UNSW Built Environment Event: Pure Digital – Architectural Computing Graduation Exhibition

20 11 2009

After what seemed like a long and enduring period, graduating students of Architectural Computing 2009 had finally accomplished their goals and dreams.

We held our Graduation Project exhibition on 12th of November. Overall the night was very successful with a huge turn out of people and delicious catering which ran through the whole evening.

The evening was organised by the graduating students, displaying our final graduation projects. Each student had chosen their subject of interest within the specialised field of Architectural Visualisation. Projects were based on real world clients and real world building and architectural projects this allowed students to present their compatibility with working in the current industry.

Displays ranged from interactive real-time projects to 3D still visualisation and 3D animation.

A huge applause goes to all the students involved in preparation to the event and the hours they had put in to make the exhibition evening a success. Also many thanks to the program head Stephen Peter.

UNSW Built Environment Architectural Studies: Keena Vazquez

10 08 2009

Hey there! My name’s Keena Vazquez and I’ve just finished my very first semester of Architectural Studies. No matter how hectic it got, I have to say that enjoyed my first taste of architecture at UNSW. Apart from Unreal Tournament, one thing I know all of us freshers will associate first session with is the Sydney Opera House.

We were first introduced to the Opera House in BENV1080 (Enabling Skills and Research Practice) when we were asked to make a hand-drawn poster of our personal encounters with the Australian icon. Little did I know that this poster would be the springboard for a series of assignments on the Opera House.

A3 hand-drawn poster

A3 hand-drawn poster

Our session-long affair with the Opera House continued with loads of guest lecturers who spoke about anything and everything to do with the Opera House – Utzon’s design principles, his vision, its renovation, in the context of graphic design etc. Later on we were asked to create two more posters. With each poster, we were expected to refine our ideas, relate them more meaningfully to our layouts and explore different mediums of expression – digital manipulation, manual drawing and modelling.

A2 poster created in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign

A2 poster created in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign

Even if there seemed to be a lot of “physical” work (drawing, modelling and computer manipulation) involved in making our posters, I found that it required me to THINK more than anything else. We weren’t just asked to make something pretty. It actually had to mean something and make sense. We were meant to relate our experience of the Opera House with Utzon’s design principles and an assigned chapter of a book through a section model and piece of text, all rolled into a poster.

It took a lot of trial and error for me, but I knew it was all part of the process. In the beginning I was worried about my lack of computer and modelling skills. Doodling was really more my thing. But half way through the process, I realised that having a solid concept and a clear message were the most important things. Focusing on a key idea simplified things a whole lot. Fortunately it turned out all right. I came out of Enabling Skills with more confidence in my Photoshop skills and a new found interest in modelling. More importantly, all the critical thinking we did in this course left me with a great deal of respect for the ideas behind the Sydney Opera House and the brain power it took to dream them into reality.

A2 and A1 poster with a modelled section of the Sydney Opera House

A2 and A1 poster with a modelled section of the Sydney Opera House

UNSW Built Environment Architectural Studies: Vanessa Yu

11 06 2009

Throughout these last few weeks of Semester 1, I have been quite busy with my final assignments, preparing for exams etc…so basically just the normal…

After a solid 12 weeks of uni, I must say that I now have a greater understanding of what my degree involves, compared to the first few weeks (when I wrote up my 1st blog!) as a 1st year student.  It has been quite hectic, but definitely rewarding as I have gained invaluable skills regarding Architectural design.  We have been using a range of softwares and programs throughout the courses, including Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Unreal Tournament and Google Sketchup.

A major assignment I did for BENV1080 Enabling Skills & Research Practice involved designing and putting together an A1 & A2 panel (poster) with text explaining a specific theme of interest regarding the Sydney Opera House, which was also accompanied by a 3D extruded model of a section of the Opera Theatre.   It was the first time I had ever made a model!  I found it extremely fun, as I have always had a strong passion in craft and modeling…but at the same time, I discovered that it was terribly time consuming.  The main aim of this assignment was for us to integrate our Academic, Visual and Computing Literacy skills acquired throughout the duration of the course.

A1 Component of Sydney Opera House

When I first started the course, I was clueless with these programs as I had never had much contact with them.  However, through tutorials and lab sessions, I was provided with an overview of the basic tools in each program, which had allowed me to produce these final posters.  On a side note, through this course, I have achieved a greater appreciation of the Sydney Opera House.

Right now, I am looking forward to Semester 2…as I am sure that it will be as enjoyable and rewarding as what I have experienced so far at UNSW.

UNSW Built Environment staff: Gaming and the future of architecture

13 05 2009

Russell Lowe, Lecturer in Architectural Computing

Recently I was asked “how can animation help me as an architect? Is it a worthwhile investment of my time and money? Is this the future of architecture?”

As a lecturer and researcher in architectural design and computing, my reply was, well, no. Animation was a great step forward but if you want to see the future of architecture you have to take a good look at the world of computer games.

This answer might raise more questions: How can shoot’em up games which lure tens of millions of people into online cyber battles help architects? Should architects spend time and money understanding products marketed as entertainment? And are computer games really the future of architecture?

Let’s look at the games first. Computer games have come a long way in the last few years. Games such as Valve’s “Half-Life 2”, Epic’s “UT3”, Crytek’s “Crysis” and Media Molecule’s “Little Big Planet” represent the current generation of offerings where avatars – representations of human participants – can interact and assemble objects that have real-world mechanical behaviour such as weight and inertia.

Animation, on the other hand, doesn’t require your participation – you sit and watch passively.

When you play a computer game, objects can be opened and closed, pushed and lifted, often in quite complex and sophisticated ways. We have virtual electronics, sensing and control systems at our disposal. Natural systems aren’t left out – water, fire, wind, snow and rain are all present and working as you would expect.

How will this help you as an architect? Well, if you’d like to show someone what you believe to be true, use animation. But if you want to find out whether the architecture you’re creating is going to behave in a certain way – and you haven’t made up your mind beforehand – you’ll need to experiment with it using the mechanisms above.

You might think computer games are all bloodshed and gore – gratuitous violence between Zombies and AK47 wielding maniacs. That’s true. But the “theme” of a game is in no way dictated by its underlying structures.

The best computer games can be modified so that none of the original visual content of the game remains – leaving an interactive, real-world environment.

The opportunity for architects is to utilise the underlying capabilities of the computer game for a purpose beyond the scope intended by the game developer.

The most progressive clients, architects, engineers and developers see computer games as advanced simulation tools.

So, should architects be spending time and money understanding games, that is products marketed as entertainment?

For my friend asking the questions above, I would say no. I mean, if Architect X is still wondering about getting into architectural animation there is a long way for him to go before he could be a proficient computer game modder. It’s not that he’s not smart enough: 13-year-olds teach me new things every day (true story, Coen is from the Netherlands and wants to be an architect when he “grows up”) but from experience it takes my final year masters students the best part of a year to get really good at the more complex stuff.

Architect X should instead get someone to do the modding for him (and if he is interested in learning animation, a good starting point is Google SketchUp 7).

So are computer games – and game mods in particular – the future of architecture?

Innovative firms such as LCA Architects, leading developers such as Brookfield Multiplex and the Queensland Health Board certainly think so.

Sydney-based LCA Architects used Crysis to win the Greentech ‘Eco House of the Future Competition’. Brookfield Multiplex think that a simulation created using Unreal Tournament 3 will give them the edge in bidding for an upcoming project. And the Queensland Health Board is building a massive hospital on the Gold Coast and my research (along with John Mitchell, Vinh Nguyen and Jules Cromarty) is helping them simulate and test clinical environments before the first sod has been turned.

For these companies the future is fun and definitely now. If we take a look at their present we’ll get a pretty good idea of what the future holds for the rest of the profession.