Sunday, June 25, 2006

People Talking about Architecture - 06.29.2006

Multiple Speakers - Building Futures Summer Debate: The Future of Beauty
6:30 PM - Building Design Partnership, (16 Brewhouse Yard)
Sean Griffths (of FAT), Robert Adam (of Robert Adam Architects), Will Alsop (of SMC Alsop), Patrick Keiller (of RCA), and Sarah Wigglesworth (of Sarah Wigglesworth Architects) will talk about the many ways critics have justified and given meaning to the design of buildings and environments. Then they plan to question if this is the way it should be. From the description, "Shouldn’t making buildings and environments beautiful be a key task for the architects and the other design professionals and parties involved in creating the built environment? Isn’t “what buildings look like” a key communicational interface between a building and, not only its users, but also the public at large, for whom it creates a piece of the environment they inhabit, even if they never actually enter the building in question?"


Blogger phil henshaw said...

It's interesting that I saw the same presentation and didn't get the question from the panel of whether conventional architectural practice was over. I think BIM will become indispensable for some things, but for most of the task of design is a real nuisance, a sort of cyclotron pencil sharpener. The main message I got, though, is that the visionaries want BIM to become an opportunity for architects to reaffirm their central role in the building process.

What I find a nuisance about it is that I used to just draw some squiggly lines and call them something suggestive, and let 'means and methods' mysteriously transform them into beams and plaster and bent metal, etc. Now the tool insists on having everything so completely described a machine could build it. There's a long list of good things about that, but it means inputting a lot more information. The main reason is that a real building is exceedingly more complex than any set of documents ever was before, and the BIM promoters think we're on the way to completely modeling buildings!

Some places I think the extra information is pointless and makes changing things much more complicated than making them in the first place. Making changes easier to propagate was one of the main 'solutions' I've heard that is supposed to make the architectural job easier. I think the opposite is more likely except for some special categories of work. Having to figure out everything in design development makes you figure out a lot more than you ever did before, each time.

Another thing the increased information requirement does is bring vendors and sub-contractors on the job before there are any bid documents. That's been going on for some time, since the products we use have required more learning to know how to use. But I think it's a bad direction for cost and open competition. In order to tell them *exactly* how to build, preparing most of their shop drawings for them, they first have to tell you *exactly* how they'd want to do it, and have to talk to you before they officially get the work. The coordination that used to be such a huge headache for them can be incorporated in the design at the same time the architect is searching to understand the user's real experience of the space. The owners like that too, because they don't get the surprise costs of solving the problems of uncoordinated design documents.

Architects are just such suckers for unfunded mandates though! I count three huge ones in just ten years, ADA, sustainability, and now BIM. Are we getting better fees?

Of course, what the tool does best for architects is as a fabrication tool, for the kinds of sculptural and geometric design that could not be built any other way. That's not a lot of what architects do though. It sure would be nice for architects to give the engineering trades a useful coordination model, though, but the trick is to figure out how to keep from having to pre-build every detail they don't care about to accomplish that.

12:04 AM  

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