Thursday was day one of the press tour at Smartgeometry 2013, but it’s already day four for the annual workshop’s tireless participants. Sponsored by Bentley Systems, the annual event, which comprises a four-day workshop followed by a two-day conference, brings together architects, engineers, planners, programmers, and academics from the around the world who are interested in the latest innovations in computational and parametric design tools, technologies, and methodologies.
Hosted this year at the Bartlett, UCL’s global faculty of the built environment, in London, the city in which the event first took place 10 years ago, Smartgeometry “attracts a different crowd,” says Xavier De Kestelier, one of Smartgeometry’s directors. Unlike the typical conference model, where the projects and research shown are months or years in the making, presenters during the April 19-20 Talkshop Day and Symposium will debut the ideas, models, and designs at the conference that were newly created during the four-day workshop.
The fast pace, around-the-clock programming and building sessions, along with the organized mayhem, have not deterred participation in the event. Rather, interest has doubled since last year, De Kestelier says. At the heart of Smartgeometry are 10 clusters, or coinciding workshops, of 10 people each, who tackle an aspect related to the year’s theme. These 10 clusters were peer reviewed and selected out of 68 cluster proposals prior to the event, De Kestelier says.
The 2013 theme, “Constructing for Uncertainty,” continues a conversation that began four years ago, says Shane Burger, another Smartgeometry director. The 2010 event looked at the use of fabrication to construct working prototypes. In 2011, participants explored the integration of real world data in digital design. Last year’s groups examined the dynamic properties of materials of the built environment. This year, participants hope to capture and express information that isn’t traditionally modeled in design data. For example, while three-dimensional models can depict building components to the exact millimeter, they’re still missing vital parts of the equation such as the “roughness of existing conditions, construction tolerances, and the uncertain future of occupant behavior,” Burger says.
The information gap between design and reality is nothing new to the architectural profession—and it’s an issue that won’t be resolved in four or six days. But by bringing together some of the world’s leading technological thinkers with the latest software and digital design tools, Smartgeometry hopes to spark new ideas and conversations.
Perhaps Mark Burry, professor of innovation and director of Spatial Information Architecture (SIAL) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, said it best during his summary of his cluster’s activities: “We as a group see these workshops as the start of something bigger.”