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Realtime Architecture Platform Collab Wood

Authors:

Abstract

This project proposes a realtime architecture platform. It's based on previous research on collaborative architecture (Grasser 2019) as well as research on combinatorial design (Sanchez 2016), digital architecture (Carpo 2013), and discrete mereologies (Koehler 2019). The platform was applied in a design studio at the Institute of Architecture and Media at Graz University of Technology with 20 Masters students. Due to restrictions of the global pandemic, we worked in a distributed mode of telepresent teaching. The implementation of this new working method further accelerated the focus on digital collaboration in architecture. Using the platform to collaborate in real time, the Collab Wood prototype was designed and realized.
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Realtime Architecture Platform
Collab Wood
Alexander Grasser
Institute of Architecture and
Media, TU Graz
Alexandr a Parger
Institute of Architecture and
Media, TU Graz
Urs Hirschberg
Institute of Architecture and
Media, TU Graz
HERO IMAGE
Realtime Architecture Platform
This project proposes a realtime architecture platform. It’s based on previous research
on collaborative architecture (Grasser 2019) as well as research on combinatorial design
(Sanchez 2016), digital architecture (Carpo 2013), and discrete mereologies (Koehler 2019).
The platform was applied in a design studio at the Institute of Architecture and Media at
Graz University of Technology with 20 Masters students. Due to restrictions of the global
pandemic, we worked in a distributed mode of telepresent teaching. The implementation of
this new working method further accelerated the focus on digital collaboration in archi-
tecture. Using the platform to collaborate in real time, the Collab Wood prototype was
designed and realized.
The importance of real-time shared events can be seen by the current increase of live
social media applications, digital meeting and conferencing tools, and massively multiplayer
online games hosting events. Their collective goal is to unite a high number of users that
are geographically distributed but temporarily available to create a global common ground.
As a consequence of these interactions and accessible digital instruments, the meaning
of presence is evolving. At its core, architectural practice and academia rely on interac-
tion and feedback in close proximity. This workow has to shift towards distributed digital
design and realtime collaboration.
1 Realtime Architecture Platform. Personalized clusters of parts to collaborative whole
183PEER-REVIEWED PROJECTS
The “Realtime Architecture Platform,” developed by the
authors, enables an innovative workow to collaborate and
design in unity. A custom application, developed in the game
engine Unity, provides an online persistent environment for
shared architectural design (Figures 1, 2). Furthermore,
it provides a exible framework to streamline data via
Grasshopper to Rhinoceros.
Collaborative Objects
The work method is based on the concept of collaborative
objects and distributed designers. These collaborative
objects are the shared content, discrete parts, prefabs, or
blocks that enable interaction, communication, and collabo-
ration with and between users and owners. The distributed
designers can contribute to a shared architectural project
by instantiating these collaborative objects. By placing
an object, the users react in real time to the local neigh-
boring conditions and therefore add their embodied design
decision to the global architecture. The users experience
this common creative ow by communicating through
the integrated chat or digital calls, discussing strategies,
debating on design intentions, analyzing the built structure,
and scanning for improvements. This pervasive collabora-
tion lays the foundation for a democratization of the design
process (Grasser, Parger, Hirschberg 2020).
Collab Wood
As a proof of concept, the platform was applied with 20
students in a telepresence design studio. The participants
embraced the real-time workow and worked with the
collaborative tool throughout the semester from different
locations and time zones to develop architectural projects
in small groups as well as to design and build a collective
project: the Collab Wood prototype. In the platform, each
student was represented by a color to identify their placed
objects as the structure consisted of discrete parts. The
students could contribute to this shared architectural
project either by placing just one part or by sharing
clusters of parts that follow individual design intentions
and combinatorial rules (Figure 3). First, in small groups,
participants collaboratively experimented and elabo-
rated real-time design strategies, dening global design
2 Realtime Architecture Platform. Multiple screenshots of a collaborative design session in Unity
184
intentions, and playing with local constraints. Then all 20
students met in scheduled real-time design sessions in the
platform to design together. These design sessions aimed
to create structures such as columns and roofs (Figures
4, 5). Digital design behavior and communication between
the participants improved with every session in distributed
proximity.
The nal design, Collab Wood, was built as a 1:1 prototype
using local and accessible material. Respecting social
distancing, we scheduled individual time slots to build the
wood structure outdoors, student by student (Figures 3, 7,
8). The assembly was supported by Augmented Reality (AR)
applications. Here our developed platform enabled real-
time AR on mobile devices, using Unity’s AR Foundation and
Fologram with a HoloLens headset. AR helped to identify the
student’s clusters and provided a holographic construc-
tion manual. To further differentiate the wooden parts, the
student’s name, as well as an individual polyline pattern,
were engraved on the parts.
This added layer of information allowed an ambiguous
reading of personalized clusters of parts to the collabora-
tive whole of the Collab Wood prototype (Figure 6).
The global pandemic accelerated the importance of collab-
oration. Our response, providing an accessible common
platform for realtime interaction, design, and collaboration,
can be regarded as the rst step in how we might work
together in the future.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The design studio Collaborative Matter(s) was led by Alexander
Grasser, Urs Hischberg, and Alexandra Parger at the Institute of
Architecture and Media at TU Graz. With the support of our student
tutors: Eszter Katona, Kilian Hoffmann, Nora Hoti. With a great
group of students: Alina Boss, Angelika Bernhart, Anton Kussinna,
Constanze Feitzlmayr, Daniel Buchacher, Donia Elmenshawi, Felix
Zitter, Francesco Doninelli, Franciska Kozul, Janine Witzany, Julie
Belpois, Kenan Isakovic, Kerstin Grangl, Kilian Hoffmann, Maria
Matthäus, Max Frühwirt, Sebastian Meisinger, Ronald Tang Pak To,
Tilen Sagrkovic. March- June 2020.
3 Personalized clusters of discrete parts
Realtime Architecture Platform Grasser, Parger, Hirschberg
185PEER-REVIEWED PROJECTS
We thank our guest critics for their time and valuable input: Ryan
Vincent Manning, Manuel Jiménez Gracia, Daniel Köhler, and Jörg
Stanzel. And nally, thanks to our collaborators and partners:
Fifteen Seconds, Exit Games, Pro Holz and Felber Holz.
REFERENCES
Carpo, Mario. 2013. The Digital Turn in Architecture. Chichester:
Wiley
Claypool, Mollie, Gilles Retsin, Manuel Jimenez-Garcia, and Vicente
Soler, eds. 2019. Robotic Building: Architecture in the Age of
Automation. Munich: Detail Verlag.
Grasser, Alexander. 2019. “Towards an Architecture of
Collaborative Objects.“ In Architecture in the Age of the 4th
Industrial Revolution: Proceedings of the 37th eCAADe and 23rd
SIGraDi Conference - Volume 1, edited by J. Sousa, J. Xavier, and G.
Castro Henriques, 325-332.
Grasser, Alexander, Parger, Alexandra and Urs Hirschberg. 2020.
“Pervasive Collaboration and Tangible Complexity in Realtime
Architecture.” In Anthropologic: Architecture and Fabrication in
the cognitive age: Proceedings of the 38th eCAADe Conference -
Volume 1, edited by L. Werner and D. Koering, 393-400.
Jahn, Gwyllim, Cameron Newnham, Nick Van Den Berg, and
Matthew Beanland. 2018. “Making in Mixed Reality.” In ACADIA
2018 Recalibration: On Imprecision and Indelity: Proceedings of
the 38th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided
Design in Architecture, ed. by P. Anzaline, M. del Signore and A.J. W,
88-97. Mexico City: ACADIA.
Koehler, Daniel. 2019. “Mereological Thinking: Figuring Realities
within Urban Form.Architectural Design 89: 30-37.
Sanchez, Jose. 2018. “Platforms for Architecture: Imperatives and
Opportunities of Designing Online Networks for Design“ In ACADIA
2018 Recalibration: On Imprecision and Indelity: Proceedings of
the 38th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided
Design in Architecture, ed. by P. Anzaline, M. del Signore and A.J. W
108-117.
Sanchez, Jose. 2016. “Combinatorial design: Non-parametric
Computational Design Strategies.” In ACADIA 2016: Posthuman
Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines; Proceedings of
4 Realtime session 2: collaborative column 5 Realtime session 3: collaborative column
186 Realtime Architecture Platform Grasser, Parger, Hirschberg
6 Collab Wood
187PEER-REVIEWED PROJECTS
7 Collab Wood, column a 8 Collab Wood, column b
committed to social and ecological issues. During her studies
of Architecture at TU Vienna, she founded her jewelry Label
NANAdesign. Specializing in 3D printing, she landed collaborations
with the fashion industry and other customized merchandising
projects. In 2019 she started teaching at TU Graz focusing on tools
and design thinking methods applying a wide range of media and
technologies, such as AR. Alexandra combines cross-creating
design processes in multi-disciplinary settings.
Urs Hirschberg is Professor for the Representation of
Architecture and New Media at Graz University of Technology
and Head of the Institute of Architecture and Media (IAM). Born
and raised in Switzerland, he gained his Architecture Diploma
and Doctorate from ETH Zurich. Before TU Graz he served as the
Chair of Architecture and CAAD at ETH Zurich and at the Harvard
Graduate School of Design. He is a founding editor of GAM, the
Graz Architecture Magazine and Director of the TU Graz Field of
Expertise Sustainable Systems.
the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided
Design in Architecture, ed. K. Velikov, S. Ahlquist, M. del Campo, G.
Thun, 1-13. Ann Arbor: ACADIA.
IMAGE CREDITS
All drawings and images by the authors.
Alexander Grasser is an architect and researcher based in Graz
and Vienna. He is teaching at the Institute of Architecture and
Media at TU Graz. His research is focusing on collaborative objects,
realtime architecture and platform applications in architec-
ture. Alexander studied architecture at TU Vienna and Innsbruck
University and gained professional experience working in ofces
in Vienna, Berlin and Shanghai, with ongoing collaborations with
architectural practices in Texas, Berlin and Vienna. His works were
widely published and exhibited internationally.
Alexandra Parger is an architect currently working in Berlin. Born
in Vienna, she is uent in several languages and is increasingly
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Conference Paper
This paper reports on an ongoing experiment in design collaboration: an open collaborative realtime environment that enables participatory design activities in spatially distributed teams. The project builds on online platforms and open source ways of sharing design ideas, but also on recent advances in shared augmented reality enabled by game engine technology. Furthermore it focuses on combinatorial design of collaborative objects: the models shared in this way are not just geometric forms, but informed systems of parts with a procedural or combinatorial logic, an assembly strategy. By pooling and aggregating such intelligent assembly systems in a shared online realtime design space we are trying to move towards pervasive collaboration in architecture. Authors taking part in the project are united in a shared persistent design space and can design collectively. They experience what we refer to as tangible complexity: a playful mode of aggregating and combining design ideas of different authors. We argue that this pervasive collaboration can lead to novel types of complexity: an architecture of socially augmented formations.
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Carpo, Mario. 2013. The Digital Turn in Architecture. Chichester: Wiley Claypool, Mollie, Gilles Retsin, Manuel Jimenez-Garcia, and Vicente Soler, eds. 2019. Robotic Building: Architecture in the Age of Automation. Munich: Detail Verlag.
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Combinatorial design: Non-parametric Computational Design Strategies
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Sanchez, Jose. 2016. "Combinatorial design: Non-parametric Computational Design Strategies." In ACADIA 2016: Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines; Proceedings of