Introduction to Maya

From TOI-Pedia

What is Maya?

Highly accurate 3D digital model

Why using 3D digital models in architecture? Technical drawings are the main form of communication of the design in the design process. As the design and construction environment is highly fragmented, the 2D technical drawing will provide a means of transferring data between the different specialists and actors in the design process. Due to the continuing specialization, legislation and industrialisation of the design and construction process the drawing load is growing. The large amount of data required to construct a building generates however its own problems. Due to the effect that the design is described as a set 2D drawings representing a 3 dimensional shape alterations of the 3D object will have to be implemented in a variety of 2D drawings. With the importance of the 2D drawing in the building process these processes of checking drawings and alter them will increase with the complexity of the design. This method of representation however depends on the accuracy and completeness of the 2D description of the 3D object. Known issues of missed alterations in one part of the set of drawings and incomplete sets cause major problems in the building process adding to the building costs. Defining the design in 3D avoids a major part of these problems. As the representation is as it is, misinterpretation decreases and adjustments take place in context of the rest of the design model thereby enhancing the insight in the whole design and the effect of design decisions. Although the majority of the projects still are defined by the 2D drawing the use of 3D models are more and more implemented.

Digital manufacturing

It is not only implemented as a way of communication however. The most known application of the 3D architectural model is the visualisation of the design. Not only can this application be used for acquisition, but also as a tool for simulating architectural design decisions, for example the choice of a cladding material. Depending on the accuracy the 3D model can be used as a basis for simulation and analysis. With the design 3D digitally defined it becomes possible to tap in the vast array of digital visualisation, simulation and analysis tools in order to support the design process. The application of 3D digital models can extend beyond the design process and enter the manufacturing process with the possibility of digital manufacturing of building components or rapid prototyping of design solutions. Much of the described techniques are already commonplace in other industries.

With this access to a range of tools based on 3D digital information this form of representation will gain in importance in architecture like in other industries.

‎XXL: A.van Hees, J.Breider, B.Meijerman, E.den Hartog, C.Leung, M.Flint, S.Mulders

We use Maya for a number of reasons. As the software is used in a variety of courses the flexibility, power of model engines and structure makes it an effective tool for design and communication. History based modelling will effectively support the concept design phase, where the different geometry types can support a range of different architectural forms. With the option of animation and dynamics more advanced conceptual architectural design approaches can be supported based on time and complex relations of design propositions. Flexibility of the applied tool is a main asset in design. Not only for the designer to explore a range of concepts and forms but also to go beyond the capabilities of the offered program by scripting ( programming) customized tools. This customization enhances the design freedom and give the designer a powerful tool in the process of search and exploration.

So what is Maya?

Simply put, it's a computer program that enables you to create advanced virtual 3d models.

But to be more precise, Maya software is an open and integrated 3D modelling, animation, effects and rendering application.

This means that with Maya you can:

  • Create virtual 3D objects (modelling)
  • Animate objects (animation)
  • Add effects to the 3d model (effects)
  • Calculate light behaviour (rendering)
  • Customize tools (scripting)
  • Export the data to another program or machine (communication)

Although the program originated from the film industry, the companies who originally designed the software have a strong relation with advanced design software as they also produce Studio and AutoStudio software which are the standard in industrial and car design. To get an idea what Maya can do, just look at the special effects in recent movies like 'The Chronicles of Narnia', 'War of the Worlds' and 'King Kong'. Besides movies, Maya is also widely used as a modelling and rendering tool by artists, designers and architects.

Do and learn

If you want to learn how to use Maya it's essential that you don't just 'read the manual', but really put into practise what you've read about. There's so much information and you will never remember it all unless you use it. Getting good at Maya also has a lot to do with getting skill and that can only be acquired by just doing it. In the beginning everything will be difficult and the modelling etc. will be slow, but this will get better and the more you use Maya, the more sense it will all make and you will get better at understanding how the program works and is build up. That's why the TOI-pedia has been set-up with tutorials and assignments that you can use to test and put into practice what has been discussed.

How to use Maya in the architectural process

How you use Maya in the design process is very much dependent on your project and personal preference. You can start to use Maya at the very beginning of your design process by creating a mass study, or you can start out with sketching and then taking the next step in Maya. To save time, it's often a good idea to use Maya in conjunction with other programs. For instance using AutoCAD and Maya to link 2D and 3D design with each other is a good example. It's even possible to write our own program's within Maya called 'scripts' that can aid you in your design process. Of course Maya is also a great tool for architects to convey their ideas, with the possibility to create almost life like representations of their designs. As described in the previous section the computer can be applied in various stages of the design process. From the first stages of design, till the production stage of the construction process.

Mass study

Maya can be used as a 3 dimensional sketch tool, generating volumes for a Mass Study. With the option of generating very fast multiple variations to explore, the mass study can be further enhanced by placing it in a 3d digital model of the surrounding buildings, placing the design in the context of its environment. To get a good impression of scale, it usually best to add some basic shapes representing people and trees.

Conceptual design

When you are further along in the design process, the accurate and realistic visual feedback of the design starts getting more and more important. As the design becomes more accurately defined the visual impact of the design becomes increasingly apparent. With the option of not only rapidly changing the geometry but also other properties of the design like materials and lighting and realistically simulate the visual consequence of the design decisions the 3D model can support the design process in a flexible manner. Further more the adding of light's and materials to your 3D model will greatly improve it's readability. At this point integration of 2D and 3D design will help you to find sore spots in your design and save allot of time.

Preliminary design

The design process is a complex environment where a multitude of specialists work together to design the building. Communication is paramount between the actors of the design process. This has not only relevance regarding the design intent of the architect but also the communication and feedback of the specialists and the client are crucial. The visual simulation of the design can support this communication process. The 3D model however also can be used by the specialist to apply their specialized software in support of simulation and analyses of the design. Here the advantage of a digital environment becomes apparent as it will make it possible to tap in the vast array of available digital design simulation and analysis tools. The implementation of these simulation and analysis software in the design process can enhance the design decisions made due to the quality of data available of the design. The communication of the 3D data and in what phase the data is communicated plays in this case an important role on the design process.

Final design

Morphosis, The Southern California Caltrans HQ in downtown Los Angeles

Depending on the accuracy of the 3D model it can be used for a variety of applications. Not only to visually simulate the final design but also support the manufacturing of building elements and components. This application is for example used effectively in the construction of more organic shaped buildings where traditional building techniques aren’t capable of supporting the construction of complex shapes. In some cases the extremely large accurate 3D digital model of complex buildings where used to completely replace the traditional 2D technical drawing. These so called Master Models formed not only a basis for manufacturing and construction but also functioned as the legal document describing the design. Although this extreme example of application in architecture is still quite rare, the use of complete highly complex 3D digital models are common place in the aerospace, shipbuilding and automotive industry.

Overview of Maya topics

Maya main index

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