C-BIP Studio Part III

May 14, 2012

(The final post in a three-part discussion of the Columbia Building Intelligence Project. See my other posts: Part I and Part II.)

In this final post, I’d like to propose some ideas about what could make C-BIP better if the studio continued, and to share some of our final output.

As I wrote last time, I thought that the two-part development of the studio had some major flaws. Not allowing students to re-use their own elements in the building strategies meant that some of us tried to adapt similar elements designed by others to align with our goals, thereby distorting the elements to an unworkable extent. Alternatively, some groups designed “modules” composed of several elements together that could be plugged in to their buildings as independent units, thereby avoiding the problem of how to adapt elements to buildings. I think every group had to choose a limited set of problems to solve, because the studio proposed so many different issues: workflow/cooperative design, open source development, parametric design, quantitative versus qualitative evaluation, the role of the architect in this process, whether elements are “products” or “architecture,” etc.

So what would I, as a student, like to see changed? To begin with, I think the studio was trying to do too many things. I want to stress again that I think the attempt was commendable - this studio was working on real issues of real value to the architectural community. But if one of the purposes of studio is to produce excellent design work, I think the time given to the two phases was insufficient for either of them. We could easily have spent the entire semester working on building strategies, designing parametric elements as a group and targeting their development to the goals of the strategies. Or, we could have spent the entire semester developing a collaborative studio-wide workflow around the individual elements, improving their useability, trading them around, and fleshing them out. The final review in that case could have been a live demonstration of our elements, perhaps with each of us assigned to demonstrate someone else’s element - that would have ensured that the elements really functioned as claimed.

One of the critics at the final review said that she thought our projects were, for the most part, “too virtuous” - they didn’t challenge the system enough and they accepted the premises of the studio too thoroughly. On the one hand, I’m kind of pleased with that, because I think it means we all took the issues of the studio seriously and tried to work within them. On the other hand, I think part of the reason for this was that the studio was so saturated with requirements and conditions that it was hard to break out of the system. The system was itself so new to us and so all-encompassing that we (or some of us, anyway) got trapped inside it. I think that reducing the focus to either the elements or the strategies, without losing the additional interest in parametrics, energy, CATIA, etc, could help with this.

Overall, the semester was engaging and challenging, although often frustrating, but I think we are all here to be challenged. Congratulations to all my classmates for surviving another semester!

My final element presentation:

CBIP Element Final Review

My group’s final building strategy presentation:

CBIP Group 4 Final Presentation

And finally, a little C-BIP humor from resident awesome person Kim Nguyen (thanks, Kim, for the links):

CBIP Quotes

CBIP Comic