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authors Seebohm, Thomas
year 1992
title Discoursing on Urban History Through Structured Typologies
source Mission - Method - Madness [ACADIA Conference Proceedings / ISBN 1-880250-01-2] 1992, pp. 157-175
summary How can urban history be studied with the aid of three-dimensional computer modeling? One way is to model known cities at various times in history, using historical records as sources of data. While such studies greatly enhance the understanding of the form and structure of specific cities at specific points in time, it is questionable whether such studies actually provide a true understanding of history. It can be argued that they do not because such studies only show a record of one of many possible courses of action at various moments in time. To gain a true understanding of urban history one has to place oneself back in historical time to consider all of the possible courses of action which were open in the light of the then current situation of the city, to act upon a possible course of action and to view the consequences in the physical form of the city. Only such an understanding of urban history can transcend the memory of the actual and hence the behavior of the possible. Moreover, only such an understanding can overcome the limitations of historical relativism, which contends that historical fact is of value only in historical context, with the realization, due to Benedetto Croce and echoed by Rudolf Bultmann, that the horizon of "'deeper understanding" lies in "'the actuality of decision"' (Seebohm and van Pelt 1990).

One cannot conduct such studies on real cities except, perhaps, as a point of departure at some specific point in time to provide an initial layout for a city knowing that future forms derived by the studies will diverge from that recorded in history. An entirely imaginary city is therefore chosen. Although the components of this city at the level of individual buildings are taken from known cities in history, this choice does not preclude alternative forms of the city. To some degree, building types are invariants and, as argued in the Appendix, so are the urban typologies into which they may be grouped. In this imaginary city students of urban history play the role of citizens or groups of citizens. As they defend their interests and make concessions, while interacting with each other in their respective roles, they determine the nature of the city as it evolves through the major periods of Western urban history in the form of threedimensional computer models.

My colleague R.J. van Pelt and I presented this approach to the study of urban history previously at ACADIA (Seebohm and van Pelt 1990). Yet we did not pay sufficient attention to the manner in which such urban models should be structured and how the efforts of the participants should be coordinated. In the following sections I therefore review what the requirements are for three-dimensional modeling to support studies in urban history as outlined both from the viewpoint of file structure of the models and other viewpoints which have bearing on this structure. Three alternative software schemes of progressively increasing complexity are then discussed with regard to their ability to satisfy these requirements. This comparative study of software alternatives and their corresponding file structures justifies the present choice of structure in relation to the simpler and better known generic alternatives which do not have the necessary flexibility for structuring the urban model. Such flexibility means, of course, that in the first instance the modeling software is more timeconsuming to learn than a simple point and click package in accord with the now established axiom that ease of learning software tools is inversely related to the functional power of the tools. (Smith 1987).

series ACADIA
email tseebohm@fes.uwaterloo.ca
full text file.pdf (3,051,624 bytes)
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100%; open Jordan, J. Peter (1992) Find in CUMINCAD President's Message , ACADIA Quarterly, The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, Vol. 11 No 2, Spring 1992, pp. 3-5
100%; open Seebohm, T. and Van Pelt, R.J. (1990) Find in CUMINCAD Of Computer Memory and Human Remembrance: History of Urban Form Through Three-Dimensional Computer Modeling , ACADIA '90 Proceedings (Proceedings of the 1990 Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture), Oct. 4-6, 1990, pp - 43-59
100%; open Smith, Randall B. (1987) Find in CUMINCAD Experiences with the Alternate Reality Kit, An Example of the tension between Literalism and Magic , CHI +GI 1987, Conference Proceedings, Computing Factors in Computing Systems and Graphics Interface, April 5 - 9, 1987, Toronto, pp. 6176
100%; open Van Pelt, R.J. and Westfall, C.W. (1991) Find in CUMINCAD Architectural Principles in the Age of Historicism , Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 168-214

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