- 1 History
- 2 Use of computer generated 3D models in architectural practise
In the end of the 19th century, caused by the bad living and working conditions of the working class, a new political system came into being, socialism. This system would have a great influence on architecture of the following decennia. Under political pressure the control of the government on the building practice had been increased and measures had been taken to avoid land speculation. Shortly after that cooperative housing corporations were being brought to life, organizations that would decrease the power and influence of the housing speculators. This had its influence on architecture as well. For the first time architects involved themselves in social housing. With the founding of the Bauhaus in 1919, with Gropius as the headmaster, introducing a new form of education in art, a first step was taken towards the recovery of the connection between craft and design, properties we could find used by the building masters in the Middle Ages. The aversion from the building style of the ‘old elite’ kept the development of this new architectural style going. In this style social concepts played an important role.
Disagreement between Van Doesberg and Van Itten about the way in which education in the crafts should take place hinted towards the future where mass production would have big consequences for architecture. Another element in education, which focused more on the practice of architecture, was the return of the model as a medium to test concepts. The teacher Laszlo Moholy-Nagy stimulated his students to use semi-transparent models to test their spatial concepts. According to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, this was a necessity because 3D representations on paper were limited and could hinder innovations in architecture. In the beginning of the 20th century, new styles in painting, which would have influence on the presentation techniques of architects, also came into being. An example of this is the abolishment of the linear perspective by the cubists, who experimented in the displaying of the complete structure of objects and their position in space. Picasso’s fixation on the totality of display inspired architects like Gropius and Le Corbusier to use the complete image of the axonometric drawing. Remarkable tendency in the period after 1920 still remained the shift from 2D to 3D visualizations. Here we can place the well-known white sketch models, stripped from all ornamentation. This image was captured in the new International Style.
Mass production kicks in
After World War II the rebuilding of the Netherlands began. Mass production commenced on a large scale. This had a lot of consequences for the architectural practice. Because more and more was being prefabricated and less was adjustable during the building process, the need arose to produce more and more precise drawings. The pressure on drawing increased strongly. The mass production of new building materials also enhanced this tendency. Whereas the mass production a hundred years ago consisted of bricks and parts of frames, now complete concrete facades and frames were provided.
New techniques and materials
New developments in, amongst others, climate installations created an even bigger production of drawings, a consequence that was already visible in the second half of the 19th century. The building practice got more and more specialized, leading to the need for more communication. This also caused more importance for the drawing as medium, which caused many architects offices to become bigger and caused more specialization within these offices. The technical draftsman was no exception anymore. This growth also caused further commercialization; the employees had to be kept busy. New techniques were being introduced to meet the new amount of pressure on the drawing. From 1884 on, the drafting table had been a familiar sight, but the drawing was not being done anymore with the tracing pen, but with ink pens with reservoirs like the Rotring pen and pens like the Rapidograph, Graphos and Technos. Drawings were made on calque paper or whitepaper. Templates for elements like toilets and sinks make the process of drawing easier. Text could be added with text machines mounted on drawing rulers. More foils were being used. Sticker foils with trees, people, hatches and walls created the possibility to enhance the quality of the drawing without too much effort. Reproductions were being made by photo types. Photo-montages were used more frequently and modeling was supported by new developments in materials. New materials like Perspex, polystyrene foam and new species of timber like multiplex and triplex which made the models less sensitive for humidity were now used. Another important group of materials is the pre-shaped synthetic materials, like H-profiles, people and trees. A new technique originating from the medical world is the endoscope, which can be used in combination with the video for capturing images. The endoscope is a small camera that’s connected with a piece to look through by glass fibers. It can access small spaces because of the flexibility of the glass fibers and the small size of the camera. Later in the 80’s this system was replaced by small CCD TV cameras. The properties of size and flexibility of this system was used in architecture to look at models at eye height and to simulate an image that gives a suggestion about the actual scale of the building in this way.
Not only techniques and materials changed, but also the kinds of representation. In the 1960’s we can observe the rise of the relational scheme, a further schematization of reality. As counter-reaction to this development of further reduction and schematization of reality, the drawing of the post-modernists gets a new status. It was not only seen as a designing and representational aid, but it got a value of its own. Examples of this are the drawings of O.M.A, which are seen as art objects by some people in art. Whether this revival of the drawing as a piece of art was caused by an exposition of drawings by the Ecole des Beaux Arts in New York’s Museum of Modern Art is not sure. Others see this development more as a mere representation of nice un-build designs that were the victim of the economic crisis in the beginning of the 70’s. What is sure is that the representational drawing is still a very important way for the architect to compete with other architects.
Computers make their way into practice
A newcomer in the field of visual representation is the computer. This machine has its roots in mathematical theories from the 18th century and has developed rapidly after its introduction in the 1940’s. First they were only used to make calculations, but later the increasing calculating capacity would enable graphical application. With the first application in architecture in 1962, this medium is very young. Since then it has developed rapidly. The increased calculating capacity combined with the decreasing costs of a computer and the development of new software that help to define the functionality of the computer enabled a slow but steady integration of the computer in the architectural practice. In most architects offices the computer has nowadays replaced the drafting table. This also had great influence on the education of architects. A part of the 2D drawing techniques is now being taught on the computer. To get this information made in the computer on paper, still the most used medium to transfer information, it has to be sent through a computer to a plotting machine that prints the drawing on the right size and scale. Despite of the use the computer to generate the drawings, the main communication method to transfer information to other parties involved in the building process is still paper.
In the 60’s the computer also makes its way into the field of the perspective drawing. First this was by simple line drawings, but later developments made it possible to create more and more complex images. In these images building masses were no longer displayed as a set of lines but the volumes were made visible as a combination of faces. Further developments concerning calculating capacity of the computers and software created the possibility to simulate materials on the volumes and the effects of lights in the beginning of the 1980’s. These developments would help to make representations more and more realistic, a process that hasn’t stopped yet. There is a fundamental and essential difference between generating perspective images with the computer and making perspective drawings by hand. If we’re constructing a perspective drawing by hand through mathematical rules, the depth effect that’s caused by this technique is a simulation of depth. Different from this is the perspective image generated by the computer, which is a 2dimensional representation of 3dimensional information in the computer, made with the suitable programs. It can de compared to photography, where a 2dimensional image is captured of a 3dimensional environment, that is, the real world. Generating an image by computer is basically the same. The camera has been replaced by a piece of software that simulates a camera inside the program in which the 3d model has been made. With this camera an image will be created, that is the 2dimensional representation of the 3dimensional model, in the way a photo is the 2dimensinal representation of the 3dimensional reality. This way of generating perspective images from 3dimensional information in the computer is what makes it fundamentally different from the traditional way of making perspective images.
Computers and programs are getting easier to afford and the knowledge of how to use these techniques is getting more and more widespread in the architectural practice. This causes not only an increase in the use of the computer and the computer generated image, but also in the field of producing physical models through this 3dimensional data.
Lately the Rapid Prototyping techniques have risen strongly in other branches and are now finding their way to the architectural practice. The used techniques vary from milling, to cutting, to 3d-printing. Especially this last method is very interesting because it gives a lot of freedom in shapes. In this category, the used materials vary and each has its own properties that matter for the choice of material for a print. In the mean time, the first desktop models in which the printing material has been stored in cassettes that are easily replaceable and thus easy in use, are on the market.
As is generally known, computer technology, software and their application is developing quickly. What their place will be in the future can only be estimated when knowing what drives them and in what direction they will lead us.
Use of computer generated 3D models in architectural practise
Creating a 3D computer model by scanning in a physical model.
Example: Guggenheim museum - Bilbao - Frank O. Gehry. This first technique is the translation of physical 3D information to a 3D computer model. A good example of this technique is the way in which Frank o. Gehry used the computer in the design of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao in 1997. Here the design had been determined in a model and then scanned into the computer. The design process mostly took place without the computer. The computer model was in this case the carrier of the 3D design information and was used as a template for the construction. The use of the computer in the design process here mostly concentrates on the technical translation of the design into a build able object. By using software that is normally used in the aeroplane industry they were able to design a structure for the building. This was not only applied to the primary and secondary bearing structure, but also to the double curved cladding. Analysis of the curvature of the facade made it possible to determine where the cladding had to be pre-shaped and where it didn't. Next to the use of the computer as designing medium for the bearing structure and as an analysis tool for the cladding, the construction drawings were made through the use of the digital 3D model. There is a division between the two used media. Mostly the design had been determined outside the computer, afterwards a digitalization took place of the 3D design information that would be used for the structurally drawing up of the design.
Generating objects by using mathematical formulas in the computer
It's evident that the method above is an addition of the use of the computer to the traditional tools. An important part of the design process takes place without the computer, in a 'traditional' way. The translation to a 3D computer model takes place in a stage in which the design has mostly been architecturally determined. A second method is generating 3D models through mathematically editing the parameters and their relations in the computer. This can be done with any measure of influence of the designer. This depends on the amount of data the designer puts in to the set of conditions for the design and the calculations that will be done with this information. When the influence of the parameters gets bigger and the designer's knowledge of the translation of these parameters into a 3 dimensional model gets bigger, the end designs gets more predictable and the designer can more easily guide the final design by manipulating the translation of the parameters. The designer influences the final model in an indirect way. The combination of parameters, based on the basic principles and conditions, the way in which they influence the model through processing by the computer and the processing itself determine the model that will be generated. The architectonic translations of the conditions and principles into parameters are of conceptual importance because the computer (in this case) also takes over the concept phase of the design process. The method of generating a model or conceptual model by the computer will rarely be independent of the designer because the designer determines the parametrization and the way the information will be processed. This method of incorporating the computer into the design process has many different ways of use in the architectural practice.
Some architects clearly have a direct architectonic translation in mind, while others are more focused on theoretically researching architecture and the connections between the elements of which architecture consists. Markus Novak is an architect, theorist and inter media artist and has done research on the influence of virtual space on physical space. From him originate the concepts of "liquid architecture" and "transarchitecture". These concepts originate from the idea that the present constants in science and mathematics are being replaced by variables that not only belong to that specific field but belong to a wider cultural context. The introduction of liquid architecture has been of great influence on the development of new methods. This can be an answer to the problematics of the contradictions of the complexity of today's society, something the deconstructivists are emphasizing. Novak's mathematical models and complex parametric organization generate unpredictable and complex shapes of which the visualization of the complex connections will be further researched.
The Zoutwaterpaviljoen by Kas Oosterhuis is an example in which the 3D model is not being used for analysis but as a representation of the design. For this design a parametrically controlled basic shape, the shape gen, has been used. This shape mutates along a 3 dimensional path under the influence of the parameters. The shape has been stretched, moulded, bent, scaled, styled, morphed and polished by the computer that facilitated the mathematical descriptions of its complex shapes. Behind every line and surface of the pavillon's model there is a mathematical comparison that determines the parameters and the interactive dimensions for the geometry's dimensions. The shape gen extrudes along the 3 dimensional path and changes it's section influenced by the parameters. In this process a deformation of the shape gen takes place according to the time and location on the path. In this case directing of the parameters was simplified by programming an interface. The colors in the interior are a translation of a digital image in the composites of colors made by the computer. The design of the Zoutwaterpaviljoen has a different status and function than the previously mentioned type of models by Markus Novak.
This illustrates the diversity of techniques that can be used and the interpretation of the things the computer generates. Sometimes it's a way of analyzing, sometimes it can be used as a direct translation into a design. Many of the techniques used in the design process in which the computer takes a big part involve the second option. Famous architects like the previously discussed Markus Novak, Greg Lynn, NOX architects, Kas Oosterhuis and UN studio use the computer in many different ways to create 3D geometry. Not only differ the methods and the theories behind it, but also the interpretation of the 3D model. For some it's a method of analysis because it can visualize complex connections (Novak), for others it's a method to generate the geometry of the design by using a set of conditions, principles and their relationship to one another ( Kas Oosterhuis- Zoutwaterpaviljoen). Greg Lynn also uses these techniques to generate 3D analysis models that try to give solutions for contrasting relationships and conditions.
Objects created by the interaction between designer and geometry and curves that are mathematically determined by the computer
The interaction between the visualization of the design decision and the designer helps the designer make these decisions. The possibility to generate complex shapes can have consequences for the architecture. It can cause the liberation of the designer from traditional roots and platonic volumes, location bound context and of the 2 dimensional program. The computer’s capacity to generate complex shapes provides the architect with a new vocabulary in which the context of the existing architecture is being replaced by an architectonic interpretation of complex geometric shapes. This enables the designer to compare his design decisions to the leading priciples through the network of data. Kas Oosterhuis has written about this in the magazine 'de Architect': " Thinking synthetically and intuitive. The design process is a correlation between an inductive and a deductive process. Deductive thinking is a way of thinking in which an existing reality that is considered true is being analyzed. Inductive thinking is mostly creating new realities and designing virtual realities. Inductive designing is directly linked to the genetic code of the building. It's the formulating of concepts and making hypotheses that can be tested. The virtual reality can be tested against the socially accepted reality. The true design process is essentially of inductive nature. The essence of the hypothesis is being fixed in the genetic code of the design. In the beginning of the design decisions are being made that by far have the greatest consequences for the further elaborations. The first thought, the first drawn line or the first 3D sketch in the computer is the most important one. After that the percentage of influence of the next decision decreases exponentially." Together with artist Ilona Lenard, Kas Oosterhuis has set up a series of workshops in which the designer's intuition is being trained and in which people would be liberated from old existing presumptions.
In this workshop the computer has been used, from the beginning of the workshop on, as a designing intermediary. The freedom of shape the computer offers has been used for inspiration not based on the familiar and the known, but on the discovery of the unknown. The participants were forced to rely on the basics of architecture, the spatial effects and the architectonic experience of the 3D geometry. The mental library of examples can not be used any more.
An architects office that uses the computer as a 3D sketching method is Morphosis. They keep working with the same model throughout the entire process. They come to design solutions by scaling, stretching, adding, subtracting and manipulating it. This method enables a constant interaction between the image that's generated through the adjustment and the design decisions following. The iterative designing process can be compared to a designing process that does not involve the computer.