Page T1.2 . 22 January 2003                     
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    Designs on Industrial Technology


    Virtual Reality (VR) technology has been developed extensively for military purposes, and the technology has migrated into the aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing industries.

    One component of the ERC is the Visualization, Analysis, and Imaging Lab. VAIL uses a CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment. The CAVE was first developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a virtual reality theater suitable for scientific visualization, interactive presentations, and teleoperations. This facility is a room-sized, multi-person, high-resolution, three-dimensional video and audio theater.

    For VAIL researchers, a fundamental goal of visualization is to enable and enhance human comprehension of complex phenomena. Although the field of computational engineering is capable of solving many real-world problems, visualizing these computed data sets for optimal human understanding remains a challenge.

    Application areas of expertise and interest include the geosciences, fluid dynamics, medicine, bio-informatics, and human cognitive processes. The work at VAIL involves an array of visual simulations that represent physical phenomena such as ocean and atmospheric tidal/ fluid flows.

    The ERC also includes the Computational Simulation & Design Center (SimCenter). Their mission is to serve government and industry through research and development of advanced computational simulation and design systems. They support the simulation, design, and certification of land, sea, air, and space vehicular systems.

    The SimCenter has developed important improvements in algorithms for the aerodynamic and structural design of airplane wings and turbine blades. It is expected that these studies will ultimately produce tools for multidisciplinary analysis and optimization that can be incorporated into comprehensive design systems.

    Technology Transfer to Architecture

    The SimCenter's research into computational fluid dynamics (CFD) for the design of missiles and submarine hulls, for example, might be adapted to apply to buildings. We can already see some application of such performance analysis techniques in architectural engineering. This is driven, for example, by the engineering requirements of tall buildings, and by interest in "green" architecture with conditioning by natural ventilation.

    CFD is now being used more often to predict the natural movement of air around and through buildings. A recent example is a CFD simulation recently conducted by Steven Winter Associates for the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin (Ohio) College, designed by William McDonough + Partners. Their CFD study predicted the flow of air through interior spaces and the resulting ambient air temperatures.

    Some areas of the world, particularly Europe, have stricter performance criteria for buildings than does the United States. One group that works in this area is the London engineering firm Cundall Johnston and Partners and their software subsidiary, Genesys, who specialize in sustainable-building simulation. The firm's many forms of computer modeling contribute to low-energy, environmentally sensitive architectural design.

    Another architectural example of CFD analysis is by Richard Meier and Associates and Arup who used performance simulation modeling for the Church of the Year 2000 in Tor Tre Teste, Italy. The building uses air drawn through a north side crawl space for cooling. The design team used CFD analysis to predict user comfort and comply with energy conservation guidelines.

    Architecture out of the Cave

    Besides performance evaluation, we are also seeing a migration of high-tech visualization techniques into architecture. The CAVE technology, which once cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, is now becoming available at tens of thousands of dollars. Lightweight, portable augmented-reality domes for simulation are now emerging; these give architecture firms new possibilities for design, analysis, and client presentations.

    One academic application is at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Pennsylvania State University, where the Immersive Environments Lab is available to aid beginning design students.

    The design office of Frank Gehry has become well known for its use of aerospace-oriented design tools for developing direct-to-fabrication construction documents, facilitating construction of undulating envelopes like those of the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Experience Music Project.

    Now Gehry Partners has spun off a new company, Gehry Technologies, with long-time Gehry collaborator James Glymph as chief executive officer and with Gehry Partners director of computing Dennis Shelden as chief technology officer. The company is intended to provide software research and development, consulting, and training services to help AEC clients apply and integrate CATIA engineering design software, and other related software tools, in commercial partnership with the primary software vendors.

    The Gehry team is conscious about taking on a larger role as tool builders and distributors. In a recent Architectural Record news item, James Glymph says, "We asked ourselves, can we have a positive influence instead of just doing projects our way? We think we can. We want to actively participate in what we believe will be a very important decade for the construction industry."

    Early modern theorists like Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier felt that manufacturing industries held the key to the future of architecture and to meeting the needs of global architecture. We now know that the transfer of technology from other related industries into architecture is slow, and translations into the building industry often encounter non-obvious inefficiencies.

    Like the visionary architects of the early 20th century, we will continually be confronted with emerging technology. We can anticipate that client expectations of visualization, demands for more sophisticated and reliable design performance, and calls for greater collaboration in the global enterprise will increase our need for advanced technologies.

    Larry R. Barrow, DDes, AIA, NCARB is director of the Digital Research & Imaging Lab at the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University.



    ArchWeek Image

    The early-modern Schroder House (1925) in Utrecht, The Netherlands by Gerrit Rietveld, borrowed a machine aesthetic from the manufacturing industry.
    Great Buildings Photo Yetsuh Frank

    ArchWeek Image

    The Visualization, Analysis, and Imaging Laboratory (VAIL) at Mississippi State University displays representations of physical phenomena such as ocean tides.
    Image: Visualization, Analysis, and Imaging Lab/ Mississippi State University

    ArchWeek Image

    Design student uses mixed multimedia tools at the Immersive Environments Lab at Pennsylvania State University to present his work during a virtual review.
    Photo: George Otto

    ArchWeek Image

    Heat transfer simulations developed at the ERC may some day provide improved algorithms for studying heat transfer in buildings.
    Image: Computational Simulation and Design Center/ Mississippi State Universitya

    ArchWeek Image

    A CFD simulation, simultaneously displaying air speed, direction, and temperature, was recently conducted for an Oberlin building by William McDonough + Partners.
    Image: Steven Winter Associates

    ArchWeek Image

    At the ERC/ SimCenter, NASA-sponsored simulations of the aerodynamics of propellers.
    Image: Computational Simulation and Design Center/ Mississippi State University

    ArchWeek Image

    The dramatically non-rectilinear forms of Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao were designed using physical models, then delineated for construction with engineering design software.
    Photo: Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    The 21,000 eccentrically-shaped metal shingles of the outer shell of the Experience Music Project were cut by lasers guided by data generated directly from 3D modeling software.
    Photo: Stan Smith


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