Monson Charrette Part 2 – Diagrams You Can Walk Through

In my first post about the Monson Charrette, I talked about the general experience of the event; how ArchiCAD 16 and the BIM Server via Teamwork 2 acted as a giant collaboration machine for the large group of participants. I shared some examples from the event, but didn’t focus on the actual final product. That was intentional. There were so many great things going on at this event that to just focus on images seemed horribly lacking. Of course to ignore the images and model is just as silly. So now to that!

It’s time to talk about that model created by 50 people in 4 hours

While we had around 50 people working on the model, there were really only about 8 input locations (ei, 8 computers connected to the BIM Server). There was one more computer that was connected to the model, but no one was working on that machine. Instead that computer was connected to a projector so the entire model could be shared nice and big for everyone in the event hall to see.

2D View of Diagram

When the 3D model first appeared on the big projector there was a happy murmur throughout the crowd. When the person controlling the view dropped to eye level and started exploring the model like someone riding a bike through town there were gasps of excitement. We weren’t moving through a photo-realistic model. The ground was imported from Google earth and everything else was very diagrammatic. Buildings were blocky masses, some elements were hovering above the ground, others (the proposed band shell) were VERY crude. It didn’t matter. Seeing the blue strip of the river and the abstraction of the roads we got the impression of moving through the diagrams and rough ideas we’d all be sharing. Cruising through the developing concepts was so much more enriching than just seeing a simple 2d sketch.

Different Perspectives

The above image is not that different from what you’d expect to see from a 4 hour design charrette. Nice, legible plans that mix lines, arrows, text, and blocks of color. But this was part of something bigger and more complex. Here’s another view of the model, this time from an aerial perspective (see image above).

3D Aerial View of Diagram

Now we’re seeing more of the town. Proposed buildings aren’t just blocks of 2D colors; they are masses within context. The major roads are shown in orange, the water in blue. We now better understand how individual concepts relate to the existing structures as well as other developing ideas. One can begin to appreciate and question the volume of the proposed mixed-use building in blue (in the left of the image). Would a building of that scale detract from the spires in town (which can be seen on both religious and civic buildings)? Perhaps the next iteration of this building should be shorter or perhaps mimic those buildings with a tower or towers of its own. Diagramming in 3D on the entire town provides many great opportunities like this.

While the aerial view gives a great sense of context, it is still an unnatural view. It’s not an image that anyone would normally see. For that, we need to drop down into the model.

3D Walk-through View of Diagram

Now we see that same building, but from eye level–from the vantage point of someone walking, driving, or biking down Main Street. In this view we get a better sense of the mass of the new building on the left. Furthermore we can comprehend its relationship to the church on the right and the new public services building farther down main street (behind the new trees on the right). It’s from views like these that we can really focus on how the proposed building envelope fits into the greater context. And since this is a full model of the town center we can virtually drive down the street and view the building from all angles. Perhaps the building which felt oversized from the air only needs a few tweaks as we see how it appears from eye level. It’s these kind of basic yet critical questions that arise from designing in a 3D collaborative environment.

Beautiful Conflicts

ABX Charrette

I’ll leave you with one final image. Here’s another aerial view of the model. For fun I quickly rendered it with some default settings. I also turned on all the layers. What you see is a jumble of ideas from multiple groups. Unfortunately I don’t have images of the pure analog team I mentioned in the first post, but their concepts also focused on activating this area. Obviously not everything can be put into this one spot. But if you look again, you’ll notice a lot of ideas that support each other. Many groups want to enliven State Street between the river and Main Street. Most want the large green space divided into two distinct areas. Everyone is looking at connections beyond just automotive traffic. Clearly the corner of State St. and Main St. in Monson, MA is a focal point and major junction for the town. It’s also worth noting that this complex array of schemes aren’t just some external assumptions. The teams developing these ideas were a mix of professional outsiders and locals of all types (students, retirees, city officials, business owners, etc.). The result is clear. The heart of a rebuilt Monson needs to start at this corner.

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