It seems that Frank Gehry has developed an interesting software called, "Digital Project" which he describes as a powerful tool for architects to help keep construction costs down. Though the software is really just getting public attention, it is not entirely new. Gehry first developed digital project in the early 90's and further refined it in 1997 when designing and specifying the titanium panels for the celebrated Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.
With the crumbling economy now, the spotlight is on Gehry and Digital project as he uses it for his latest design, The new Beekman Tower, a $680 million, 904 unit and 76 storey building in New York set to topout mid 2010 and be a significant contribution to New York city's skyline. With the building’s distinctly bumpy silhouette, “the idea I was trying to achieve was a fabric, so it would catch the light,” Mr. Gehry said. Using the software, fabricators have been able to produced a facade for this tower with various textures at a price that Mr. Gehry says does not exceed what a developer would pay to build a conventional boxy building of similar dimensions.
The main point of this program is to model every component of the building in 3D, and allow engineers and contractors to resolve cost issues and work out how final duct placement will work with the building form before construction commences. According to Gehry, this has helped to avoid expensive work change orders, almost removing the need for architects to include an additional cost for "contingencies" which always come from construction errors helping keep projects within initial budget. Still, many other architects have reacted differently to the program. While acknowledging that the Gehry software is impressive, Carl Galioto of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a firm that has designed many skyscrapers, says that it is very hard to learn and three or four times as expensive as a conventional modeling program which on average costs about $5,000.
This may be a good tool to have right now if Mr Gehry would be kind enough to simplify it a bit so that those of us who did not write the program might be able to use it. Still, I don't think that even his "Digital Project" can ensure that Gehry can develop a design that is guaranteed to be weather resistant which is a problem some of his latest projects have had.
Image obtained from: www.archinect.com and www.nytimes.com respectively
For more information, check: www.nytimes.com/2008/05/31/arts/design/31beek.html