The Digital Evolution Lab Kicked off on June 22nd
The Digital Evolution Lab began to take form in discussions within our Design Technology Group centered on how we can identify and properly enrich the technically inclined individuals throughout our firm. As people are embedded in many project teams throughout our 14 global offices, we were certain there were individuals creating new workflows and tools we knew nothing about. These individuals, and their innovative ideas, cannot help us if they’re hidden in silos. They may be doing great work on specific projects, but if they had a larger platform? They could be doing great work for not only for our firm, but the AEC industry and beyond. Through these discussions, the Digital Evolution Lab was born.
We agreed we would host a conference and hackathon in one of our office cities. Individuals would apply to attend, and those selected would compete to create new digital tools and workflows that could benefit the firm or greater AEC industry. This would allow us an opportunity to identify some of our skilled individuals and provide them with a chance to meet in person, get know one another, elevate their existing skill sets, and build their network.
Emergencies VS Surprise
Earlier this year, we were in the final stages of coordinating this event when COVID-19 became our unfortunate new reality. We discussed different options, but what made the most sense to us was to fully embrace technology and hold our Digital Evolution Lab as a virtual event. Once committed to this direction, the benefits of this virtual format proved itself an impressive alternative. It enabled us to add more attendees, offer different workshops with external partners, and extend the timeline of the event to allow for more interactions between the attendees and the event host committee. While not the event we originally envisioned, it is one that has already exceeded our expectations, and an experience we’re very much looking forward to.
Participants & Submissions
I applied to the Lab because I have a great interest in parametric design myself and I’d like to work with the people who have the same interest in our firm. In my submission, I was focused on storefront value analysis and attempting to simulate visitors’ path among many interference factors. I focused on one specific moment and analyzed those freeze visitors’ view—therefore, the storefront value can be calculated by the possibility it can be seen at this specific moment. I hope to get some fresh, new ideas form this experience that goes beyond online tutorials. I’m also interested in learning programming language, like Python. I believe the goal for parametric design is all about efficiency. Parametric design may not always be superiors’ traditional methods, so the key point is maintaining a balance. I want to optimize the ability to make decisions.
The Lab interested me because I think our company is in a great position to leverage the practice as a whole and, with that in mind, re-thinking and re-designing our workflows is key to make a meaningful impact on the industry. My submission is a set of custom nodes (packages) of instructions that allow any designer to first create a solid context model using only 2D lines and after creating this context model. I hope to learn how to use different programing languages to eventually create, implement and share different tools. I’m most looking forward to learning Java and C#.
Our company has many talented people and interesting projects everywhere-- I can always hear my colleagues talked about some super interesting project or solution they saw, but I can never get in-depth info about those achievements. So, when the email of this Lab showed up, it was a calling for me to meet other advanced computational designers/specialists within our company, to share what we have done, and to learn from each other. My submission is just a collection of simple modeling tools for some rides in an indoor ski slope. For us, the design of the indoor ski slope is essentially an outdoor environment within 9a huge building. For that, we have many kinds of programmatic elements we need to put together. For example, we have sort of roller coasters that go up and down, left and right, and thorough the woods. And there are also suspended bridges which are above the roller coasters, next to them, and below it-- depending on the design as well as in between the woods. On top of that, they are next to the main ski slopes, the chairlift, and the J-bar. Those are just part of the elements we need to design. So, we must model everything in 3D to make sure things work and the visual result of the design meets the vision.
For that reason, many rides will have to be modeled multiple times. Since those rides typically follow simple design rules, I made those little tools to speed up the iteration process of those rides. Those tools allow us to concentrate on the design and explore various design opportunities instead of tedious and repetitive modeling process. More importantly, the visual result allows the client to see and evaluate the design with ease. Lastly, we can use VR to bring the client into their facility to experience. Anyway, we enjoyed the design process as well as the VR ourselves. And luckily the client’s comments from those presentation are quite positive as well. I am incredibly excited to be learning new tools and testing the potential of them with likeminded peers. I am most looking forward to The Machine Learning workshop-- it excites me that we can use Machine Learning to improve our design.
I thought it would be fun to come together with other individuals within the firm and collaborate on something related to the future of the process of architectural design. My submission is a script that takes a sketch of a building site plan and automatically converts it into a 3-d Rhino massing that meets the specific program requirements indicated beforehand. The idea for the script came about partly from discussions I had with others about the usefulness and intention behind generative design, the difficulty and if there really is a need in duplicating in a computer an experienced architect’s knowledge and ability to see the big picture, and finding ways that scripting tools we within the firm already have access to can aid the designer and his natural abilities of thinking through drawing.I am very excited about the workshops the DEL team has put together, since they address subjects and skills I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, like collaboration through GitHub and machine learning. I’m also excited to work and talk to people across the firm who see digital design as much more than a way to create a certain design aesthetic typically associated with parametric design or automating tedious tasks. I’m especially excited to get the chance to collaborate with people with different experiences and backgrounds that I never worked with before and explore skills and tools we just learned in a setting that is purely about experimentation and possibilities. I’m looking forward to seeing what the result will be.