Thursday, September 17, 2009

Advice to Young Designers: Learn to Love the Computer

Computer-driven architecture and design will be a necessity for students in school now to learn if they want to be competitive in 10 years. Architect Frank Gehry (right), pioneered the use of digital fabrication in the 1990s by borrowing 3D modeling software used to design airplanes.

The sculpted titanium facade of his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao - followed by the billowed steel sails of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (left) and the incongruously curved brick walls of the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT - could not have been built in any other way.

Gehry uses new technologies to make possible buildings so complex they previously existed only in the imagination. Using today's tools, you could basically model any shape, press a button, print out the construction templates and say, 'Build this.'"

Even more conventional designers will need to use computer fabrication. One of the advantages of using computers to model designs is lowering costs. Digital tools streamline the design and engineering process, minimizing labor hours and materials waste in order to make high-end, customized architecture more affordable.

Gehry starts his design process with wooden blocks and sketches. Next, his model makers translate the designs into cardboard prototypes. Eventually these are imported into Catia, the high-end 3-D software Gehry borrowed from the aerospace industry more than a decade ago.

Click on the heading above to watch a video of Gehry and Dennis Shelden, one of his technology experts, explaining why computer design is necessary.

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