CumInCAD is a Cumulative Index about publications in Computer Aided Architectural Design
supported by the sibling associations ACADIA, CAADRIA, eCAADe, SIGraDi, ASCAAD and CAAD futures

authors Week, David
year 1995
title The Database Revisited: Beyond the Container Metaphor
source Computing in Design - Enabling, Capturing and Sharing Ideas [ACADIA Conference Proceedings / ISBN 1-880250-04-7] University of Washington (Seattle, Washington / USA) October 19-22, 1995, pp. 53-70
summary The growth of international networks, and of international trade in general, has increased the opportunities for architects to work together over distance. In our practice at Pacific Architecture, we’ve been using first modems, and now the Internet, to connect co-workers at sites in Australia, Oregon, Scotland, and Papua New Guinea. Design collaboration has been primarily through the e-mail exchange of text and drawings. We’ve also assessed other CMC tools. Products like Timbuktu and video-conferencing software allow for real-time collaboration, based on the metaphor of two (or more) people together at a table, able to see and hear each other, and to work together on the same document. Groupware make intragroup communication the basis for building a workgroup’s knowledgebase. On recent projects, we’ve begun using database software as the basis for collaborative design communication. We’ve taken as a model for data structure Christopher Alexander’s ‘pattern language’ schema. Conversations about the design take the form of a collaborative construction of the language. Inputs into the database are constrained by the ‘pattern’ format. The CAD drawings run in parallel, as an ‘expression’ or ‘instance’ of the language. So far, CAD and database do not have an integrated interface. This paper describes our experience in these projects. It also outlines a set of design criteria for an integrated CAD/database environment economically and incrementally achievable within the constraints of currently available software. Formulating such criteria requires the reconceptualisation of notions of ‘database’. This paper looks at these notions through philosophical and linguistic work on metaphor. In conclusion, the paper analyses the way in which we can use a reframed notion of database to create a useful collaborative communication environment, centred on the architectural drawing.

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