Fresh from his stint at AU, Interaction Designer, Ian Hooper, filed this report on Project Newport.
Architecture has always had a role in storytelling, from the library that hold the books to the created space for drama, sports, commerce, and community. Theme parks go beyond providing the setting for the creation of stories and consciously builds upon well known stories or genre traditions, allowing visitors to enter physically into spaces they have visited many times before in their imagination. In more traditional architecture, spatial and social narrative are fundamental to the ways in which buildings are shaped, used and perceived. Building these evocative spaces is one thing, but selling the idea and communicating the story before it is built is a challenge architects face.
image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dgphilli/51563395/sizes/m/
There are many ways to build a story, but first let's take a look at what a story is. A story is a narrative which describes a sequence of events. This is different from a historical account where the goal is to provide the best possible interpretation of past events given the available evidence. A story willfully tries to create a particular vision or perspective from which to understand the meaning of the tale. Storytelling is the act of performing a structured narrative for a live audience with (one of) the goals being to share and create a common experience.
When architects present their design, they are looking to express the story of how the building will be built, lived in, and talked about. They are trying to share their design intent by creating a common experience. Another way to say this is that they are walking the client through their thought process; however, both in traditional contexts and in modern digital incarnations, storytelling is often very interactive. The storyteller must react and temper the tale based on the reactions and feedback from the audience. In the same way, an architect can gauge the mood of the client and make on-the-fly adjustments to the presentation.
image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhikku/41659000/sizes/m/
Today’s architecture demands going beyond reading the mood of the audience. Looking ahead, we are seeing the end of the passive consumer. Increasingly we live in a participatory culture where we see ourselves as active creators. Whether that is in the form of editing family photos, making a video for YouTube, or designing a dream kitchen on a retailer’s web site, the effect is the same: the creative act is no longer the exclusive domain of master artisans. The lay person may not necessarily produce quality results, but it changes the nature of the interaction between the designer and their clients.
Clients want and expect to have more input in design decisions. In this context, a static presentation board is inadequate at facilitating a rich two-way dialog. Now the storyteller must adapt the narration in real-time to the inquiries and inspirations of their audience. It is the difference between reading the text of a book to someone who quietly listens and telling someone a story as they interject with questions and clarifications.
As much as clients are getting more engaged in designing, they do not really want to stand over the shoulder of the architect as they work out the design details in Revit, and the architects most certainly don’t want that. So what is needed is a tool that allows for the right amount of interaction. Again, to draw upon the storytelling metaphor, an audience member might ask the storyteller to tell them more about the dragon that has just entered the tale. The storyteller may even improvise and make some adjustments to the story to lengthen the role of the dragon; however, the overall story arc and central plot remains the same. The storyteller is not engaged in a story writing workshop. They are not looking to the audience to help them come up with a good ending. The narrative is known, even if the details are worked out in real time.
We have designed Project Newport to give architects the modern tools they need to present an appropriate amount of interaction with their designs. Presentations can be tightly controlled and scripted slideshows or a free-ranging exploration of materials, spaces and lighting. Through rich storybuilding tools Project Newport provides the means to react and engage with a more participatory audience in the creation of evocative, meaningful architecture.
Thanks Ian. Project Newport is alive in the lab. You can sign up to be notified when Project Newport is available on Autodesk Labs at:
Thanks for your interest in Project Newport.