published in 2000 in eCAADe
, 'Promise and Reality', proceedings of the 18th conference on eCAADe 2000, June 22-24, 2000, pp15-21.
The Internet beckons seductively to students. The prospect of nearly instantaneous communication with acquaintances spread across the face of the earth is alluring. The ease with which rich graphical content can be made available to the world is stunning. The possibility of a design being seen by friends, family, and famous architects is tantalizing. Faculty are drawn by the potent synergy and learning that can be found in the opposition and cooperation of different cultural roots. It is probable that entier design studio sequences will be offered through distance-learning programs in the near future. Is that a good idea?
Much has been written about 'virtual design studios' in architecture schools and 'virtual offices' in practice. Most offices have largely or totally abandoned drafting boards in favor of digital tools of production. Yet, regarding design, Ken Sanders, author of The Digital Architect and Manager of Information Service at Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (ZGF), of Portland, Oregon, has written 'we still make an effort to locate project teams together and always will'.
Production CAD work requires different kinds of interaction than design and design instruction. The experiments have been invaluable in developing strategies for use of the Internet as a component of a design studio series, but rarely depend entirely on use of the Internet for all course communications. In fact, most describe fairly isolated efforts to augment some aspect of traditional design environments using Internet tools (ftp, email, web). A few have implemented new pedagogic or collaboration paradigms (e.g., ETH's phase(x).
This paper considers the traditional design studio in terms of formal and informal activities, characterizes the major Internet technologies with regard to the resulting interaction issues. In particular, it describes an area of informal work group communications that appears to be ill-supported with existing tools. The paper goes on to describe a web-based collaboration tool which was developed to address the need for less formal communication. The context for this development is the concept of a fully distributed collaboration environment with particular attention to questions of informal communication.
Finally, it describes how the tool was deployed in an experimental 'web studio' setting and student responses to use of the tool.