The process of drawing up architectural plans is in flux. For more than a decade, assorted software programs have attempted to bridge the gap between two and three dimensions by taking flat drawings or field data collected onsite and migrating them into modeling platforms, which create photorealistic renderings or 3-D virtual reality walkthroughs of a project. But what if the process began with what exists in three-dimensional time and space instead? That’s a question 3-D media company Matterport has answered by creating what it calls True3DTM imaging of real-world environments using its proprietary platform, which includes its Pro2 3D camera and cloud-based services. “What’s really happening in the industry is this shift and transition that’s been happening for a number of years from 2D to 3D,” noted Matterport’s Director of AEC, John Chwalibog. “That’s where everything has been going and continues to go with some of the augmented reality and virtual reality type technologies. It’s kind of taken 3D to another level of ‘actual 3D,’ or what we at Matterport call ‘True3D,’” he said. “So, instead of having rendered models of the design process, especially with existing spaces, why not start with the actual model of the space and use that as the backdrop to really drive and start that design process?”
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This year’s Tech+ conference—an upcoming and groundbreaking event showcasing technological innovators in the AEC industry taking place on May 22 in New York City—will feature pioneering speakers that are rethinking existing technological paradigms. Among them is Iffat Mai, practice application development leader for Perkins + Will, who will be co-presenting a discussion about enhanced realities and immersive experiences. As a self-described technology geek, Mai is excited about the fact that the design and construction industry, which has traditionally lagged behind the times in terms of adopting new technology, is finally showing signs of receptivity. “What I’ve seen is a shift in some people’s attitude, of designers and project teams, who are very open-minded about accepting these new technologies and integrating them into their workflow and process,” she said. Mai notes that a number of software companies are making virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) platforms more compatible with existing design tools that allows for greater integration and efficiency. “I’m really happy to see that’s happening in all different levels in our industry.”
It’s all about communicationMai’s enthusiasm for change stems from her belief that these new tools are improving communication and client engagement—an assessment that’s been tested in practice at Perkins+Will and the results of which she’ll share during her presentation at Tech+. “I think VR/AR is the ideal communication tool for the AEC industry,” Mai said. “As architects, communication of design is the bread and butter of our business.” Noting that many clients aren’t particularly adept at visualization, Mai suggests that 3-D technology can help them better understand not only how a design looks, but also gain a better sense of scale and how the space will actually feel. Oftentimes, clients look at drawings and say they understand them, but are surprised when a space is built because they don’t conceptualize the same way design practitioners do. Mixed reality solves the problem in many ways. “We’ve been implementing all these new technologies into our everyday design process and really looking to engage our stakeholders and our clients, and offer them the opportunity to be fully engaged in the design process,” Mai explained. “It’s not just giving them nice little drawings; we really put them into an immersive environment and encourage them to evaluate things by really understanding what the design is about so that, in the end, I think that the clients are a lot more comfortable and happy with the final product.”
Overcoming barriers to innovationAs a result, Mai says VR and AR technologies are streamlining the design and review process, saving both time and money. With the cost of hardware and software dropping, she suggests the barrier to entry will be lowered, especially to smaller firms that currently may not be able to afford them. Ultimately, wide-scale adoption of mixed reality technology boils down to two things, according to Mai: fear of change, and a company-wide commitment to innovation. “If you can get over the fear of changing and have kind of long-term sight of the future and not be afraid of changing, that’s a critical component of innovation,” she said. “And then your company leaders have to be really promoting company-wide innovation, to have people just think out of the box and looking for new ways of doing things in every aspect of the company.” [vimeo 261011445 w=640 h=360] TECH+ Expo from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
Burning Man, a summer festival located in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, is something of an architectural bonanza. Each year, dozens of artistic displays and sculptural forms are erected in Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis that hosts the festival. Temples in the past have included a wide range of designs, from pagoda-inspired structures to Wicker Man-eqsue towers. Galaxia, designed by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani a professor at the University of Westminster and the owner of the fabrication laboratory Fab.Pub, has been selected to serve as Burning Man 2018’s main temple. The temple will be constructed of twenty spiraling timber trusses, crowned with a 3-D-printed mandala. A series of alcoves are formed between the timber trusses, allowing spaces of congregation for attendees. According to the Burning Man Journal, the distance between the timber trusses will be wide enough to facilitate movement to the core of the structure. The Galaxia structure “celebrates hope in the unknown, stars, planets, black holes, the movement uniting us in the swirling galaxies of dreams”–a description fitting for the international designs of the festival as well as the broad scope of its attendance. The architect, Arthur Mamou-Mani, has designed installations in Black Rock City for the last six years. Based in London, Mamou-Mani specializes in digitally designed and fabricated architecture. As reported in the Reno Gazette Journal, the 2018 temple will be pre-fabricated and mostly built off-site as a collaboration between a crew of artists using a range of robotic tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters and robotic drill arms. Through this digital fabrication process, Mamou-Mani hopes to reestablish the architect as craftsman, allowing for a closer connection between the design and construction processes. Shipping the interstellar structure will also prove to be quite a feat, requiring the use of flatbed trucks to transport them to the center of Black Rock City. Regardless of the architectural and engineering efforts going into the Galaxia, the structure is nonetheless temporary and will go up in flames on the last night of the festival, in accordance with Burning Man principles.
Fabricators watch as an artificial hip joint comes together on the tray of a 3D printer. This, doctors say, is the high-tech future of joint replacement. The printer's lone nozzle squirts plastic polymer out into the precise shape. However, in the time it takes to make a new joint, you could watch half a season of The Bachelor, or drive from New York City to eat poutine in Montreal. One company is addressing the time barrier with a new software that enables faster, and much bigger, 3D printing. https://vimeo.com/157523884 Autodesk is creating a 3D printing system, dubbed Project Escher, will be able to create large objects in one pass. Project Escher divides larger designs into smaller instructional packages. The packages are sent to groups of printheads which work in tandem to produce the finished object. This factory-line approach speeds up the often painstakingly slow printing process for large, high-resolution pieces. The customization goes further: Project Escher's printheads are modular, making it easy to swap out different tools. For example, you could swap a printhead with a tool that removes supporting structures while the other five printheads churn out a product. This video shows just how this would happen. Printing large objects could have positive ramifications for architects: facades like this one could be fabricated in one session. Ornate wall-to-wall moldings or whole ceilings could be reproduced without interruption. Currently, larger-scale 3D printing is currently employed by archeologists replicating ancient buildings destroyed by ISIS in the Syrian city of Palmyra. To be clear, Autodesk is not building a new printer, just the software. The printer-savvy can build their own machines to accomodate the software, mere amateurs will have to wait for the hardware to catch up.
Miles Kemp, the brains behind a new virtual-reality visualization software for architects, has been around architects and builders for as long as he can remember. The son of a contractor, Kemp took his first job with an architect at the age of 14. By age 21, he was on a team at SOM. Kemp eventually made his way to SCI-Arc, where he completed an M.Arch2 in 2006 with a thesis on robotics. Since then, Kemp, the founder and president of Variate Labs, has worked on over 100 interactive media projects. “I’ve always been into this idea of user-experience design, of being able to create almost like a conversation between people and the built environment,” Kemp said. Kemp’s latest venture is Spacemaker VR, software that allows architects to share virtual reality models with clients and other designers. The program exports 3D design files from a variety of formats (including .osg, .dae, .wrl, and .3ds) into walk-through models for viewing on a head-mounted display or two-dimensional screen. Users can simultaneously project the same view in mono or stereo to multiple displays, and control movements through the virtual space using a keyboard or mouse. Real-time snapshots and videos captured while in the virtual model can be saved for later viewing. According to Kemp, Spacemaker VR has the potential to change the way architects work in two crucial ways. “First and foremost, it is a one-of-a-kind presentation tool, so that designers can communicate with other people in a better way,” Kemp said. In addition, by allowing architects to experience the spaces they create early on in the design process, Spacemaker VR encourages experimentation and risk-taking. “Architects can really push the limits of their imagination earlier in the process without risk,” Kemp said. “It’s easier to design insane things and test them earlier in the process.” The current version of Spacemaker VR is a “base model” Kemp explained, focused on visualization. “For now what we’re trying to do is get a simple product out that has really easy-to-use features so that people without a technical background can use it.” Kemp and his colleagues at Digital Physical, the company behind Spacemaker VR, are working on features that allow architects to design in real time from within their virtual spaces. Digital Physical is currently fundraising for Spacemaker VR on Kickstarter. The campaign ends this Saturday, December 14.