Saturday, February 20, 2010


Computers are a valuable tool in the design industry that not only allow designers to create drawings and models, but aid in the collection of data through simulation studies. In reading the three articles, Computer Virtualization as a Tool for Critical Analysis, Model Behavior: Anticipation Great Design, and Let the (Indirect) Sun Shine In, this concept is discussed using specific examples where computers have been used to determine ventilation conditions, lighting conditions, and climate conditions.

Computers have been used as an instrument for building, site, and product analysis. Maddalina (1999) contributed to the idea that computers can be used to enhance the design process and analyze existing designs through computer graphics and simulation studies. These computer programs allow for designers and design analysts to see forms in ways that are not capable at the 2D drawing stage. In the study discussed by Maddalina, the Martin House, designed by Wright is analyzed to study its complexity which is shown through a series of “transparent” volumes inserted into a 3D model of the house. The overlapping areas show a complexity unable to be captured in detail through the means of a two dimensional drawing or scale model.

Dubai is a city that is exploding with new gigantic architectural monuments. Minutillo (2008) using the architecture revolution in Dubai, discusses how testing environmental elements with computer software can contribute to how buildings are being designed and implemented. A series of ventilation cones were conceived of to be used in a new building. To test the success of the cones a computer simulation was used to show how hot air could be ventilated out of the structure. Another facility set to be constructed in Dubai was also analyzed through computer simulation to test the exterior material to be used on the fa├žade of a building. This building was proposed to be constructed atop an oil doom, in a predominantly sandy area prone to high winds. To test if the material could withstand the abrasions, a program was used to simulate the condition. To validate this information a physical scale model was used in a wind tunnel, creating a physical simulation, where data was again collected and analyzed.

In addition to these new structures, a bridge has been proposed in Dubai revolving around the concept where the nighttime lighting will mimic that of the waxing and waning moon. This concept, although seemingly unnecessary, has been evaluated using simulation software to test the lighting conditions needed and test how the lighting should be configures.

With continuing this discourse of lighting and simulation, Gonchar (2008) brings to light the interest of daylighting in museum exhibitions. In the past museums have been susceptible to artificial lighting due to the fading effect that natural light has on a piece of art and visitor comfort. In an attempt to satisfy a need for reciprocity, meaning conservation of art pieces and a desire for daylighting, museum designers have begun to develop methods to including daylighting into galleries through a controlled means. The BCAM building has done just this through the use of a sawtooth roof. The configuration of the roof and sunshading system allows for maximum control of daylighting in the museum space. A simulation study was conducted to provide an illumination vector analysis, while a luminance study was incorporated to understand the levels of the light leaving a surface which can affect visitor’s sight and vision comfort. In looking back on a physical models use in simulation analysis, a physical model was created to test the light levels on sight and collect measurment data.

The discourse surrounding these simulation studies is paramount in the field of design, specifically interiors and architecture. Simulation studies can aid in developing an understanding of how environmental aspects, such as air flow, lighting, and temperature, not only affect the materials and structure, but imagine how they affect occupants and visitors. Using simulation software, particularly lighting, can significantly increase a designer’s knowledge of how lighting, both artificial and daylighting, will work in a space.

There is, however, always the risk of miscalculation or over reliance on computers. The model studies are important because they demonstrate that multiple simulations are needed to verify a situational outcome. There is always the human element in computers in that they are designed by humans, operated by humans, and the information is interpreted by humans. This idea of computer simulation can be beneficial to designers but should also be questioned in order to better understand output and abilities. Above all, designers must remember that simulations are artificial representations of reality and should always be viewed as such.

Gonchar, J. (2008). Let the (Indirect) Sun Shine In. Architectural Record, (May).

Maddalina, M. (1999). Computer Visualization as a Tool for Critical Analysis. Architecture Week.

Minutillo, J. (2008). Model Behavior: Anticipating Great Design. Architectural Record, (Dec).

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