Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the nature of designing in a three dimensional environment vs traditionally. I’ve heard from many that technology doesn’t change the design process, that regardless of the tools good designers posses a certain skillset. I think this is true to a certain extent, but that the tools and processes we employ significantly shape our understanding of the building and site.
When designing through plan and section architects perceive in 3d, design and represent in 2d, then construct in 3d. The act of designing in two dimensions forces them to represent objects in innovate ways to understand them, leading to a perceived association between the clarity of representation and the architects understanding of a site. In the traditional design process this is a reasonable assumption.
When designing in a three dimensional environment architects perceive in 3d, replicate and design in 3d, represent in 2d, then construct in 3d. Rather than acting as a tool for the synthesis of understanding, 2d dimensional representation are tools for communication.
When I use three dimensional modeling I cultivate an understanding of the site through the complete and accurate construction of existing conditions, all the while necessarily engaging in geometric analysis through the use of construction planes and guidelines on modeling layers. The movement into two dimensions for representation of my work is particularly problematic because it not only involves the development of an effective and aesthetic artistic style, but also involves communicating the multitude of relationships that have been conceived.
I spend a lot of time learning how to effectively represent my work which is a good thing, but I often find myself wishing that there was an effective way to separate critiques regarding my design from critiques regarding my representation and presentation. I’ve been considering that the development of interactive presentations would lend itself more to the way we currently design. The display of three dimensional models with a storyboard like movement through the site and building would be a more helpful basis for the understanding and critique of both the design and representation. I imagine this as a scripted movement utilizing sections, plans, and three dimensional rendering, but always with contextual transitions to improve the understanding of interrelationships. The ability to rotate views and explore from any fixed representation would present the opportunity to supplement drawings for a further understanding of the design.
Although this seems like a more fluid process for design development, I question the impact that it may have on how we perceive and create buildings. As I said at the beginning, the tools and processes that we use shape our understanding of the site and subsequent designs. So do we lose something by moving out of the section and plan and into three dimensions?
With any medium it is easy to get sloppy and inconsiderate of conditions. However, if fully utilizing the three dimensional design capabilities architects simultaneously work in plan, section, elevation, and first person perspective. It allows for continual adjustment and requires resolving designs to a high level of detail. It also allows for the creation of a high number of iterations at no cost for cross examination and comparison. When using best practices during the three dimensional modeling process the traditional methods aren’t lost, they just cease to be discrete elements that provide the most insight into the architects thought process.
It’s only recently that these tools have started to come into their own as truly useful and useable. This means that it will take a while for the full functionality and implications of them to be widely used or understood. Hopefully as people in the field use new technology to streamline processes, eventually we won’t have to move to 2 dimensions any more.