Next Top Model

Screenshot St marys exterior.jpg
Students will explore the descriptive conventions and capacities of computer-aided geometric modeling. Working from a case-study building, students will produce a detailed 3-d model capable of forming the basis of both 2d hard-line drawings and architectural renderings.
Assessment objectives
  • A basic competency in canonical 3d modeling techniques, drawing from both working drawings and site visits
  • The ability to carefully and willingly pair modeling techniques to achieve a specific formal result
Exercise Type Project
Evaluation Criteria
High Pass
Final digital model is well crafted and detailed with no little or no naked edges, Rhino file exhibits clear hierarchy and organization.
Low Pass
Digital model incorporates sufficient detail with some obvious mistakes, Rhino file contains somewhat organized layers.
The digital model lacks attention to detail (surfaces not meeting properly, objects floating in space), unorganized layers.
Uses Tool(s) Tool:Rhino v4.x , Tool:Illustrator CS5
Uses Workflow(s)

CAD models imply a totalizing description of the object under consideration, and can easily be mistaken as a complete depiction of the world, or as a stand-in for the product of design thinking. By momentarily suspending our suspicion of the totalizing nature of computer models, in this exercise we seek to become “true believers” thereby exploring the limits of what computer-based geometric description can capture about a design object. To focus our attention, we will limit the scope of this exercise to the documentation of an existing building, and seek to capture as much as three-dimensional information as possible and to represent this information as a set of finished design drawings.

Working in groups of three-four “modelers”, students will produce a detailed three-dimensional computer model of one of the iconic buildings in the Bay Area listed below, capturing as much detail as possible. Reference images, production drawings, and photographs will serve as the basis of this model, supplementing by recommended site visits. Students will endeavor to document as much geometric information as possible, and to organize this information according to properties of formal division and material properties.

Digital models are typically crafted for a specific purpose, such as creating detailed orthographic drawings, providing 3-d views into the building tectonics or for visualizations of the interior or exterior space. These different purposes emphasize a different process for creating digital 3d models - quite often ending with a model that is either unfinished or unevenly detailed. For example, an exterior visualization does not require any of the interior spaces to be precisely understood or modeled, and vice versa. For this exercise, the emphasis is placed on creating a WHOLE digital model which may or may not be used in later exercises. The final model will be showcased by each student in Rhino to the class via projector.

Schedule + Weekly Deliverables

Week One - due June 25 / 27
One re-traced and detailed plan or section of the existing building per student, such as the following:
  • 1 ground-level interior plan (scale TBD), 17”x22” print
  • 1 site plan (scale TBD), 17”x22” print
  • 1 section (scale TBD), 17”x22” print
  • 1 elevation (scale TBD), 17”x22” print
Week Two - due July 2 / 5
Re-vised plan or section from the previous week, printed.
3d model in progress (not to be reviewed)
Week Three - Final Presentation - due July 9 / 11
One separate 3dm file per student
One "merged" 3dm file containing all geometric information produced, to be presented digitally during the Pin-Up

Case Study Buildings

The following case study buildings range in complexity - both in their overall form, interior detailing and site context. Each project listed below includes a "Modeling Difficulty" scale that ranges from 1 (generally simple forms and scale) to 5 (multiple complex forms). The amount of sources available documenting the existing conditions also varies from one project to the next.
Assessment of this project will take into consideration the skill level of the group in reference to the achieved level of detail, complexity and research put into the final model and final drawings. For example, if a group of highly skilled modelers take on an Case Study project with a Modeling Difficulty level of 1, it is expected that the final drawings encompass much more detail and precision than others.

Weston Havens House by Harwell Hamilton Harris

Location: Berkeley, California
Modeling Difficulty: 1
Havens House - CED Website

Saint Mary's Cathedral by Pier Luigi Nervi

Location: San Francisco, California
Modeling Difficulty: 2
St Marys Cathedral - Great Buildings Online

University Art Museum by Mario J. Ciampi

Location: Berkeley, California
Modeling Difficulty: 2
University Art Museum - Great Buildings Online

De Young Museum by Herzog + De Meuron, San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, California
Modeling Difficulty: 3
De Young - arcspace

Christ the Light Cathedral by SOM

Location: Oakland, California
Modeling Difficulty: 4
Christ the Light - Architectural Record