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 Companyâ€™s â€śMost Innovative Architecture Firm in the Worldâ€ť in 2014, and the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewittâ€™s â€śNational Design Award for Architectureâ€ť 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 firmâ€™s methodology is a willingness to question accepted patterns of practice, coupled with the courage to expand, where necessary, beyond the architectâ€™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 Melbourneâ€™s Central Business District; the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone; the Syracuse University National Veteransâ€™ Resource Complex; and Uberâ€™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 SHoPâ€™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