July 31, 2006
“Sketches of Frank Gehry” Starts at the Sketchpad
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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About this Issue….


Welcome to AECWeekly! This is the first film review I’ve written for this publication, but in this instance, I feel it is appropriate. For those of you who have not yet seen “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” it’s a valuable experience. For those who have seen it, you might ask, why write about him as he doesn’t use a computer, he has many people to do that for him? Computer images were presented in the film, but they were not central to the process, nor was the type of software used shared with the audience.


AECWeekly is a news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.


AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Financials, Awards, New Products, and Upcoming Events.


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Susan Smith, Managing Editor


Industry News


“Sketches of Frank Gehry” Starts at the Sketchpad
by Susan Smith


This is the first film review I’ve written for this publication, but in this instance, I feel it is appropriate. For those of you who have not yet seen “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” it’s a valuable experience. For those who have seen it, you might ask, why write about him as he doesn’t use a computer, he has many people to do that for him? Computer images were presented in the film, but they were not central to the process, nor was the type of software used shared with the audience.


I think that was one of the things I liked about it. In the CAD industry, we speak about the tools constantly, and each new tool attempts to recreate what we started with: paper and pencil.


Computer software has not been able to completely duplicate the freedom of a paper and pencil. (A tablet PC is helpful but doesn’t quite feel the same) It’s interesting to watch an architect whose design process begins at the sketchpad. This is how Gehry works: he sketches out strange squiggle shapes and forms that you would think could not possibly make it into a usable structural form. From there he works with his partners to assemble models out of bits of cardboard, cutting with scissors, tearing down and building up again, making a corrugated piece to scotchtape to the side of the model to see how it looks, adding other strange shapes at odd angles. At one point, he
declares, “It’s so stupid looking it’s great.”


This is only the beginning. From there the design will be drawn on the computer, where it will meet the stresses of what is truly possible in architecture, and the conflict between art and architecture begins in earnest. At this stage, Gehry is still in there, moving things around, snipping this and adding that, until the form he wants begins to take shape.


Although Frank Gehry doesn’t know how to use a computer, he credits the computer with helping him to realize his ideas. It would take months, possibly years, to resolve some of the structural load and other challenging issues presented by his unorthodox designs. Gehry said he tried to draw designs with descriptive geometry but when the contractor tried to build it, there was a kink in it. That was when they turned to the computer.


Guggenheim Museum

[
Gehry’s designs are truly inspired. He has a no-holds-barred approach to architecture, completely free of the rectilinear “limitations” he describes for most architects. In fact, he has surrounded himself with artists for friends rather than architects. Artists’ ideas about form and sculpture were more exciting to him. For many years, he worked as an architect designing more traditional buildings, and when he was asked why he did it, he said he had to make a living. But shortly thereafter, he transitioned to follow his own dreams, which felt at first, “like jumping off a cliff.”


The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has a dream-like quality to it, in both is exterior and interior designs. Gehry’s use of light glints off the silvery shapes that resemble almost like a tumble of scrap metal that ultimately reach a strange sense of order.


Not surprisingly, the building transformed the city of Bilbao and citizens have enjoyed a renewed sense of pride in their city as the home of the famous museum.


The Walt Disney Concert Hall is another reflection of Gehry’s fearless approach to form and space that defies what we think of as architecture.


I don’t know what kind of CAD or BIM software Frank Gehry and Partners use in their designs. I expect that within hours of the publication of this story, a software firm will come forward to claim that distinction.


Walt Disney Concert Hall

[
I do know that of the technology we have covered in AECWeekly, there are tools that can handle challenging and alternative designs. Our story on a
Frank Lloyd Wright design from 1950 that was recently built using Archicad software, is an example.


At the BE Conference this year, Robert Aish, director of Research & Senior Scientist at Bentley, presented what is very likely one of the most exciting developments for the building market, that has been many years in development. Now in beta, GenerativeComponents (GC) is “an associative design system, giving designers and engineers new ways to efficiently explore alternative building forms without manually building the detail design model for each scenario. It also increases their efficiency in managing conventional design and documentation.”


At Autodesk University 2005, James Vandezande of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) described his company's process of change management in moving over to Revit for the design of the Freedom Tower that will replace the World Trade Center.


SOM is two years into its use of Revit for BIM, according to Vandezande. The Freedom Tower is being designed 100% in Revit. The construction phase begins in the next two months.


Software speeds the design and build process, offers increased accuracy and assurance in a design, and allows architects like Gehry and others not so famous to make innumerable and challenging changes and in some cases, bend the rules. It helps communicates the ideas of the designer to other stakeholders in the design process and and also keeps track of every change made in a building information model (BIM).


However important software is, it hasn’t replaced the creative process of architects and designers. The film “Sketches” really focuses on that process and brings to light that which we often forget in our coverage of design – where it all begins, and where it can take us in realizing a vision.


Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements


Software Equity Group, LLC (SEG), a software industry investment bank and M&A advisory, announced the sale of its client, C/S Solutions, Inc. (C/SSI) to Deltek Systems. C/SSI is the world's principal producer of business intelligence tools for the earned value management (EVM) marketplace. Deltek Systems is the leading provider of enterprise management software for project-focused organizations.


Informative Graphics Corp. (IGC), a leader in content visualization, secure publishing and collaboration technology, announced that the company will work with Accela Inc. to deliver its ProjectDox communication and collaboration software as an integrated electronic plan check and management solution for construction permitting.


Deltek, provider of enterprise management software for project-focused organizations, announced the acquisition of C/S Solutions, Inc. (C/SSI), the world's principal producer of business intelligence tools for the earned value management (EVM) marketplace.


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