2nd Year Design Studio

In September of 1999, Lucy Hernandez will be in the second year of an architecture program at Stanford University. Stanford had responded to emerging technologies by making the use of basic TABLET machines a requirement for all students and had installed the microwave and fiber optic networks to support it. Lucy’s first purchase upon entering the University was a TABLET which replace the bulky PC she had used through high school. It came with a high density disk containing all the reference material and software she would use in her major. Much of her first year in the architecture program was spent learning to master TABLET’s fundamental design, graphics and related visual capabilities, including the determination and setting of her own visual preferences for a variety of problem solving and illustrative formats. Other TABLET capabilities such as text processing, bibliographic searches, and running general purpose simulations were investigated in the General Education Core courses which the University requires of all students.

Yesterday Lucy’s class began a project in the design of a new central fire station for a nearby city. During the class session, the program along with pertinent supplemental information was downloaded directly into Lucy’s TABLET via a fiber optic link to the university main¬frame. As a aid to visualizing the project requirements, and at her instructor’s suggestion, she had TABLET provide a graphic program, converting the required square footages first into color coded squares of the proper areas, then into rectangular configurations responding to various proportional restrictions, and then into isometric 3-D blocks first of consistent shapes and then of consistent height. By playing with the variables in each of these arrangements she began to develop a sense of possible abstract relationships implied by the program.

Next, Lucy consulted the supplemental information on building types provided with the program for examples of similar sized fire stations. When none of them seemed to be appropriate to her own project Lucy asked Tablet to suggest possible plan arrangements based on generic plan typologies contained within its memory. She selected one promising suggestion and moved it to a corner of her screen for reference using the familiar point and grab technique. Then she began to move the shapes of her graphic program about on her screen assembling them into a similar plan arrangement that seemed to be both interesting and efficient given her site. Where necessary, TABLET allowed her to proportionately reshape and rotate the given squares in order to fit them more compactly into her emerging plan. Having sorted the shapes initially according to a scale of public-private use the computer would call her attention to any apparent conflicts of the two through an on-screen prompt which encouraged her to resolve the problem before proceeding on. Working for several hours she had arrived at what seemed to be a reasonable schematic plan, selected from among the dozen or so alternatives she had explored.

This morning, over breakfast in the university dining hall, Lucy decides to do some checking. First she simulates the movement of firemen from their dormitory rooms to the fire trucks as if a late night fire call has been made. Watching the fireman symbols move through her plan while the computer’s on screen stop watch times them reveals several flaws in the placement of furniture, doors and corridors. She makes some plan adjustments and runs the simulation again. TABLET notes a 17 second improvement in the response time placing it within an acceptable range according to the fire department data provided with her program. Next she simulates the movement of fire trucks around and through the building, which includes a curved section corresponding to the complicated turning radii of a hook and ladder truck. The simulation makes it clear that she has not provided sufficient room for the largest truck to maneuver. One corner of her plan will need revision. The same software program which enables her to run these simple simulations could run far more complex simulations such as landing and taxiing patterns of aircraft and service vehicles within an airport, or the intersecting movement of materials, machines and workers on an automotive assembly line. Lucy makes a few adjustments in her design to see if improvements in circulation can be achieved, then shifts her attention to the mass of the building. A freehand sketch is recognized by TABLET as an axonometric drawing of a three-dimensional object. While Lucy finishes the last of her coffee it straightens and corrects the sketch, then sets the axonometric mass within a site plan automatically generated from the site information provided with the program

She is about to rotate this mass to study the view from the other side when her concentration is broken by a gentle reminder from TABLET that her Architectural History lecture will begin in 10 minutes. She moves to a more comfortable sofa in the lounge and tunes into the class.

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