During his keynote address at a recent Dassault Systèmes event in Japan, Cristiano Ceccato of Zaha Hadid Architects explained how techniques borrowed from other industries have been applied to some of his firm’s innovative projects.
Ceccato also examined what happens when designers transfer digital data into the built realm, thereby moving away from the perfection of the computer into the “imperfections” of a real construction environment.
Here is his advice for the architecture community:
1. Build Like Boeing
During his cross-disciplinary research with Boeing, Ceccato saw that the firm was able to take on great risks to develop innovative ways of working.
Their 777 aircraft design required a completely new infrastructure; producing it required an entirely new way of thinking and they created it for a market that didn’t yet exist.
How did they do it? In short:
- Integrated models of information allowed them to have a much more contained risk envelope, and to produce products much more efficiently across the board.
- Parametrics allowed them to stretch and shrink the aircraft to meet different markets.
- A decentralization of components and location helped share risk among partners and bring the product to market more efficiently.
Architects—who are building custom structures one by one around the world—can learn from Boeing’s approach, becoming more flexible and effective in producing solutions for clients.
When architects learn to better manage information and processes, they reduce risk and improve how people work together.
2. See the Pieces Within the Whole
Digital modeling allows for the more efficient production of highly complex projects through the repetition of simple elements. This works on two levels.
On the project level, consider the traits shared among projects. For example, towers as a group can be considered a “family” with an artificial DNA. Digital modeling allows designers to easily search through shared characteristics of towers—the need for privacy among units, certain zoning requirements, etc.—and apply specific solutions to a particular market.
On the component level, projects can be broken down into simple fabricated components that can be repeated in different ways to create the seeming complexity.
By working closely with fabricators, designers can create solutions that can be manufactured and assembled as a kit of parts. These kits can be repeated in a variety of ways to create an intricate end result that can be quickly and easily assembled onsite.
Information systems make it possible to define, correlate and repurpose simple parts on a massive scale.
3. Maintain Interoperability
When using digital modeling platforms, interoperability—among components and tools used by the wide array of trades involved—is crucial.
Digital modeling requires strong managers who can invest time and energy resolving interoperability issues among models to make sure that the final result is a faithful translation of information among platforms and the final project.
This must be an ongoing process. The digital model is not a single, finite element. It must evolve to continuously progress the accuracy and level of development of information.
4. Don’t Underestimate the Human Element
One challenge of working with a distributed team is ensuring all partners are working toward the same design interpretation. Advanced 3D modeling technologies are increasingly enabling the project contributors to efficiently collaborate, iterate, and come to a consensus on the design intent.
For example, 3D tools help fabricators match the designer’s vision by marrying early models with fabrication templates to ensure that what the fabrication team completes is a faithful interpretation of the original design.
And while mock-ups and site visits remain valid tools for incorporating owners into the design process, 3D tools build client confidence by demonstrating that what is proposed is possible within the given time and budget constraints—and will accurately meet the owner’s vision.