Background

As an Architect i have to be conscious about my time, aware of the results i want to achieve, and work with a structured process in order to deliver them.

I believe i may be guilty of spending too much time designing. Having said that i believe the process that i adopt is extremely efficient and therefore can literally buy me time.
I believe functional design makes our world a better place. I also really appreciate aesthetic beauty. Where beauty and functional come together, a special kind of design is created.

Process 1 – Sketching

Sketching may be seen as a dying art in architecture, however i find it the most important part. Computer modelling maybe increasingly more common, and indeed, i model projects almost from day 1. I use them as complimentary processes to explore the design.
Sketch books tell a story, a design evolution. It find it useful to constantly refer back back to these.

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Process 2 – Modelling
I start modelling straight away in ArchiCAD, which i have used for around 10 years now. I find this programme excellent at early thought development as well as simultaneously being able to produce useful drawings.
I use this program because it is the most comfortable software for me. I personally like to limit the amounts of packages i use, as i find design is a bit of an organic process which i find improves through simplifying.
I have modelled some pretty large building during my time at Anshen and Allen (now Stantec). The first major building i fully modelled was a Outline Business Case for North Tees General Hospital in 2007. This project was over 100,000m2.
Things at this scale get really complicated really quickly. My goal was to use the model to generate elevations and sections at 1:200 as well as visuals.
I believe in a holistic design approach. I believe a model should be built to evolve and adapt over binning and restarting. A structured process will result in the creation of a clever model that can be easily adapted knowing change is something it needs to deal with, at different stages.
I was project Architect for the offices first fully BIM building, which was built in 2009 at Westminster City school. This was the first time i experience the site benefits of a model. We had this crazy roof with 3 pitches due to rights of light issues and it was extremely difficult to explain this to the contractor with 2-d drawing. We put trust in the model and it worked.



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Modules
Having worked on large scale projects and tight timeframes, i have developed some pretty useful skills in terms of delivering the right amount of information while not getting stuck when things change (which happens a lot).
I always try and work out which elements of a design i want to be repetitive. Some of these may sound really simple like a single bedroom in a hospital or a facade zone, but some need a little bit more thought. The great thing about modules is that it breaks down the large project into lots of small ones. They start off very simple but detail can be added too over time. A single bedroom may just be a simple mass, but once the en-suite arrangement has been worked out this mass becomes the foundation for the ward design. Even if the layout of the ward changes the box doesn’t, so detail can be developed very early on in the design.
Some may think that designing should be a fluid process and shouldn’t be mixed by the rather practical process of BIM. I totally disagree with this. I always have my sketchbook and my computer going simultaneously. I really try and make sure that my architectural response is equally weighted between creative and mathematical. Working on hospital designs makes you really understand that there is no room for pointless geometry in the building doesn’t function. It also teaches you how peoples emotions are affected by the space they are in. Some entrances should be unimposing and clear. Some can be expressive and distinctive, it really depends on the function.

Complex profiles
When i model i tend to use a lot of complex profiles. These are great for many reasons but the reason i find them useful it they use a basic linear measurement of what is a detail. This has similar advantages to the modules. Complex profiles can start off basic, a few rectangles for a balcony. Detail can then be added over time, to create the actual detail of the profile. The profile contains the areas of material required, the length allows a volumetric calculation to be done for cost.

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BIM
BIM isn’t a new concept. The goal of BIM is to get information from the model and make the whole design and build process more integrated. It is however a fantastic way to confuse yourself really quickly. The confusion occurs by advocates who don’t really understand BIM. They believe a model should pack all the elements that will appear on site so they can be costed etc. This is silly. Having used a virtual building software (VICO) opened my eyes up to what a model should consist. I was pretty amazed at what can be done with simple masses (in ArchiCADs case zones) I was amazed that i couldn’t find a reason include appliances into the model. These could be referenced through standard rooms and linked through its database. Im fully aware of the painful exercise of working with a heavy model. Keeping a light and nimble model with modules and complex profiles and zones gives all the required information to cost and built.
With he push for open BIM ( which is great compared to the Revit vs A.N.Other programme conversations which seemed to litter process meeting) i’m interested in seeing where BIM goes next. Having suppliers give models with specifications etc seems the way to go. Im just a little apprehensive that this is just going to be widely misused, and result in ever more complicated models.

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Process 3 – Visuals
I have always loved trying to visualise my designs. I have found them extremely useful when explaining things to clients and in presentations. When i fist started working in practice i found that visualisations fell into 2 categories: In house visuals and the ones which looked more real. It used to be that we used more physical models which are still by far the greatest way to convey a design and engage someone. While at university i started using Artlantis software which was ok, basically coloured block geometry. Over the years it has improved to a point now that, although is a biased rendering programme, it can dish out some pretty realistic stuff. I wandered down the route now of almost photo realistic. I take my hat off to those brilliant people who produce work which looks real. I used to be of the opinion that Photorealistic work wasn’t what i wanted to produce, i thought i was lacking emotion. Now i believe its honestly is great. It exposes a design to a level that means the design needs to be both resolved and great.
I use the same archiCAD model for the visuals with an additional visualisation module added. This extra detail module is placed and developed within the ArchCAD model and exported separately. Items which create a heavy model are isolated and can be turned off at any time.
Items such as trees and landscaping details are added straight in Artlantis. Artlantis fully integrates with ArchiCAD, so models can be updated without abortive Artlantis work.

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Process 4 – Presentations
I use flash professional for presentations of designs. I use this programme because i believe it focuses on getting across the design ideas in a neat and catching way. Decluttering a design down into simple lines helps me concentrate on the messages i want to get across. I have drawn every project i have worked on in flash and today export these as HTML5 files.

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