Nassar, Khaled; Mostafa, Magda; and Rifki, Amr. "Visualization Skills for the New Architectural Forms," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 4, issues 2/3 (2010).
The practice of architecture is continuously changing, mirroring the paradigm shifts in the world it builds for. With increasing use of digital technology, we need to ensure that learning and teaching do not shift from the fundamental skill set required of an architect. Architectural problems are unique in their nature, requiring volumetric visualization and problem solving skills, and although many of these skills can be replicated using digital technology, can digital technology replace the cognitive development which occurs through manual problem solving? Over the last three decades we have seen the almost ubiquitous use of computers in the design practice and professional studios with increasingly more complex forms being thought of and turned into buildings. This development obviously raises challenging questions of architectural theory and perplexing issues for those concerned with the future of architectural education and its effect on the design process. But how can this effect be analyzed subjectively remains an open question. Recent research efforts have shown that perception and visualization abilities reflect the quality of a design outcome. Very limited research however exists which attempts to understand or document the spatial analysis and visualization abilities of new generations of architects. This paper reports on a novel scalable test that could be used to investigate the processing and synthesis of visual information related to the new kinds of free form encountered in today’s architecture. Unlike traditional missing views and orthographic projection problems, proposed test can be used to accurate assess freeform visualization. A number of 2-mainfold very high genus surfaces were selected. Physical models of these surfaces are manufactured from a durable thermoplastic material by Fused Deposition Modeling rapid prototyping machines. Students are then asked to position a digital model of the surface to match that of the physical model and vice versa through a number of progressively timed attempts. Results on the average time to success, failure rates, manipulation rate as well as manipulation rate to total time are calculated and analyzed. Statistical analysis of the outcomes was conducted and the results and conclusions of these experiments are presented in this paper along with limitations of the experiments and suggestions for future research. The results should be of interest to architectural educators and architects concerned with the effect of computer technology on the design process, as well as the future of manual skills in our design studios.