Sunday, July 21, 2019


 Usually I compose a blog post here, then echo it to LinkedIn.  Just for a change I’m taking a short LinkedIn snip and expanding it into blog post.  Here goes

“Sometimes I think with my BIM pencil, and sometimes I let my old-school pencil lead the way. Some of our volunteers are having difficulty modelling without a set of dimensioned drawings to lead the way.

That's fine, but we are just exploring. We learn by our mistakes. I'm not embarrassed by the fact that this drawing is a bit messy. I was letting my subconscious mind run ahead of itself, searching for a level of abstraction and simplification, intuitively.

We don't think with our brains. We think by letting our bodies interact with the world. Our brains just encode that experience into memories that influence future adventures.

Project Notre Dame is an adventure. If you let it take you on a journey, perhaps you will find places inside yourself that you didn't know about.”

Clearly there are some interesting places inside him, and children are not afraid to strike out into the unknown, take a risk, make bold guesses, leaps of imagination.  You may object that Project Notre Dame is trying to “capture reality”, so what role is there for imagination?  My grandson was trying to capture the idea of a lion, explore what it means to him.  Project Notre Dame is a voyage of discovery for me.  What do cathedrals mean to me, what do they have to say about our history? How did Gothic Architecture image from the dark ages and dissolve into the Renaissance? Why did it resurface during the industrial revolution to be championed by the likes of Viollet Leduc?

My LinkedIn network has been exploding since I started posting about PND. Recently I stumbled across the son of two old friends.  I last visited them 8 years ago, the same year that I first entered the Parametric Pumpkin competition.  I had my 60th birthday in Cape Town with my three children, a city we had visited some 20 years earlier when we still lived in Zimbabwe.    I played the first of several annual gigs in England with friends I knew at school, so many decades ago.  And I attempted a Revit model of another, very different Notre Dame: the chapel in Ronchamp by LeCorbusier.

I was in the grip of unhealthy eating habits, horrendously overweight, and my mum was slipping away in a nursing home in Birmingham.  The trip to Scotland to see Adam’s mum & dad was a last minute addition to my itinerary, a fascinating glimpse into a different world.  Simon gave me a tour of current projects, zero-carbon modern architecture set in stunning open landscapes: a far cry from the desert resorts & hotels of my day job.

I’m not sure why I decided to process two of the images from that visit.  Even less sure of how I chose the combination of effects. I guess the exterior shot emphasises the starkness, the muted colours of a misty landscape. But that’s a post-rationalisation.  I was letting my instincts take the lead.  What is the balance between reason and emotions?  How do we weave them together to create meaning in our lives?  Why am I obsessed by buildings?  Is it because they mark the break with our hunter-gatherer origins?  

That house in its bleak open setting epitomises that break in many ways. Such a perfectly ordered and controlled environment sitting in a wild and natural setting. 

More image processing to create an image for BiLT NA in Seattle.  Strange to send our model out there on its own, with none of the core team attending.  Such is the network effect of digital media, creating connections in real time across the continents, allowing one idea to spark another and disparate groups to play their part in bringing VR experiences to conference attendees at ridiculously short notice.

Here’s a shot from the Revizto version.  Their trademark 2D view superimposed on a 3D section.  In a way this is like a filter, overlaying pencil textures on an image to enhance the experience.  So many ways to create an image, but all of them involve looking, and looking again, and again.  Seeing something you hadn't noticed before.  Embodied cognition.  Learning by doing.  Actively manipulating images is a compulsion for me, constantly shaping the world anew.

And let’s finish with an Enscape image, raw, no effects.  Is this “more real” than the hand-drawn sketch I started with … more honest?  Or do we see less, precisely because it looks so real?  Why do diagrams and infographics seem to be telling us so much more than the raw data from which they are distilled?  

The collage from 2011 is distilled slice of my past.  It is possible because of the digital revolution that has dominated the second half of that lifetime.  I was probably on my second or third digital camera by then, smart-phone images still a rarity.  Visual thinking has always played a prominent role in my attempts to make sense of the world.  In my twenties and thirties I carried a pocket notebook and pencil around, scribbling ideas and images that seemed important to me in the moment.  Today a Samsung Note 8 plays a similar role, but it also gives me constant access to all those notebooks via digital copies in cloud storage.  Much of my image processing and compilation is done on my phone these days.  

Extended cognition is a daily reality, but let’s not forget the core from which it extends.  We need to keep in touch with the old school pencil, the simple and direct learning processes that link us back to our childhood years.

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