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    How Software Fundamentally Changed Design: Perkins + Will

    Interoperability is a word that comes up frequently when architects and designers talk about design technology, mostly because of the absence of it. That’s exactly what inspired Tim Meador and Mario Guttman of Perkins + Will to create Hummingbird, a geometry importer from Grasshopper to Revit.

    “I saw a huge disconnect with Rhino and Grasshopper and Revit. It slowed down the whole process and dumbed down what work had been done,” says Meador, Regional Digital Practice Manager.

    Hummingbird, developed in-house but off-hours, was released—for free, to benefit from feedback—to the larger industry. “A huge community has grown up around Grasshopper. Anyone can develop an add-on or plug-in, connecting the program to virtually anything,” says Meador, who works with design teams, from a tech perspective.

    See images from UMass Lowell University Crossing Student Center as the design team worked to define, then parametrically adjust overall form seeking desired spatial conditions and light-distribution.

    “There are few things that we do that are not touched by technology,” says Digital Practice Director Josh Emig, “the way we design, the way we communicate, the way we deliver information.”

    His group focuses on the application of technology as a fundamental and intrinsic aspect of the firm’s work. They’ve developed a visualization program, built from a BIM model, to help prospective clients really see the possibilities of their space: “Imagine bringing your client or potential tenant into an empty space, handing them an iPad, and watching as they hold it up as a “lens”, turn around, and view dynamically an image that “follows” their motion and provides a 360° view of what their new space could look like.” Who wouldn’t be sold after that?

    “The misconception that many people have is to see design technologies merely as tools, the things we use to produce the communicative artifact of the design process, literally as the evolution of the pencil, the scale, and the Xacto blade,” says Emig. “New technologies require us to rethink our relationship to nearly everything we do.”

    And the opportunity can result in creativity and technological solutions that benefit us all.

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    TVS Design
    Eric Safyan