Smart Geometry 2013 ended last night (04.21.13) with a rather chilly cookout at the University of London Portico Building. I find it funny that an American has to travel 3400 miles across the Atlantic to get a burger and hotdog, it was a long way to attend another Smart Geometry conference but worth it.
The Smart Geometry 2013 conference was at the Bartlett School of Architecture at the University College of London (www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk), in London, England. It had been 35 years since I was last in London and I wish to thank Bentley for making it possible. Though the Bartlett School of Architecture opened in 1841 this was the first time they have hosted a Smart Geometry event. The theme of Smart Geometry 2013 was – Constructing for Uncertainty. Smart Geometry has two parts:
1. The four day workshop made up of 10 clusters open to 100 hand selected applicants who work for four intense days exploring the cluster topic
2. The two day conference consisting of the day one Talkshop and the day two Symposium featuring keynotes from a variety of speakers dealing with the conference theme.
Three of the four main symposium speakers addressed issues that I found relevant to today's practice of Architecture and Engineering.
I enjoyed Tristram Carfrae of Arup, symposium keynote. The world renowned bridge engineer brought a bit of common sense and real world experience to Smart Geometry which it needs from time to time. Tristram discussed some unusual design considerations on bridges that he designed and built. It was his final point that I found most interesting - That a Digital Divide exists, not between generations, but between the upper and lower ends of our organizations and professions. Like me he feels this is the AEC world’s greatest problem. Alas, he could offer no solutions. Follow up discussions with other symposium attendees convinced me he raised an unspoken but growing concern. Not the usual smart geometry question, it is a question that a future smart geometry cluster might find challenging.
The second Keynote of the Symposium was Michelle Addington’s presentation – Data and it’s Dis-contents. Michelle’s talk focused on the belief in “false” information so prevalent in our world today. The beginning of her talk was the most telling. She brings up when politicians, diplomats, and government officials gather to discuss climate change, buildings and energy usage, they don’t invite or talk to architects and engineers. Why involve professionals who understand the subjects? Instead they find a single “expert” or “study” select the specific piece of information that supports their position and run with it. Regardless of the specific information’s validity or accuracy. Funny thing is, solutions that come from these gathering seldom work. Gives them an issue to run on next time, but it should be a wakeup call for architects and engineers to get involved.
The symposium’s third speaker was Ben Cerveny, who addressed another of my core “problems/issues”. The issue of - Who decides on how things (in the built environment) work? The core point being - Should the architecture and engineering professions allow others to make decisions that affect how they operate? Should professionals make these hard decisions themselves? I’m a proponent of the latter but the reality is favoring the former. Will AEC professionals make these important and profession changing decisions or will Google? Smart Geometry 2013 didn't have the answers but the symposium’s speakers were asking the hard questions. I hope the AEC industry hasn’t waited to long to answer.