About
Feedback
Login
NEWS
ORGANIZATIONS
PROJECTS
PRODUCTS
1 to 22 of 22
Sean Airhart
NBBJ returns to a 1989 Seattle project and creates a wow moment using parametric design and cardboard models. gn and cardboard models.

Parametric design and the geologic processes that formed the rock bluffs of the Puget Sound region may seem unrelated, but Seattle-based NBBJ senior associates Sarah Steen and Daniel Cockrell believe the processes share a—relative—independence from human hands. In creating a feature wall that abstracts the bluffs for the third-floor lobby renovation of the 56-story Two Union Square, also in Seattle, Steen says the designers aimed “to use technology in an unpredictable manner,” similar to the way tectonic activity is uncontrollable by humans.

The office tower, designed originally by NBBJ in 1989, features a curving reinforced concrete building core, which had been finished in a faceted wood veneer. NBBJ wrapped the core on the building's third floor in approximately 1,650 curved panels of pale travertine—selected due to its lightness in both color and weight—which were quarried and custom fabricated by the Poggi Brothers in Tivoli, Italy.

Because of the lobby’s prominence as the pinnacle of a grand staircase leading from the building’s first- and second-floor entrances, the architects saw a need for a focal point. “It just begs for something cool to be happening,” Steen says.

Instead of a surface treatment, the design team “started experimenting with something that could be part of the wall,” Steen says. They envisioned a sculptural element inspired by the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest, “sharp and angular with peaks and valleys.”

Using Grasshopper and Rhino, the NBBJ team established a set of parameters that would maximize the number of triangular sizes and shapes in order to keep them as irregular as possible. Next, they “allowed the script to connect the dots and create this network of angles,” Steen says. “That’s how we arrived at the patterning.”

The result is a nearly 20-foot-tall by 20-foot-wide 3D sculptural ribbon of 415 fractal panels that cuts diagonally across the wall plane like a mountain range. (A smaller tectonic wall feature arises near the elevator bank.) The angular stone panels emerge seamlessly from the more conventional coursing of the rectilinear wall panels, creating a monolithic central element that simultaneously feels divorced from its heft, floating above the floor. This juxtaposition is amplified by the natural banding in the stone, which was preserved meticulously by NBBJ working with the Poggi Brothers and local stonemason Synergism Stone. “It’s laid up on the wall as it [appeared coming] out of the Earth,” Steen says.

Ranging in thickness from 1¼ inches to 3¼ inches, the fractal panels are effectively pinned into place through pre-drilled holes in their top and bottom edges. The holes accommodate steel dowels welded to bent steel plates that are screwed into horizontal strapping, which, in turn, is secured to an 8-inch-wide stud wall covered with gypsum wallboard.

Though the concept of an abstracted cliff face came early, the final design required much refinement. “We did a lot of lighting experiments to make sure that we weren’t protruding from the wall too far and creating too many shadows,” Steen says. “And we did a lot of cardboard mock-ups [following the modeling]. We went analog.”

The light tests, conducted by NBBJ’s internal lighting studio, revealed that the panels, when positioned under overhead illumination from a recessed light cove, only needed to rise a maximum of 2 inches outboard to achieve the desired relief. This was fortuitous since the existing structure had to bear the additional dead load of the travertine panels.

Other design considerations came from the material restraints of the stone. The most significant deviation from NBBJ's 3D model followed the construction of a full-scale mock-up in Italy, working with the Poggi Brothers and Synergism Stone. Some triangular stone panel vertices chipped during installation. “We realized some of our acute angles were a little too fragile,” Steen says, “so we applied another parameter or two to control those acute angles.” Vertices had to be greater than 25 degrees and NBBJ specified filled travertine for panels with the most acute angles.


NBBJ ran a final mock-up with the stone on-site in Seattle, testing every aspect of the process, from fabrication to shipping to installation. Because the firm planned to preserve the natural coursing in the travertine, sp
Architect Magazine
From 89 submissions, the jury picked eight entries that prove architects can be at the helm of innovation, technology, and craft.

Do we control technology or does technology control us? Never has that question seemed more apt than now. The use of computational design, digital manufacturing, and artificial intelligence, if mismanaged, can have frightening consequences, the implications of which society is just beginning to comprehend. But the jury for ARCHITECT’s 13th annual R+D Awards was determined to accentuate the positive side of these advancements, seeking the best examples that “melded technology, craft, and problem-solving,” says Craig Curtis, FAIA.

The eight winners selected by Curtis and fellow jurors James Garrett Jr., AIA, and Carrie Strickland, FAIA, prove that designers can remain solidly in the driver’s seat despite the frenetic pace of technological developments in the building industry and beyond. “Architects are anticipating the future, helping to shape it, and giving it form,” Garrett says. “Moving forward, we are not going to be left behind. We are going to be a part of the conversation.”

JURY

Craig Curtis, FAIA, is head of architecture and interior design at Katerra, where he helped launch the now 300-plus-person design division of the Menlo Park, Calif.–based technology company and oversees the development of its configurable, prefabricated building platforms. Previously, he was a senior design partner at the Miller Hull Partnership, in Seattle.

James Garrett Jr., AIA, is founding partner of 4RM+ULA, a full-service practice based in St. Paul, Minn., that focuses on transit design and transit-oriented development. A recipient of AIA’s 2019 Young Architects Award, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, a visual artist, a writer, and an advocate for increasing diversity in architecture.

Carrie Strickland, FAIA, is founding principal of Works Progress Architecture, in Portland, Ore., where she is an expert in the design of adaptive reuse and new construction projects and works predominantly in private development. She has also taught at Portland State University and the University of Oregon, and served on AIA Portland’s board of directors.
Arion Doerr via TRI-LOX
A giant NEST has landed on the roof of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) — and it’s not for the birds. Brooklyn-based design and fabrication practice TRI-LOX created NEST, the museum’s new interactive playscape built out of reclaimed timber from the city’s rooftop water towers. Designed with parametric tools, the sustainable installation takes inspiration from the unique nests of the baya weaver birds — their nests are featured in the museum’s educational collection — and comprises an organic woven landscape with 1,800 square feet of space for open and creative play.

Opened just in time for summer, the NEST playscape at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) in Crown Heights caters to children ages 2 to 8. The woven wooden landscape is set on artificial turf and includes a climbable exterior and a series of ribbed tunnels and rooms that make up a permeable interior with entrances marked by bright blue paint. The reclaimed cedar slats not only make the structure easy to climb, but also partially obscure views for added playfulness. The top of the structure is crowned with a circular hammock area that directs views up toward the sky.

“In exploring the museum’s educational collection, we came upon a series of incredible bird nests and let them inspire our design,” said ​Alexander Bender​, co-founder and managing partner of TRI-LOX, which was commissioned by BCM through a request for proposals in mid-2017. “One nest in particular, made by the baya weaver bird, offers an intricately woven form with rooms, tunnels and multiple entries. This concept was then transformed into a climbable playscape that retains the natural materiality of the nest and tells a story of an iconic design within our vertical urban habitat — the NYC rooftop wood water tower. We quite literally brought the water tower back to the rooftop with this project … it just had to be turned into a giant nest first.”

NEST playscape is the newest focal point for the BCM, which consists of a series of architecturally significant designs befitting its title as the world’s first children’s museum. Rafael Viñoly designed the museum’s eye-catching yellow building in 2008. Seven years later, Toshiko Mori added a pavilion on the 20,000-square-foot rooftop that was complemented with lush planting plan and a boardwalk by Future Green Studio in 2017.



Dan Arnold
Complex and beautiful geometries take on sculptural form in the hands of Mario Romano. His particular brand of poetry is rooted in the language of construction. Specializing in digital fabrication yet heavily inspired by nature, Romano’s Santa Monica, California, art/design studio has pioneered architectural systems that combine parametric modeling software with CNC machining to create facades that undulate like ocean waves or emulate bird feathers.

His latest venture is M.R. Walls, large-scale interior surfaces developed in collaboration with Corian. Panels are carved with intricate and endlessly variable gradient patterns informed by a giraffe’s spots, wind-blown reeds, and other earthly touchstones. These monolithic pieces bond seamlessly and are impervious to water, bacteria, and mold. Better yet, walls can be fabricated locally from digital files, reducing lead times and transportation costs. Blending elaborate organic motifs and cutting-edge technology, Romano’s work demonstrates that the wonder of the natural world never goes out of style.

Interior Design: Your houses are known for their wild exterior shapes. Where do your ideas come from?

Mario Romano: They start from sketches and a very abstract inspiration. Then I flesh out the concept, working from the outside in. I think about creating a sculptural object that just happens to be habitable. A straight-up and boxlike structure can feel domineering, whereas organic shapes are more becoming, feminine, approachable, and inviting.

ID: How does technology affect the surfaces you create?

MR: Digital fabrication is an emergent discipline. I explore the bridge between design concept and manifestation: How do you realize a computational design in the physical world and ensure the result is reliable, functional, and priced accessibly? CNC machines are the core route, currently.

ID: What’s your process for designing and building?

MR: The digitally created house can be realized almost at the click of a button. Every piece is labeled, etched, marked, and thought out, and then gets produced on a machine. The pieces fit together puzzle-like using an assembly map, which renders the construction of these complex structures user-friendly. All the houses I designed were built by local carpenters and framers utilizing open-source construction.

ID: That seems at once extraordinarily complicated and very straightforward.

MR: There’s something beautiful about organized complexity that attracts us to incredible landmarks—whether a constellation, the Grand Canyon, or the way a tree grows. We used to think that nature was random and chaotic; now we know it’s driven by an incredible logic—one we can experience but are only just beginning to understand.

ID: Nature is obviously a big source of inspiration for you.

MR: I think it is for everyone. That’s where wonder comes from. It could be the color of someone’s eyes or the shape of a face or a body that gives us that first charge of attraction. Beauty is of incredible value; we’re driven by it, but it’s often underappreciated.

ID: What sparked M.R. Walls?

MR: I wanted to expand the design language of the wall surface. The only existing option was tile: the same shape repeated, with grout lines dictated by that form. You’re trapped by the shape of this one mass-produced object. In contrast, with M.R. Walls, unique pieces fit together to create an uninterrupted design experience that extends over a large area. People want something they haven’t seen before, that evokes mystery and intrigue. When you see a large-scale object, you wonder how it was created. No one thinks that when they see tile. This is what attracts people to marble slabs: They want a continuous slice of nature on the wall. Bookmatching stone is like putting the mountain back together—inside the house.

ID: What led to collaborating with Corian?

MR: Practice, experimentation, testing, and research. Ultimately, we developed a patent-pending software platform linked with low-level robotics; assembly is embedded into the design so there’s only one way to install the product. We then asked which material could perform the role. I also wanted to make the product accessible and affordable. With Corian solid surface, I could bond pieces to make one monolithic slab. Co
Adam Mørk / International Olympic Committee
Copenhagen studio 3XN has completed Olympic House, a new headquarters for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland.

3XN collaborated with Swiss architecture office IttenBrechbühl to create the building, which has been designed around the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) principles.

"We designed the building around five key objectives that translate the Olympic movement's core values into built form: movement, transparency, flexibility, sustainability, and collaboration," Kim Herforth Nielsen, co-founder of 3XN, told Dezeen.

Built within a public park on the shore of Lake Geneva, Olympic House stands next to 18th-century castle Château de Vidy. Created as offices for the organisation's 500 staff, many of the building's elements reference the Olympics.

"Every part of the building has a meaning," said Jan Ammundsen, head of design at 3XN.

"From the dynamic glass facade that mimics the high-powered athleticism of an Olympic athlete, to the central staircase that references the iconic Olympic rings and the spirit of international collaboration that they represent."

The five-storey building is wrapped in a glass facade, which was created using parametric design – a digital process that allows you to test various design iterations.

Appearing differently from all angles, it is intended to represent the energy of an athlete. It also allows visitors to the park to see inside the building and observe the workings of the Olympic organisation.

"The visual transparency of the building is a metaphor for the new direction of the IOC as they strive towards a greater organisational transparency, reflected in the overall structural changes initiated by the Olympic Agenda 2020," explained Nielsen.

"The glass facade allows the daily work of the building’s inhabitants to be visible from the outside, and aThe headquarters is arranged around a central atrium, with all five storeys connected by the Unity Staircase.

lso celebrates its particular location by providing stunning views of the lake beyond."

This oak staircase, which has been designed to references the five rings on the Olympic flag, is surrounded by a meeting rooms and exhibition spaces, with a cafeteria on the ground floor.

"The staircase is designed to be visual expression of unity and collaboration within the organisation and the Olympic Games," added Nielsen.

Around the central atrium the offices have been designed to follow the Olympic core values of collaboration, flexibility and movement.

"At 3XN we believe that architecture shapes behaviour – thus, we have designed the interior with as few structural constraints as possible, in order to facilitate interaction and communication among the staff," added Ammundsen.

"The offices can be easily moved though the open spaces, and workspaces can be modified to suite the ever-changing needs of the organisation."
Benjamin Benschneider
The custom acoustical ceiling, derived with the help computer modeling, is LMN Architects' first foray into fabricating a final form.

Located along one of Seattle’s most prominent cultural corridors, Octave 9 is an intimate, 2,500-square-foot experimental performance space within Benaroya Hall, home to the Seattle Symphony. Designed by local firm LMN Architects—also the authors of the original 1998 building—the venue employs cutting-edge audiovisual technologies with custom-fabricated details to achieve what the firm calls “electronic architecture”: a programmable and fluid environment largely able to accommodate the particular needs of any performance uncoupled from the room’s dimensions and materiality.

“Part of the initial efforts of the project was to figure out what does it mean for the symphony to want to be the ‘orchestra of the future,’ and how are we going to design this space to help facilitate that?” says Scott Crawford, Assoc. AIA, a principal at LMN Architects and a founding member of LMNts, the firm’s technology studio.

As a result, the venue is equipped with a digital acoustic constellation sound system from Meyer Sound that can be reconfigured and tuned by moving any of the 13 curved screens suspended from a ceiling track. But the space also needed to feel distinct, to have a visual identity that complemented its mission.

Instead of having “all the guts hanging out on the ceiling” as is common in black box theaters, Crawford says, Octave 9 features a sculptural ceiling composed of hundreds of irregularly shaped “cells” that absorb sound and conceal many of the requisite systems. The cells are made out of digitally fabricated acoustical panels ranging in depth from 4 inches to 16 inches. (The ceiling is mostly between 8 feet and 9 feet high.) Felt-like in appearance and touch, the panels are actually PET plastic sourced from the local company Snap-Tex and contain up to 60 percent recycled content. The cells join together like puzzle pieces, forming approximately 6-foot-square modules that hang from a Unistrut system.

LMN’s design approach continues a line of inquiry involving parametric modeling that it first explored at the University of Iowa’s Voxman Music Building, in 2016. But the smaller Octave 9 project is far more complex due to its unique program and existing structural constraints; for example, a load-bearing column sits a few feet from the middle of the performance space.

The biomorphic form of Octave 9’s ceiling was also derived from the underlying grid of several audiovisual systems, such as lights and microphones, combined with the radial configuration of special projectors and a few hands-on designer tweaks. Using Grasshopper and the gist of a Voronoi diagram, the design team assigned every element in the audiovisual system a minimum amount of clearance and allowed those diametrical assignments to exert a certain amount of pressure. “The projectors put more ‘pressure’ on the area around them, which causes the cell to inflate and compress the ones around it,” says Crawford, who developed the algorithm. “The microphones exert very little pressure, because, in the end, they’re smaller in diameter than your pinkie.”

In this way, the ceiling’s 3D, cell-like shapes were not designed so much as generated. Its intricate pattern was never actually drawn. “The locations [of systems] and the geometry of the beams in the space directly influence the formation of the undulating surface on the underside of the ceiling,” Crawford says, and the final form “emerged out of the simulations that we were running.”

The project also offered another first for LMN: the opportunity to fabricate the final acoustical product. “[W]e decided that we were going to build it ourselves, not only because we thought it would help streamline the design-to-fabrication process, but also because it would be a good learning process for us,” Crawford says.

The team underestimated how much they would learn. The architects had created drawings of each individual cell in its “unfolded” state, creating long geometric panels that could be CNC-milled from Snap-Tex’s standard 4-foot-by-8-foot, 0.5-inch-thick sheets. The shortest panel was just 3.25 feet. The longest run, which ganged two sections, was 10.5 feet. Using Grasshopper, the team could fit up to seven panels per sheet.

During a six-week takeover of LMN’s in-house fabrication shop, the designers ran into innumerable challenges. For instance, the CNC machine
Faulders Studio
Despite rising fears of a diminished role for architecture in new construction, Faulders Studio principal Thom Faulders embraces his role as a building envelope specialist.

As the AEC industry increasingly moves toward specialization and compartmentalization of building design, many fear for architecture’s diminishing role in the built environment. “The multiple foci at the core of specialization have given rise to a world that is advancing while fragmenting,” wrote architects Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, in Refabricating Architecture (McGraw-Hill, 2004). “We applaud the advancement, but deplore a fragmentation that is no longer unavoidable and so needlessly diminishes architecture.”

A common complaint among architects involved in speculative developments, for example, is that their creativity is often relegated to the façade while other stakeholders design the building structure, services, and interiors. This restrained scope contrasts sharply with the responsibilities of the premodern master builder, who directed all aspects of a building’s design and construction. While the sense of loss due to diminished agency is understandable, architects’ apprehension in this case also suggests a disdain for building envelope design as a self-contained practice, or as a purely ornamental form of design.

Thom Faulders, principal of Oakland, Calif.–based Faulders Studio, offers an alternative perspective. Rather than viewing envelope design as a limitation, he sees it as an opportunity. Over the studio’s 22-plus year tenure, Faulders has amassed a notable collection of façade-dominant projects, including the multilayered skin of the Airspace Tokyo multifamily building and the mineral-accreting Geotube Tower proposal in Dubai. “It stands to reason that a higher percentage of an urban population will have some kind of experience or engagement with a building's façade, much greater than the percentage of those occupying a building's spaces contained within,” Faulders notes. “In this framework, I don't see being relegated to working on the outside of a building as being a limiting factor for the architect."

Although Faulders Studio is not a façade consultancy in the traditional sense, the office continues to push the expressive potential of the building envelope, most recently with Wynwood Garage façade in Miami. Designed by local firm Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners Architecture, the 250,000-square-foot, eight-story parking garage includes ground-level retail and a single level of commercial offices at top. Located within Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, a creative destination known for its street art collection, the Wynwood Garage possesses ample surface area for making a dramatic statement in dialogue with its context. Given the commission to design the building’s façade, Faulders created a visually striking urban canvas with perforated aluminum panels. A high-contrast pattern vaguely reminiscent of soap bubbles contained within a box (although more angular and distorted) connects the building’s many floors while obscuring the individual parking levels from the outside. Thin aluminum panels protrude from the seams between the “bubbles,” adding visual depth to the surface.

“Here, surface touches space in all directions, and like the shared membranes of foams and bubbles, the building skin is in direct contact to the proximities of interior and exterior spaces,” Faulders says. The lack of repetition and multiscalar qualities of the pattern distort the viewer’s comprehension of the building program and size. The pattern also adjusts with the height above ground: “Delineated outlines are more expansive higher up, and address visual registration from a distance,” Faulders explains. "At closer proximities the façade’s pattern blends with the urban texture of the neighborhood; and nearer to street level, focused areas of articulation guide the eye downward to pedestrian street activities.” The envelope design intentionally lacks a sense of closure; it is what Faulders describes as “an open-ended condition that is never at rest.”

In a metropolitan setting like Miami, Faulders considers the cladding to be an urban project first and an architectural project second. This approach was promoted in the 1960s by late British architect Cedric Price, who recognized the inherent uncertainty of the built environment—and its relationship to its original programs—over time. “Inbuilt flexibility or its alternative, planned obsolescence, can be satisfactorily achieved only if the time factor is incl
Autodesk
Philippe Starck collaborated with an algorithm to design this chair, which will go on sale soon.

This summer, the furniture company Kartell will start selling chairs designed in a collaboration between the famed French designer Philippe Starck and an algorithm.

Generative design describes a process in which a designer defines technical constraints, like weight, strength, and stipulations for manufacturing, through a computer program; then an algorithm comes up with designs that fit all of the designers’ specifications. The software company Autodesk has been working on generative design for years, and when Starck approached the company with the idea of doing a project, the group decided to use Autodesk’s experimental generative design software platform to create a chair using as little material as possible. That meant inputting Starck’s creative vision and the technical constraints of the injection molding process to Autodesk’s software, which dreamed up hundreds of different chairs before Starck settled on one design–soon to be mass-manufactured this year.

The final design, which looks almost organic, with small tendrils acting as supports in unexpected places, is called “A.I.,” named so because the chair is a collaboration between a human and machine.

Over the past few years, Autodesk has worked with technical experts on generative design projects, but A.I. is unique to those conceptual proposals. None of Autodesk’s previous generative projects–like creating a space lander for NASA, car parts for GM, and a proof-of-concept super-light airplane cabin seat–have made it to market. Instead, they act as experiments to show off the company’s technology and help it design for more futuristic scenarios, unlike A.I., which is being produced within just a few months. Likewise, one of Starck’s concerns–that, ultimately, the chair was beautiful–doesn’t usually come up in more engineering-focused applications for generative design. “Those are very different requirements versus the performance-driven engineering requirements that we’re used to talking about, whether it’s high-performance motor sports or aerospace,” says Mark Davis, senior director of design futures at Autodesk.

Using software creatively comes with its own challenges. Davis says that Starck had high expectations of the software; he imagined being able to “just say what he wanted or describe what he wanted and out it would pop on the other end,” as Davis puts it. But generative design, and software that enables it, is still in its early stages, and the design process required much more human input than something made purely by a computer. As a result, much of the design work was done by people, who piggybacked on the software’s organic formulations–similar to the way machine learning algorithms are used in other creative situations. An animation of some of the different iterations shows just how mangled some of the tool’s ideas were before humans went in and refined them with clean lines, symmetry, and balance. Similarly, the software can’t do things like design chairs to be stackable, so people had to manually ensure that the finished chair would be able to stack.

While Davis’s idea for what generative design could eventually do sounds relatively similar to what industrial designers do today, that technology is still a long way off. Humans are much more creative than robots, and may always be. Still, one day, star designers like Starck may only need an algorithm to do their grunt work.


Champs-sur-Marne
In 2016, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech has established an advanced masters program with a focus on digital fabrication and robotics. Currently recruiting for its fourth installment, the Design by Data Advanced Masters Program appeals to architects, engineers, and tech-oriented designers. Since its launch in 2016, the program’s director Francesco Cingolani has sought to shape the relationship between architecture and technology by creating a cross-disciplinary culture between the two.

As previously mentioned on Archdaily, students study the main components of the program - computational design, digital culture and design, and additive manufacturing and robotic fabrication - throughout the 12-month program to fulfill Design by Data’s main objectives while working with peers in a dynamic learning environment. While providing each participant with both technical skills and an aesthetic eye, the program ensures students will also gain critical knowledge of current innovative trends and ongoing research. By exposing them to technology through hands-on use of tools of digital fabrication, the program will teach students to approach design through a process-oriented lens.

"Computational design, to me, is a completely new way of thinking about architecture and design that merges digital arts and engineering. Computational design is mainly about how we can use algorithms, mathematics, and generative thinking to create a novelty of architecture and object with complex geometries that are not standard.” --Francesco Cingolani, co-founder the Design by Data Program.

The program created a Makerspace, an interdisciplinary learning platform for prototyping. Makerspace "fosters interdisciplinarity between the various fields of expertise represented in the school and in neighboring schools." According to Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, students develop transferable skills in various disciplines by making and coding. They view the "Designer-Builder" "in this environment as a strategist, capable of conceiving and leading new methodologies for problem-solving."
Lake|Flato Architects and Matsys Design
The start of a new year may be the impetus you needed to reassess professional priorities and investments for the near and long term. Continuing our annual tradition of identifying technologies and business strategies to set you and your firm up for success, ARCHITECT asked nine digital leaders in tech-forward practices across the country to identify the changes they anticipate in the design profession. To gauge whether they're walking the walk, we also asked them to summarize what they've resolved to accomplish in 2019, with (imaginary) bonus points for brevity.

Map the Invisible and the Invaluable

Fred Perpall, FAIA
Chief executive officer, The Beck Group, Dallas


Prediction: In 2019, we’ll see firms learn how to use data more effectively. It is a challenge to accurately predict the length of time a task takes, yet every day we take leaps of faith and sign ourselves up for projects that may be impossible to achieve. It is no secret that our industry has been historically slow to adopt technology and tech driven practices. Often, we rely on gut instinct rather than using readily available data to make informed decisions to improve projects. Some of this is a cultural problem but it is also a challenge to understand what to do with data.

At Beck, we’ve developed in-house applications that use historical data and BIM to advise clients on what is possible when it comes to a project’s design, cost, and duration with a high surety factor. We recently used this practice during the planning phase of a project with a large university and determined the deadline to complete the project was not enough time. Because we were in planning, we course-corrected the schedule before time and money became an issue, all thanks to data and our technology.

Resolution: We’re putting prefabrication practices into our design workflow. We recently established a facility and are scaling towards prefabricated solutions.

Andrea Love, AIA
Principal and director of building science, Payette, Boston


Prediction: Architects are on the precipice of embracing big data and leveraging it to inform design. I see this more and more across a number of aspects of architectural design, whether it be programmatic or performance data. In my world of building science, we are at this interesting juncture in computing abilities and tool availability where you can now, say, set up an energy m
AECbytes
SHoP Architects, a young, award-winning architecture firm with an innovative design approach, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.

What is the history and background of the firm?

SHoP Architects was founded twenty years ago to harness the power of diverse expertise in the design of buildings and environments that improve the quality of public life. Our inclusive, open-minded process allows us to effectively address a broad range of issues in our work: from novel programmatic concepts, to next-generation fabrication and delivery techniques, to beautifully crafted spaces that precisely suit their functions. Years ago, we set out to prove that intelligent, evocative architecture can be made with real-world constraints. Today, our interdisciplinary staff of 180 is implementing that idea at critical sites around the world. We are proud that our studio has been recognized with awards such as Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World” in 2014, and the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt’s “National Design Award for Architecture” in 2009.

What is the firm's current focus? What are the key projects it is working on?

Since 1996, SHoP has modelled a new way forward with our unconventional approach to design. At the heart of the firm’s methodology is a willingness to question accepted patterns of practice, coupled with the courage to expand, where necessary, beyond the architect’s traditional roles. We are proud to have worked with clients such as Google, Goldman Sachs, and the United States Department of State. A snapshot of our current work includes a 1,400 ft Manhattan skyscraper at 111 W57th Street; the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York; 447 Collins, located in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District; the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone; the Syracuse University National Veterans’ Resource Complex; and Uber’s new headquarter offices in San Francisco (Figure 1).

When did the firm start using AEC technology, and how is it being used today? How important is AEC technology to the firm?

At the heart of our process is set of evolving tools and techniques that have come to be known as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). In a multi-dimensional environment, VDC is the process of digitally simulating the complexities of a design project under the lens of construction processes. This can include geometric rationalization, systems development/fabrication, logistics analysis and cost estimation, from concept through construction (or fabrication through assembly). The VDC workflow leverages emerging, cloud-based technologies to promote collaboration throughout all phases of design, production and building operation. SHoP has been a long-time pioneer of building information modeling (BIM), bolstered by Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) processes, a focus which has resulted in unparalleled architectural results under challenging delivery environments. SHoP identity has always embraced technology as a means to magnify creativity without sacrificing rigorous quality standards. SHoP views technology as a tool to embolden the rich nature of human collaboration. Some examples of SHoP’s technology implementation are shown in Figures 2, 3, and 4.

Does the firm have a specific approach and/or philosophy to AEC technology? If so, what is it?

For nearly two decades, SHoP has pioneered architectural design, encouraging owners, architects and contractors alike to form strategic relationships and deliver built work. The reason we do this is simple. By demystifying the process of construction, by presenting complex processes in a manner that even non-specialists can immediately comprehend, we can access the knowledge of every stakeholder in real-time. The result is broader, more fruitful, more fluid, and far more equitable collaborations. And that means better-performing buildings.

What are some of the main challenges the firm faces in its implementation of AEC technology?

A major challenge is that the standard AEC toolkit is not robust enough to facilitate the federated way that we should be working. We should have much more control over the pieces, parts and products, and their respective lifecycles, within a portfolio of projects. The platform should facilitate parallel processing as opposed to a linear construction. Our design work, in collaboration with all trades and stakeholders, should result in a digital twin of the project that can be meaningfully leveraged for the delivery of the project. Traditional