AALTOsites: Mobile Guide to Alvar Aalto’s Architecture

The Alvar Aalto Museum’s first mobile-phone service, AALTOsites, brings the Alvar Aalto-designed buildings in the Metropolitan Helsinki region to your smartphone. AALTOsites, downloadable free for smartphones, puts an interface to Aalto’s architecture and design directly into the user’s pocket.

Erottaja Pavilion, the Otaniemi campus, the Sähkötalo Electricity Building, and Artek, founded in 1935 as a showcase for Aalto’s design, are just some of the numerous Aalto sites shown by the service. More information on the mobile guide after the break. (more…)

Techne: The Carbon Calculator for Buildings and Sites

The Center for Sustainable Building Research, image via www.csbr.umn.edu

At the University of Minnesota’s College of Design several projects have been developed to advance more cost-effective, more environmentally aware buildings, infrastructure, and even communities. One very useful program they’ve developed falls under the Building Evaluation category. It’s called the CBSR Site and Building Design Carbon Calculator. What does it do? It measures the carbon footprint of any building or site. In other words, it measures greenhouse gas emissions from sites and from building development. Even better, it can be used by both professionals and the general public alike, for either existing or future structures. Indeed, after downloading the calculator, which is very well-researched and comprehensive, it is clear that this tool is self-explanatory and very easy-to-use.

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GRAPHISOFT announces ArchiCAD 16 + Live Webinar

GRAPHISOFT recently announced the release of the next upgrade to its BIM design software; ArchiCAD 16. This version of provides solutions that respond to some of the most dynamically developing segments of the BIM industry. They are building components, freedom of design and energy efficiency.

The value of BIM software can be measured only by how well it is used, within a given workflow and how well a team accurately generates and shares data across project teams; ultimately managing that data throughout the building lifecycle.
On June 19th, in a live webinar, will cover the basics of ArchiCAD and give attendees a foundation to make the most of the new tools found in ArchiCAD 16.

More after the break.

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Sunglass: Bringing Architectural Drafting into the Modern Age

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sunglass, built by two TED fellows, Nitin Rao and Kaustuv DeBiswas, is a collection of three products: the company’s Sunglass Player, which allows artists to incorporate the objects that they’ve created with the software into other web services like Behance. The player is fully interactive, allowing someone to rotate, flip, and scale the model that they’re currently building, through their mouse and, again, without Flash installed. At a time when Autodesk’s AutoCAD suite of software, costs upwards of $5,000 for a single copy and feels clunky on most machines, Sunglass brings some true innovation to the drawing table.

The Sunglass Stage is the actual building block — literally — of the suite, as the team has designed this to allow simultaneous editing from a number of artists in a simple drag-and-drop interface. This sort of collaboration can be key for the product, as it allows people to work together in a well-thought-out interface, regardless of what type of computer they own.

Seen in pandodaily.

Magic Plan App: Making Floor Plans on Your Phone

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Architects and designers everywhere know the amount of time it takes to get accurate floor plan measurements with a measuring tape, a pencil, and some graph paper,  but now there’s an app that gives you the convenience of measuring right in the palm of your hand in a matter of minutes.  The Magic Plan app, conveniently named, simply asks for certain areas of a specific room and is able to assemble a floor plan for you. The app also includes tutorials on how to use it effectively and get fully adjusted to it. Above is a video to give you an idea of how this magic app works and some images can be viewed after the break. (more…)

PointCrowd: RhinoScripting in Python

PointCrowd is a RhinoScripting workshop using the remarkably easy to learn Python programming language that is available in the upcoming release of 5. This three week mini-course will start with the basics of programming and move into the mathematics of space and ’s representation of geometry. The workshop is designed specifically for architects and designers with little or no programming experience or those interested in learning a new platform for expressing geometrical ideas algorithmically. Anyone with a good working knowledge of is welcome.

Workshop Topics:

Automation: Increase your efficiency by programming Rhino to complete tedious drawing and modeling tasks.
Optimization: Create a better design product by testing and improving your models against physical conditions like light and circulation.
Generative Design: Work through complex geometric ideas using simple Python scripts.

The class will also touch on topics such as scripting in Grasshopper and interfacing with other programs. Sessions will be held in DUMBO, Brooklyn on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-10pm to fit into the schedule of working professionals. Register by May 7th to save $100. Please visit www.pointcrowd.com for details.

Techne: A Living Lab of Renewable Energy

Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, CMU / © Daderot

Carnegie Mellon University has a building in its School of Architecture that is a lab. No, the building does not house experiments, it is the experiment. It is called the Intelligent Workplace Energy Supply System and it provides the Energy Supply System (EES) for Carnegie Mellon’s Intelligent Workplace, which is part of the School of Architecture’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics. It is a physical construction from 1997 that consists of offices, meeting rooms, and work spaces for faculty and students, all located atop the Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall.

What’s the goal? To study the viability of providing power, cooling, heating and ventilation to a building using thermal energy and renewable, bioDiesel fuel. The specific investigations range from design and installation to evaluation of both individual components as well as their ability to work efficiently in concert with one another. Ideally, once all this information is compiled, more comprehensive design strategies can then be identified and used by architects everywhere. (more…)

Hanging Hotel: A Suspended Campsite for Climbers / Dr. Margot Krasojevic

Courtesy of Dr. Margot Krasojevic

Dr. Margot Krasojevic is known for using digital parameters to explore the psychological effects of architecture – materials and spatiality – on its inhabitants.  The Hanging Hotel / Suspended Campsite is one such project that was completed in October 2011 for Holden Manz Wine Estate Cape Town in Massif de L’ Esterel, (Gorges Du Vedron) South of .  The project is an investigation in the choreography of perceptions of the environment around us.  In this particular project, catering to rock climbers, Dr. Krasojevic uses compound glass and a prism louver system to alter how the climbers see their environment and stimulates different psychological experiences based on these subtle shifts in vision.

More on this project after the break.


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Techne – Space Pen: Drawing in 3D on the Web

Extending a kitchen wall, image via depts.washington.edu

With the advent and proliferation of tablets, using a pen to annotate or even sketch is becoming more and more useful, if not necessary. Enter the Space Pen. Now, you can sketch or annotate 3D models on the web. Developed at the University of Washington’s Design Machine Group, this tool provides an ideal interface with another of the group’s projects, Spot, the daylight measuring tool for architects.

Is Space Pen really as simple as it sounds? Can you really just draw and edit any 3D model? Yes. But it is not just that you can draw on any surface, it also recognizes certain basic shapes to aid in the drawing process. It also automatically renders a 3D floor plan from one’s model in real time. Another boon is the addition of a “light pen” allows users to add directional light to the drawing. It’s also free. (more…)

Unlock the Power of Collaboration with Open BIM

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GRAPHISOFT® recently announced it has joined forces with buildingSMART® International, Tekla® and several leading software vendors to launch a global program in order to promote collaboration workflows throughout the AEC industry.

From their release: Open BIM is a universal approach to the collaborative design, realization and operation of buildings based on open standards and workflows. Open BIM is an initiative of buildingSMART and several leading software vendors using the open buildingSMART Data Model.

More info after the break. (more…)

Techne: MIT’s Mediated Matter

L-system as a cellular automaton algorithm in an associative modeling environment. An example of morphing, branching geometries found in plant systems that develop as integrated structural support. The model was based on a complex algorithm that factored for growth and generative factors as well as decay and structural requirements. via MIT

The MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group is perhaps not the first choice of exploration for architects and architecture students. What does “mediated matter” have to do with the design of urban and suburban space and structures? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Because the goal of this group is to develop “novel processes that enable and support the design of physical matter,” using computer design combined with “biologically inspired fabrication.”

Below, I look at three projects developed and directed by Neri Oxman, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Professor Oxman also received her PhD in design computation from MIT.

We begin with a project that combines local and global-based knowledge as they relate to construction. The Rapid Craft project basically mines local construction designs and techniques and combines them with the latest design technologies. (more…)

Techne: The Eco-School

Fence constructed from onsite, reclaimed boards, image by author

There are a lot of different approaches to making buildings more efficient with finite resources, and some of them have been highlighted in this series. Strategies like green roofs, passive heating and cooling, as well as more advanced technologies like newer materials to fabricate solar panels, are all important developments. And as we have seen, different architects and designers have deployed these strategies successfully. Most often, however, these strategies are just applied to a single building. It’s rare that an entire campus will be built using multiple strategies that try to re-use, preserve, and even incorporate such approaches into the curriculum.

Enter Muse, located in Calabasas, California. The brainchild of actress Suzy Amis Cameron and rebuilt by Ecovations, a design/construction/consulting firm, the school exemplifies a sustainable approach on a grander scale. (more…)

Techne – NetLogo: Easy 3D Drawing from MIT

Components, image via ccl.northwestern.edu

There are admittedly many differences from architecture school and working in the profession. One major difference is that while in school, people are in a mode of exploration, and any and all tools to facilitate that exploration are welcome. By the time one reaches the stage of “doing the work,” the suite of tools becomes far more narrow: AutoCad, Revit, Ecotect (maybe), and the occasional 3D program like . And if a person decides to hang out their own shingle, the computer tools becomes even more limited because of cost issues, unless bootleg copies are something you want to risk. (more…)

Techne – See Spot Measure Daylight: Architecture Tools

image via dmg.be.washington.edu

The [design machine group] at the University of Washington is a cross-disciplinary group from the College of Built Environments and the Department of Architecture. It’s directive is to explore and develop ideas “that will shape the future of design and information technology.”

Their research projects range from fabrication tools to new ways of rendering large-scale models. Amongst the most exciting is the SPOT tool. First of all, this tool is free, so anyone, anywhere in the world can use it. And because it was developed for architects, its features have the needs of architects in mind. (more…)

Techne: Virtual Tools for CAD

Tool in Hand / Tool Engaged / Updated CAD Model - Images via vrcim.wsu.edu

Architecture professionals often agree that CAD applications, whether in the PC or Mac platforms, could use some help. Revit of course offers some dramatic improvements but not everyone uses it. So some Engineering faculty at Washington State University have come up with an alternative solution. The Virtual Reality and Computer Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory or VRCIM offers a unique solution for increasing the effectiveness of CAD-based design and visualization.

The approach is very simple: embed VR capabilities into CAD to improve the tools and effectiveness of CAD. Basically, we are discussing the ability to perform such simple tasks as visualization and tracking to complete haptics drawing within the CAD platform. This first step in improving CAD involves the construction end of projects using VR and CAD. Thus, one can envision the assembly and disassembly of projects using VR versions of mechanical tools such as wrenches and the like. And the functionality is easily adapted to haptic devices. And of course, the team has designed templates that can be easily implemented. (more…)

The Morpholio Project App

Morpholio app

The Morpholio Project seeks to create a new platform for presentation, critique, and collaboration relevant to all designers, architects, artists, or members of any image driven culture, through a dedicated mobile app for iOS devices. Created by a group of five architects, and academics, the app explores to re-image the portfolio: “Although essential to design culture, the current methods of creating and sharing design portfolios and presentations still ultimately rely on fixed notions of time, media and outdated technologies of sharing.”

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Techne: Educating architects with VR

Example of Modern architecture, image via www.learn.columbia.edu

Virtual Reality used to be the stuff of third-rate movies and tv shows with really fantastical plots that made one think, “how did these people get this job?” Fortunately, there are many university researchers who have constantly toiled at making real VR a useful and integral reality.

Take the VR learning site at Columbia. For anyone curious about western architecture there are some interesting structures to explore. It’s true that Columbia and the core Art History class that initially inspired this site is unfortunately Eurocentric: for example, French structures seem overrepresented. (more…)

Techne: UCLA Software

HEED, image via www.energy-design-tools.aud.ucla.edu

I am, admittedly, a big fan of UCLA. At least in the U.S., college loyalty begins and ends as an undergraduate and if you happen to receive your graduate degrees at the same school, well, the deal is sealed, as it were. But we’re not discussing the basketball team, here. We’re actually talking about academic programs and research.

And it just so happens that because UCLA is a research university, there is a lot of interesting research going on there. For example, at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, there is a program that was begun back in 2002. It’s goal? To help everyone improve the energy efficiency of their homes. For free. It’s called HEED, or Home Energy Efficient Design.

What is it? Basically, it’s a set of tools that help people re-design housing to be more energy efficient. That goes for both new and existing structures. And even better, while it was initially developed for California homeowners who were identified by their utility providers—the project began in 2005—the software was restructured to serve professionals in the building industry. That means it was re-made to serve architects, contractors, engineers, and of course, the homeowner to restructure efficiency for both new and existing structures. (more…)