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By : Karim H, Jamal Al-Qawasmi

ARCHITECTURE IN THE DIGITAL AGE: The ef fec t of digi tal media on the des ign, produc t ion and evaluat ion of the bui l t env i ronment

The influence of digital media and information technology on architecture is increasingly evident. Architectural design, practice, fabrication and construction are increasingly aided by and dependent on digital technology. The proliferation of computers and telecomputing in design education and practice has resulted in a major paradigm shift and a reorientation in theoretical and conceptual assumptions considered to be central to traditional design education and practice. Information technology has become ever more pervasive in architectural education and practice, and has revolutionised the way we design, practice, evaluate, teach and produce architecture. Digital technology has reconditioned the design process and how we operate as architects. The introduction of new computational tools to architectural design pushed the limits of conventional design models and methods. From inception to representation of designs, and from production to life-cycle management of buildings, architects had to develop novel approaches. Architectural practice is becoming increasingly digitally driven, which is illustrated by the stunning architectural forms. This could not have happened without a radical change in the design philosophy that started with an increase in the use of digital media for design development and manufacturing rather than just representation. As noted by Kolarevic (2003) "The use of digital modeling (3D) and animation (4D) software has opened new territories of formal exploration in architecture, in which digitallygenerated forms are not designed in conventional ways." Additionally, digital architecture has recently incorporated Smart Geometry and algorithms in Artificial Intelligence to name a few. This breathtaking digital development has also contributed to the creation of 'intelligent buildings' that are energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. The digital age has also radically reconfigured the relationship between design and production, creating a direct digital connection between what can be imagined and designed and what can be built through "file-to factory" processes of computer numerically controlled (CNC) fabrication (Kolarevic 2003). The ability to generate construction information directly from design information is one aspect of digital architecture. Architectural design information is slowly becoming building information particularly with the emergence of Virtual Building solutions, and Building Information Modelling (BIM) in particular. In fact, BIM implementation could streamline the design and construction processes, and eventually may lead to the re-establishment of the architect as the masterbuilder. The evaluation of the built environment has also relied on digital tools for control and diagnostics of building components or systems, such as post-occupancy evaluations and building performance modelling, which are effectively tested and validated using computer models. Digital technology also radically changed the way we teach and learn architecture (Gross and Do 1999, Al-Qawasmi 2005). New computerized studios such as the paperless studio and the virtual design studio have been introduced in many architectural schools as new ways of practicing and teaching architectural design. Recent developments to computer networks are offering further opportunities for collaborative work and knowledge transfer at the global scale. Certainly more digital innovations and developments are to follow making a prediction on how architectural education and practice will be in a few decades incredibly difficult. It is evident that digital media has fundamentally changing the way we design, practice, and produce architecture. These changes have given rise to a discourse and debate on the relationship between digital technology and architecture. Despite the extensive literature on the subject, the impact of digital technology on how we design, practice, teach, fabricate and produce architecture has not been sufficiently examined. This special issue of Open House International-OHI attempts to shed light on how digital media affects the design, production and evaluation of the built environment as well as how they challenging some of the fundamental assumptions, theories and practices of traditional architectural design education and practice. More than forty five scholars from a diverse community of researchers responded with abstracts to a call for contributions specifically for this special issue of OHI, and twenty nine authors submitted papers for blind review. The eight papers selected for this special issue have the potential to broaden our knowledge and understanding of the impact of digital technology on architecture. These papers reflect key issues within the digital architecture study field: low cost virtual reality aided design (Tang and Yang), visualization for citizen initiated public participation (Lindquist), systematic analysis of CAAD education (Pektas), cultural implications of applying virtual design education (Al-Qawasmi), digital media instruction in architecture education (Angulo), design exploration using a shape grammar with a genetic algorithm (Day), design generative models based on fractals (Ediz and Cagdas), and finally intelligent agent-based information handling (Chen) Both the paper of Mark Lindquist, and the paper of Ming Tang and Dihua Yang examine the issue of real-time digital visualisation in architectural design. However, each addresses the issue using different context and tools. While Ming Tang and Dihua Yang examine the issue of real-time visualization and its influence on the architectural design process, Mark Lindquist address the impact of digital visualization on citizen initiated public participation process. Ming Tang and Dihua Yang report on using Low Cost Virtual Reality Aided Design (LC-VRAD) in architectural design. The paper explores the benefits and constraints of implementing LC-VRAD methods in various design phases such as site analysis, schematic design, design development, and the final design presentation. The paper highlights three main issues: how to use game engine in the studio environment; how to integrate VR into the design process, not only as a visualization tool, but also as a design instrument; and finally how to evaluate different methods of representing architectural models based on the efficiency of workflow, rendering quality and users' feedback. Mark Lindquist, on the other hand, examines the impact of using digital technology on citizen initiated public participation process. The paper argues that digital visualization, and particularly real-time immersive technology, allows for far more effective communication of design spatial issues than conventional media offer, thus empowering the public by bridging the public-professional communication gap. The paper emphasizes that in public initiated dialogue the issues of validity, reliability and ethics are placed at the forefront of the discussion, and thus greatly increasing the scrutiny placed on both the technology and those preparing and presenting the visualization. In an effort to integrate digital media in the design studio and to augment studio instruction, there has been extensive application of computers and information technology in design education, particularly in the past decade or so. The pervasiveness in the use of digital technology in architectural design education has also resulted in major changes in how architecture is being taught and learned (Al-Qawasmi 2005, 2006. The impact of digital media on architectural design education is the concern of three papers by Sule Tasli Pektas, Jamal Al-Qawsmi, Antonieta Angulo. Compared to other areas of architectural research, CAAD is lacking in both definition and structure (Hanna and Barber, 2001). Sule Tasli Pektas address this gab by proposing a comprehensive, structured framework to study and analyze CAAD education. The proposed approach analyzes CAAD education from four different perspectives: objectives (why), contents (what), methodology (how) and management (who). It also provides a systematic way to evaluate CAAD at four different knowledge and disciplinary levels (viewpoints): sociological, ideological, epistemological, and pedagogical. Al-Qawasmi paper examines the new paradigm of teaching and learning design virtually and the possible cultural implications of its implementation in developing countries such as the Arab states. The paper argues that information technology tools and virtual design environments (VDE) bring both opportunities and challenges for developing countries, and thus should be carefully examined. The paper concluding that implementing virtual design education in developing countries that share similar cultural values as the Arab states may have numerous advantages such as openness to regional (sub)cultures and their architectural traditions; promoting national identities and regional identifications and associations; and promoting localism and regionalism. Antonieta Angulo presents a structured collection of case studies from the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University, one of the largest architectural schools in the United States that has long experience in the application of computer technology in the teaching and practice of design. These case studies were organized around the core discussion of how to address the subject of digital media and their incorporation in design curricula in schools of architecture. The paper examines the issue of "when", "what" and "how" we teach digital media and digital design, and the issue of developing multimodal and mediarich design environments. Generative design systems are relevant to contemporary design practice in a variety of ways. Their integration into the design process allows the development of novel design solutions, difficult or impossible to achieve via other methods (Caldas and Norford 1999). Alan Day, and Özgür Ediz and Gülen Cagdas papers examine generative design as an approach to enable designers in the early design stage. However, they address the issue of generative design from two different perspectives. While Day uses generative approach that utilizes shape grammar and genetic algorithm, Ediz and Cagdas use fractal geometry concepts. In his paper, Design Exploration Using a Shape Grammar with a Genetic Algorithm, Alan Day suggests a generative approach based on shape grammar and genetic algorithms. Although the idea of linking a shape grammar to a genetic algorithm is not new, this paper proposed a novel way in which this might be done; by using the shape code as the genotype. The paper reports on Shape Evolution, a prototype generative design program. Shape Evolution allows for the definition of a design space by using a shape grammar, and only searches for solutions inside this space. This approach provides a way of creating a range of potential solutions to a design problem which fit with the designer's stylistic agenda. An interesting aspect of the proposed approach is using a shape code, which describes the steps that the shape grammar has taken to create each design. Özgür Ediz and Gülen Cagdas, on the other hand, present generative design approach that relies on the fractal dimensions of an existing architectural pattern. Such a fractal geometry-based generative approach aims to enable the designer to create and explore new architectural forms that ensure the continuity of the existing architectural language. In addition the paper examined fractal concepts that appeared through "Chaos Theory" and how they affect contemporary architectural design. Intelligent agent-based information handling is new research area and one of the most important topics in the field of artificial intelligence and its application in architecture and the built environment. The focus of this research is to achieve an Intelligent Environment (EI), a physical environment capable of natural human interactions, and that provides both proactive and reactive services to a community of users (Chun Mo 2002). Using intelligent agents to establish a smart open house system is the concern in the last paper of the collection by Shang-Yuan Chen. Chen's paper presents a smart open house system that utilizes an agent-based smart skin. The smart skin achieves adaptive actions that respond to users' lifetime needs by collecting environmental information through sensing devices. Such agent-based adaptive actions are based on fuzzy logic inference and neuro-fuzzy learning processes. The paper argues that such smart lifetime (or ageless) home will be highly needed to serve the aged society that will emerge in Taiwan by 2020.
We would like to express our gratitude to the following guest reviewers for having shared with us the work of writing more than 50 critical reviews of the 29 manuscripts that were submitted for this special issue: Prof. Dr. Robert Krawczyk, Prof. Dr. Jerzy Wojtowicz, Prof. Dr. Mark Gross, Dr. Julio Bermudez, Prof. Thomas Fowler, Dr. Ellen Yi-Luen Do, Dr. Bob Martens, Dr. Ahmad Rafi, Dr. Guillermo Vasquez de Velasco, Dr. Stan Guidera, Dr. Branko Kolarevic, Dr. Gulen Cagdas, Dr. Henri Achten, Dr. Barbara Ambach, Prof. Alan Bridges, Prof. Johan Verbeke, Dr. Alfredo Andia, Prof. Kyle Talbott, Dr. Jose Pinto Duarte, Rr Mark Clayton. Thanks are also due to the manuscript authors, both those whose papers made it into print and those whose papers did not.

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