As fanciful as our scenarios might seem we believe they point to several significant developments. Architects learn to represent three dimensional objects as two dimensional drawings or miniaturized models of the full sized item. They are beginning to use computerized rotations of the drawings to represent sequential viewpoints. However, in each case the architect and client must “project” themselves mentally into the presentation in order to sense the space delineated or its use by real people. Architects building upon their own extensive experienced, learn to do this reasonably well. Clients almost never do. By all accounts, it is nearly impossible to determine what clients are actually seeing in their mind’s eye as they view the architect’s drawings and models.

In fact, the drawing types and tools available to architects tend to encourage viewing architecture as an object perceived from the exterior viewpoint of a perspective or abstracted axonometric drawing. The view of the interior is more difficult to represent accurately, and it is virtually impossible to represent the ordered yet apparently random movements of the human beings using the space for its designated purposes. The result is that architects find it far easier to design as if the building were an abstract three dimensional object then a container for human activity. A primary criticism directed towards contemporary architects and schools of architecture is that they disregard people for abstractions of form. The available tools encourage this preference. Pixar Associates’ “VOID MODELING” and “ConferSPACE” represent a major possible shift in this dilemma.

The animated human figures inserted into the graphic schematic design phase by the software we have called HumanScape 6.0 would, we think, reverse the concern for building as object to buildings as containers for human activity. Combined with the gloves and glasses which provide virtual illusions of the full size space the effect on the design program of a school of architecture would be dramatic. In addition, the full size interior representations of the Pixar ConferSPACE would make visualizations literal rather than symbolic, actual rather than imaginative. Clients, as well as designers, could see accurate depictions of the life sized building and interiors prior to committing large sums of money to their construction. Teams of designers and clients working in the same specialized space would be seeing the same design instead of their own interpretations of drawings or models. By de-professionalizing architecture in this way, clients could be made active partners in the design process, and by minimizing the unpleasant surprises that often happen during construction, clients are more likely to remain clients after the process is completed.

Finally, the computer combined with sophisticated on-site communications have the possibility of placing legible three dimensional representations of construction in the hands, or eyes, of construction workers at the moment they need them rather than in the form of tattered blueprints flapping slowly in the wind.

These developments, we believe, represent an emerging shift as significant in its own way as the Renaissance invention of perspective and the printing press. They will change everything.

They will not, however, preclude the ignorance, ineptness, inexperience or self-centeredness that contributes to making awful designs. New computers are no panacea. In the university, the portable computers like TABLET may have implications on necessary space. The studio space is likely to be smaller because quantities of large drafting tables will no longer be used. The need for wall surface may be reduced since a large screen projection system might be all that’s needed in class, along with the capability for teleconferencing. By reducing the demand for space TABLET may make administrators’ lives simpler, although by making it possible for students to attend classes anywhere electronically (to phone in their designs, so to speak) it is more likely to make administrative life much more complicated. The place where the new computers will have the greatest impact is most likely in the relationships between students, faculty, and the material they study.

The new computers, paired with a variety of expert systems, will allow more rapid generation of alternatives, providing more feedback on the student’s work, and the likelihood that the perception of inherent conflicts within a design problem will be sharpened. If one can see the problem clearly, and test a variety of responses, it is more likely that creative resolution to a design problem will be found. As such we are likely to see the re-emergence of the scientific method in architecture programs as students become less inhibited by the slowness of hand-drawing and better able to test hypothesis about the designed environment by simulating them. In the same way that video games entice players to find the creative “move” which enables them to score higher, so TABLET and its expert systems will encourage students to “score” higher by finding the better design response. Whereas a student is lucky to receive 20 minutes of personalized design criticism in a week now, TABLET will be able to provide nearly continuous design criticism. While the best student work may not improve, it is likely that the average will go up substantially because of the machine’s prompting, and eventually because of higher expectations on the part of the profession.

A student solution to a given design problem is the equivalent of a single simulation in which an extensive amount of personal energy is needed to generate a design solution slowly. The emerging computer technology may finally allow the testing of a designer’s assumptions in a rigorous and comprehensive way in studio, before a building gets built. Computer simulation will allow testing of ideas about form, structure, environment and behavior in the laboratory or studio, with correction of observable mistakes prior to construction. As a result architecture classes in the future might become very experimental, with more trial and error built into the curriculum. Students might take fewer classes, but spend more concentrated time in those they do take. At the least the emerging technology offers the serious use of a scientific method in architectural education.

The new computers may cause a change in the profile of a department’s faculty, by making it less necessary for every department to have its own resident expert in structures, controls, construction, pro practice and even in design. The widespread availability of expert systems throughout the construction industry will tend to raise the general level of competence for each of its players. Construction technology, formal organization, and historical precedent will be better understood by a wider audience than it is today. Students will have a better understanding of structures, materials, construction, environmental controls, and detailing than is currently possible.

It is likely that the integration of the traditional support areas into the design studio will make it necessary for design faculty to be more knowledgeable about architecture. Students will simply know too much to allow faculty members to maintain the illusion of superior knowledge. As we tried to describe in the scenarios, TABLET and its expert systems are likely to move the discussion of student design work away from the questions of technique (how to do it) into discussions of values (why do it). In those instances faculty members will need more general knowledge of philosophy and ethics, history and literature, of Socratic Method, in order to focus the discussion.

It can be expected by the year 2000 that every faculty member will be using computers in their classrooms and studios on a daily basis. They won’t all have the same degree of proficiency, but they will all use the machines. By the turn of the century, design faculties are likely, of necessity, to be more facile with the computer than most support faculty. Instructors who teach at the introductory design levels will need to be the most proficient at demonstrating the technology and at assisting students in exploring its potential. However this will not be difficult because TABLET will place fewer obstacles between the users and the use to which they want to put the machine. Faculty members will be able to do their own programming because it will not be necessary to learn esoteric programming languages. It will only be necessary to describe clearly what one wants to do or knows in order to prepare sophisticated course material. In this sense TABLET becomes a tool for enhancing learning and for designing. This tractor for the creative mind may soon replace the slow plodding pace of hand drawing techniques in much the same way that tractors replaced the horse drawn plow. The foods that were grown and harvested may not have changed nor did the cycles of the seasons, but the methods of working changed and with it so did the scale of farming.

Finally, a cautionary note: If TABLET enables students to learn without faculty most of the time, there will be a real deterioration in the face to face discussions that are at the heart of an educational process. If the expert systems become so sophisticated that the profession also uses them, then it is quite possible that ordinary folks may also use them for individual purposes. Think of all the university extension programs that become possible, including courses like “Design your own house.” or “Plan your own office building.” Eventually there may not be a need for departments of architecture at all, just consultants who design ever more sophisticated expert systems. If you are under forty, and seeking security in teaching, beware. Change is in the wind.

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