceptionality of New York. Diller Scofidio + Renfro have built what appears to be a truly beautiful modern park that appeals to theorists as much as hipsters and bankers. It’s also an elevated pedestrian structure, with limited access and some other design decisions that contradict basic public space design practice. But it’s popular and it’s going to get a lot of attention; many cities are already looking to copy it. 

There hasn’t been a place in New York that deserves close  observation since the West Village in 1961. The degree to which this works could change the way governments approach marginal spaces, just as the Embarcadero and the Central Artery/Tunnel projects have show the civic potential of highway removal. We’ll just have to wait and see if this is the same.

Architecture

Three interesting things

Metropolis ran an article online discussing the unorthodox business model the firm Delle Valle Bernheimer employs. They have begun integrating development into their portfolio, realizing that controlling all elements of a project essentially cuts a lot of inefficiency from the process of getting something you care about built. In addition to giving them a high degree of control in regards to design and quality, it tempered their exuberance by bringing issues of engineering, cost, budgeting, and dealing with problems into their realm, on their bottom line.  Their strategy is not new – it’s a standard practice called design-build-operate/maintain – but this is one of the first boutique architecture firms to employ it. 

But back wen DB were just getting started, a depraved genius named Zak Smith managed to produce illustrations of each page of the book Gravity’s Rainbow. Somehow, he  managed to sit down and produce 760 works of art, in multiple media, depicting pretty much everything that happens in the book, in some way or another. I haven’t had a look at the whole thing, but the sheer amount of creativity would make an edition of Thomas Pynchon’s book with these drawings a worthwhile purchase.

And also terms of good (early) works, Metropolis has nicely been hosting blog posts about Yale’s First-year house project, where they also design-build a house for a local rent-to-own program.