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How the Great Recession has changed architecture—for the better

Rusty!

Yesterday's Article in Slate Magazine talks how awesome this recession has been for awesome for architecture.

Why? Because it killed "expressionist anti-rationalism". You know, those dozen or so silly signature buildings that get built around the world.

The author also states that parametric BIM design is also dead.

The recession also forces architects to finally act with discipline, restraint, and common sense.

The biggest losers? The newest generation of graduates, but not because of what you think. You see they lost because they know to use all these modern tools that are useless now. The profession went back to drafting boards and telegraphs. Time to start unlearnin' stuff.

Me thinks this is sour grapes from someone in a dying industry (paid journalism) wishing the neighbor's caw dies too.

What do you think my favorite neo-classic minimalist you?

 
Jan 14, 11 1:26 pm
Rusty!

Throw in another awesome in my first sentence pls.

Jan 14, 11 1:27 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields

Hahaha. I have no idea what the big mystery of architecture is.

It seems to me that 95% of it is Cntl + C, Cntl + V.
If it looks unsafe, bump up the column width.
Slap on some windows, wrap the whole thing in plastic and tar.
Choose trendy color of the moment, apply liberally.
If in doubt, slap on a really awful looking pendant lamp to draw attention away from everything else.

...

I've seen more jobs with lately with SketchUp as a requirement. But take that with a grain of salt because I stopped looking for a job at the end of November.

Jan 14, 11 1:42 pm  · 
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Cherith Cutestory

The ideology in this article is infuriating. It basically says you are either a staunch modernist or idealistic sculptor posing as architect. Mies or Zaha. Box or Blob. It totally ignores that there might actually be valuable things to learn from the "architectural extravagance" that has occurred over the last few years - advancements in materials, construction, software - that may actually be useful, albeit at a reduced scale, to "rationalist" buildings.

The article relies entirely on sweeping generalizations that have far greater depth and deserve to be unpacked and questioned. "Trained in the arcane arts of parametric design and generative architecture..." is a prime example of a statement made with no research and knowledge of what the words mean beyond that they are mentioned frequently in "Expressionist anti-rationalism" project descriptions and therefore must be bad. BIM design is dead? Perhaps if we limit the scope of BIM design to Frank Gehry. But try telling that to the countless firms who have used the recession to switch to BIM design vis-a-vis REVIT (and who many are probably doing "rationalist" architectural design with it).

"Construction is a cyclical industry" and Architecture, from a design standpoint, is not much different. What we design and build today is no doubt influenced by what came before; The Renaissance is essentially a throwback to classical antiquity informed by construction, material and formally advances made during the Middle Ages. Okay, so the recession means that buildings will get reigned in a bit and clients will be more critical of how their money is spent. Does that mean we just ignore the advances made in the last several years? I don't think so.

Jan 14, 11 1:59 pm  · 
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Rusty!

I think the article was written by Ayn Rand's zombie corpse.

Howard Roark approves.

Jan 14, 11 2:05 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields

I don't know... if Ayn Rand's zombie corpse is right...

That means we'll have more shit architecture like this:

Jan 14, 11 2:15 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields

I'd much prefer having to be assaulted by Zaha's parametric gobbledygook, Gehry's MC Hammer Pants pleating or Libeskind's sharts [shit shards].

Jan 14, 11 2:17 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields
Jan 14, 11 2:19 pm  · 
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Cherith Cutestory

Uxbridge, if this is what you see as "shit architecture" I need to move to wherever you are living. Either of these buildings would be preferable to the visual blight I have to deal with on a daily basis. The fact that there are materials other than CMU and Stucco already has me titillated.

Jan 14, 11 2:48 pm  · 
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better for who?

Jan 14, 11 3:58 pm  · 
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elinor

'architectural propriety'??!

...old crank masquerading as the (self-appointed) architectural morality police.

'Anything that could be imagined was built.'

...now there's a terrible thing!


this piece is outrageous.

now you all excuse me while i go slut it up w/my new mac and my new copy of grasshopper. xo.

Jan 14, 11 4:16 pm  · 
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vado retro

what the recession has killed is

1. strip mall development
2. lifestyle center development
3. speculative housing development

all of which have helped to slow the pace of the sprawlinization of america.

Jan 14, 11 5:29 pm  · 
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jmanganelli

"I think the article was written by Ayn Rand's zombie corpse.
Howard Roark approves."

Damn that was funny. I almost spit up my hot tea.

This article troubles me because of its insinuation that somehow a method, i.e., using parametric tools, is the cause of the fanciful forms the author dislikes, and that the solution to returning to more 'sensible' design is to reject the method in favor of presumably older methods --- on the contrary, architecture's use of these methods is pathetically lagging other design and engineering disciplines. If anything, you might account for the naive exuberance of much recent architectural form making with these methods as designers enamored with the discovery of this capability and fetishizing it as newbies tend to do, even though other professions have been using it for up to 25-30 years -- 25-30 years! -- why are we always bringing up the rear? A more mature use of the tools is coming and, as Cherith notes, is already here, and the designs will reflect that -- though i hope there is still some naive exuberhance, too, though maybe toned down a bit.

The last thing anyone needs to do is encourage architects to fall even farther behind in their use of these tools. Don't we all reiterate the need to master the design and representation technology to the point where it is not driving design but just a tool for design; that the tool itself does not have judgment? This remains the case.

Jan 14, 11 6:27 pm  · 
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jbushkey

Uxbridge I don't love that first building but it gets +1 for having operable windows.

Jan 14, 11 6:55 pm  · 
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syp

I don't agree with what the article says. He is too much exaggerating what "Rationalism" can do, but Rationalism had already failed to explain the world and our cultures.

However, his antagonists are also so absurd that they think graphic tools are architectural tools. Too shameful and superficial...

Jan 14, 11 7:45 pm  · 
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olaf design ninja

Oh this guy, I believe he wrote a book that when I read the summary I thought what aspiring young architect would waste their time with this, I thinks he is one of those academics where you wonder how he got his job and keeps it.

The guy is clueless really. Sure a lot of bullshit was built, over the top bull shit requiring technology to advance and construction to advance. Thank you frank gehry who couldn't do a BIM model if his life depended on it.

Revit is BIM, go check the craigslist adds! Plenty of money if you know how to use it.

Well if you were me you'd know you can charge a lot for a complicated model that may take only an hour using parametric software, shhhhh don't tell anyone. You can make 500 hour doing it all BIM'd uup (I have true story)

What the recession has really done is quite the opposite of what this guy is saying...all the designer hacks and bull shit contractors are out...the owners who could get a loan just like my dog don't dictate projects anymore.....clients who are wise and waded thru the recession who appreciate professionals who understand the cutting edge of practice and construction are still getting wokr.

Jan 14, 11 8:21 pm  · 
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jbushkey

I am afraid the recession may kill the aspirations of recent graduates who can't find work. If things do pick back up in a few years will employers be hiring the 20009 grads who have been out of school and not working in the field for a few years, the brand new grads, or the laid off people who have years of experience?

Jan 15, 11 8:52 am  · 
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trace™

The article didn't read as pessimistic as some are saying (to me). It sounds more like a recognition that the over-the-top extravagance by anyone, just to make a statement, will die (and it has).

As for the software/technology I am guessing (as I agree) that things like generative design and all the software designed this and that will die. This is line with 'theory' taking too much control over the end product (as architecture is a product, at the end of the day, even though the process can be stimulating, it is just that, a process, which does not pay any bills or mean anything to anyone but the designer).

His reference of Norton is interesting, too, as he does not seem to be an incredibly 'rational' architect (I do like a lot of his work, very much so). So I would guess that the author is calling for the death of the theoretically driven generative 'design', not BIM done for the efficiency. Two very different uses of software.











Jan 15, 11 10:01 am  · 
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trace™

Last image isn't Norton, dammit.



Edit button please??

Jan 15, 11 10:06 am  · 
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jmanganelli

I'll stand by my comment. Most engineers and designers use parametric constraints to guide design and as one component used for validation and traceability.

What may be 'dying' in architectural practice is the fetish with this capability which reverberated through our discipline after some theoretical work in the 90's exploring the potential of these tools for architecture. But use of parametrics as a method is ubiquitous in design and engineering and software design and systems design and organizational design and CGI and game design and it would be foolish to confuse the architectural appropriation of this term and these methods with what the use of these methods actually means and actually does for most design professionals.

You can just as easily use these tools to relate the linear feet of shelving in a warehouse to an inventory spreadsheet or the height of a building and its setback to code requirements as you can to make an envelope with 8000 pieces of unique glass undulating in a wave form. The former use is useful in general practice and will persist and grow as it is more effectively built into our design tools.

In addition, and because buildings such as hospitals and factories really are occupied machines with a supporting software architecture, the use of these tools is one way to model relationships across disciplinary boundaries and to map relationships between the physical architecure, the building's systems and its software architecture.

In some ways, the hype surrounding these parametric techniques I see as similar to the hype surrounding LEED and the USGBC's particular flavor of sustainable design. Will sustainability and high-performance building ultimately just be part of the building code? Yes. Will sustainable design continue to be a niche capacity? No, except for the more extreme attempts at pushing the boundaries. Was LEED and the USGBC instrumental in changing professional practice? Yes, but its mission is changing as sustainable design is folded into standard practice.

Similarly, will parametric tools and methods become mundane and standard aspects of all of our design tools? Yes, both because they are a way to more closely tie program to form and capacity and because they allow us a way to integrate and validate building architecture with the design of the building's systems and software.

Jan 15, 11 11:04 am  · 
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Apurimac

as a quick response to the OP:

BIM is DOA in my office, and a total non-starter. Since the recession started, we've taken refuge in the sheer speed of AutoCAD to blast small jobs out as quickly as possible. I think the emphasis on Revit has been misplaced recently, as it really is useful for big, standalone jobs and everybody I know is doing small stuff these days.

Jan 15, 11 4:46 pm  · 
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syp

olaf design ninja,

The whole point of BIM is to make the design process "holistic", and to make the connection between design and construction easily transitionable for a big project where design has been usually done without construction knowledges and concerns.
That is to say, the point of BIM is to make a building process "economical", but not to generate computer driven over complicated shapes which make its building process super complicated and expensive.

About the modeling and rendering technology, you are right the technology is developing really fast, and thus works can be done in short time.
But, it means that offices would need less and less renderers as time goes on.
Only one or two specialised renders would be quite enough for most of firms, even for one with more than 100 employees.
The trend is already obvious because in most of firms the renderings process and architectural design process have been completely separated, and renderers are being specialised just for rendering even if he majored in architecture. In the end, many of those specialised renderers change their career into some other areas where renderers get more respects like animation and industrial design.

I agree computer graphic skills are invaluable at this time, but it is not the direction, in order to succeed in architecture field, for every young graduates definitely to go. Like I said earlier, the demand would be less and less as the technology advenaces and becomes easy to learn.

Jan 15, 11 5:57 pm  · 
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trace™

syp - I'll have to disagree with you about firms needing less renderers. It is a moving target. 10 years ago that's what people thought - that 1 inhouse guy + a few designers that can render their own project will be enough. That's when I was working designing architecture.

Then the opposite happened - specialized firms started popping up that offered great skills, complex visual solutions (for clients), talent, etc. I think this will continue to be the case.

Everyone thought faster computers would make everything instantaneous, but that hasn't happened. People just expect more as technology advances (I started my first renderings on a Pentium 120 for God's sake! 16 mb ram, 800 mb hard drive, or something like that).


So, firm's will most likely continue as they are, with one or two dedicated renderers and all the 'marketing' work that the clients need going to outside firms (like animations, video, web, graphic). The field will continue to advance and be more and more film-like.



But who knows, things continue to evolve, expectations mature, and we are all just along for the ride, hopefully grabbing on and taking advantage of some positive momentum.

Jan 15, 11 6:12 pm  · 
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syp

"Then the opposite happened - specialized firms started popping up that offered great skills, complex visual solutions (for clients), talent, etc. I think this will continue to be the case."

In a sense, I agree with your opinion. Some firms would still continue incorperating graphic designers in their organization.

But, as you know that graphic skills that offices require don't and WILL NEVER have anything to do with "academic interests and theories", if architecture offices want to hire recent graduates just for their new computuer graphic skills from schools and schools teach their student mainly graphic skills to satisfy offices' demend for cheap graphic desingers, it would lead architecture into a crisis as a solid profession like happening now as we all know.

Jan 15, 11 7:04 pm  · 
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trace™

I wasn't suggesting anything about the education, just that technology (so far) has not lowered the need for specific technological skills (like a 'click here' for pretty rendering button).

Jan 16, 11 9:54 am  · 
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syp

What I tried to say is the demend for graphic skills would continue, but such demend is for "cheap and disposable graphic designer" because its demend is not about something profound or experienced, and current schools are cooperating with such trend.

Actually that is a negative cycle happening when star-schools and star-architects system look after a vulgar capitalism.
Star-architects demend cheap graphic designers and star-schools supply such skillers, and reversely star-schools demend a reputation from renowned architects and star-architects supply such reputation to their supplier of cheap skillers. But, individual persons hardly have any advantage for his own career in "the vulgar capitalism cycle". He is like a disposable part of a machine in that cycle.

Even "specialized firms" that you mentioned want just a few specialised respected graphic desingers, and they treat most of other graphic skillers, most of who are recent graduates, disposable.

This is, I think, the fact that is different from what "olaf design ninja" said.

Jan 16, 11 11:14 am  · 
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trace™

Huh, difficult to fully get what you are saying with that spelling and grammar!

Every profession has entry level people that will be doing the 'grunt' work, architecture is certainly in this category.

Talented people in graphics, however, are not disposable and fairly rare. Knowing Photoshop and Illustrator well does not make you talented, just as knowing Max and VRay doesn't guarantee a quality rendering.

Graphics, unlike architecture, pay the more talented people more respectable salaries.

Jan 16, 11 11:43 am  · 
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jmanganelli

it seems, too, that when you contract graphics work for arch viz outside of the firm, a lot of the arch viz specialists are formally trained artists in traditional and digital media. It seems these are not mostly just arch school students who 'picked it up'. Their training in modeling light, using color, texturing, etc, goes far beyond studio projects and webinars.

Jan 16, 11 11:49 am  · 
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jmanganelli

...and if an arch grad does happen to become an accomplished arch viz person, (s)he likewise seems to invest a lot more time and effort into learning color theory, lighting, texturing, etc --- it is specialized enough now that you don't just open vray and pop out great arch viz (to echo trace's point)

Jan 16, 11 11:54 am  · 
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blah

The author is a real estate prof at Penn

Jan 16, 11 11:55 am  · 
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syp

Sorry for my Enlish, trace™.

All what I said aside,
I also respect accomplished graphic designers just like I respect accomplished architects.

Jan 16, 11 12:13 pm  · 
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Rusty!
"Huh, difficult to fully get what you are saying with that spelling and grammar!"

Just please don't shoot a congressperson over it pls.

Jan 16, 11 12:39 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields

M-M-M-MIND CONTROL!

Jan 16, 11 5:43 pm  · 
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olaf design ninja

no syp no
it's all data man all data....if you can manage the tool that manages data best - the computer - then the computer will make you rich

regardless of the style of architecture

nothing to do with graphics.

Jan 16, 11 8:42 pm  · 
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jbushkey
The author is a real estate prof at Penn

Witold Rybczynski is an architect and taught for 20 years at McGill.

After twenty years spent teaching at McGill University, he now lives in Philadelphia and is the Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also founding co-editor of the Wharton Real Estate Review. He currently serves on the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts.

from Wikipedia

Jan 16, 11 9:22 pm  · 
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treekiller

as somebody who has actually chatted with Witold, he's a rather smart and interesting person. I just disagree with his politics and fetish of 'traditional' design. but that doesn't make him incompetent or
one of those academics where you wonder how he got his job and keeps it.

Attacking an author you disagree with is a cheap way of avoiding discussing the ideas you might disagree with.

Jan 17, 11 7:37 am  · 
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blah

But he teaches real estate at the business school there. A friend had his class. No, he's very bright. The article is full of generalizations and is written like a Republican hit piece where the facts are used in haphazard manner to justify a preconceived view of the world.

My friend worked at General Growth. SHoP designed this shopping center in NY that had this huge parametric trellis/screen on the facade. Guess what was the first thing cut? The screen. This is probably where Prof. Rib is coming from...

Jan 17, 11 12:51 pm  · 
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BlueGoose

make: I'm thinking it more likely that he's coming from the typical point of view held by the more typical client, who tends to be more interested in ROI than big-A architecture.

I think he made that pretty clear when he wrote that the profession, going forward, will be "facing a world of chastened clients who demand discipline, restraint, and common sense."

In other words, it's back to the Golden Rule.

Jan 17, 11 2:33 pm  · 
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blah

Bluegoose,

Typical clients are building the same stuff they were 20 years ago. They NEVER were building stararchitect stuff.

I think he's focused on the Architects in the headlines like my previous example.

Strip malls are strip malls. They are little different.

Jan 17, 11 2:47 pm  · 
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St. George's Fields

It comes down to this really...

We'll probably have big-A Architecture limited to very specific one-of-a-kind projects with very niche clientele (cultural institutions, some governmental agencies, very few non-for-profits and some wealthy home owners).

However, for the most part, architecture is going to be an assortment of specs and options.

Although the examples that Trace posted are specialty-type clients... that architecture is really no different than the examples I posted. They're both basically boxes were someone opted for Option-A instead of Option-B with Trim-A over Trim-B.

Architecture by form-fill!


@Cherith,
The problem I have with that kind of Architecture is that it is as basically as expensive as Capital A architecture.

It's also people with 'good taste' building things for other people with 'good taste.'

It's like the Anne Klein or Express of Architecture. It's not daring, it's not funky, it's not anything other than above average. It's gray, beige, black with specks of acceptable colors clad in brushed metals and a sense of over-achieved mediocrity.

When you live in an area that didn't even exist 20 years ago... there is no tradition, no style and nothing to hold on too. They could have done great things with this area but it really is bits of other people's grafted organs onto an environment that's obviously rejecting it.

Jan 17, 11 3:06 pm  · 
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jmanganelli

i think it is true that he is referring to the exception, not the rule in architecture. but it is still a problematic perspective.

I've heard several times over the years, more so in the 90's, "...you can always tell "those buildings designed with CAD" because they "have such flat, bland elevations." That is, people new to CAD can have a false sense of the visual impact of a building when they work mostly in 2D cad elevations, especially once they develop skill with using lineweights and hatches and markers or photoshop to make the elevations read really well. But when the building goes up, the details don't pop the way they did in the drawing, the sketched shadows aren't as dramatic and the building is much blander than the drawing indicated.

This is a failure to use the CAD tool in a mature way. It is not the failure of CAD. I don't think anyone today would try to argue that such flat designs call into question the value and use of CAD in architecture or suggest that we abandon CAD as a strategy to remedy the situation. It would be silly. It is the designer's responsibility to use cad, not be limited by it or to fetishize its product.

This situation seems to be analogous. The problem with the argument is that it conflates tool, method and product and in doing so calls into question the value of a tool and method instead of the implementation of the tool and method. And as with CAD, the tool and method in question is already irreversibly a part of most of our design tools, it can be used in a very pragmatic and efficient way, and so this is a silly argument to make.

Jan 17, 11 3:44 pm  · 
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metal

I was going to read the article, then i saw the author was Witold Rybczynski, the nostalgic

Jan 17, 11 7:31 pm  · 
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olaf design ninja

Style begets style...you don't discuss things with raging republicans - you yell at them.
So I don't apologize for my grossly over exagerated comments, he is in the commodity end of the industry - thinking outside the bottom line is silly.

He is clearly ignorant of the tools though...he should probably differentiate between Rhino Grasshopper (penn being a Rhino kind of school) and Revit.

If you think of parametricism as what architects and engineers do in practice daily (as discussed above) then as a realtor commodity type mind and in the sense of this essay - witold should be damn excited about mastering the data software.

But as noted above Rhino Grasshopper is not Revit - Rhino in his academic setting is about form making. I used parametrics to do the very shit you guys are talking about above to model something in 8 hours instead of 50...the Seagrams building shouldn't take any office more than a week down to the CD's.

So in conclusion the articles premise should actually be supported by the high techy parametrics and BIM.

Jan 17, 11 7:31 pm  · 
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olaf design ninja

Just so you don't think I am going back on what I said
The seagrams building as a whole would be a complex piece, but if modeled correctly in parametrics it is freakin restrained and ass simple...boom done

Ie spend time making craxy trellis or spend time making a complete building.

Jan 17, 11 7:33 pm  · 
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Cherith Cutestory

I feel like what is being unsaid here is that really we should be talking about the construction industry, in that they are really the culprit in advancing the building industry. Much of the "anti-rationalism" work that will fall under the umbrella defined in the article isn't really that complex. Sure the Zaha's and the Gehry's push the limit, but for the most part, the work is 100% buildable with normative materials and pretty normative construction techniques. The larger problem though is a construction industry ruled by profit-driven contractors and unskilled and sloppy builders, who most of the time have a difficult enough time to make square openings for windows and doors.

Jan 17, 11 8:06 pm  · 
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zen maker

BIM is far from dead, it is evolving fast, many firms just don't have enough money and time to adapt it yet, but as soon as things will stabilize a bit more, BIM will flourish and will become mainstream.

Jan 17, 11 9:34 pm  · 
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dia

I also wonder about BIM. I wonder why it has not taken over. I wonder why it is expensive, and still rests in the domain of the graduate or the geek.

The software marketplace is fractured and hence there is alot of work to do with compatibility and standards, both in practice and between consultants...

As Cherith points out, for the most part work is 100% buildable. It might be case of using a jackhammer (parametricism) to crack a nut.

In light of tools like sketchup, is it not logical that things will get easier and ubiquitous in terms of documentation? Are not the main constraints still (and always will be) land issues, planning law and finance?

Jan 17, 11 10:16 pm  · 
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jmanganelli

building performance validation and long-term maintenance also benefit greatly from BIM.

Jan 17, 11 10:34 pm  · 
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won and done williams

in the spirit of the great race-ession, let's put together two teams, one a team of crack fresh-faced wiz-kids from hahvahd to apply their newfangled parametricism, and another a team of wizened and bitter laid-off som project managers, to go head-to-head in a construction document battle royale. the first to complete their set of cds with the fewest rfis and change orders wins a full-time job at $32,000 salary and the opportunity to kiss rem koolhaas's ass.

Jan 17, 11 11:03 pm  · 
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Rusty!
"wins a full-time job at $32,000 "

Too much. We already established $27k as more than anyone would ever need in architecture.

Jan 17, 11 11:31 pm  · 
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Rusty!

Also, what is a definition of 'parametric' in BIM? It seems the term means many things to many people.

To me it always meant highly technical construction and materials information embedded in a graphical interface. Far from anything a student may find useful in halls of education.

Are the little ones bastardizing the concept already?

jmanganelli: I lol'ed over the CAD in '90s comment. I forgot about that completely.

Jan 17, 11 11:39 pm  · 
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