Submitted by Eli Skeggs on Thu, 05/23/2013 - 1:51pm
This week I journeyed to the far ends of the earth, and met with the demons of bureaucracy.
Let me explain. Michael Tingley, my oft-absent project mentor, promised I would get a chance to sit in on a meeting with clients. In this case, the far ends of the earth was really just one end of the earth, commonly known as Corvallis. The demons of bureaucracy were, of course, the clients. A bureaucracy, for the unenlightened, is a form of administration so horrendously inflexible that it fails to accomplish anything useful. For example, one part of this bureaucracy claimed that our trees along the fire lane needed to be trimmed to at least 12', to allow the fire trucks to pass by unperturbed. Another part of the bureaucracy required that trees along the pathway not be more than 15' tall. Try to envision a tree that fulfills those two criteria, and you'll see our problem. Maybe you'll even burst out laughing--it's an absurd thought, but each branch of the bureaucracy sees it as not their problem, because rules are rules. They try to offer reasonable compromises, such as "just don't plant any trees," but that merely creates an eyesore, and a huge contrast against the rest of the green-hued campus.
Work at Boora is nice because there is no bureaucracy. Working some of Boora's clients, however, is less so. This inflexibility to employ basic common sense undermines that which makes us human. Our ability to recognize patterns, and subsequently break them, makes our minds powerful. I'm not saying that one should break every rule in the rulebook just because one can, but that one should weigh the importance of the rule in the context of its usage, and either compromise or throw the rule out entirely. Sure, you could be a rebel, break the law, and not wear a seatbelt, but that ignores the purpose of the law: safety. Not only does wearing a seatbelt statistically increase your chances of survival in the event of a car crash, but it increases survivability for everyone in the car. Yes, you can decide to jaywalk, but do so having verified you're not stepping out into the middle of traffic, especially when engrossed in whatever conversation you're having on your phone or head.
If everybody had enough common sense, would we need rules? Absolutely. Common sense is not a substitute for rules, and rules are no substitute for common sense. They complement each other. The purpose behind rules are not always apparent, especially in the case of a child, who has little experience with the presence of true danger in the world. A bottle of bleach, for example, warns against consumption via the digestive system because not everybody knows what bleach is, and not everyone understands the inherent danger in a seemingly harmless bottle. The demons of bureaucracy do not understand that rules and common sense are both necessary. They use each exclusively, basing their decisions on rules or on common sense, but not a combination. Because they are so short-sighted, and because their understanding is so nominal, they are the demons of bureaucracy.
Note: they weren't actually this bad, but some of the imposed regulations were pretty arbitrary. I wrote this not against individuals or clients, but against bureaucracy as a whole.
Submitted by Eli Skeggs on Fri, 05/17/2013 - 3:41pm
One of our clients uses Second Life for training and some instruction. Why they chose to do so is beyond me, but it is not my place to question the intentions of the client, only to heed the client.
This client wishes to import of the larger classrooms into their Second Life world. I've spent a day and a half fighting with various pieces of software, trying to get the exported Collada model to cooperate with their Second Life importer. Most frustrating is the difficulty in checking the import, as instead of running the import utility on one of Boora's machines, we've instead been sending the .dae file to the client to test. They've been sending back the error logs from the imports, which are usually filled with nicely undocumented error messages. This process takes a good half-hour, so I can't proceed with my theories until I hear back about the last batch. Sketchup has cooperated the most, exporting a few compatible .dae files. However, exports from Revit to .dwgs which I then import to Sketchup and export to .daes usually fail.
As part of the process of debugging this issue, I've created a number of files directly in Sketchup to check my theories. I created a very simple file containing a cube and an abstract shape, which successfully imported. This model didn't contain anything very detailed, but it was nonetheless a good first step. I also created a simple file that contained intersecting faces and very precisely squashed shapes that may screw up the importer--shapes that are very common in the exported Revit files. If these fail to import, we may scrap the project as resolving thousands of intersecting faces by splitting the faces at their mutual intersections will likely be too technically difficult or time consuming if done manually. Still waiting to hear back about the last batch.
Submitted by Eli Skeggs on Wed, 05/15/2013 - 12:41pm
I've never formally studied architecture, at least, not in any comprehensive way. I took an "elective" at my previous school, which consisted of an hour each week, and focused on the basics of Sketchup, but that hardly prepares for any rigorous architectural endeavors.
Needless to say, as I embarked on my first day of my Senior Project at Boora Architects, I was pretty lost. I spent my first two days in and out of meetings and slogging through project material, helpfully organized and numbered by a tree of categories. The sheer quantity of documents for the project I was to help with astounded me. In total, about 80 GB of data spread across twenty-nine thousand files. About half of that was presentations and images.
As per my expectations, they used far more advanced software for architectural design, including a handy tool known as Revit. Autodesk Revit Architecture represents the pinnacle of current architectural software because, in addition to being remarkably complex, it links the two-dimensional drawings to three-dimensional models. Where in the past one would have to go through each two-dimensional drawing to effect a change, now changes are automatically propagated thanks to the linkage. That said, the learning curve is rather steep, and I spent a day acclimating myself to the interface and a very small subset of tools. In addition to Revit, I found myself using Autodesk AutoCAD and Microsoft OneNote.
On Thursday, I received a pile of architectural drawings with countless corrections. My task? Make the appropriate changes to the central Revit file for the project. As it turned out, the practice worked wonders for my understanding, and I progressed through the drawings, mastering shortcut keys and assigning my own as I saw fit. One of the more daunting revisions I needed to complete involved combining two sheets into one. One sheet contained the mezzanine drawings for Sector A, the other sheet contained mezzanine drawings for Sector B. Much of the drawing, however, contained regions labeled "Open to Below," indicating that the region did not actually exist on the mezzanine level, but rather the level below. I could therefore shrink the plans by cropping out the empty regions and merging the sheets. Easier said than done, as there is no "crop" tool. Still, I finished by lunch, and synchronized my changes with the central file.
Friday brought more work in Revit, this time color-coding floor plans by space usage, and displaying an entire building in an axonometric projection. The result was rather beautiful, swaths of color decorating each floor, and each floor stacked on another. Some of these projections were for buildings not designed by Boora, and the architecture firms thoughtfully provided pdf exports of the drawings, rather than the original files. I used AutoCAD--well, I looked on while a co-worker used AutoCAD--to create a model from the pdfs, then link the model into Revit. I colored.
My Friday ended early when nobody could think of something for me to do, so I departed for the day.
I feel that this week has been a fair portrayal of some of the work an architect would do, and while the meetings were somewhat difficult to follow, I enjoyed my first week at Boora.