Friday, November 27, 2009

ACADIA 09: reForm()

Blog entry by: Dominik Holzer

AEC Connect attended the 29th annual conference of the association for computer aided design in architecture (ACADIA) that was held in Chicago, Illinois from October 22nd 025th with a line-up of presenters from academia and design practice. There was a notable difference to the usual workshops that we have seen preceding conferences such as ACADIA, Caadria, or eCAADee over the past few years. This year a staggering number of 12 workshops were on offer in Chicago with parametric modelling and scripting in Rhino as well as environmental analysis in Ecotect raising most interest. The workshops attracted nearly as many visitors as the conference itself and some participants didn’t even stay on for the main event. It makes me wonder if the focus of architectural computing conferences is shifting towards more pro-active participation and training.

Kai Strehlke, from Herzog & de Meuron, Robert Aish from Autodesk and Peter W.Singer , from the 21st Century Defence Initiative of the Brookings Institution gave the keynote addresses which strongly varied in character and content. Overall this reflected the nature of the conference that clearly seemed to avoid limiting itself to the presentation of emerging student work by allowing a strong group of practice-based researchers and professionals to showcase their work.

The content of the presentations span across a wide array of topics. From highly experimental work about ‘Code, Context and Perception’ shown by Jenny Sabin from the University of Pennsylvania, to adaptive façade-technology (fritting) by Drozdowski & Gupta (Hobermann & Buro Happold) , to process driven design development and delivery as presented by Nathan Miller from NBBJ who shared useful insights about the use of parametrics and BIM on recent stadium projects conducted in Asia.

Kai Strehlke’s keynote about the approach taken by the ‘Digital Technology Group’ at Herzog & de Meuron highlighted once again that leading designers will not limit themselves to the use of one tool or technique, but that they will search for the right tools that help them address the specific nature of each project individually. According to Strehlke, the uniqueness of each projects is also one reason why the use of BIM tools is not useful for all projects designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

Robert Aish centered his keynote address on reconciling the mismatch between the logic of design and the logic of computation. Aish, who is currently director of software development at Autodesk has a long history in computational tool development for designers. He creation one of the first commonly available parametric design software Generative Components with Bentley and he now focuses on the development of a new programming/design language D++ at Autodesk. Aish’s keynote was followed by an Autodesk panel discussion that also included Andrew Marsh (the creator of Ecotect) to discuss the difficulties in developing software tools for the architecture and engineering communities.

The last keynote, presented by Peter W.Singer ‘Wired for war’, was certainly the odd one out with Singer’s background stemming from military and science fiction context. Singer’s presentation was particularly memorable duo to the moral and ethic questions it raised. Warfare is increasingly being conducted remotely with the use of drones and automated machinery and questions of risk and responsibilities are becoming ever more abstract. Singer did not try to make extensive efforts to connect his findings directly to the architectural context, but this was probably not necessary given the overall strength of his argument. Overall it gave a challenging and provocative insight to the moral implications of humans engaging with technology and innovation in extreme conditions of a life-and-death context.

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