• Field Notes 15.05.2014

    Is anyone else tired of having to upgrade software?  Getting used to the Windows ribbons was a bit of a stretch when Office 2010 came out. For AutoCAD, the first thing I do for any upgrade is go to the “classic” toolbars, since I can’t find half the ribbon buttons I need. This problem was brought to the fore when my family’s personal finance software (which we’ve had since 1986, using version 1.1, I think) stopped letting me download bank transactions. And so, kicking and screaming, I’m having to go to the latest version even though the “old” version came out only three years ago.

    Is that the classic definition of planned obsolescence, or what? When I mentioned this in passing to a friend, he said I need to upgrade my brick cell phone, too. That’s not the problem, since I never had a brick. Getting the pull out antenna replaced on my flip-phone, now THAT’s a problem.

    My grandmother used a ringer washer long after electric washers with spin cycles (and dryers) became common. She didn’t give it up until my grandfather refused to repair the old ringer washer any longer, and he bought a new washer and dryer. If she could have found her old washboard, she probably would have never used the new-fangled machines.

    Before you think I’ve completely lost it, these lessons were apparent in a couple of other takeaways from the Facades+ conference I attended in NYC a couple of weeks ago.  Links to some of the presentations I mentioned in my last blog post are on this website: http://facadesplus.com/2014-2/

    I referenced Joshua Prince-Ramus / REX’s presentation in the last blog about slumped glass. And, when I went to review it, noticed he ran out of time and didn’t get to the last part of the presentation, which was a shading sculpture for the Nasher Museum in Dallas. It’s about 50-60 feet tall and meant to block the reflected light off the nearby tower, thereby returning Renzo Piano’s directional, coffered ceiling filigree to its original functionality. I don’t know if anyone will buy into it, or who will pay for it. It doesn’t make any changes to the tower, which is what the museum originally wanted, nor does it require changes to the museum, which the tower owners offered to help pay for, but which the museum was not willing to accept. Nor, does this sculpture protect or shade the museum’s sculpture garden which was having problems with the reflected light killing the landscaping. Interesting concept, stay tuned.

    Another presentation was called “Architecture Unplugged,” by Doris Sung, in which she started by pointing out that indigenous architecture is completely independent of any power requirements. Think of an igloo or a teepee. No HVAC, no electrical outlets every eight feet around the walls. What happens when “modern” residential condominium owner can’t get up and down from their unit if there’s no power to run the elevators? You think a third-story walkup is bad? What about a unit on the 10th floor? Or higher?

    This architect started looking at biology (her undergrad major before getting a degree in architecture) and made some observations about the body’s skin:  how when we’re working or exercising, the pores open up, and help cool us. And then taking those types of lessons and applying them to a facade, allowing a self-controlled ventilating and shading device based on its reaction to available sunlight.  Her presentation then showed what they were able to do with a material they discovered that changes shape in the presence of heat. Great out-of-the-box thinking, with absolutely no human-supplied power required to operate it—it’s a dynamic, complex facade made simple.

    Lastly, attending a software class, I walked out wishing I was 40 years younger and was just coming into learning about these programs.  As revolutionary as moving from the drawing board to computer was for drafting, I’ve said before moving from computer drafting to 3D electronic models for buildings would be just as dynamic a change. That pales in comparison to what the software developers are now doing.

    By taking a section of a complex façade design in the schematic design phase and applying some complex, but simple to write logic diagrams, the software analyzed the wall based on those arguments, then reconfigured the wall accordingly.

    For example, if a complex shingle-like metal skin has to be made up of a maximum raw sheet size of say 48-by-96 inches, or for return legs on the finished panel reduced the “finished” size of the completed panel, or there was a pattern embossed in the panel that needed to be oriented in a specific direction,  or all of the above, the logic program would then modify the wall design to these constraints, and through multiple variations, show where those constrains could or could not be met.  And, if they couldn’t be met, then maybe the design has to be changed or tightened. The “acceptable” solution, one found to be the closest to the architect’s intent, then could be applied to the whole wall.

    But, these variations could be simply executed and modeled in real time, and wouldn’t require sitting there and waiting even a minute for the software to compute all possible solutions. A far cry from old-time programing, writing Fortran programs, keypunching the cards, running the program and waiting a day or two for the results, with only a limited number of variations.

    For flat walls, you might not need this kind of problem solving tool. But, can you imagine how it would simplify a complex, curved, spherical, or other 3D skin? The software is applicable to framing, not just glass or infill panels. Heaven help us deal with these projects as they come through the pipe. When you see one of these models come across as part of the construction documents, take an afternoon off and pay a visit to the architect’s office, if they’re local to your business, and ask for a walk-thru on how they got the skin the way it is.  If nothing else, it’ll knock your socks off to see what they’re doing with the available software.  Heck, by the time this blog is posted, the software probably has to be upgraded….

    Posted by Blogger @ 1:48 pm

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