The Changing Face of Practice


Ever since the Renaissance, individual creativity and genius have been honoured, resulting in the recognition of star architects and their creations. However, there has always been another mode of creativity whereby designs evolve as a result of the contributions of many talented individuals, as for example, in the evolution of vernacular architecture. Today, it is in the interactive collaboration–often with thousands of collaborators on the design of computer games and open-source software–that this mode of creativity is leading to results that no individual could even hope to conceive. In Canada, collaborative and participatory design is being advanced with research by the Canadian Design Research Network (CDRN).

With respect to urban and landscape design, John Danahy and West Suhanic of the University of Toronto and Thomas Seebohm of the University of Waterloo are developing and applying interactive tools for consultants, designers, and the public to collaborate together by being able to visualize alternative design possibilities while moving through virtual 3D models of future development scenarios, along with visualizing the associated quantitative implications such as cost of development. To most effectively visualize this quantitative information–called visual analytics–research is being carried out by Fil Salustri at Ryerson University. Such collaborations are usually synchronous in the same space, but the research frontier is moving to support synchronous sessions with asynchronous web-based access to 3D virtual scenarios and mechanisms for public feedback. New software tools for participatory visualization and urban and landscape design are being developed in a collaboration between the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and Parallel World Labs of Toronto.

In the design of sustainable buildings, the integrated design process (IDP)–in which all stakeholders, designers and consultants participate synchronously in one space in design charrettes–is being recognized as essential for successful sustainable design. Hugues Rivard at the cole de Technologie Suprieure in Montreal has recently inaugurated a laboratory called the Computer-Aided Conceptual Design Laboratory. To aid decision-making, analysis and visualization of complex 3D and 4D issues, the lab provides three digital projectors, video and audio conferencing, digital white boards and collaborative software infrastructure as well as a virtual design desk and a 3D virtual reality screen. To support the IDP process, participants require information in the form of design repositories (researched by Rob Woodbury and colleagues at Simon Fraser University) and even virtual wind tunnels to study air and wind movement in and around buildings; the implementation is being investigated by Pierre Boulanger at the University of Alberta.

At the Universit Laval, Pierre Ct and his students collaborate with students from the cole Nationale Suprieure d’Architecture de Toulouse in 3D virtual architecture (VA) where, physically remote in space, they collaborate synchronously and asynchronously. VA stimulates, nourishes and amplifies intuition and the emergence of ideas because designs in VA are not physically constrained but virtual and infinitely changeable. VA also provides a place of exchange and communication between students who may even represent themselves as avatars within their own virtual architectural creations.

Thomas Seebohm, Pierre Ct, John Danahy and Hugues Rivard are members of the Canadian Design Research Network and teach at the University of Waterloo, Universit Laval, University of Toronto and the cole de Technologie Suprieure in Montreal respectively.