Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Blog: "What Happened to Drawing?"

Michael J. Malone, AIA
Studio Director, The Michael Malone Studio
WKMC Architects, Inc., Dallas

Last year at the 2008 TSA Convention in Fort Worth, I presented a program that addressed a question that had been nagging at me for several years, What Happened to Drawing? Specifically, I wanted to initiate a discussion regarding the role of hand drawing, both sketching and drafting, in our profession and whether or not it was still relevant to what we do as architects in the creation and documentation of our work. More importantly, I wanted to know if it was becoming something quaint and precious that was going the way of negative photography, record stores, and newspapers…something that we’d all tell our children and grandchildren about, one of those “back in my day” reminiscences like when my grandfather used to tell me about riding a horse to school. The program last year was so well attended and the ensuing discussion and questions so engaging and animated that I am offering it again this year in Houston.

It’s my belief that unless we discuss it and as a profession we have a consensus about it, there won’t be anyone who draws by hand left in our profession within a generation. If you think about it, the way we as a group of professionals have defined ourselves for literally centuries has been by our almost unique ability to draw and our use of drawings as a communication tool.

I started architectural school in 1976, and one of the first classes I took in college was freehand drawing. My earliest design studios required keeping sketchbooks as a way to begin to record the world around us and to develop our skills and facility at drawing. In part I went to architectural school because I loved to draw and in college was surrounded by people of like mind and inclination.
I do a fair amount of interviewing potential hires for intern positions in my studio and have a wider exposure to young architects through my mentoring efforts in conjunction with our local AIA chapter. For the last several years, I have reviewed portfolios of young people with no hand drawing at all to represent their projects, even as concept sketches. If I ask them if they’ve done any hand drawings as part of their architectural education, I basically get two responses: the first is that their professors have told them that we in the profession only want to see computer drawings as a condition of considering them for a position or second that hand drawing wasn’t required for them to develop or present their projects in school. Both answers concern me because they suggest there is an inclination away from hand drawings in the academy. I am curious if this is because our collegiate schools of architecture feel that’s what they need to do to prepare young architects for the profession or if it is the inclination of the schools themselves? Either way the results are the same and drawing as a tool, a means of expression, a way to develop an idea, an artistic expression, and a means of communication is both diminished and in danger of being lost.

I am interested in knowing if the changes we are seeing are necessary, a sign of the times and the progress of the world, or if they are driven by forces outside our profession and the way we practice. It’s my intention to find this out through discussion and dialogue with as many people as are interested in the discussion itself and who feel they are vested in any of the possible points of view and outcomes.

Add your comments on this topic to the TSA blog and be a part of the ongoing discussion. Attend the TSA Convention in Houston and sign up for CE Session 109059 to hear more on this topic from Michael Malone, Saturday, Oct. 24, at 1:30 p.m.

Sketches by Michael Malone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Guest Blog: Extreme Collaboration

Interns in a BIM World
Lauren Stassi
Associate and ACA BIM Manager
Morris Architects, Orlando, Florida

BIM is quickly the changing atmosphere of many architectural firms. BIM can affect every facet of architectural work, from design through construction, when used to its full advantage. Architectural interns have a much different set of skills to develop early in their career when working in BIM instead of only 2D drafting. There is great opportunity to use BIM to teach interns and young architects to think in 3D. BIM however is only a tool; in order to complete an accurate model, interns need guidance in building design and construction (as well as the software) from the day they begin.

The typical role for an architectural intern on a project team producing documents in 2D starts with a manager passing down simple ‘red line’ tasks for the intern to complete with basic guidance. Often these tasks will not involve much knowledge of design or construction. At the beginning, an intern only needs to understand how to change the 2D line work to match the ‘red lines’. As an intern continues their development by learning the software and increasing their understanding of building design, documentation and construction, they will complete involved tasks like coordinating changes between plan section and elevation and developing details. During the construction phase, an intern will see how their 2D drawings apply to the 3D world and will often uncover issues that were never resolved in the 2D drawings.

BIM gives an intern access to see the coordination of a project far sooner than they would in a 2D world. By working in plan, section, and elevation simultaneously, an intern, and the entire project team, is able to understand how to put together a building. Since the intern is generally the team member who will become the most skilled in 3D modeling, they are also the most likely to discover unresolved issues as they build the model. The great benefit of BIM is that this discovery can happen as soon as modeling starts, instead of lingering until the construction phase. BIM allows an intern the opportunity to see these issues and learn how to resolve them much earlier in their career than 2D drafting did. The greater the intern’s knowledge of building systems the better equipped the intern will be for this new responsibility.

BIM is only a tool; it cannot make decisions or choices, it does not know correct from incorrect, it can defy gravity and constructability, and it does not have a 'Finish Construction Documents' button. It is important for the success of a project that an intern has direct communication with team members with technical design and construction experience to guide them to model pragmatically in order to complete accurate usable documentation.

In 2D, an intern could pick up changes with a basic understanding of the software and without much supervision. In BIM, an intern has a much longer learning curve before they can complete tasks on their own because redlines are not a simple task of moving or trimming a line anymore. An intern needs to understand the software to determine if they need to adjust an object's location or type in order to ‘delete a line.’ They need to ask themselves and their team members - what are the impacts of editing an object- did every object of that type in the entire project just change? If the object is adjusted, will there be a gap in the model? Is it necessary for that object to be modeled in that location, but the display in plan needs to be adjusted? Because so much of the documentation is tied to what is built in the model, an intern needs to develop not only their software and building technical design skills at a much quicker rate in order to complete what were once simple 'red line' tasks.

Interns need a team that will assist them in learning how to use the software and how to build the model accurately as soon as they are on a project. There needs to be a team member who has construction experience that is also familiar enough with the software tools to guide the intern to make appropriate decisions and choices on how to model accurately. Without timely communication between the modeling team and the manager, the model can quickly get far off course. It will be too late if the manager waits until the week before the deadline to look at a check set.

Interns can use BIM to further their own education about building design and documentation at a much faster pace than ever before. To use this tool, interns also need to accept responsibility for modeling and documenting accurately. BIM cannot make decisions, and if an inexperienced intern makes decisions beyond their level of knowledge, the domino effects can be considerable. The ease to change object types globally for a project has great efficiency, but it becomes the intern's responsibility to understand all of the impacts of that change to a project. If a door size is changed globally, will the design still meet code? Are all of the clearances and required widths still met? As an intern learns to think through these impacts, they will quickly become an indispensible asset to the project team. Interns need to learn what can be modeled, but more importantly, they need to learn how and what should be modeled. An integral part of BIM's success will be the dedication that interns put towards learning the responsibilities of building design and construction, and not only focusing on the complex objects that can be modeled.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Texas Architect E-magazine Now Available

The Sept/Oct 2009 Design Awards issue of Texas Architect has been reinvented online to complement the print edition. Read the full issue in beautiful, new e-magazine format on the TSA Web site. Flip through Texas Architect pages, gaze at full-size images, and read as if you had the magazine in your hands. This new online format allows the entirety of the editorial content in the print edition to be presented—exactly as seen in the print version.

Through the end of 2009, all editorial content will be available to the public in the new format. Starting with the Jan/Feb 2010 edition, as a TSA member or Texas Architect subscriber, you will be able to view the entirety of Texas Architect’s editorial content by logging in to the TSA Web site with either your AIA member number or subscriber ID number if you are not a TSA member. (Subscriber ID numbers will be assigned and printed prominently on the subscriber’s magazine mailing label.) If you are neither a TSA member nor a Texas Architect subscriber, you will see a sample version of the current magazine online in e-magazine format. Once you subscribe online, your subscriber ID will be generated and sent to you via email, allowing you to then log in to see the entirety of editorial content.

As a TSA member or subscriber, you will also be able to access complete online archives beginning in 2010. Archives will be in user-friendly e-magazine format with easy access from your own desktop.

Starting reading the current issue online now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Tunnel and TSA Beckon You to Houston

Gayle Pickering
TSA Senior Director

Did you know that underneath Houston’s central business district lies a world unto itself of shops, eateries, and connections to corporate skyscrapers, banks, and retail establishments? Probably not. It’s one of Houston’s best-kept secrets, but in fact, most of downtown’s 150,000-person workforce–and thousands of visitors–go subterranean every day in what Houstonians continue to call simply “the Tunnel.” The Tunnel and the Hyatt’s convenient access is one of the reasons TSA is headquartered at the Hyatt Regency Houston for its 70th Annual Convention, Oct. 22-24. (To reach the George R. Brown Convention Center and TSA activities there, it’s about a 15-minute walk to The Shops at Houston Center where you go above ground, stroll across Discovery Green, and enter the Center at Entrance C.)

Rockefeller Center inspired Houston’s first tunnel, located beneath Fannin Street between Texas and Capitol connecting former Texas Governor Ross Sterling’s 1926 Post-Dispatch Building (now the Magnolia Hotel) with another one of his buildings, the 1931 Sterling Building. It is interesting to note that the architect for each building was Wyatt C. Hedrick, Ross Sterling’s son-in-law.

Over the years, other downtown buildings were connected by tunnels until in 1971 a total of thirteen buildings were accessible underground. Houston’s construction boom of the 1970s and 1980s inspired private developers to expand the Tunnel to most of its present form of about seven miles and 77 buildings. Most of the Tunnel is owned by building owners who lease space in their buildings’ lower levels to retailers. Many owners design their sections of the Tunnel with unique recessed lighting, display windows and art, so you can usually tell when you are leaving one building for another.

Just about every service is available via the Tunnel, and it is monitored by safety personnel and cameras. In addition to food courts, you’ll find dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, quality restaurants, gift shops, boutiques, copy and printing services, post offices, flower shops, doctors, drug stores, salons, and barber shops. The Tunnel is also connected to the Theater District’s performance halls and Bayou Place. The Tunnel is open during business hours Monday through Friday (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.); the city’s portion linking the theater District Parking Garage to Bayou Place and performance halls remains open 24/7. For a current map and more information about the shops and services in the Tunnel and downtown Houston, check out 
www.houstondowntown.com and look for the Above & Below Map. Come to Houston in October and experience the Tunnel, a feature that certainly adds Power to the city’s downtown vibe.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Texas Architect Features 2009 TSA Design Awards

The September/October issue of Texas Architect, featuring the 2009 TSA Design Awards, is hot off the press! Keep an eye out for this outstanding edition that highlights projects by Dick Clark Architecture w/Michael Hsu; Corgan w/HKS and HNTB; Buchanan Architecture; Cunningham Architects; Elliott + Associates Architects; Laguarda Low Architects; Poteet Architects; Dillon Kyle Architecture; Jackson & Ryan Architects; Overland Partners Architects; HKS; and MJ Neal Architects.