Sunday, July 25, 2010

Inception and Architecture

I have no doubt that in the wake of the release of the movie Inception, there will be a wave of blog posts by architecture blogs about this movie.

I am not yet a registered architect, but I have a professional degree in architecture, have been in the field now for over three years, and have completed the mandatory internship and have successfully completed a majority of the required portions of the Architecture Registration Exam (ARE). I am by no means an expert, but by that same token, I am not unfamiliar with the subject either.

It is said that the director, Christopher Nolan, consulted architects while working on the story. I have to say, his consultations have led to what is perhaps the most consistent and real part of our industry.


The blogs will likely gush over the prospect of a dream world of limitless possibilities, the idea of designing a world for the subconscious. This is the folly of sophomoric architectural thinking. In the movie, Ellen Paige's character is a young and 'idealistic' architecture student who is recruited to create dream worlds for others to occupy for the purposes of extracting information or secrets.

In order for this scheme to work, the dream world must have an air of familiarity or believability to it. As Ellen Paige begins to radically affect the dream world, she learns that the subconsciousness of the other occupants of her dream freak out and turn on the dreamer, to protect the conscious beings inside the dream.

Let me put this another way: If Frank Ghery were the architect recruited for this task, the subconsciousness of the dreamer might break out into L.A. style riots. If the architect were Greg Lynn, then World War III would likely break out.

In other words, they don't bring in an architect to dream big, but rather to dream small, so as not to alarm the occupants of the dream. They need somebody who can dream vividly and create a compelling and completely detailed world, and naturally, architects are suited to this task.

And so I would argue that the dream world and the subconscious are an analog for the architect's career in the physical world and with consciousness with the only difference being that the real world and collective consciousness of the populace is far more restrictive than the dream world. How many buildings have you been in that really challenge that which we are familiar with?

I would challenge you to set aside aesthetics for a minute and really consider how far we have come as a species in terms of architectural design and it's interaction with 'society' or 'culture' (two favorite buzz words for architects) or as suggested, on 'psychological operands/motivators.' The world really hasn't changed all that much. We still build walls and roofs. There are still thresholds and doors, and spaces that are set aside for purpose or program. In the end, the best we actually did was muddle these elements, and begin to question their necessity (after working so hard for thousands of years to establish their importance). But at the end of the day, they always seem to wind up in our buildings.

We may try to adorn our buildings with meaning or significance, but they still perform the same utilitarian task as the primitive hut.

But I digress. The instincts of Inception are dead on, even if unintentional.

Why is that?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lunchtime Render

From Arch Backup

Yafaray, the open source ray tracer that captured my heart in college (at the time, the best thing going in the ray tracing department for Blender, and in my humble opinion, still is) will soon have a full featured exporter for sketchup.

The above image is a model that was whipped up at lunch today, and was created in a near perfect open source/free software workflow. The workflow was as follows: Modeled in Sketchup>Rendered in Yafaray>Export an HDR Image from Yafaray>Tonemapped in QTPFSGUI>LDR Post Proc. in the Gimp (includes tweaks to hue, saturation, and the addition of DOF blur). The Yafaray exporter is still in alpha, so the exporter makes use of Darktide's Sun/Sky lighting, and currently supports no materials or advanced camera features. But if this is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.

Link to the Yafaray2SK:

Sketchup is great for down and dirty work, but Blender is still the best.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Wasteland of Marfa

Went to Marfa with my wonderful wife. Unfortunately, it was only for a long weekend, and so our time was pretty much dedicated to the Judd and Chinati Foundations. There is something to be said for a change of scenery, especially into an entirely different ecosystem. Also in the area is the Big Bend National Park, and not far away, the Guadalupe National Park. I would love to return to do some camping and nature photography. The above image was taken from the Mysterious Marfa Lights viewing platform.