Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Majd Musa, 2000
Mitchell provides an example in which these different computer-related techniques can be integrated into the design process. This consists of a recent three-week studio design project carried out at MIT, where small teams of students were asked to design and fabricate personalized chairs using a water jet cutter connected to CAD / CAM systems. The students were given total freedom in choosing the materials and creating the design they wished.
The students began the design process by collecting data about the sizes and shapes of the human body. In order to obtain such measurements, most of them made plastic casts. Using three-dimensional digitizers, they digitized the plastic cast, thus creating a CAD model. In order to develop their design concepts, some students started by freehand sketching while others developed their concepts using computer tools only. After completing the CAD models, a water jet cutter produced the real-scale chairs relying on CAD / CAM systems (figures 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11). Mitchell views this example as representative of the new atmosphere of the MIT design studio, where the computer-cut pieces, freehand sketches, and computer printouts from CAD models all come together to create the final design. Such a combination of representational methods and tools definitely work to enhance the student's design experience.
Concerning the subject of remote collaboration in the studio, Mitchell shows how synchronous and asynchronous telecommunications can be used to establish remote connections with clients, consultants, manufacturers, critics, students in different institutions, and jurors. One example is a screen with one window where a student can have remote access to the CAD database and can sketch over the top of it, and another window where he has an audio and video connection with remote design collaborators (figure 12). This sort of setup is very much a kind of virtual conference table.
Mitchell also shows how such technology can affect the structure of the jury. He shows the example of a student presenting his physical model and computer printouts to a traditional jury, with an additional jury member joining the process through telecommunication technologies (figure 13). Such technologies allow him to view and participate in the jury, and allows those in the studio in which the jury is taking place to see the remote juror and to communicate with him.
Finally, Mitchell ends with what he refers to as the Web design environment. This can be thought of as a kind of integrating mechanism for pulling a number of the previous ideas together and making them available on a wide scale. Consequently, it is necessary to be able to integrate the World Wide Web with CAD and digital imaging so that designers can easily handle graphic and spatial materials that are useful to them. It is also important to be able to provide access to sophisticated tools that can only be found at distant locations from the designer. Therefore, providing remote access to digital libraries is of fundamental importance. Designers want and need to have the required information resources in the same environment where they are carrying out their design task. It is also important to provide personal and group workspaces and tools to support remote collaboration. It is such an environment that the ArchNet project, which he addressed next, aims at providing.