Page T1.1 . 13 October 2004                     
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    Digital Design Divergence

    by Yehuda E. Kalay

    The evolution of computer-aided design in architecture can be viewed as the search for technology that can fulfill certain preconceived roles, such as drafting and modeling. However, a second view may be of greater interest to the profession and discipline of architecture, possibly even to society at large.

    In this second view digital technology is something that can actually change how the built environment is conceived, constructed, and used. More than any other tool, computers can change the tasks they are applied to, creating new roles for themselves along the way.

    Design Assistants

    For instance, to go beyond the limitations imposed by a human operator, digital design tools could be infused with "intelligence" and "volition" of their own. Secretaries, travel agents, and stock brokers provide a service that cannot be matched by mere tools: they are able to take a general instruction, fill in missing details, negotiate obstacles, find alternatives, and present the results of their work in a processed form to their "masters."

    Computers have the capacity to become such assistants. In the design process, the role of computational assistants may be likened to that of a junior designer who can take generic instructions such as "design a staircase between these floors" and carry out the task without further intervention by the senior designer. Digital assistants could elaborate details, watch out for known problems, and resolve them. They could answer questions submitted by less capable tools and supervise their operations.

    By endowing them with the intelligence necessary to carry out complex tasks and the volition to do so on their own, computers can go beyond the abilities of their human operators. Their unlimited patience, infallible memory, and enormous speed may help them develop interesting and novel design solutions, find answers to baffling questions, and contribute to the development of new knowledge.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from Architecture's New Media: Principles, Theories, and Methods of Computer-Aided Design by Yehuda E. Kalay, with permission of the publisher, The MIT Press.



    ArchWeek Image

    Computers can help designers and engineers visualize and measure natural phenomena like wind patterns around tall buildings.
    Image: Tsou Jin-Yeu, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

    ArchWeek Image

    WORLDVIEW, an early knowledge-based CAD system, integrating geometric modeling and drafting.
    Image: Y.E. Kalay


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