Saturday, June 24, 2023



I recently dusted off my Villa Savoye model for some in-house Revit training at GAJ. First session was last lot of fun.

The other Corb building I studied with my BIM pencil some years ago was the chapel on the hill. An interesting challenge in terms of free-flowing geometry.

As usual I learned a tremendous amount about the building : it's geometry, construction details, spatial experience, the mistakes made in drawings used in most text books. (the external stair is shown going in the wrong direction)

These images are from a conference paper on the Revit Planting category. Here i was showing the giant leap forward that Enscape3d brought, for me at least. Trees with leaves that sway in the wind and render convincingly in real time VR.

It was quite amazing to me that I could open a project that was already several years old, fire up Enscape and almost immediately generate images that really help to tell the story of the contextual nature of this very spiritual building.


Another blast from the past.

If you're going to "study history with BIM", palladio has to be on the list. I first came across him as a schoolboy about 55 years ago, thanks to my art teacher at Barnsley Grammar School.

More recently I started to see parallels between his villas scattered across the hinterland of Venice and Vicenza, and John Soane's work in Norfolk and Suffolk. Gentlemen of means who had benefitted from the international trade of the great maritime power of their era, putting down roots, with a pretension to nobility.

The images are a product of countless hours I spent imagining the contemporary setting of perhaps a dozen of palladio's villas. Lots of guesswork, lots of fun, lots of deep learning.

What I would give to be 60 again 不不不


More probing to understand the terraces of Villa Savoye. This time, the upper roof level, and getting a feel for the space "in use" by populating it with Enscape assets.

Corb does seem fond of quite slender and fragile concrete framing. These screen walls remind me of the precast garden walls that we knew as durawalls in Zimbabwe.

Bear in mind that this was a weekend getaway house, so outdoor living gets priority treatment.

I will be rebuilding this model a couple of times as part of the teaching process. First pass is just pushing the developed model forward and reflecting on the how and why of its construction.

Second pass will be preparing lesson size chunks, focused on useful learning experiences. And third pass will be the actual teaching sessions.



Having fun with the Villa Savoye model, and I think my training group is too, but I may have to think carefully what a set of beginners can achieve in the time available. Perhaps I will skip ahead a bit here and there rather than expecting them to build the whole thing themselves.

We had a bit of a chat yesterday about the history of the building. I do love it dearly, perhaps more so because it's riddled with contradictions. Grossly over budget, it leaked like a sieve and for most of it's life it has been either semi-derelict or a tourist attraction. The original purpose of weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of Paris lasted for less than ten years.

But spatially it is quite brilliant in my view, especially considering when it was conceived. How on earth was anyone so bold? I guess you could say the same for Van Gogh or Picasso. And then again what has that bold disregard for tradition done to our society in retrospect?

More questions than answers for sure, but I wouldn't have it otherwise


Was it really so long ago?

I am doing training sessions at GAJ for the first time since well before the pandemic and intending to recycle this little exercise on wall hosted families.

For several months I ran "Revit Lunch" sessions in our resource area. It's difficult to believe that this was 12 years ago, but that's what the file data seems to say. The format, based on a meal metaphor, used a starter slide show that cycled while people were coming in and settling down.

Then I would give a demo for the main course. Probably 20 minutes or so, maybe a bit more with questions. Finishing with a video clip for dessert, usually sourced from the Internet. All this on top of my normal project workload.

I guess I had more energy approaching 60 than I do with 70 receding into the distance 不不不


Started early. Got tired (body and soul) around lunch time. Took a longer break than I would have liked. Catching up a bit now "after hours". Such are the subtleties of getting older, working from home and trying to pay my way.

These are screenshots from my preparations for a Family Editor training group. Wall hosted families this time. Trying to give them a feel for the possibilities and limitations through a hands-on experience.

Why don't we have a type selector parameter for profiles used in a sweep within Family Editor? Has it been requested? Why don't I have the energy to go into the system and make a request? 不不

Going to plead old age again.




Monday, June 19, 2023



Villa Savoye by le corbusier. I built this model so long ago it's ridiculous. But kind of interesting too.

The window and door families predate my current modular approach. I just wanted to get something into the model that looked the part, on the basis that I would come back and figure things out later.

So they were placeholders, and this weekend I took a second pass at one of the strip windows.
This is one unit spanning three rooms. As far as I can tell there are two types of glazing element: a 2 pane horizontal slider, and fixed glazing. That's my working hypothesis.

Call it LOD100 and LOD200 if you like but I'm taking a much more intuitive approach to levels of development here. I would happily replace that thick manual with the sentence "design is an iterative process and the intention is to achieve greater clarity with each cycle"

Ditto for research, artistic expression, maybe even life in general. Over the course of my lifetime, "trust" has been replaced by hard-coded standards. I understand why but I remain unconvinced.


I refer to this as a "rapid BIM sketch". The Red House, designed for William Morris by Philip Webb. 160 years old and more than 50 years since I paid it a visit.

At this stage, the perspective views are the most useful output, but it wouldn't take long to set up some basic plans, Elevations, maybe a section.

This was done for a presentation on the Planting category in Revit for a conference in Denmark in 2017 based on a model I started at least 10 years ago. Hope I can get back to it.

You may think that the idea of a "rapid BIM sketch" is a contradiction in terms, that it's only "real BIM" if it follows the industry standards for commercial projects. I understand the value of global and regional standards but I also believe in thinking outside the box.

Silly me


Villa Savoye. Fixed glazing in orange. Two-pane horizontal sliders labelled S. Single pane centre pivot labelled P.

This is work in progress. I may be wrong, but I'm putting forward my best hypothesis and will revise it if and when it proves inadequate.

It seems to make sense. Fixed glazing is used next to partitions except where acoustic privacy is unimportant. (eg between master bedroom and the associated dressing room)

The sliders are the standard solution to opening lights, but where there isn't enough width, go with the centre pivot. (eg the bathroom between bedrooms 2 and 3)

Was Corb involved with this level of detail, or did his cousin handle all that? No idea. But I build these Revit models because I enjoy this kind of reverse engineering (reverse architecting?)


This was part of a conference paper that was declined in 2018. I was using work that I had done over several years to argue that BIM tools and processes can be used for a much broader range of purposes than we usually think, including pure playfulness.

In other words we should regard them as general purpose thinking tools like pencil and paper, natural extensions of the human brain.

The examples here showcase understanding history, exploring geometry and artistic expression. It's not about showing off my cleverness, or my mastery of the software. The issue here is what would you really like to do? I mean really, really? Apart from earning money.

What are some of the endeavours in life, in the search for meaning, that these digital tools can help us with? This is a question that has consumed much of my spare time for the past 15 years.

It dovetails nicely with a project that I call "the Way We Build" which is twice as old. That is a wish to interrogate all the different technologies and styles and building forms that help to define different human cultures across time and space.

What can we learn about ourselves from that kind of multi faceted study? Could BIM even become an artistic endeavour in its own right (shock-horror-heresy)


More snapshots from a presentation that "got away", making the case for BIM tools as general purpose thinking aids.

In this case I explore the venerable world of books and talks about construction technology. How it has evolved and how it varies from place to place for various reasons (climate, culture, material availability) It's a fascinating topic. 


When I first started using Revit, I thought there was great potential for analytical studies along these lines, and over the years on my blog I have attempted a few. Doesn't seem to have caught on very widely though.

Unrealised potential in my book.


Saturday, June 17, 2023


Random images from a taxi window. This is Dubai, a concrete forest in the desert. Complexity and contradiction. It reflects the human condition in a globalised world : part magical, part sordid, alternately inspiring and depressing.

Shakespeare would have loved it.

I like the juxtaposition of unrelated verticals in these images. Iconic architecture and banal infrastructure scrambled up together. A lamp post competes with Burj Khalifa, which hides behind the trees then pokes through the roof of an odd little tower.



Power lines and pylons are a recent obsession. They have the beauty of spiders webs, things we wish to sweep from sight when they invade our carefully curated homes. We can be so judgmental and dogmatic at times.

Perhaps it was necessary for survival a quarter million years ago.



There's a strange phenomenon that crept up on me as I got older. I started playing recorded music less, stopped playing the radio in the car, found that I valued silence.

Eventually this extended to playing my guitar, which I don't do as often as I think I should. But sometimes the mood just comes upon me and off I go.

This tribute to my granddaughter is an extreme case. I came in from sitting on the balcony, picked up the guitar and just started playing, almost immediately I had the first line, out of nowhere.

In the time it took to put on a vest and mount my phone in its stand I had the three rhymes. Press play, single take, upload to YouTube.

That's the way I am about most things. I do have a certain routine in my life, but I can't perform a song the same way twice, I can't say for sure what direction a painting or drawing will take. Never really know when one of my BIMpencil projects will start or finish.

Here's to you Sophia. I wonder what kind of unique personality you will bring forth to enrich our family's future?


Pausing at the beginning of my morning walk to catch my "balcony view" from a different angle. (red arrow) Seven storey blocks arrayed in a semi-circle with narrow view slots between them.

For the past couple of weeks there have been workmen setting about the roundabout at the mid point of this array. Eagerly awaited upgrade to the landscape.

I pause to take a shot of the work in progress and realise that the Burj Khalifa is hiding in the haze, lost in the forest of lamp posts until I zoom in. During the pandemic I used to walk down that road, so I knew it was there but the memory had faded into a different haze inside my head.

In a way it would have been nice to see a tiny Burj, framed in the view from my balcony, but perhaps it is more appropriate to have the giant skeleton with multiple arms spread wide to carry pure energy across the desert.

Dubai, like any other major city in history is sustained by energy and symbolism... That's what this little collage brings to mind.


In 2019, about 5 or 6 months before the pandemic descended on us, I participated in a conference in Dubai on the theme of open BIM and industry 4.0

Full disclosure, I have a healthy distrust of both of these slogans. But today I just want to share a couple of slides from my talk,which adopted a broader definition of open BIM, which too often boils down to "you must use IFC"

Look beyond the narrow confines of your day job. Drawings and text (geometry and data) have long been used for activities that inform and energise the building industry beyond the focused activity of producing documentation for a particular project.

Why has BIM not penetrated into these areas?

These two slides highlight the world of reference books and design manifestos. In the past these works used essentially the same toolkit that an architect, engineer, or planner applied to fee earning work.

Why have these broader, reflective activities become siloed off? Where is the BIM version of Bannister Fletcher?


If we think of BIM as an integrated digital approach to construction (AEC) why not broaden our outlook to include the many activities that have historically existed around the edges, beyond the narrow confines of individual projects.

These slides from 2019 highlight the way that previous technology breakthroughs such as the printing press and copper plate etching, led to memorable treatise by architects and designers that we still revere today.

Historical analysis, reference manuals, Urban design theory, Visions of fantasy. These are all elements in the continuing education of anyone with an interest in the built environment... meaning practically everyone.

When I talk of the BIM pencil, I am thinking about the need to integrate this kind of work into our view of what BIM should be. Where is the BIM equivalent of Neufert, or Nolli's map of Rome, or Serlio's four books?