SAN FRANCISCO, March 31, 2009 - Many years, an architect rationalized the sameness, the boxiness of residences with this lamentation, "House are built around the 4'x8' sheet of plywood." But in the world of modern architecture, such pedestrian design constraints, such as stock sizes of materials, seem to have thrown out the window. In fact, as I sit in the Smart Geometry Conference, one of the buildings being shown has more in common with the runaway blancmange in Woody Allens's Sleeper than the typical office building. Furthermore, its skin, as it were, reacts to the environment, its pores open and close to ensure the comfort of its occupants.
Welcome to the new world of modern architecture. Frank Gehry, who first brought curvy buildings to public attentioin, may not have been constrained by sheets of plywood, but was constrained nevertheless by architectural CAD software. He had to resort to CATIA to liberate his design. The concept of organic shapes -- and functions -- seems to now being led by the Smart Geometry organization. Bentley is a big champion of generative components ("GC," as they are being called) and has flow in a bunch of us journalists to make sure word gets out.
Curvy buildings have been nothing less than a revolution. Leading architecture firms, freed from the the gravity of convention, seem to be competing to make the most whimsical of shapes for us to work and live in. Of course, the media, which had also become quite bored, has pounced on just about every such building brought to completion, thereby glorifying the art. In fact, London's "Gherkin" threatens to displace even the iconic Tower Bridge as the symbol of the city.
So you can bet that every architecture student or practicing architect drools over pictures of curvy buildings and swoopy shapes, all while completing projects like boxy houses and strip malls. Kinda reminds me of 3D ten years ago. Though solid models were being splashed across covers of all the CAD magazines, the bills were being paid with 2D CAD and paper drawings.
Though most of us have accepted 3D as a standard, it is not clear if curvy buildings are a foregone conclusion. Will it be like with automobiles, once as curvy as a tool shed have scarcely any flat shapes left at all?