Tag Archives: technology

Is BIM the Machine in the Garden?

The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet. – Cyril Connolly

Some design professionals resent the intrusion of technology into their practices.

Things, for them, were fine as they were.

It wasn’t always this way.

At first, when CAD was first introduced, we thought that computers were machines in the garden of architectural Eden.

Our reactions to BIM are all over the map.

Some are enthused and have readily adopted it as the next technology.

They may not be utilizing the information in BIM, but are well on their way to doing so when the opportunity arises.

But for some folks, BIM is seen as an unwanted intruder.

Mary Shelley’s monster was a creature of technology after all.

The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America by Leo Marx examines the difference between the pastoral and progressive ideals which characterized early American culture.

And which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental debates of contemporary society.

Where pastorialism represents the yearning by civilized man to occupy the space in between “art” and “nature.”

The book illustrates how American writers and artists came to grips with the penetration of the machine into the garden.

And talks about the “middle landscape,” where many find themselves between primitivism and progressivism.

A purgatory of sorts where many design professionals find themselves today.

This could easily be describing the introduction of technology into contemporary design practice.

It has been almost 50 years since architects considered their profession a new Eden that would redeem mankind.

For them, as the title implies, technology today is an unwelcomed guest in Eden.

Others would less generously call BIM the proverbial fly in our professional soup.

That BIM, and now IPD, are crashing our party.

We used to have such a nice profession – look what BIM has gone and done to it.

Waxing Nostalgic

For the most part, design professionals have readily, seamlessly, adopted the new technologies.

With relatively little kicking and screaming.

But for others, BIM represents a line drawn in the topsoil.

Irrespective of the many surveys that indicate well over 50% of the profession – and construction industry – is already making strides with BIM, there continue to be hold-outs.

And I suspect that deep down, below the espoused reasons for not getting on board the machine, are overriding fears that somehow BIM is a foreign intruder in architecture’s garden.

Where their fear of BIM is almost xenophobic.

They’re concerned about the insidious effects of industrialization on the spirit, as it were.

They feel threatened by BIM.

BIM, they believe, commoditizes what they do.

Allowing others to make and then eat their lunch.

And Integrated Design (IPD) all but silences their already weakened voice at the table, lessens their power and ability to negotiate.

Making them even more invisible than they already feel.

Hear this, resellers:

For BIM to truly catch fire, we will need to address our fellow practitioner’s emotions.

For all the perfectly sound reasons we have for moving forward with BIM.

For BIM to truly work for our profession, it’s

more a matter of the amygdala and emotion than of the cortex and thought.

Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly, first published in 1938, is famous for listing the adverse elements that affect the ability to be a good writer.

The overarching theme of the book is the search for an explanation of why Connolly, though widely recognized as a leading man of letters and a highly distinguished critic, failed to produce a major work of literature.

The book lists the factors that can stifle a writer’s creativity.

Warning writers to be on the lookout for them.

A representative quote from the book: There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.

You can almost hear design professionals today complaining that

There is no more somber enemy of good architecture than BIM on the ball.

That it will stifle your creativity.

Don’t let BIM be your enemy of promise.

It’s All Technology

Is it BIM or is it technology that enters our figural garden?

Consider them one and the same.

In fact, it is probably healthiest to accept the fact that mechanical pencils, pin bars, Mylar and Maylines were technologies well before CAD entered the scene.

Not to mention Fortran IV with Watfour and Watfive and stacks of punch cards that I and my classmates were weened on.

I am looking forward to reading What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, cofounder of Wired magazine, when it comes out in October.

Watch Kelly discuss What Technology Wants here at TEDxAmsterdam or here on YouTube.

This essay by Kelly presenting a refreshing and inclusive view of technology as a living force in the world ought to tide us over until then.

In the essay, Kelly asks:

So, looking at the evolution of life and the long-term histories of past technologies…What does technology want?

Possibilities
To increase diversity
To maximize freedom/choices
To expand the space of the possible

Efficiencies
To increase specialization/uniqueness
To increase power density
To increase density of meaning
To engage all matter and energy
To reach ubiquity and free-ness
To become beautiful

Complexity
To increase complexity
To increase social co-dependency
To increase self-referential nature
To align with nature

Evolvability
To accelerate evolvability
To play the infinite game

To align with nature.

There you have it.

What does BIM want?

Not to fight.

Not to crash our party.

Not to be a thorn in our side.

Nor an enemy of promise.

Nor a machine in our garden.

But to belong.

To a time when we see no conflict between the machine and the garden.

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BIM’s Great New Frontier

We stand on the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, a frontier of unknown opportunities and beliefs in peril. Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space… John F. Kennedy

It was almost exactly 50 years ago, in his acceptance speech in the 1960 United States presidential election, that the then recently elected president spoke these words.

Today, with the all-out emulation of that time period – An Education, Mad_Men and A Single Man come to mind – there’s a sense, with that decade of promise and passion, something great and profound has passed forever: something elegiac, full of promise, teeming with anticipation.  

A direct line could be drawn from the speech heard round the world and events just nine years later at the end of that decade when man had landed on the moon.

We find ourselves today at the threshold of a similarly new era. Take counsel when marveling how quickly the past decade drew by.

As a profession and industry what will our man on the moon moment be?

            “Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”

Great discoveries surely lie in store for architecture, engineering and construction. There will be marvels as yet undreamed of as there always are.

And yet we find ourselves living in a time convincingly telling us to set aside our preoccupation with the design of objects and things in favor of processes, systems and flows.

BIM and Integrated Design and LEED together are our stimulus and our infrastructure.

It has been a while since we’ve had a frontier to discover, a frontier commensurate with our capacity to wonder.

Today BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are our great New Frontier.

            “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Nonetheless, some stand at the threshold looking back, approaching BIM and Integrated Design and LEED with skepticism and cynicism.

Well-earned, no doubt, after many years in the business.

They say these are just tools. Today’s CAD, a newer and better pencil.

That Integrated Design is unrealistic and LEED cumbersome and self-serving.

As assuredly as we will see technologies surpass BIM, processes pronounce Integrated Design obsolete, and superior means to sustainable buildings and places than LEED – today as a profession, as an industry, as a country – BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are our Manifest Destiny.

Together they are our rallying cry, our call to expansion of the design professions into new territories that lie in wait beyond, neither by imperialistic expansion into territory belonging to others nor devolving into their slaves.

            “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? Cried Daisy, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

As the great new frontier BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are ours for the taking by eminent domain.

Our expansion into the unknown, into the future, should be something fierce and exciting – untamed and new.

A means by which to rediscover our territory – and other worlds – all over again.

Enter with trepidation – enter with anticipation – but whatever you do, enter.

You do not become stronger by protecting and contemplating your core. You become stronger by opening up to what lies in store.

            “There was the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair.”

This, right now, is our moment.

How you approach BIM and Integrated Design and LEED is how you approach anything.

With mutual fear and trepidation, distrust and unwillingness to share?

Or with an open mind, anticipating, expanding into new ground, growing ever outward, a small Kaizen step at a time?

When others are progressing while we are wait-and-see, approach this new territory with small steps if you must. But approach we shall.

By summer we will have jumped fences, barriers, cubicle walls.

By fall, we will have reached all the way across the table.

Who knows where we will be this time next year…if we do not take these first small steps.

This is our moment. Our moment will soon pass.

             “For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity to wonder.”

BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are our new frontier, a land to explore, a territory to discover – and to conquer. So be bold.

Settlers first came to America with one ambition, a better life.

What came of this better life?

As the American Dream is a life in pursuit of opportunity, freedom, equality, community and wealth, ours is one of collaboration, mutual trust and sharing. In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, these dreams soon diminished as materialistic values superseded all.

Soon owners will arrive on our shores. What will we do?

BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are at once our green breast of the new world and our green light at the end of the dock.

The green expanse before us offers a better way for owners and a better way for all.

BIM and Integrated Design and LEED are our continent to discover, explore and experience. They are our promise of a new way to work and prosper so that we all may reach our dreams together.

            “Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock….his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”

Together the technology and process paint a picture of a bright new world.

The opportunity they portend is endless. Let us not forsake it.

BIM and Integrated Design and LEED together are commensurate to our capacity to wonder.

They have the power to transform us into who we once envisioned ourselves to be.

Let’s not beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

 

All quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby” dealing with the failure of the great American dream.

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