Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I am in Porto, having spent a fascinating weekend in Bavaria with my old, young friend Bernhard and his gorgeous family.  Along the way I was lucky enough to get a special tour (available once a year) of the Zeppelin Fields structures which a certain Mr Hitler used for spectacular propaganda events some 80 years ago.  I actually did a simple massing model of this as part of my research into colossal scale in the build up to my final pumpkin project in 2014

The tour gave some fascinating insights into how it was actually built, as well as a peek into the intriguing dilemma of how to set about "restoring" or at least maintaining a monument with such a terrifying history.  I won't go into that now, but it would be very interesting to do a bit more modelling and to talk about the moral issues involved in historic/heritage projects.  Many of the monuments we revere and hold up as symbols of national pride were built for oppressive regimes using something close to slave labour, but we tend to forget that if it was more than 1000 years ago.
Here's a shot of one of the areas that is very rarely accessible to the public.  This is the back door lobby where Adolf was supposed to gather his before mounting the podium, but apparently it was never really used because the fuhrer preferred to drive up in front of his audience and be seen to walk up the steps.
Returning briefly to my Desert Pumpkin work of 2014, here is an image that references the Cathedral of Light spectacle that Albert Speer devised to instill shock and awe in the assembled party faithful.  Searchlights defining space on a monumental scale.  I did this by processing images derived from Revit in Photoshop.  Would it be possible to mimic this kind of spectacular lighting directly in the rendering engine I wonder?  Another little experiment to while away a future weekend perhaps.
My title is a confused reference to the "Tips & Tricks" sheets that we have to prepare as part of our speaker submissions for RTC.  I tend to rebel against this aspect of the event.  It's not really my thing.  My "classes" tend to be less about teaching specific skills and more an opportunity for my to ramble on about my current obsessions.  Some attendees love it, others find my sessions irrelevant to the serious business of furthering their BIM careers.  It takes all sorts, or at least that's my excuse.
But I stumbled across my slides from the Washington event, and I thought it might be nice to put them in a blog post in the build up to RTC PORTO.
This one is actually quite conventional.  A genuine tip almost, and I should credit Marcello for setting my mind thinking along these lines by highlighting the ability of splines to do "scaling" work during one of his sessions that I attended.  Was that in Auckland?  How time flies.
The next one is more typical of me.  It's a tip I guess, but veering off in the direction of philosophical  guidance as opposed to technical hints.

It's time to head off for breakfast now, so I'll pause here and press the "publish" button.  If you are in Porto, please look out for me and say hello.  The most exciting part of the event as far as I am concerned is meeting friends old and new, sharing worldviews and such like.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

BIM summit 2016 Dubai

I spoke at our local annual BIM summit this morning.  It was a useful networking event with some interesting panel discussions and my talk just before lunch.  I chose to address the subject of BIM content so that I could elaborate on the short "rebuttal" that I will be giving in Porto next week at BCS Europe.  Here I am strutting about the stage at the beginning of my talk.

I sketched the diagram below to try to explain the current disconnect between active collaboration taking place on a daily basis between designers and manufacturers and a parallel set of BIM processes that are happening in a much more linear way to assemble "the model" that represents the decisions taken by designers.  I think we can, and must improve on this situation.

This slide suggests we might have to loosen our grip on the idea of a single building model as the only true BIM gospel, and embrace instead some kind of network of interconnected spaces that enable more "peripheral" stakeholders to enter the digital fray. 

I've shared the next image before, but it's still probably the best image I have come up with to represent my idea of a digital collaboration space where manufacturers and designers can meet to hold discussions and make decisions that then feed back into our Revit models (or whatever software flavour you are using)  It has to be a user-friendly, visually rich, responsive space where people can create filtered views that show functional relationships within the current design and try out different proposals for incorporating their products, based on the specialist knowledge and experience that manufacturer representatives have at their fingertips. 

To see the powerpoint document itself you can follow the link below.

My Presentation

Not a bad way to spend my last working day for a couple of weeks.  Portugal here I come!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Busy Busy Busy

Yes, well ... Serious shortage of posts this last few weeks.  Hectic preparations for RTC in Porto.  Hope to see some of you there.  Please come up and say hello if you recognise me.

I've been doing quite a lot of stuff relating to Project Soane.  I met up with a couple of people from the Soane Museum when I was in London a couple of months ago and have been inspired to do more background research.  Learnt a lot about Baker and Taylor's contributions, also the early days of the bank before it moved to Threadneedle Street.

Also been doing some hand sketching with my newly acquire Wacom Cintiq (as well as a small ipad pro)  Neither of them are quite up to pencil and paper yet in terms of feel and responsiveness.  The Wacom is slightly better on this score, as you would expect, but of course the iPad wins on portability.  Here is a sketch based on a photograph I took as a teenager, roughly 50 years ago.  It's a shopfront in Barnsley and speaks of culture change in the retail world, and for that matter in the world of building.  No architects involved in this building.  Possibly no drawings at all.  Lots of trade skills and traditional knowledge instead.  Progress or madness ?  Take your pick.  Maybe a bit of both.

The next sketch aims at fluidity and catches the spirit of one of Soane's early design sketches for Tivoli Corner.  He often went through lots of different ideas before finding one that he was satisfied with.  During that process he would use different media and different people (outsourced wooden models & perspective watercolours; pencil drafted plans and sections by his pupils)  In some ways this is analogous to what we do in BIM, except ours is all digitally connected.

Which is a good thing right?  Well, yes ... and maybe no also.  Perhaps we have lost some of the value of doing a thing two or three times, approaching it from different angles and using different ways of thinking.  We gain in efficiency by eliminating repetition, but there is always a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  For, example I have been redoing all the work I did on the screen walls around the bank.  Converting the links into generic families.  This makes for a much lighter, more responsive model that is easier to put into multiple phases.  Families know what level they are on and you can have types with different parameter values.  Can't do that with linked project files. 

The topic here is the evolution of the bank over a 200 year period, putting Soane's work into a broader context of development.  Of course I was able to reuse most of the family content, so it didn't take all that long, and it has been incredibly valuable.  Makes me think that we need much better ways of working in parallel while maintaining digital connections.  Something like study files that automatically update the main model when you tell them to.  Think in terms of a typical hotel bedroom, detailed out in glorious 3d with correctly modelled taps and robe hooks.  Move things around a bit and a lightweight version updates in the main model which has 347 instances nested inside it.  I don't know of a really good way to do that at present.  But here's some more from my study file.

This shows a family representation of Baker's work, the stuff that replaced Soane's lifetime achievement.  Time waits for no man.  Tivoli Corner is still a link at this stage,  will take a couple of hours to convert that into a family file. (and I've been really busy, read the title)  Also a couple of the modular family files I've been using to assemble the screen wall.  Doing it in this modular way really makes you think about the way he composed his elevations. Most of the time he was trapped into adapting to stuff that had been built before, without an understanding of what would happen next. Like the doubling up of the Lothbury façade, pictured below in two versions. 

His initial idea was to follow the site boundary and place a "Temple Front" motif as a grand gesture in the centre. Ultimately it made more sense to keep the wall straight, lose a small sliver of land and move the emphasis to Tivoli Corner.  Meanwhile along Princes Street he started off by building up to Taylor's previous work, then more than a decade later had the opportunity to replace this with something in his own style.  I get the feeling that he wasn't able to resolve this in a satisfactory way.  Perhaps his attention was more focused on the main Threadneedle Street façade, which presented problems of its own.   

That's enough for one post.  But I'll finish with another Wacom sketch.  This is an early concept for the Tivoli Corner attic.  Lots of typical Soane motifs here and I'm working on my technique.  Trying to find the right balance between speed and style, informality and accuracy.  See you in Porto (or not)