AEC Tech News (#207)

22 Aug, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

City Turns New Leaf in Second Life

Architecture professor uses virtual world to teach collaboration.

From my home in San Francisco, I can go to Oakland across the Bay in two ways. I can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to the downtown Oakland station. Or I can let Terry Beaubois, director of Montana State University’s Creative Research Lab, instantaneously teleport me to the digital Oakland in Second Life, a virtual world maintained by Linden Lab. The virtual Oakland is the works of Terry, his students, and architecture professor Ralph Johnson, the co-teacher of the Research Lab class. For the purpose of this newsletter (and to avoid the weekend commute), I chose to let Terry take care of my transportation.

Can We All Work Together
“We’re still teaching architects to be like Howard Roark,” observed Terry, reflecting on the uncompromising, idealist architect from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. “We tell them, you’re great, you’re wonderful, and you can do everything yourself.”

Part of the problem with adhering to the Roark model, Terry pointed out, is the lack of collaboration. “Most architecture students haven’t done much of it,” he noted. “They don’t learn to work together, even with other architecture students. That’s been my observation.

“And after graduation, it’s a completely different situation. Professional architects regularly work with structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers, contractors, subcontractors, product manufacturers, material suppliers, property owners, facility managers. The ability to work well on a team of talented professionals from a variety of disciplines is key to the success of the individual architects as well as any firm to which they belong.”

In 2006, Terry and Ralph decided to give the students in the Research Lab class an ultimate collaborative experience. They all flew to the Bay Area -- not just architecture students but filmmakers and musicians as well -- to study a section of the economically depressed West Oakland for nine days, then come up with ideas to improve the neighborhood -- architecturally, socially, and culturally.

We all viewed aerial photographs of the site before going,” Terry said, “but being on the ground, walking around, it’s always quite different … Even if the students are going to be working in [Second Life’s] virtual environment, putting them in touch with the real site is important, so that when they’re working in the virtual world, they’re thinking about the real place.” Read more

Oklahoma City 's Watershed Moment

By Michelle Nicolson

Oklahoma City’s Water and Wastewater Utilities serve more than half a million people spread across 622 square miles, treating on average 90 million gallons of water a day (low of 35 million and high of 190 million gallons). The quality of the city's water and the commitment to customer service is a source of pride for city officials, resulting in an investment in technology to ensure Oklahoma City’s residents are receiving the best services available for every tax dollar. Read more>>

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events

Autodesk AEC DevCamp
September 5-7, 2007  
Boston, Massachusetts
The AEC Conference features more than 20 training classes on Autodesk's industry-specific customization and application development technologies. Introductory classes will be offered for people just starting to customize. For professional software developers, there are advanced topics to help resolve complex code scenarios. Read more>>

For Cadalyst's full calendar of events, click here.