Why Architects Should Care About Open Source

I had a guest lecturer at a recent class who spent an hour showing project after project featuring fantastic custom tools their office had generated, from BIM models connected to a proforma through Excel, to LEED client websites, to urban-design Revit templates and family libraries. When I asked the presenter his stance on intellectual property issues, he said something like “well, naturally we’re all about open source, but we haven’t really thought about how we might share this content.”

Architects need to not only support the idea of open source practice, but be actively involved in its promotion and dissemination. Here, I’ll bullet point it for you:

1. Digital practice is becoming ubiquitous.

2. Architects are increasingly required to navigate between multiple software packages / modes of working in order to complete a project.

3. To get this done, architects are increasingly required to generate their own digital content in the form of scripts, templates, plugins, spreadsheets, tutorials, etc.

4. Few practices give critical attention to either their workflow or their methodologies to design with new digital tools. As a result, they are not only losing on efficiency but they are allowing the tools themselves to have a much greater impact on design than needs to be the case (i.e. the maximum flexibility of each tool is not being realized.

5. In order to promote tool and method sharing, and to promote a more critical evaluation of design tools, open source practices need to not only be accepted in the architectural community, but actively promoted and managed.

6. Centralized models to disseminate theoretical or practical information already exist (archinect, design reform, evolutionzine, Rhino plugin websites, etc.) What is necessary more than ever is the sharing of methodologies and ideas on how the siphoning of information between various programs can lead to meaningful, beautiful, solid design.
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Instead of ignoring the power of digital processes to unwittingly influence our work, it is better to embrace the fact that design is now immersed in this virtual medium, and collectively experiment ways on improving, leveraging, and transcending the spatiodigital morass that is contemporary practice.

Why Architects Should Care About Open Source

Fall Semester Update

I had some big plans for this blog this semester. Unfortunately they were somehow railroaded underneath an incredible pile of coursework and group projects. Here is a class-by-class update, maybe with a few images if I can drag them up:

New Frameworks: this class has really demystified the business context that surrounds architecture firms. It’s also reassuring in that Paul Nakazawa can’t go fifteen minutes without explaining how nearly every small or medium size firm on the planet could be run better. Apparently as a collective, we are not business geniuses. My favorite moment thus far was a guest lecture by Tim Love from Utile, followed by a nice discussion on intellectual property, local practice, and how connections generate work.

CS50: this one is keeping me really busy. No super-exciting classes or projects yet, but I am well on my way to really understanding what makes C/C++ tick, which also means knowing a lot more about what’s going on under the hood of my computer in general. Right now we’re playing around with recovering image files, which is kicking my butt.

CAD/CAM: had a team presentation last week – our project was a chair modeled in Digital Project that would automatically adjust its ergonomics based upon your pants size and a few other measurements or preferences, then automatically output the curves needed to mill the chair from a 4×4 sheet of ply. We’re making a second version of the chair as a tiny couch for Paul and Amelia, pics of that for sure when it’s complete.

Augmented Environments: my current team project here involves creating a responsive lighting installation, using Arduino, Grasshopper, and some basic kinematics. We’ve been looking at a Hobermann toy, the SwitchPitch, for some ideas on ways things could move. More detail on this one as it develops. I’m learning a lot of Processing, so I might also have some fun video toys to show off soon.Computational Design: this has been half C#, half vector math. We’re just now getting into a project that will involve using computational methods to design a canopy. Once again, more soon as things develop, for now some subdivision and xform eye-candy.

Thesis: what, are you going to bug me about this too? Jeez.

Fall Semester Update