Is there really a need to quantify "good architecture" as a measure for resource efficiency?

The other day we discussed how to measure architecture beyond it's performance. I spent some time looking into the definition of good architecture, and into finding rules and measures for good architecture. I came across a few good points in a discussion forum on archinect such as:
  • One has to feel good when being inside the building.
  • Good architecture is the feeling that you're in a cathedral, viewing something timeless, innovative, and inspiring."Good architecture has to encourage and return traditional aesthetic values.
  • Good architecture stimulates the senses.
  • One man's good architecture is another man's crime.
  • A good architecture is one which meets the needs of the entity that funds its existence.
These ten rules for architecture appropriately suggests that good architecture is highly subjective and the judgment of it depends (almost) entirely on the perspective of the viewer:
  1. Irrational judgments lead to new experience.
  2. Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
  3. Successful architectures changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
  4. Perception is subjective.
  5. Architect may not necessarily understand their own architecture. Their perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
  6. There are many elements involved in a work of architecture. The most important are the most obvious.
  7. Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
  8. When architects learn their craft too well they make slick buildings.
  9. For each concept of architecture that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
I am sure there are more somewhat quantifiable measures that can be listed here (additions are welcome!), but at this point I wonder if this should really be part of a best practice definition for resource efficient architecture. I came across a few good articles such as this one, in which James S. Russell, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning & Preservation, questions the future of LEED.

In his article, Russell goes into the building habits of different cultures. He claims that in Europe for example, successful buildings are often measured by their adaption of and experimentation with innovation. This however is traditionally not the case in the United States.
LEED may ask too little, but the extraordinary innovation that comes from Europe flows from cultural norms, energy costs, and tax treatment that allow designers to focus on a much longer time horizon than is common in America. “Europeans expect buildings to last a long time,” explained Arup’s Cousins, making higher upfront investments pay. Highly innovative buildings are considered “the right thing to do” in Europe, she says. In the U.S., “the talk immediately turns to legal risk and money.”

While American architects tend to pick out LEED strategies a la carte, European buildings push large-scale innovation very rapidly into the marketplace. The green features of Foster & Partners’ gold-rated 2006 HearstTower are pedestrian compared to the daylighting and natural-ventilation strategies the same architect used in the Commerzbank tower in Frankfurt almost 10 years earlier.
I therefore think that, rather than trying to quantify "good architecture" as a measure of resource efficient architecture, it would be both interesting and beneficial for us to explore why certain standards work better in some cultures than in others. And then, I think it would also be helpful to define how these green measures can be better incorporated in every day design. In the end, if we really want to achieve carbon neutrality for all new buildings by 2030 (in 20 years!), we have to change the way we look at good architecture entirely and include energy efficient design as one of the key measures for what we will grant "good architecture".

In a paper by Peter Morris called "What Does Green Really Cost"?, the author states that going green does not have to cost anything if the architect is aware of a few fundamental rules from the beginning.
The most common reason cited in studies for not incorporating green elements into building designs is the increase in first cost. People who are green averse are happy to relate anecdotes of premiums in excess of 30% to make their buildings green. These numbers are simply not, however, borne out by the facts, as evidenced by many studies of the cost of green building. Even though there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the cost question, it is clear from the substantial weight of evidence in the marketplace that reasonable levels of sustainable design can be incorporated into most building types at little or no additional cost.
I would be interesting to capture and formulate simple guidelines that will be useful for the architecture of the future in the battle against climate change.

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I am taking a room acoustics class now...

... and I am very eager to find out how ECOTECT masters the acoustic analysis, before getting over to learning the fundamentals of CATT. From this video I have to say it looks promising. But we'll see whether the ability to apply different material properties actually means that ECOTECT calculates diffusion and absorption etc...... For now this is a good place to store the video. Read More......

Ever wondered how a crane is errected?

I did... And found this great animation that explains all the steps necessary to assemble a San Marco crane. Very impressive!

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cool 3D image viewer

The tiltviewer is a creative free 3D flash image viewing aplication that offers an innovative method of displaying your images online. It's fun browsing through them using mouse or keyboard, showing them in full screen mode, embedding links and ... You can download from here. Check it out!

I'll definitely integratey it in the next image containing website that I build.

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versatile laptop concept

I've had something like this in the back of my mind for a while, but never thought it through enough. Now, I came across this wonderful idea by Australia based product designer Tai Chiem. Utilizing OLED film which can be stiffened by piezoelectric charge, the user interface components (screen and keyboard) can be used both as input and as output devices, quickly transforming the laptop into an ebook, sketchbook or display screen of RSS feeds. Or they can be rolled up for portability and use with external keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Just look at the poster, taken from Tai Chiem's profile on coroflot. Read More......

Quickly making animations from Illustrator Layers

I produced comic like animations that should help explain the products of my dad's company eFlipchart better. I started off from the companies few small jpeg files, but decided to use Adobe Illustrator to modify and build off them.

The first question was: How do I create vector graphics from existing jpegs?

This is easily done using the live trace function under the options menu. I found a useful tutorial here Thanks a lot!

I created 30+ layers, each one containing the information for one frame of my animation. I named them 01_Intro, 02_SomeInfo, and so on. Next, I wanted to batch convert them into individual gifs, to then batch insert them into PowerPoint to create my animation with voice over. To save each layer as a gif file, I first have to make sure that all of the layers that I want to save are shown (Eyeball symbol in Illustrator). This may look a little confusing, since all of the layers are overlapping:

In order to export gifs from Illustrator, just like in Photoshop, I go to File > Save For Web and Devices.... Here, I have the option to save the individual layers (On the right hand side, there is a tab called Layers, which needs to be selected (see image below)).

Simply keep the default settings in the layers menu. Click save and specify folder location and prefix for the gif files. Illustrator will create a folder called "images" by default, in which it places all of the images according to the layer name. Hence it's good to numerate the layer names in Illustrator.

Next, I want to insert the gif files into PowerPoint to create a presentation, which I can manually adavnce, as I record my voice over it for the animation video.
And guess what, even PowerPoint has an option to batch import all of my images into different slides, of course in the desired order. Simply open a new PowerPoint presentation, go to insert>PhotoAlbum. I selected all of my images, then selected that I wanted to position one image per slide, and press OK. Et voila, now I can record my animation with a software such as Camtasia, and lay over my voice comments. Read More......

How to make Stick Animations

I am currently creating a set of short simple videos that will describe the services of the web based comunnications agency eflipchart to their potential customers.

After a short search on google, I came across this easy-to-use stickfigure animator called Pivot.
Pivot Stickfigure Animator is a unique software, that allows you to create stick figure animations easily and without any artistic skills. You can move the sections of the sick figure and easily create a chain of animation frames that can be previewed as you go. You can use more than one stick-figure in the animation, and even create your own stick figures using an easy to use visual editor that lets you assemble objects out of lines and circles. In addition, you can optionally set animation size, speed and more. The result can be saved as animated GIF file. Fun and easy to use, surprisingly well featured.

For more information and a free download, click here Read More......

Innovation driven design vs consumer focused design (product design)

Reading up on innovative concepts and strategies in product design, I came across an article publiched by Julia Hanna, associate editor of the Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin.

Consumers appear increasingly willing to make purchase decisions based upon their emotions about a product—how it looks, or sounds, or makes them feel using it. But the traditional design process based on user experience goes only so far in creating radical innovation. Harvard Business School visiting scholar Roberto Verganti is exploring the new world of "design-driven innovation." Key concepts include:

* Innovative product design is risky, but provides competitive advantage to companies that understand how a product "speaks" to customers.
* Little theory exists to point the way for companies that want to create a successful design strategy beyond the traditional user-driven design process.
* Companies often adopt one of three design strategies: launch and see, see and launch, or wait and see. Innovators may often be in the see and launch category.
* Innovators understand and build off each other's ideas better than the imitators do.

The article titled Radical Design, Radical Results is posted below.

Here is the extended entry, where I prattle on about things.

When furniture designer Herman Miller presented a prototype of its sleek, mesh Aeron chair to a consumer focus group, many asked if they could see a finished, upholstered version.

Innovative product design can be a risky proposition. Yet as consumer purchases become increasingly driven by emotion, the competitive advantage gained by how a product "speaks" to a customer is clear. Just think about how Apple began its resurrection in 1998 with the unthinkable design of computers made of translucent blue, orange, and pink plastic, the original iMac.

Despite the importance of industrial design, little theory exists on how companies might go about creating a successful design strategy. In a recent article, "Strategies of Innovation and Imitation of Product Languages," published in the Journal of Production Innovation Management, HBS visiting scholar Roberto Verganti addresses this shortfall as part of a larger research agenda investigating how companies manage to succeed in this particular arena. Verganti coauthored the article with Claudio Dell'Era, his colleague at Italy's Politecnico di Milano.

"Researchers have been investigating technological innovation for decades, but we know almost nothing about how companies manage design innovation," Verganti says.

For their study, Verganti and Dell'Era focused on the Italian furniture industry, using a database ( to classify 2,000 objects by shape, color, surface, and material. They also divided the corresponding sample of 100 manufacturers into innovators and imitators, identifying a company as an innovator if it had been selected for or received the coveted Compasso d'Oro, a prestigious international prize awarded to groundbreaking design products.
Uncertainty increases

Verganti says that design innovation often involves a high degree of uncertainty in terms of market success.

"It's very hard to understand what people want," he says. "If I make a car that can brake in 10 yards instead of 50, that's a quantifiable advantage that is easy to understand. But if I decide to create a computer out of translucent, colored plastic, it's much more subjective. People will love it, or they won't."

Focus groups and market research can help to define a product, of course, but Verganti has found that design-driven innovation is not user-centered. Instead, it comes from within the organization. "Rather than being pulled by user requirements," he wrote recently, "design-driven innovation is pushed by a firm's vision about possible new product meanings and languages that could diffuse in society."

"Apple is a company that is pushed by a vision," Verganti says. "Steve Jobs has said that the market doesn't always know what it wants. Companies that do radical innovation do not listen to users; they eventually value market feedback, but first they propose things to the users."

In the face of this market uncertainty, Verganti has found that companies adopt one of three different strategies:

* Launch and see. The company launches a variety of products, and then measures market reaction to each, relying on the selective capability of consumers to determine which products to focus on.
* See and launch. The company employs some sort of research process and then launches products based on its findings.
* Wait and see. The company allows others to experiment with various products, observes what is most successful, and reacts accordingly.

In Verganti's study of the Italian furniture industry, one would expect those who wait and see to have the least amount of variety in their product line. After all, if the imitators decide to stand back and observe what is most successful, wouldn't they choose to copy just a few, choice products? Conversely, it would seem that the innovative companies would probably have higher levels of variety in their products because of the experiments they conduct.

Instead, the results showed just the opposite.

While the cost of experimentation in the furniture industry is relatively low, Verganti and his colleague found that the innovator companies actually used a see and launch strategy, conducting research in order to understand what sort of product language might be most successful. (This research is less of the focus-group variety and more of a broad-based assessment of cultural trends and scenario building.)

"Companies that do radical innovation do not listen to users."

"Innovators avoid proposing a wide range of product signs and languages as a way to protect brand identity," says Verganti. "They tend to adopt strategies that allow customers to easily reconnect specific product signs to their brands."

In contrast, imitators show a greater variety in their product portfolio. They observe what innovators do and how the market reacts. But the feedback they receive is initially so ambiguous, with several languages coexisting, that they eventually imitate everything.

"The confusion that this creates in the market is called semiotic pollution," Verganti says. "Imitators can be successful if they wait four or five years to determine what they should produce. But in the beginning it's not clear which product is the winner. So when it comes to product languages, imitation is a very expensive strategy."

Another key finding is that the innovators' products tended to be more homogeneous as a group. "It seems that the innovators understand and build off each other's ideas better than the imitators do," Verganti remarks. "They innovate in a circle; it's a similar dynamic to what occurs in a visual arts movement like Impressionism."
Lead or suffer?

Do these findings have implications beyond the design-heavy world of the Italian furniture industry? Regardless of the product in question, Verganti believes that companies need to consider the importance of design.

"In every industry, sooner or later, there is a radical change in the language of its products," he says. "So the point for companies is, do they want to lead the change, or do they want to suffer the change?"

Verganti will present some of the secrets of strategy and process behind successful product language development in a book to be published by HBS Press in late 2008 or early 2009.

"It's a fascinating topic on many levels," he says. "Many of the Italian furniture companies I've studied are as small as 80 employees. They don't have the marketing muscle or distribution power of larger entities. Yet they're world leaders in the field."

Is Verganti a consumer of design himself? "If you come to my house you will find a lot of semiotic pollution," he laughs. "Having many different styles in one home is actually a trend, though; people today want to have their own look."

And that, of course, makes it even harder for companies to discern dominant trends

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pimping my blog

I am brand new to this whole blogging thing. There's a looot of stuff out there to really customize it.

When trying to figure out how to display my LinkedIn profile in this blog, I came across a post in the blog from Joitske Hulsebosch from the Netherlands who summarizes how to do just that. Read more here. Read More......

1st entry

Hmm, I wonder what this will look like. Because I've been viewing them so much lately, I will upload one of my favorite pictures that Moni and I took when driving in Scandinavia last week. Visit the Norwegian Fjords! Read More......