Conference Explores Informed Architecture
Simpson presented a case study of a 400,000-square-foot (36,000-square-meter) biotechnology laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on which his firm used a "hypertrack" design process. This means that instead of working sequentially — first programming then schematic design then design development then construction documents then construction administration — much of the work was done simultaneously.
Using the hypertrack process, Simpson's firm brought the owner, architect, consultant, engineer, and contractor into the architect's office once a week for a meeting. They were all principals of their firms, people who could command the resources to get the job done and quickly analyze and make design decisions.
Simpson said. "We developed simultaneous information about how much it would cost, how it could be built, and how the phases would interact. Even when the players were not at the office, they were connected 24 hours a day through a Web site.
By improving team communications, they were able to slash the amount of time normally required for approvals, building permits, and construction. Cost savings were also impressive. Decisions were made simultaneously and together, which reduced backtracking, increased speed, and kept the design, budget, and schedule in focus.
Rapid Prototyping for Conceptual Design
Another firm that presented at the summit was OWP&P of Chicago. They were represented by senior associates Robin Ellerthorpe, FAIA, and Arnie Kakulis, and Doug Shore, research and development manager of OWP&P's Facilities Consulting Group.
The glut of information architects are receiving is not necessarily a good thing, they argued, if its overwhelming quantity can't be understood and processed into a form useable in analysis and design.
Their presentation introduced the term "informed architecture." According to Ellerthorpe, this refers to "the use of information technology to create a dynamic graphical user environment of integrated facility information through process creation, analysis, and reporting."
Shore presented a theoretical case study call "Function 2 Form" (F2F). Its goals are to develop conceptual design alternatives to meet programmatic constraints, to enable the designer to translate the preferred conceptual model to reality as quickly as possible, and to introduce increased value rather than simply reduce time and cost.
Because there are so many considerations in conceptual design, Shore explained there are an unlimited number of possible design solutions. He applies mathematical processes to reduce that infinite set to a more manageable set of alternatives. Once presented with a few workable solutions, the designer can frame an intelligent analysis and make good decisions.
Putting It All in Perspective
The keynote speaker for the day-long summit was John Seely Brown, Ph.D., chief scientist of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and author of The Social Life of Information.
In his presentation, Brown compared the Cartesian view of "I think, therefore I am," (individuals and information) with the social life critique of "we participate, therefore we are" (communication, communities, context).
He discussed the tunnel vision that occurs when information is not taken in context, causing many of the problems people have with high-tech systems. "It may be the undercurrent to why a lot of people are beginning to question if this modern e-age is necessarily an age of pure progress," Brown said.
"Have we become obsessed with technological tools taken out of context that maybe really don't bring calmness, productivity, creativity to our lives?"
The Architects Technology Summit was co-sponsored by CMD Group, a leading provider of construction market data and of proprietary construction information and Greenway Consulting, a management consulting firm for the construction industry.
The statistical results of hypertrack compared to conventional design and construction processes.
Image: The Stubbins Associates, Inc.
A 400,000-square-foot (36,000-square-meter) biotechnology laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts was constructed with a "hypertrack" process.
Image: The Stubbins Associates, Inc.
Technology drives the escalating collection of data but does not minimize or encapsulate information to make it usable by humans.
The "Function 2 Form" project tries to span the information gap by narrowing the number of acceptable design solutions and making them visible. The designer then applies human intelligence to select and develop one or more options.
As in molecular modeling, where molecules come to rest at a certain point of balance, variables in a design solution can be said to "rest" at a point where selected variables, such as cost or adjacency requirements, are optimized.
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