Tangible User Interface for Architectural Design
This device consists of intelligent building blocks which may be assembled by hand and then automatically queried by computer. In this way, a structural database can be quickly and easily created.
It is often acknowledged that the main advantage of computer aided architectural design (CAAD) systems is that they can be used by architects to quickly and accurately evaluate alternative design solutions using a variety of performance measures which would be too time consuming to apply by hand calculation.To gain the full advantage of interactive CAAD requires the architect to use a computer terminal with graphic capabilities so that he can create and modify his design geometry in a form which can also be directly interpreted by the evaluate routines within the CAAD system. However, it is suggested that it is often difficult for the user of such conventional, graphic, CAAD systems to conceptualise the building being designed by only inspecting and manipulating drawings displayed on the terminal screen.This problem may be accentuated when building users who are not professional architects wish to use a CAAD system so as to participate in the design process.A computerised building block system (BBS) is proposed with which the designer can physically build a model of his design as he would if he was using ‘Lego’∗ blocks. Such a physical representation may allow him to evaluate many of the visual and spatial qualities of his design in a more direct way than could be achieved using computer graphics. However, because the electronic system can ‘read’ the arrangement of blocks and input this information into a computer, the user's design can be evaluated with the same performance measures that are used in existing CAAD systems.
The paper describes an advanced demonstration system which brings together a number of recent developments in CAAD (computer-aided architectural design). This demonstration system illustrates how an important new form of input device, a 3D modelling systemm can be linked with building performance software and ‘indicative’ computer output graphics. The 3D modelling system uses electronically interrogable building elements. The user assembles these elements on a baseboard, providing a tangible model of the design. The model is then interrogated by the CAD system, which recovers the geometry data describing the topology of the model. The user changes the design by reassembling the model elements. A particular aspect of this demonstration is that the user has the option to generate building design data and assimilated building performance data without the need to handle this data in numeric form. It is likely that many of the features present in this demonstration system will be evident in future ‘production’ CAAD systems.