Posts tagged with "Technology":

Sasaki launches an incubator and hosts its second annual hackathon

Architecture and technology have always been inextricably linked, and with technology advancing faster than ever, contemporary architects have their hands full. Massachusetts-based planning and design studio Sasaki has a new initiative to help designers strengthen their skills. This past spring Sasaki launched an incubator program within its headquarters where tenants can directly interact with the firm's experts. The incubator includes a mix of tenants from a variety of industries, and Sasaki wants to leverage their interdisciplinary expertise to create an environment where teams can grow and cooperate. The incubator space is 5,000 square feet of both shared workspaces and research studio space. For the interiors, Sasaki chose to strip a former mill building back to the underlying structure, leaving the brick walls, wooden columns, and beams and joists exposed. The floorplan is open, though Sasaki has carved out several spaces for private meetings and conference calls. The Foundation has established a grant program for two-to-four teams on a nine-month fellowship, centered around four themes: climate innovation, transportation, accessibility, and placemaking. The incubator itself supports the aforementioned programming for grant teams and includes Sasaki as a design consultant for the those in the program. The Sasaki office and the Foundation have extended this spirit of collaboration to their second annual beyondAEC Hackathon. The Sasaki incubator will host this year’s Hackathon on July 20 and will encourage those in architecture, engineering, and construction to brainstorm solutions to real-world problems they’ve faced. The first beyondAEC Hackathon in 2017 drew 40 participants, including a handful of architecture students from local universities. Kyle and Jim Martin, inspired by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti’s annual NYC-based hackathon, launched beyondAEC with the help of Sasaki. Kyle Martin says the hackathon provides an opportunity for local AEC practitioners to “foster a culture of design technology and push boundaries outside of their day to day practices.” Jim Martin added that they wanted to make space for “a culture of experimentation for participants to dive into and develop new ideas and learn from each other.” Sasaki will hold workshops to build up to the event through June and into July.

Apple’s latest announcement makes augmented reality easier for architects

Apple has wrapped up its keynote at the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and announced several big changes coming with IOS 12 that should shake things up for architects and designers. The biggest announcements focused on VR and augmented reality (AR), as Apple unveiled ARKit 2.0. With a presentation backed by a constellation of big names such Lego, Adobe, Autodesk and more, the sequel to Apple’s original AR infrastructure promised to bring a much more cohesive AR ecosystem to consumers. For architects and interior designers, Apple’s promise of easily digitizing and later placing real-world objects in an AR environment could have a huge impact on envisioning what a space will look like. If ARKit 2.0 succeeds, it could be used to decorate a room or to put different architectural options (literally) on the table without having to build physical iterative models. A collaborative, locally-hosted AR experience was also shown off at the keynote, with two players using their iPads to knock down wooden towers Angry Birds-style. One complaint about the original ARKit was the fragmented ecosystem and inability to interact with AR objects across apps. For IOS 12, Apple has partnered with Pixar to develop a new proprietary file format for 3D models, USDZ (Universal Scene Description Zip). USDZ files should be openable across all IOS devices, including Macs, and Adobe is promising native Creative Cloud support. The introduction of a streamlined system for sharing and examining 3D objects in the real world, and to create persistent AR experiences in specific locations, likely means enhanced functionality for apps like Morpholio once the new IOS rolls out. For those looking for more practical applications of the technology, Apple is also expanding its list of native AR apps. Coders who have measuring tools on the App Store likely won’t be happy with Measure, Apple’s in-house AR solution that allows users to snap a picture of reference objects and then tap to measure anything else. Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi took to the stage and used Measure to seamlessly calculate the length of a trunk, then his own baby photo. IOS 12 will get a public release when the latest iPhone model rolls out in September of this year.

An experimental disaster shelter turns packaging into protection

Plastic bottles are thought of as inherently wasteful, but what if the containers could go on to have a productive second life elsewhere? An experimental prototype shelter designed by an architecture design studio at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, wants to turn that packaging into structurally-sound shelters. Second Lives | After Bottles was first assembled on RPI’s campus where it endured real-world conditions and later moved to Industry City in Brooklyn for Wanted Design from May 16 through 22 (part of NYC x Design Week 2018). The installation was made possible through the use of a proprietary bottle patented by Friendship Bottles LLC, which uses grooves and wedges to create a tightly interlocking bottle design. Throughout the design studio, RPI students, educators, and engineers sought to design a shelter that would be self-tensioning, stable, and that used the least amount of materials. Even the bottles packaging has been integrated into the final design; the team has created a triangular wooden crate that can unfold to form a topography-following floor and acts as a base for the plastic walls above. 3D printed joints and cross bracing were used to connect bottles at angles other than what the bottles themselves allowed. Lydia Kallipoliti, project lead and Assistant Professor of Architecture at RPI, said that the aim was to ship as few materials as possible into a disaster area. With a 3D printer on the ground, crates of water and an assembly diagram could be shipped in and the required parts printed in-situ. The team found multiple uses for the bottles, running LED lights through the bottles making up the roof, and filling bottles on the side with water and food for easy takeaway. Testing is still ongoing to ensure that the final design would be tight enough to keep out rainwater. Another structure made from the same interlocking bottles was set up across from the Wanted exhibition hall, this one courtesy of RPI’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE). The CASE team has built their “testing chamber” by arranging the bottles vertically and have been monitoring the internal heat, humidity, and air quality. Making sure that the bottles aren’t decomposing and releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is especially important, as the UN has strict air quality guidelines for disaster shelters. Ultimately, the goal of Second Lives isn’t to introduce a new bottle into the plastic ecosystem, but to convert existing companies over, said Kallipoliti. If the Cokes and Pepsis of the world switched to a bottle that could then be used as a construction material, the worldwide reduction in waste would be immense.

Project Lead: Lydia Kallipoliti (Assistant Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Project Team: Adam Beres, Bryce Crawford, Amanda Esso, Reed Freeman, Emily Freeman, Jacob Laird, Deegan Lotz, Christopher Michelangelo, Arun Padykula, Raina Page, Abigail Ray, Daniel Ruan, Emily Sulanowski, Stefanie Warner

Collaborators: Tom Roland (Fabrication Coordinator, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Andreas Theodoridis (PhD Candidate, Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology/ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Structural Engineer: Mohammed Alnaggar (Assistant Professor of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Sponsor: Friendship Bottles LLC, Timothy Carlson (Managing Partner)

CASE Project |Transitional Bottle Shelter Environmental Analysis 

Project Leads: Josh Draper (Lecturer, CASE, RPI), Alexandros Tsamis (Associate Director, CASE, RPI)

Project Team: Alexis Clarke, Valerie Kwart, Yiqi Song, Duo Zhang, Mohammed Aly

Cross-laminated timber passes its first real-world blast test

Timber construction continues its march to mass market feasibility following a series of live blast tests on full-scale cross-laminated timber (CLT) structures. Through a series of tests conducted at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the WoodWorks Wood Products Council and U.S. Army are putting together guidelines for framing buildings with CLT. As Engineering News–Record reports, the idea to test CLT for its blast resistance properties arose after developer and construction company Lendlease entered into an agreement to build hotels on army bases across the U.S. As Lendlease chose to frame some of their hotels with CLT to save on time and construction costs, they were told that CLT wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the Unified Facilities Criteria, the building code for the U.S. Army. This meant that the material would have to pass a battery of durability and security hardening-related tests before it could be applied in any real-world structures. While the Army allowed the construction of Lendlease’s first CTL hotel, the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, any future timber-framed buildings would require full-scale testing on a physical mockup before it could be approved. Lendlease reached out to WoodWorks Wood Products Council, who arranged the seven blast tests, Karagozian & Case Inc. (KCI), who developed and followed through on both phases of the testing, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, and the University of Maine. The tests were carried out in two phases–the first in late 2016, and second at the end of last year. Lendlease built the testing structures, each of which were exposed to successively larger blasts over a period of seven tests; two of the mock buildings were 27 feet tall with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 12 feet, and the third was 23 feet tall, with two-foot-tall parapets and window cutouts at 10 feet. Both “buildings” had 15-square-foot footprints. After exposing the structures to 32 pounds, 67 pounds, and 199 pounds of TNT (with 610 pounds used for the last test), KCI concluded that for blast exposure, CLT was equivalent to the standard steel-studded wall. Because CLT panels contain multiple laminated layers, the remaining wood provides additional strength at the point of rupture. The load from the blast is also more evenly distributed owing to the panel’s support on all four sides, allowing the force to be evenly distributed towards the joints. The U.S. Army Protective Design Center (PDC) has already released their report on the 2016 tests and will follow it up with their analysis of the second round of testing this June.

Uber shuts down self-driving car business in Arizona after investigators release findings

Uber announced yesterday that it would be canceling any future autonomous vehicle endeavors in Arizona, abruptly terminating all 300 of its employees in the state (most of them test drivers). The move follows the release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) findings that the car involved in the fatal crash on March 19 in Tempe, Arizona, detected someone crossing but failed to brake. Uber had previously voluntarily suspended all of its self-driving testing until the review, involving the NTSB, National Highway Traffic Administration, and the Tempe Arizona Police Department, had concluded. While the ride-sharing company had intended to put its robot cars back on the streets in Pittsburgh, California, and Arizona, it appears that the return to the road may be scaled back. After canceling any future plans for Arizona, Uber will only definitively resume testing in Pittsburgh; talks between the company and California’s regulators are reportedly ongoing. “We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future," said Uber. "In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.” The NTSB’s preliminary report, available in full here, doesn’t paint Uber in a flattering light. The safety board discovered that, as speculated earlier this month, the self-driving vehicle detected pedestrian Elaine Herzberg but failed to act. In the report, the NTSB writes that the car recognized that there was an obstacle in the road a full 6 seconds before the crash, but that the emergency braking feature had been disabled. Emergency braking is a tightrope that self-driving cars have to navigate; if the braking threshold is set too high, then the car will stop for “false positives” (ie, a plastic bag, a branch in the road) and create a choppy ride. If the threshold is set too high, the ride will be smooth but the car might plow through obstacles in its way, real or imagined. According to the NTSB’s report, “Emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.” As Uber scales back its autonomous ambitions on the ground, the company is still pushing ahead in the race to conquer the skies.

2018’s TECH+ Expo explores VR, integrated solutions, and the future of BIM

The second annual TECH+ Expo, presented by The Architect’s Newspaper, has returned to Manhattan with a bevy of vendors, lectures, and talks about where architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) are headed. After a round of breakfast and networking on the expo floor, president and founder of programming partner Microsol Resources Emilio Krausz and AN’s publisher Diana Darling took to the TechPerspectives main stage to welcome attendees and introduce the two keynote speakers. Dennis Shelden, director of the Digital Building Laboratory (DBL) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, took the opportunity to discuss the challenges (and opportunities) that technology brings to the interoperability between AEC industries. Virtual reality, and the integration of models with the ability to walk through and coordinate with the trades, could ultimately save money and time for everyone. And looking ahead even further in the future? Augmented reality, where VR is projected into the real world, could help visualize projects in real time and could ultimately lead to a “Minority Report”-style future. Architect, technologist, and newly appointed associate dean of the Yale School of Architecture Phil Bernstein followed up with an industry keynote on computational design and integration. The field has already moved from hand drafting to CAD, and then into BIM, so what comes next? Bernstein presented six points that he felt were the next logical stepping stones, from using big data, to improving computational design, to integrating machine learning into the design process. The availability of data and cloud computing power could eventually help architects design more optimized buildings and reduce the waste that comes when expectations don’t line up with how a building actually performs in the real world. On the expo floor, companies were lining up to present the latest advances in virtual reality, 3-D printing, and rendering technology (and visitors all had the chance to win their own HTC Vive by throwing down their business cards). Implementation was a major theme this year, whether it was through IrisVR’s use of virtual reality to bring architects, engineers, and construction workers together for meetings, or Morpholio’s easy-to-use sketching tools. As Bernstein contends, architects will make fewer mistakes and save more money as the gap between ideas and implementation closes.  

How has the internet changed architecture criticism?

As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from those who drew attention to the role that technology has played in changing the discourse, from across the country and abroad. This article was originally published in our May print issue and was preceded by a selection of answers from architecture critics themselves. Stay tuned for further perspectives from practitioners, emerging architects, and scholars. Sam Jacob Principal of Sam Jacob Studio, professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and columnist for ArtReview and Dezeen. Previously he was a founding director of FAT Architecture. “I think we’ve seen the decline of the traditional kind of critic (partly because there are simply fewer professional critic jobs) and the rise of a different kind of critic. This new criticism seems to spill over from blogs, from zines, even from Twitter, and inhabits or attaches itself to bits of the internet rather than a particular title. It’s criticism you follow in sporadic streams, link by link, rather than a joined-up totality. This fractured landscape allows a more partisan, more pointed form of criticism. And more voices, each skewed to a particular kind of idea around the significance of architecture. That’s meant, I think, two things: First more direct discussion of the politics of architecture and second, more discussion around the cultural significance of architecture. Both are important, both have given us new ways to understand architecture’s role in society. It’s really a more traditional idea of criticism that has declined. Forms of criticism like the building study, for example, where the critic acts as an arbiter of quality, and as a guide to the way we can understand architecture in historical and disciplinary senses. And this is a shame. It’s a form of criticism that is more expensive to produce (you have to travel) and is less opinion-led, less thinkpiece-y, and probably less clickbait-y, too. The danger, as this kind of criticism declines, is that it just becomes all opinion, written from the desk rather than the field. In this way it mirrors the transformation that’s occurred throughout traditional media. And while the greater diversity of voices is fantastic, perhaps we are losing a way of interrogating, understanding, and communicating ideas about architecture itself, where architecture becomes simply a cipher for other ideas, instead of considering its significance as architecture itself.” Charles Holland Architect, writer, and teacher.  He is the principal of Charles Holland Architects and a professor of architecture at the University of Brighton. “I think the role of the opinion-forming, influential critic is more or less dead. Everyone is a critic now. The rise of social media and sites like Dezeen where the architecture is presented without editorial comment and the critique occurs ‘below the line’ is a clear manifestation of this. The existing idea that critics define and drive artistic movements in the manner of Reyner Banham and Brutalism or Charles Jencks and postmodernism was probably overstated to start with but seems highly unlikely today. That’s not to say the there aren’t good critics around (critic Rowan Moore, for example, is great), but I think the landscape has shifted. The role of the critic today is messier and more ambiguous, blurring the roles between architect, critic, and curator with some people acting happily as all three. My social media feed is full of architectural criticism, only a small amount of which you could ascribe to a critic in the traditional sense. The ‘problem’—if indeed it is one—is that it is harder to establish a critical body of thought or momentum for any one particular position. This is a product of pluralism and a genuflection away from forms of authority, at least overtly. Criticism traditionally served the role of establishing value, of sifting through things to define what’s good, what’s bad and establish the ‘canon.’ That sifting doesn’t really take place with any clear rationale or legitimacy anymore, which is threatening and liberating in equal measure. Architectural and artistic movements are established through a kind of accumulation of works which address similar things and by events like the biennials, which aren’t criticism in the traditional manner, but which establish what is (supposedly) relevant or pressing at any one time.” David Ruy Architect, theorist, director of Ruy Klein, and Postgraduate Programs Chair at SCI-Arc “Criticism falls prey to the general degradation of institutional authority in producing and disseminating information in the contemporary situation. This is the problem posed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and other platforms of our telematic infrastructure. Any person or group with an account on these platforms can produce and disseminate information. Any person or group with an account can produce criticism. In 1976, Simon Nora and Alain Minc were asked by France’s president, Valéry Giscard D’Estaing, to issue a report on the dangers and possibilities of a computerized society. Astonishingly, given what’s happening in the world today, they predicted a coming society where anyone with access to the telematic infrastructure could manufacture and disseminate information, leading to a loss of trust in the veracity of information and to an erosion of the cultural coherence in the society. They warned that such a society might be ungovernable. This was nearly two decades before the first internet browser became available. It is sobering then to consider their recommendation for addressing this danger. They proposed a socialization of information. What this might mean in the twenty-first century remains unclear. A lot of good architectural criticism is still being written today, but it gets lost in the sea of information that is available. The dialectic of fact versus fiction has melted into a flat ontology of mere data. The cynic today would ask in boredom if it even matters that the news is fake. But this is true for all criticism today. There are only two options I see in the face of the contemporary situation. We would either have to rebuild the authority of old institutions (which seems impossible), or we would have to understand that communication and its politics will have to be hypothesized in a new way outside of the framework of criticism (because after all, how can you have criticism without authority?). As sad as I am about this, when anyone can disseminate information, when anyone can ‘like’ or ‘troll’ an idea, when anyone can invent ‘news,’ when the theater of criticism appears more important than the criticism itself (Fox News and MSNBC, for example), what role can any critic play outside of the limited audiences that consumes critique primarily for reinforcing existing opinions? It may be tempting to conceptualize some ‘post-criticism’ society, but as Nora and Minc warned, such a society might be ungovernable. Nonetheless, I continue to think about Nora and Minc’s proposal of socializing information. I consider it to be an important but enigmatic problem. If, miraculously, something can be figured out and implemented one day, I think criticism would have newfound authority. But I think it is premature to dream about the possible positive effects of such a rebirth and the roles the critic might play until we address how to construct such a structure in society. Strangely, I think every constituency thinks their opinions are not being properly addressed. I have my own complaints, but I’m pretty sure everyone has a complaint and feels underrepresented. This is true despite the irony that, no matter how marginal or preposterous, any opinion and orientation to society can be searched for online, and criticism can be found in support of it. With that said, speaking for my own values and my own small constituency, I am puzzled and dismayed by how the left end of the political spectrum seems to be abandoning architectural speculation and formal experimentation. I got into architecture out of a dissatisfaction with the world as given. How can the world be more progressive if everything remains the same or goes backward towards the historically familiar? I understand that in recent times formal extravagance was appropriated as a risk management device by large investors. But how can progressives abandon the project of imagining other possible realities? Isn’t this one of the things architecture does so well? Is demystifying power the only thing left to do? Instead of contributing to the ever-growing disenchantment in the world, can architectural criticism re-enchant some of these abandoned spaces?” Michael Young Partner at Young & Ayata and assistant professor at The Cooper Union. “One of the issues facing contemporary architectural criticism that has yet to be fully developed is how to deal with the dissemination and consumption of architectural images on social media. The primary responses thus far have been to treat it as either a wasteland or a wilderness. The wasteland response sees the image proliferation as out of control and debased, a condition to be excluded from disciplinary criticism. The wilderness response views the image accumulation as wild yet vibrant, a condition to be cultivated and curated. The problem lies in that architecture’s typical disciplinary approaches of criticality that aim to reveal underlying hierarchies, trends, and motivations cannot keep pace nor dent this image acceleration. Social media flattens access, evaluation, and debate. This is both numbing and exciting. It is where the wasteland meets the wilderness. And this requires a different paradigm for architectural criticism.” Ryan Scavnicky Visiting teaching fellow at the School of Architecture at Taliesin, administrator of the Facebook page “Dank Lloyd Wright” and on Instagram as @sssscavvvv. “I think the strength of memes isn’t just about its experimental form. It’s the same principle I apply to architecture but applied to criticism. With architecture, I’m always skeptical about what it actually has the power to do. So with criticism, we probably shouldn’t be focused on changing individual architects (have you met these people?) or critiquing specific buildings, but changing architecture culture in general. Memes focus on changing the student’s perception, loosening the bolts a bit and moving architecture culture away from toxic bravado and into a new space while regaining our singular command over the built world with a more public audience. I do this through producing and writing films as a YouTube comic-critic team with Jeffrey Kipnis via the SCI-Arc Channel and by running a meme account on Instagram. Internet memes are the strongest emerging form of cultural criticism today, thriving in the form of quick and digestible images pregnant with assertive positions. Critics must develop fresh audiences by using strange and experimental critical forms and reflecting those findings back onto the architecture discipline.” Ellie Abrons Principal of T+E+A+M and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. “In the past, critics (and theorists, I’d add) drove architectural discourse and were vital participants in its culture. They had the ability to read work very closely and to interpret or understand it with focused attention and intellectual prowess and agility. Critics played a crucial role in contextualizing work, in situating it culturally and historically or finding affinities and overlaps with other fields. These days, there’s a dearth of criticism—you don’t see the same quantity and quality of writing that was coming out fifteen or twenty years ago. I see more and more architects writing about their own or their peers’ work in an attempt to play that role. But we’re not really cut out for it, so we end up with thought pieces or musings more than proper pieces of criticism or theory. I’m not prepared to say that it’s a bad thing – it’s just a new model. Contemporary intellectual, professional, and cultural life doesn’t allow the kind of patient and careful interpretation of work that we saw in the past. Our modes of attention have changed due to ever-expanding digital culture—images scroll by, while texts are limited to a caption or a few hundred words. Architecture in general (critics, but also architects, historians, and others) need to better understand how to participate in a world where ubiquitous digitality has altered the material, conceptual, and experiential context of our work.

For Suffolk Construction, new technologies must deliver value, not just change for change’s sake

In his panel presentation, “Enhanced Realities and Immersive Experiences,” at the upcoming Tech+ conference on May 22 in New York City, co-presenter Chris Mayer, chief innovation officer at Suffolk Construction, will discuss how innovative technologies like AR and VR are changing the industry. But chasing the latest “shiny, new object” isn’t what the talk—or even the Tech+ expo—is all about. “It’s not a lack of available technology solutions that could potentially be deployed,” he said. “It’s the idea about how do you focus on delivering value, not just delivering change, and how do you make sure that communication and collaboration are effective in supporting the organization?” Mayer has worked at Suffolk Construction for the past three years, applying what he learned during his 30-year tenure in print media at The Boston Globe to effectively integrate people, process, and technology. In an industry that experienced significant disruption, Mayer says the challenges and solutions employed, along with "focusing on not just bright, shiny objects and technology, but how to create value out of that and the necessary steps of engaging people in the organization, and putting processes in place, were all potentially applicable” to the construction industry where he landed.

Creating value across the board

Data drives innovation, and value creation must remain front and center of the process. Otherwise, organizations risk going out of business if they focus solely on technology for technology’s sake, he says. “Part of the way we want to make sure we’re driving that [value] consistently in the innovation that we’re supporting is, ultimately, 'the juice is worth the squeeze.' You want to find something that’s going to matter.” And what counts isn’t just making incremental improvements to specific functions within the design and construction industry, which Mayer observes is highly distributed. Rather, it’s about taking a holistic view and rethinking the entire process end-to-end, he says. “I think we are at a point in time where looking both at opportunities vertically—which is traditionally where I think people would focus on productivity gains—but also looking horizontally at the entire value chain of the construction process from the initial touch point with the owner, through the design, through the financing stages, through the planning and optimization stages, through the execution and construction control periods into the warranty and the quality control process,” he explained. “The idea about how to scale innovation is a big opportunity for us in the industry.”

The right tool for the job

To that end, Suffolk Construction has created “smart labs” internally that serve as sort of operations control towers where technologies can be invented, tested, implemented, and scaled. Utilizing a series of interconnected screens on what Suffolk calls "huddle walls," the team at Suffolk can simultaneously view project information and financial reports or engage in lean strategies and design planning throughout the lifecycle of a project. The labs also feature a virtual reality "cave" with head-mounted displays in which projects can be viewed individually or as a group. Naturally, Mayer doesn’t see immersive technology as a replacement for existing communication tools, but rather as an alternative. “When I look at virtual reality or augmented reality… I see those as additional options to add value to the conversation,” he said. “Because some information is going to be most effectively delivered in sort of static form on an iPad, but some of it is going to be much more effective if you put on a headset and engage with it.” Whatever is most effective—whether it’s a 3-D model, a 2-D model, or shop drawings—is the tool that should be used, he adds. At the end of the day, that’s what adds the most value.

OMA wins competition to design tech-focused “Unicorn Island” in China

Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, is rapidly transitioning towards a service-based economy and has enlisted OMA’s help in growing its local tech companies. Following an international design competition sponsored by the Chengdu government, OMA and three other high-profile studios have been chosen to master plan a Unicorn Island for startups and more established tech companies alike. OMA has designed a campus that weaves over the entire island, with skyways that overlap and interconnect, which they call a weave. At the island’s core is the Living Lab, a domed complex with working labs that will be open to the public. Branching out from the Living Lab will be the weave, which will hold startups and “Gazelles” (tech companies worth $1 million or more). The weave has been envisioned as a community space, and OMA has described the area as “village-like” in its project description; this interior section will contain residential housing for employees, a mix of office typologies, and amenity spaces meant to foster mingling between different companies. Along the island’s edge will be headquarters for the "Unicorns" (technology companies worth $1 billion or more), with room for expansion as the companies in the weave increase in value and relocate outwards. From the renderings, it appears that the complex will be massive and extend all the way across Unicorn Island. Interestingly, everything except the waterfront headquarters will be elevated; roads will pass below the floating weave, with four courtyards set aside, one on each block.  OMA has also revealed some of the tower typologies that will be present in the weave, including a circulation tower, sports tower, education tower, and relaxation tower for the 16 cores. With such a tightly-condensed campus, parking had to be moved underground. From the site plans, it seems that parking will run under nearly the entire island, with the exception of the area below the Living Lab, which will become an underground plaza. The design of Unicorn Island was led by Chris van Duijn, OMA Partner and Director of OMA Asia. Mobility in Chain provided the traffic consultation and Transsolar acted as the climate engineer. No estimated completion date or project cost has been revealed at the time of writing. The other three winners of the design competition include Morphosis, Foster + Partners, and a team composed of Arata Isozaki & Associates and Jun Aoki & Associates.

Take a sneak peek at this year’s TECH+ conference

This is a promotional post presented by TECH+. The landscape of the architecture, engineering, and construction industries is changing dramatically, and those at the forefront of the transformation know that technological innovation is among the driving forces behind it. That’s why for the second year, The Architect’s Newspaper presents TECH+, an annual trade conference and expo that explores innovative technologies used in design and construction, taking place May 22 on the heels of NYCxDESIGN. Located at Metropolitan West in Manhattan—the center of one of America’s fastest-growing tech markets—TECH+ will showcase the latest in smart building systems, advanced materials, and innovative products that are reshaping the built environment of today and tomorrow. From cutting-edge virtual reality–aided design tools to mobile apps, parametrics to rapid prototyping and fabrication, this inspiring and forward-thinking event will feature a lineup of visionary speakers, compelling panels, and live product demonstrations from industry-leading developers and start-ups alike. TECH+ will bring together architects, engineers, designers, builders, real estate professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, software developers, students, and makers to inspire new ideas, encourage cross-pollination, stimulate innovation, and establish vital connections. Far from a run-of-the-mill mega-conference, TECH+ consists of a highly curated group of architecture and technology leaders responsible for the strategic direction of their firms. “We are excited to bring back TECH+ to New York City for the second time,” said Diana Darling, publisher of The Architect’s Newspaper. “This year features two stages with industry leaders and innovative disrupters primed to change the way we do business.” This year’s keynote speaker is Dennis Shelden, director of Digital Building Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who led the development of architect Frank Gehry’s digital practice as director of R&D and director of computing prior to cofounding Gehry Technologies in 2002. Presented by Microsol Resources, the keynote will take place at the TechPerspectives main stage, from which four additional panels will explore topics including BIM, collaboration, sustainability, and visualization. Also, new to TECH+ is a series of Lightning Talks throughout the day from leading exhibitors and cutting-edge start-ups located on the expo floor stage. Panel discussions include Jonatan Schumacher, director of CORE studio at Thornton Tomasetti, and Jan Leenknegt, architect and BIM manager at BIG, who will examine how to connect design and data through the project life cycle; Paul Kassabian, associate principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, and Steve Jones, senior director at Dodge Data & Analytics, will address unifying project teams and technology; Ian Molloy, senior product manager at Autodesk, Alexandra Pollock, director of design technology at FXCollaborative, and Christopher Mackey, building scientist at Payette, will discuss designing for energy efficiency; and Iffat Mai, practice application development leader at Perkins+Will, Christopher Mayer, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Suffolk Construction, and Christopher Connock, design computation director at KieranTimberlake, will explore enhanced realities and immersive experiences. “TECH+ is a new type of conference,” said Darling. “We’re focusing on completely new ideas and techniques, and gauging where the future of the AEC will be and how we get there.” Below are some of the exhibitors who will be at this year’s TECH+ conference: Founded in New York City in 1898 as National Blueprint Inc., BluEdge has evolved into an industry leader in print and technology services for the AEC industry and beyond. BluEdge is widely recognized for its unmatched customer service, and expertise in 3-D technologies, creative graphics, managed print services, and document management solutions. Today, its service footprint extends across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Cove.tool is the first commercial software for optimizing cost and energy. The tool provides automated guidance to save up to 3 percent off the cost of construction while increasing performance of the building by up to 40 percent. The cloud-based tool helps architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners make better selections of building technologies by running thousands of parallel energy simulations. Developed by architects, building science experts, engineers, and sustainability consultants, the tool is integrated into the design process with plug-ins to Revit and Rhino for interoperability and parametric design. Adoption of cove.tool could dramatically reduce carbon emissions worldwide while helping owners reduce the cost of their buildings. FenestraPro Premium for Revit is an intuitive and easy-to-use add-in that enables architects to design energy-efficient building facades to comply with building regulations and required performance, without compromising the aesthetic of the facade. It integrates building design with performance, allows the architect to maintain control of the aesthetic of the building, and improves the design process by eliminating costly late-stage redesign fees. GRAPHISOFT® ignited the BIM revolution in 1984 with ARCHICAD®, the industry’s first BIM software for architects. GRAPHISOFT continues to lead the industry with innovative solutions such as its revolutionary BIMcloud®, the world’s first real-time BIM collaboration environment; EcoDesigner™, the world’s first fully BIM-integrated green design solution; and BIMx®, the world’s leading mobile app for BIM visualization. GRAPHISOFT is part of the Nemetschek Group. InsiteVR is a platform for AEC companies to create and manage virtual reality presentations across their offices. InsiteVR’s tools allow users to remotely control VR presentations, collect feedback from clients, and easily share to mobile headsets like the GearVR. IrisVR tackles the biggest problem in the architecture, construction, and engineering industries: What will a space actually look and feel like when it’s built? Iris created intuitive, user-friendly software that empowers virtual reality to experience depth and scale. JUJU IMSV employs the most advanced VR technology to create convincing, elegant, and easy-to-use marketing tools for off-plan sales across the globe. Our all-in-one marketing tools tell the story of the future property and not only help to efficiently raise money for the project, but also streamline the sales cycle. LERA IMMERSE is a virtual reality and augmented reality consulting service offering solutions to architects, owners, developers and construction managers. The custom-designed systems and tools enable users to navigate, interact with, and collaborate in the VR space, all while collecting valuable data that can be retrieved, analyzed, and fed back into the design process. Microsol Resources has been delivering integrated solutions to the architecture, engineering, and construction industries for over 30 years. The company is a recognized leader in BIM and CAD-based solutions, as well as an Autodesk Platinum Partner. Besides CAD & BIM software, Microsol also provides training, consulting, staffing, 3-D printing, and data management services to help customers gain a competitive advantage and improve their overall productivity. Morpholio makes apps that put designers first, fusing the fluidity and speed of hand drawing with the intelligence and precision of mobile and CAD technology. Its Trace app for architects is the unique software created to take design through every phase of the process, from concept to reality. PlanGrid is construction software made for the field that allows plans and markups to be instantaneously shared with everyone on a construction project—no matter where they are. It lets contractors, architects, and building owners collaborate from their desktop or mobile devices across all of their project plans, specs, photos, RFIs, and punch lists. Solibri is the leader in BIM quality assurance and quality control, providing out-of-the-box tools for BIM validation, compliance control, design process coordination, design review, analysis, and code checking. Solibri develops and markets quality assurance solutions that improve BIM-based design and make the entire design and construction process more productive and cost-effective.

Uber reveals flying taxi prototype and aims for 2023 launch

Uber’s flying taxi service is one step closer to getting off the ground after the ride-sharing company unveiled its latest flying car concept at their second annual Elevate conference in Los Angeles. The final design isn’t set in stone, but this new prototype is a template for the company’s five manufacturing partners to build off of. Elevate, also the name of Uber’s flying taxi business, wants to let passengers hail a flying car via app and hop from one rooftop sky port to another. Designing a quiet, electric urban helicopter is no small technical feat, and Uber’s latest proposal shows something of a cross between a jet, drone, and helicopter that’s capable of vertical takeoffs and landings (eVTOL). The shuttles will seat four, though they’ll have to be autonomously driven for Uber to make a profit; otherwise two of the seats would go towards a pilot and co-pilot. To make the trips affordable, Elevate will introduce a model similar to Uber Pool, where customers can share a ride that’s going in the same direction and split the cost. Elevate expects its flying cars to hover around 1,000 to 2,000 feet off the ground and travel at 150- to 200-miles-per-hour, and has thrown out several reference models for its aerospace partners, Karem, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight, and Bell as platforms to build off of. The latest model, first shown yesterday, would use four sets of stacked rotors for vertical lift and a tail-mounted rotor for thrust. Karem, the latest company to join Elevate, wants to build a working prototype of its eVTOL by 2020 and put them into commercial use by 2023. It might seem ambitious, but it’s a target that Elevate’s other partners are also aiming for. The infrastructure hurdle is another significant challenge that Uber will have to overcome if it really wants to make this system a reality. Besides having to actually develop software for the autonomously flying shuttles (something Uber has struggled with on the ground), the sky ports themselves and an unmanned air traffic control system will need to be built out. Elevate will be getting a bit of a boost in that department, as the company recently teamed up with NASA and the US Army to bring its ridesharing dreams to the sky.

Swiss researchers use robots to build complex timber structures

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, are giving timber construction a mechanical leg up with the introduction of prefabricated, robotically-assembled timber frame housing. Together with Erne AG Holzbau, a contracting firm that specializes in timber, researchers at the institute’s Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication have developed Spatial Timber Assemblies, a system for digitally fabricating and constructing complex forms from timber. After a model of the structure has been laid out, robotic arms mounted in the ceiling of the assembly chamber are capable of building the required parts as well as putting them together. First, one arm picks up a beam and holds it while a human trims the piece into the proper size and shape. Then, a second robot arm pre-drills the holes needed for attaching the beam to the structure; finally, both robot arms work together to precisely place the beam as a human attaches it. Thanks to algorithms developed by the researchers, the arms are able to constantly recalculate their location in space and how to move forward without bumping into each other (or humans on the job site). A major advantage of Spatial Timber Assemblies is that the structures built this way carry their load-bearing capacity structurally, and don’t require reinforcing plates or any additional steel. If the overall design changes during construction, researchers are able to calculate a new, optimized framing solution using load-distribution algorithms. The system is more than theoretical. ETH researchers are currently using it to assemble six unique modules, which will join to frame the top two floors of the experimental DFAB HOUSE in Dübendorf, a suburb of Zurich. Once installed on site, both floors will have distinct rooms across 328 square feet of floor space. The final design, which uses 487 individual beams, will be wrapped in a clear plastic facade so that the underlying timber structure can remain exposed. Advancements in robotic construction are advancing rapidly, and ETH researchers have been developing robots that weld, spray concrete, and stack bricks to create forms that would have been difficult to build previously. And if the ETH needs help decorating the interior of their research house, robots can now assemble IKEA furniture, too.