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 Johnson, Scott
year 1998
title Making Models Architectural: Protean Representations to Fit Architects’ Minds
source Digital Design Studios: Do Computers Make a Difference? [ACADIA Conference Proceedings / ISBN 1-880250-07-1] Québec City (Canada) October 22-25, 1998, pp. 354-365
summary A rich vocabulary has evolved for describing architecture. It serves not only as a means of communication, but also as an embodiment of concepts relating to form, space, structure, function, mood, and symbolism. We architects not only speak in terms of walls, rooms, roofs, arches, etc., we see in terms of them and think in terms of them, as well. Such concepts are integral to our ability to design. Typical CAD representations, however, are based on geometric/mathematical elements like points, lines, planes, and symbols. Even more experimental approaches like parametric shapes or procedural assemblies correspond poorly to architectural elements, and seldom lend themselves well to making conceptual changes that would allow exploration of design alternatives. Small wonder some architecture schools experience a division between computer and studio courses, or even between computer and studio faculty. Different ways of talking and thinking are involved. The concepts involved are often mutually exclusive. This paper discusses an attempt to address this conceptual mismatch, using what are termed “protean” (meaning “very changeable”) elements. These are high-level elements corresponding to architectural concepts like “wall,” or “dome.” They each have parameters appropriate for the particular type of element they represent, and produce the polyhedra necessary for graphics based on these parameters. A system is being implemented to allow models to be constructed using these elements. The protean elements form a loosely structured model, in which some elements hierarchically contain others, and some elements are essentially freestanding, being created and manipulated independently of other elements. Characteristics of protean element are discussed, including the underlying object-oriented structure, the relationship between elements and graphics, and functions associated with the objects. A scheme is explained whereby all parts of a design can be represented even when the design includes extremely unusual forms not conforming to predictable classes of elements. The necessary support framework is also discussed; general flow of the system and mechanisms for viewing the model and editing subcomponents are explained. The current status of the project, and intentions for future work are discussed. The project has been partially implemented, and the necessary framework to support the system is mostly complete.

series ACADIA
email sven@umich.edu
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