The expertise that made
buildings like the Disney Concert Hall possible, coming
soon to a studio near you.
Image courtesy of Gehry
Click to enlarge
Frank O. Gehry, FAIA, is taking his expertise
to the masses. This fall marks the launch of the sidekick to his
architectural practice, Gehry Technologies (GT)a business
venture he hopes will raise the level of technological fluency within
architectural practice, as well as cement his legacy as one of the
field's foremost innovators.
Heading the new company as chief executive
officer is senior partner James Glymph, who has worked alongside
Gehry for more than a decade. Dennis Shelden, Gehry Partners' director
of computing, will serve as GT's chief technical officer.
The vision for GT is to create a "
building ecosystem' tackling innovations in construction practices
and associated technologies," according to a press release.
Essentially, it will be a consulting practice, providing technologies
and expertise to teams who are building specific projects as well
as to the industry at large. "Manufacturing industries have
completely transformed the way products are designed, built, and
delivered," says Glymph, "but the building industry remains
entrenched in a paper-based, two-dimensional world. We realized
that substantial opportunities existed in bringing advances in practice
that we have discovered to the rest of the industry." He adds
that faster, cheaper computers make it feasible for firms of all
sizes to use the digitally driven process that Gehry follows in
his practice, and that the process is suitable for a variety of
project types, not just the high-end cultural buildings for which
Gehry is renowned.
GT may also serve as a software developer,
creating specialized interfaces or additional capabilities for existing
design software such as CATIA, the aerospace program the firm has
used on many projects. Such tools could be developed on a project-specific
basisa common practice in manufacturing and other industriesand
then licensed for a fee to the software maker for widespread use,
or sold to the company paying for the project work.
The AIA, the Civil Engineering Research
Foundation (CERF), and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Laboratory have
already agreed to collaborate with GT; the projects they will take
on together have yet to be fully scoped. In time, the company hopes
to create partnerships with the entire range of organizations that
have a stake in the design and construction of the built environment.
What Glymph wants to achieve is "a
fundamental reshuffling of the roles, responsibilities, and compensation
structures for participants across the industry as a consequence
of the digital revolution," he says. This could mean, for instance,
that all participants in a construction project share the liability
for its completion on time and within budget, or that project deliverables
be submitted in digital rather than paper form. Many technology
enthusiasts believe that requiring architects and their collaborators
to rely on digital design information is a necessary step toward
reestablishing the architect as a master builder, as well as shortening
the time needed to design and construct buildings.
Whether the business model for GT can
succeed in a down-market for design and construction services has
yet to be determinedfirms aren't spending on training and
technology like they once were. But like many innovators, Glymph
and his staff aren't cowed. "We've been pretty lonely pioneers,"