Kevin Matthews — Architecture Faculty — University of Oregon


  Directory | Curriculum Vitae | Statement | Teaching | Service | Research & Creative Work


As an architecture faculty member I have been propelled by the weaving together of three motivations. Through the meshing of these motivations, overlapping and reinforcing each other year by year, a unique fabric has emerged, which I will try to describe in this statement. The love of teaching comes first, with teaching's greatest reward, seeing the light of a student realizing the accomplishment of something special. Second is the challenge of inspiring a computer-integrated design curriculum, as my own contribution to our important tradition of integrative studio-centered design at Oregon. And third is the satisfaction of digital toolmaking, the shaping of new tools and media for the further evolution of the craft of creative architecture.

The years since I joined the Oregon faculty in 1990 have been full on many levels. They have been far from easy -- boot-strapping the computer-integrated design process into the main stream of our studios and curriculum has required a constant investment of my time and energy. And, the details of my work in the alchemical world of computing have not always been understood by my architectural colleagues. But the satisfactions are palpable, in the form of a generation of students contributing to the profession around the U.S. and internationally, in the form of myriad studios where student design ideas take shape daily with impressive reach and clarity in three digital dimensions, and in the form of two major multi-year publications, both with plenty of room for growth into the future.

My development as a faculty member is inseparable from the development of digital media and architectural computing at Oregon, and it may be difficult to judge either one without understanding both. It seems this school and I have come a long way together over six years. The school has grown from one described as deficient in computing in an accreditation review, to become an exemplar of ubiquitous design computing. As the school has progressed I have matured, both as a teacher of design and media, and as an author and tool designer.

Looking forward, as the architecture and interior architecture programs enter the second five years of digital media integration, we are finding a broad new set of challenges and opportunities. For instance, as the use of digital media expands beyond the early adopters to include nearly everyone, support needs increase while perspectives broaden. Every year increasingly computer-literate new students present opportunities to take the curriculum farther. In my own research, the multimedia encyclopedia of architecture is slated for an exciting major revision, the 3D modeling software is opening new conceptual issues in design and deepening in technical capability. The rapidly evolving technology of the World-Wide Web provides a ready and affordable infrastructure for implementing wide-area groupwork in architectural design.

Over the years, there have been extensive cross-connections between my work in teaching, service, and research. They have interacted like the legs of a tripod, each contributing to the strength of the whole, with the research providing improved tools for teaching, the classroom experience inspiring further research, and the service work developing the infrastructure and context to support innovative teaching methods. These elements have had a rare synergy.


Like most people, when I was a student I had teachers who ranged from great to mediocre. In my experience, the great teachers transmitted information, but also inspired a kind of personal empowerment. As a teacher, I try to remember this, and give my students more than just knowledge, whether in the unique contact-intensive environment of the design studio or in the more abstracted setting of a large lecture course. Rather than give my students simplistic problems and pat solutions, I try to give them realistically difficult problems, and then help them learn how to find their own solutions.

I have found it especially interesting to teach the large introductory computer graphics course to first term freshmen every year since its inception in 1991. The course is intensive, covering computer graphics more or less from zero to everything through ten weeks of hands-on creative assignments. Oregon students enter our program with a wide range of capabilities and preparedness, both for computing and for college work in general. Typically there is a fraction of excellent students at the top of the curve who are quite self-sufficient, and who will manage to learn the course material however it is presented. At the other end of the range, there is typically a fraction of under-prepared students who will have difficulty with the course even if the material is presented superbly.

I am tempted at times to tilt the course up toward the responsive upper end, which may be more closely aligned to my research interests, or conversely, toward the lowest common denominator, which would lead to broader popularity and student approval. Ultimately, however, I feel a strong responsibility at Oregon to tailor the material and presentation toward the majority of students, who fit in the middle of the curve, most able to benefit from appropriate teaching. For the best students, I try to provide an open-ended component to most assignments, so they can exercise their talents, and for the weak students, I try to provide a safety net including special help sessions and personal tutorials from assigned GTFs when appropriate.

As a result of pursuing this centrist approach, I have found that strong academic expectations can be maintained in terms of absolute criteria, while permitting rather high average grades for the course. I like to see my students work hard, learn a great deal, and be well rewarded for it.

Program History

When I arrived in Oregon to begin teaching in the 1989-90 academic year, Chuck Rusch was already teaching first year design in a Macintosh-based computer integrated design studio. With my arrival, the computer-integrated studio offering was immediately doubled to two studios. I had been interested in computer-integrated studios for some time, had used various computer platforms in my own design work, had established a computer-based engineering section at the Super Collider project, and had contributed to the establishment of the first "Mac Studio" at UC Berkeley. Still, the years of experience and teaching example of Professor Rusch were a great benefit to me as my ideas about teaching in a digitally mediated studio format went rapidly from theoretical to very real.

Professor Rusch had pioneered the studio application of Mac Architrion, an early architectural CAD application for the Macintosh computer which provided a remarkable degree of three-dimensional modeling capability even in the small-screen black and white environment. Previously in Berkeley I had co-chaired the CAD SIG of the Berkeley Macintosh User's Group, whose activities included a large CAD software review and evaluation process. In this evaluation process I became familiar with Architrion as well as most of the CAD software on the Macintosh, and I discovered personally how the inherently graphical direct-manipulation approach of most Macintosh CAD software superseded the working methods of the minicomputer, workstation and PC-based CAD software (including AutoCAD) which I had already been using and teaching. In short, Professor Rusch and I were on the same wavelength, and we used Architrion productively in the studios for the ensuing three years, as the software evolved gradually into an expanded color product for the Mac II family.

There was somewhat less existing context for my work in the computer graphics subject area. However, I had taught several courses in the subject area using a range of traditional CAD hardware and software, building on concepts learned from Professor Mark Smith at Berkeley. It was exciting to integrate the classic technical material of older CAD courses with the user-oriented Macintosh tools available at Oregon, building toward an architecture- rather than technology-centered paradigm. The infrastructure, however, was problematic. At that time the instructional equipment base of the Oregon architecture program consisted of a single Macintosh IIcx. In those first years the teaching of the computing subject courses was heavily dependent on access to the labs run by the University Computing Center, which at that time provided only black-and-white Macintosh SE computers.

By the end of the 1989-90 school year, Chuck Rusch and I had begun a series of critical examinations of the evolving design media and design curriculum which would continue until the beginning of his retirement in 1995. With the backing of then Department Head Donald Corner, we identified some key successes and challenges that, as it turned out, determined much of my work over the ensuing five years.

There were already clear indications that we were on the right track. Most importantly, in the first year studios, our students seemed to be engaging architectural ideas with a combined depth and validity that was unusual for first year designers, which seemed to be directly connected to the three-dimensionally-centered thinking processes that the digital tools allowed us to emphasize. The interaction between computer modeling and traditional sketching appeared generally successful in helping the students develop a broad range of critical thinking and skills for communicating and developing their designs. The inherent simplicity of the Macintosh environment enabled the students to quickly master their own machines. It also allowed us to create flexible networking for output and groupwork coordination, so we could share files electronically while the studio focus stayed on architecture. The support structures were spartan enough that I paid for the network connectors and wired our design studios myself.

There were some areas of the electronic design studios that called for improvement, and we focused our critical attention on these. One problem stemmed from teaching the computer skills along with the studio material, in the time and credit budget of a conventional studio. The consequence was a continuous overload on both the students and the teachers. Although this was partially compensated for by the shared excitement of working in the new media, the overload still presented a constant stress factor for both students and teachers. Another problem was that the tools fell somewhat short of our ideals, with access a constant problem, since Architrion was expensive and copy-protected, and with tool integration also a problem, since Architrion was not very well integrated into the general Macintosh graphics environment.

The overload problem of the first year studios was addressed within about a year, when in the Fall Term of 1991 I implemented a new course for the incoming undergraduates who would be going into the computer-integrated studios. This course eventually earned a permanent place in the curriculum as Architecture 222, an intensive ten-week introduction to architectural computer graphics. By offering Architecture 222 in the Fall Term, we created a nice build-up to the first year design studios held in the Winter Term and Spring Terms, where the students can apply digital media skills without demanding extensive technical knowledge on the part of the general design faculty. It took longer to improve the core software tools, but eventually a 3D modeling application closely tailored to the needs of the computer-integrated design studio emerged from my own research activities.

However, the largest challenge for the computer-integrated studios was created by their basic success. It seemed clear to Professor Rusch and I that 3D-centered digitally-integrated mixed-media studios were the way of the future. From the educational successes we saw with our own students, we wanted to pave the way for all Oregon students to eventually be able to learn to in this format.

So in 1990-91 the biggest issue was planning for and supporting an expanding program in an environment with flat and minimal funding. Chuck and I struggled with the question of how to lead our school toward what would ultimately be an entirely computer-integrated curriculum and teaching format. It became clear that the major limiting factors would be, first, hardware and software access for the roughly 600 hundred Architecture students, and second, the general faculty familiarity with digital media which would be needed for digitally integrated teaching across the department.

The Mac Studio Program

For the architectural design studios to be broadly computer-integrated, each traditional individual work space equipped with a drafting table would have to be upgraded to include a computer-graphics workstation. Computers "down the hall" would not support the flexible, fine-grained media integration and student-teacher interaction that we found to be so productive. With two thirds or more of our 600 students in studio at a time, this would demand at least 400 workstations, which on an ongoing basis would require the income from a dedicated endowment of a few million dollars. Since we were working with an annual departmental budget for combined instructional computing hardware, software, and maintenance of about $5000, this goal seemed quite utterly out of reach.

On the other hand, a system cost of around $4000 represents a small increment to the total cost of a five year architecture degree, even at a public university. So we proposed the pioneering Mac Studio Program, which would be a voluntary program open to any entering student choosing to purchase their own core hardware and software. I wrote a grant proposal to Apple Computer, Inc. asking for a conceptual matching grant to establish a central lab for the Architecture Department sufficient to support the student investment in personal computers.

While this may seem almost inevitable from the current perspective, it seemed radical and surprising at the time. We were pleased when Apple funded the proposal, and then again year by year as enrollment in the Mac Studio program grew from approximately 32 students in 1990-91, to about 40 in 1991-92, to 50 in 1992-93, to 60 in 1993-94, and to about 75 in 1994-95. Our voluntary Mac Studio program had grown to include most of the entering class of approximately 100 students each year, and in the Spring of 1994 the Architecture faculty voted unanimously to approve a requirement for all entering first professional degree student have personal access to a suitable computer. This requirement meant that students could finally get federal financial aid for their computer expense.

As the requirement went into effect last fall, with 130 students entering computer-integrated studios in 1995-96, we completed the first five year plan of the integration process on schedule with the original proposal Chuck Rusch and I had written. For the year beginning in the Fall of 1996, the combined undergraduate and graduate first year computer-integrated studios have a projected enrollment of 180 students.

A Maturing Curriculum

During the first four years of building the Mac Studio program, my Winter and Spring teaching assignments were dominated by the consecutive studio terms of the first year design sequence. This repetition allowed me to refine an integrative sequence of first year design projects, but as the program expanded, it needed to outgrow the direct dependence on Professor Rusch and I for computer-integrated studio teaching. In 1993-94 we hired an entry-level faculty member with strong digital design experience to provide support to the faculty teaching computer-integrated sections. This evolved into the current Digital Design Consultants (DDCs) program, allowing me to personally teach outside of the introductory studios, while continuing to be closely involved in their development as the supervisor of the DDCs for the last four years.

With the computer-integration at the introductory level well-established, I have begun to address a growing need to work out processes and patterns for integrating digital design tools into the more advanced studios. This Spring, for instance, a strong synergy between the studio levels emerged as new digitally-mediated teaching techniques in my upper-division studio were rapidly transmitted to the first year studios by the graduate student DDCs. While I do miss working with the fresh spirits and open minds of the first year students, there is a limit to the depth of design issues that can be pursued in the first year, and it has been rewarding to teach more recently in graduate and upper division studios. By teaching the Introduction to Digital Media course in the fall I still get to know a great number of the incoming students, and to share the excitement of these architects-to-be at the inception of their education.

The maturing and evolution of the curriculum has also allowed my course offerings in the computer graphics/digital media and methods subject area to deepen over the years. In 1989-90, the computer graphics curriculum was separated between the Architecture and Interior Architecture programs. Teaching both courses, it became clear that the intellectual material was mostly identical, and so after a few years we were able to merge the two redundant courses into one stronger course with differentiated assignments. This freed up a slot in my teaching schedule and allowed me to begin offering advanced seminars addressing an array of special topics in the field.

Another significant redundancy in the curriculum was only finally eliminated in the 1995-96 academic year. From the beginning of the Mac Studio program up to the establishment of the computing requirement, there was a split between the students who got an introduction to computing through the Mac Studio program sequence, and those who didn't, and therefore were still in need of a computing introduction in their third year or later. Thus, for years Architecture 422/522 remained rather introductory, even though it was technically an upper-division course. Because of scare faculty in the subject area, this meant that there was little support for continuing education in computer graphics for the Mac Studio students beyond their intensive first year, except for the few who could make the jump to an advanced seminar.

This was finally resolved last year with requirement that all new students get the computing introduction in their first year. As a result, Architecture 422/522 was really an entirely new course for 1995-96. For the first time I was able to assume student knowledge of the core material of the introductory course, and build the content of the intermediate course on top of it. To explore the possibilities and pacing of the first real intermediate computing and digital media course at Oregon, I taught a series of second-order topics. I look forward to teaching this course again incorporating significant adjustments and improvements. I also look forward to creating additional advanced seminars, which will be possible because of the larger pool of fully-prepared students.

The seminars I have taught so far have focused on advanced rendering and lighting simulation using the Radiance rendering system, from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and on digitally-mediated groupwork. In the Spring Term 1996 seminar the groupwork concept was brought to life by organizing the seminar students into a working design team, to create a serious entry to a complex professional design competition. While the actual competition entry ultimately had to be subordinated to the pedagogical goals of the seminar, it still enlivened what is potentially a dry, abstract, and technical topic for students lacking professional experience.

My creative evolution has led to increasing opportunities to teach outside of the University as well as within it. Through Artifice, Inc. I have had the opportunity to teach intensive professional seminars in the United States. Twice over the last year I was sponsored by Japanese firms to lead seminars in six cities around Japan. The most challenging external teaching opportunity, however, began last year, when I participated in a peer-reviewed course proposal to SIGGRAPH '95, which led to presentation of the first SIGGRAPH course in the design of three-dimensional user-computer interfaces. This challenge will continue as I participate in teaching the updated course at SIGGRAPH '96.

When I was hired at the University of Oregon, I was charged with a large and unusual task for a junior faculty member: to develop and formalize the computing-related curriculum of the department, while also finding the resources to create the supporting infrastructure. Shepherding the overall process of curriculum development related to digital design tools over the last six years at the University of Oregon has consequently been deeply satisfying. This curriculum evolution has also been intellectually stimulating as opportunities to share higher-level knowledge in the advanced offerings have increased each year. I still believe much more can be offered.


Along with the curricular evolution, there has of necessity been great evolution of computing infrastructure and support in the department. Consequently, the largest part of my academic service during the last six years has been carried out under a job title of "Coordinator of Architectural Computing," with primary responsibility for building and supporting the technical and human context for ubiquitous digital media. This service has ranged widely, from getting grants to installing network wiring, from designing facilities and specifying equipment to training and supervising staff, and from negotiating special purchases and pricing to fixing printers in the early morning hours of final review week. On average over the last six years, this service work has represented a commitment of 20 hours per week, above and beyond teaching and research efforts per se.

For the first two years, with two simultaneous Macintosh studios and 50-75 students in computing courses, there was no computing staff support, and the total annual computing budget was about $5000 for hardware, software, and maintenance. With backup from Chuck Rusch, I networked the studios and the small computer lab, installed and maintained software and printers, provided general technical support, and sought external funding for expansion.

In January 1991, we received 10 new Mac IIcx-class computers and a LaserWriter IIg for a new central computer lab in Lawrence Hall, based on a grant proposal to Apple Computer which I had negotiated for several months. I began to hire and supervise student helpers to assist me with computer lab setup and maintenance.

That year, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts (AAA) also hired its first half-time computing support person, who was able to help significantly despite being spread across half a dozen departments with nearly a hundred faculty. The budgeted funding level for architectural computing remained about the same, at around $6000 for hardware, software, and maintenance. The following year the AAA staff person was increased to full time, but Architecture did not receive much more support, as administrative computing in the school claimed more staff time.

In 1992-93, a majority of the entering students enrolled in the optional Mac Studio program. In the first year design program that year, we had four computer-integrated studios and three traditional-only studios. As the Mac studios were expanding, the Digital Design Consultants idea was initiated when we hired a junior faculty member to work under my guidance and provide direct support to students in the studios for the intellectual component of digital design methods. Also that year I was the first author of an international paper by the Mac Studio teaching team on teaching design in the computer-integrated studios. Co-authoring the paper provided a rich opportunity for faculty education in digital media within the Mac Studio teaching team.

In 1993-94 the program grew to eight simultaneous Mac studios, with about 130 students in computing classes, although the annual computing budget still remained only around $6000. My subject teaching assignment in the winter term was a two-evenings-a-week introductory architectural computing class offered for the faculty of the department. The success of the Mac Studios and the hands-on faculty experience of the evening course led to a faculty resolution to enact a computer requirement for entering students, to go into effect in the Fall of 1995.

Just in time for the fall term of the 1994-95 school year, the Architecture Department finally hired its first dedicated computing support person in Architecture. Even though the position was only half-time, it was ably filled by a recent graduate, and I was at last able to delegate a substantial chunk of the day-to-day support work. It made my life much easier to supervise one professional support staff rather than a group of student staff, and we were finally able to begin a long process of systematizing the support operations. Also in 1994-95, the implementation of a new campus-wide educational technology fee raised our computing budget significantly for the first time, to about $17,000 for the year. A new departmental web server was brought on-line to supplement the instructional AppleShare server that had long been in use.

The 1995-96 school year was the first in which all entering students were required to have personal computer access. We had 10 or more simultaneous computer-integrated studios, and about 160 students in computing courses. Even more significantly, during the fall term at least three of the large required courses (from across the architecture curriculum) had four or more computer-required assignments. Our central laboratory with about 8 Power Macintoshes and 10 older machines was called on to support required computer work by perhaps 400 of our 600 total students. With the computing budget now up to about $25,000, and with strong support from the AAA Dean's office, we established a high-end output room, staffed by students about 60 hours and seven days a week, to support large-format and high-speed color printing, anchored by a color ink jet plotter and a Canon CLC 800 color laser copier with a Fiery rasterizer. These special resources are available 24 hours a day at the desktop for every student with a computer in studio.

It seems that we have passed the mid-point on our way toward achieving the vision of a fully computer-integrated architecture school, where each student and teacher has immediate access to the best tool for the task at hand. Back in 1990 we decided to thinking of computer graphics as a kind of "media" rather than as an "information processor". This thinking has now become commonplace, but for us it was instrumental in creating an environment in which time-tested traditional design tools and powerful new digital tools can not only exist side-by-side, but can interact productively in the pursuit of architecture. Computing is starting to become "part of the woodwork" at Oregon, and this has been my goal as Coordinator of Architectural Computing for the last six years.

Over these years, the number of computers and printers has increased more rapidly than the staffing level. Although I still seem to be the technical support resource of last resort, I have gradually been able to delegate more of the direct support, and to concentrate more on staff training, supervision, planning, and budgeting. Staff training in particular has been significant, as the modest available staff salary has inevititably resulted in entry-level hirings and substantial turnover.

In addition to carrying broad responsibility for the computing direction and infrastructure of my department, I have been assigned to and served on a full share of departmental and school-level academic and administrative committees.

I have also assisted at both the school and university levels with a series of special projects related to external and alumni relations and to campus-wide new media initiatives. Some of the special projects have included alumni talks in Eugene and San Francisco, a presentation to the State Board of Higher Education, and co-authoring the campus New Media Center proposal (December 1993). I also appeared in Possibilities, a national higher-education marketing video by Apple Computer, and in various local TV, Portland TV, and national TV programs. I was the only untenured mentor teacher featured in the university's capital campaign video, and I appeared on the front page of the Sunday edition of our statewide newspaper in a feature article on the future of higher education. Other uncategorized service includes an emergency rescue of the school-wide e-mail system, and writing a custom cataloging application for the department archives.

I am happy to have given my energy to this school, and to have been able to see such tangible results. I also feel a need to emphasize that these long-term efforts were made at great personal expense. The existence of a job title notwithstanding, the ever-increasing work of computing management in the department has continued to be uncompensated, and without significant connections to the rest of the departmental management structure. Further, bringing new technology into a traditional professional school inevitably encounters various kinds of resistance to change. If the agent of change is a junior member of the faculty, it is all too easy for the natural resistance to twist around into ad-hominem attacks, independent of rational basis. At times I have felt like a lightning rod for the anxiety of the community.

Many years ago I came across a passage in Craftsmen of Necessity by Christopher Williams, a book on vernacular buildings and craft methods. This quotation resonates for me since I personally worked for several years as a traditional blacksmith, but more to the point, it resonates in regard to computer integration in my department, and the role in which I have sometimes been cast.

"The blacksmith in some places is still regarded as a somewhat fearful person. His art is difficult to understand, his materials come from the depths, he moves about in a darkened recess, he builds and tends pits of intense heat, and pulls from them irons white with fire that he violently renders. But villagers know that the blacksmith, this outcropping of industrial technology, is highly essential to them as a bulwark against the realities of their difficult existence.
"The rhythm of the woodworker making a piece of a tree into a man-designed form is an action and atmosphere very removed from the environment of the blacksmith. Both require honesty and understanding, but the blacksmith works swiftly with forceful movements necessary to shape the red hot but still tough iron before it cools to require another heating. He is urgent and aggressive. The woodworker must be more methodical and sympathetic, quiet and alone."

A full measure of controversy has accompanied the great changes in the Department of Architecture over the last six years. Even though much of this controversy has not been well informed, it has sometimes been distressing. Eventually, the graphic successes of ever more students, visible daily around the school, will be accepted as a reliable measure of the computer integration initiative.

Looking forward, for the computing infrastructure of the department to be managed on a sustainable basis, I think the functional role of a director of computing in the department needs to be supported by greater levels of recognition and compensation than have been available to date. This role must also continue to be filled with intellectual vision as well as with administrative commitment. Recent accreditation and program reviews have observed correctly that we're doing great, but just have not had enough support to put the effort on a comfortable footing.


My research and creative work has generally paralleled the evolving application of digital design tools in the department. My choices of projects to pursue were strongly influenced by the needs illuminated in the day-to-day work of teaching and supporting computer-integrated architecture. The projects were designed to fill some of those needs, and have helped significantly. As the most personal of the three branches of endeavor, my research work has also been strongly driven both by my philosophy of architecture and by a vision of a new generation of design tools.

At the most basic level I think architecture is about buildings. That is, in my view architecture is not particularly about drawings, or even about architects, but is rather about the things we design and create for a larger and longer audience. As a natural consequence of this view, I have a flexible attitude about design tool and methods, as well as about building materials, aesthetic styles, and various contingent architectural considerations. My aim is design which finds inspiration in a deeply practical approach without being culturally, environmentally, or humanistically reductionist.

I share a widely voiced concern about some long-term trends of the architecture profession in the United States. Architects are becoming less like the master builders of history, as the commercial environment increasingly takes more of the conventional building process out of the scope of architectural decision making. These trends contribute to a gradual decline in the long-term quality of the important non-commercial aspects of building culture, and so to a long-term decline in the quality of the built environment.

My personal intellectual work represents an attempt to help counter this decline by working at the roots of the architectural process. This idea of contributing indirectly to the long term quality of the built environment proceeds along two related lines: on the understanding and appreciation of architecture in general, and on the empowerment of the architectural designer in particular. The Great Buildings Collection and DesignWorkshop, my two major publications, each work along these lines.

Although these publications are quite different--one being tool software while the other is content software, they also represent linked parts of a broader and longer range investigation. As architecture becomes more complex, the architectural designer needs more help in integrating the disparate pieces of the design problem and solution. Calling my research laboratory the "Design Integration Laboratory" expresses the idea of using information and communication tools to help connect the diverse fields of design consideration (including aesthetic, technical, humanistic, environmental, and cultural concerns) and to support a unification of goals and understanding among the designer, client, and building users.

In essence, The Great Buildings Collection is a tool to aid appreciation of architecture by the general public, a precedent study aid for the design student, and an efficient historical reference for the busy professional. It aims to help each of these audiences maintain or expand a positive sense of the great possibilities of architecture, based on the premise that a fundamental belief in the value of architecture is a prerequisite for a culture of architectural excellence.

At the first level, DesignWorkshop is a designer's communication tool, to assist self-communication, communication within the design team, and communication between designers and clients. If software can help designers to quickly and vividly externalize, evaluate, and enhance ideas of three-dimensional form, the resulting designs should be closer to the designers' real intentions. And, if the non-architect can be aided in understanding three-dimensional forms and their implications, the result should be closer to the client's intentions as well.

Along these lines, DesignWorkshop and The Great Buildings Collection are ends in themselves. However, taken together, and in concert with other ongoing projects in architectural visualization and digital groupwork, these projects also constitute intermediate way stations along the route toward a more comprehensive long-term goal. The unifying long term goal of all these projects is an eventual total building design system.

This long term research focus originated in my experiences working with large-scale CAD systems in the 1980s. My initial experiences as a CAD user, administrator, and teacher were on these high-end systems, which in theory could support a great range of architectural design tasks, with impressive suites of analytical and management tools on top of high-precision 2D/3D CAD engines. Yet in actual practice these systems were too complex to actually function as intended. As a user and teacher of these systems I was impressed by the scope of the vision behind them, and I was even more impressed by the expressive and communicative power of exploring building design through 3D solid modeling tools. But at the same time, it was clear that these expensive, complex, and relatively rigid systems could not serve the typical architect.

Studying this problem over time, I gradually developed a critique of large-scale traditional CAD systems which identifies three key problem areas. First, because of complex, attention-demanding command structures and linear, indirect geometric editing environments, it is extremely difficult to use traditional CAD software for generative design work. This is a fatal flaw in itself, because only when the generative design is actually done on the computer in an appropriate three-dimensional environment does the information content of the design efficiently become available for analytical leveraging and digital coordination. Second, with the cumbersome bottleneck of procedural data translation in traditional CAD systems, communication between the core geometric database and analytical accessories is inherently brittle and inflexible. Third, when and if building geometry and characteristics are ultimately designed efficiently and digitally coordinated and analyzed across a full range of architecturally significant issues, enormous amounts of information will be available, and they will need to be accessed effectively.

DesignWorkshop attempts to address the first issue--design effectiveness--with a flexible live 3D direct-manipulation basic interface plus command simplification through feature-based automatic mode control. The second issue of accessory data integration is gradually being addressed by the development of standardized object-oriented file formats that support transparent extension and data tunneling. I believe the answer to the third issue can be found in multimedia, which allows user-controlled access to mixed and layered information; as a multimedia collection of building information, The Great Buildings Collection has been a vehicle for early exploration in this area.

An especially important area of my current work is ongoing development of DesignWorkshop. The major new version nearing release brings interior lighting and realistic material appearances into the design-oriented working environment. These new technical capabilities have been matched with careful user-interface design to maintain the overall simplicity of the modeling environment.

Other current work is focused on making the lighting simulation power of the Radiance rendering system (from LBL) more and more accessible to designers and design students. A major project being developed with colleagues is focused on developing software technology and user-interface constructs for integrating computer-aided structural analysis with design-oriented modeling, further developing the feature-based modeling approach of DesignWorkshop. Another current project involves development of a system for producing, managing, and sharing architectural construction documents using the World-Wide Web. And work is about to start in earnest on a revision and update to The Great Buildings Collection.

Architectural Design

During the time I've been at the University of Oregon, the first focus of my personal intellectual work has been on creating new tools and methods to support architectural design. I don't see a necessary dichotomy between building design and software design -- there is substantial technical, behavioral, and aesthetic design work in digital tool-making. A passage from "Advanced C++: Programming Styles and Idioms" by James O. Coplien expresses my feelings about the fundamental nature of architecture, as well as the relationship of software design and building design:

"No activities so influence the quality of a product as do architecture and design. This is neither a new phenomenon nor unique to software or digital systems: The same has been true for decades in circuit design, and for millennia in the architecture of buildings. It is early in the life cycle, during architecture and design, that a system's long-term sustaining structure is put in place; this architecture includes facilities to ease repair and enhancement. Architecture and design also make major contributions to aesthetics--giving a system both elegance and beauty. A well-designed structure will endure nature well and accommodate evolution gracefully; a poorly-designed structure will fall victim to the elements early in its life, perhaps even collapsing under its own weight."
Because of the intensity of my tool building activity over the last several years, my own architectural design work has had to fit in around the edges. I have been able to enter a couple of major design competitions, and to take advantage of other opportunities for visual design work as they have arisen, including exhibition, marketing, and other graphic design. Architectural design continues to be personally important to me, and I hope that as the support of the computing infrastructure is progressively rationalized within the department I will have more time to pursue my own built creations. Recently I have also been developing connections to architectural design opportunities outside of Eugene, and I'm optimistic about the potential of these.

the Future

I would like to be able teach more advanced material. More help with the introductory curriculum would help make this possible. I would like to continue development of electronic classroom extensions like www-based teaching materials, which make so much sense for teaching in digital media (a natural forerunner), for teaching a curriculum which is expanding so much faster than the available faculty, and for teaching architecture in Eugene, Oregon (where as a practical necessity it falls on the shoulders of faculty to provide constant visual resources enrichment, since the architectural context of the local environment is quite limited. ) The level of service I have provided cannot be continued indefinitely without some kind of corresponding compensation and/or support. This issue needs to be taken up by the department in a way that takes into account the particular history of the last six years, and the real current conditions, but which transcends these to lead to a sustainable model for support in the department.

Whatever the department does in the future by way of supporting instructional architectural computing, I look forward to continuing opportunities to share knowledge outside of the classroom with students, fellow faculty, and outside the university, and to contribute thoughtfully to the administration and governance of the department, school, and university.

Every year the increasingly computer-literate new students provide a new challenge and an opportunity to take the curriculum farther. As we move through the second five years of digital media integration in our architecture and interior architecture programs, we're finding a broad new set of challenges and opportunities around the shift from use of digital media by early adopters to use by nearly everyone. The modeling software is opening new conceptual issues in design and design teaching even as it deepens in technical capability. The Web provides the first ready and affordable infrastructure for implementation of wide-area digitally-mediated groupwork in architectural design. Finally, I think the dream of a total building design system that truly enhances the craft and creativity of the designers is big enough to inspire many lifetimes.


I feel good about my six years at Oregon. What has made them work for me overall is the tremendous synergy I've found between the branches of teaching, research, and service. Together I think my work in these areas has added up to something significant.

At the bottom line, I believe I represent a tenure candidate with a strong case, who has taken on huge challenges in service of the university and the profession, motivated ultimately by the belief that each of us can contribute somehow to growing the beauty of our world. In this pursuit, I have challenged myself, my students, my colleagues, and my institution. In the final balance, is this something the University is capable of understanding, and rewarding? In the best spirit of the American university, a justified beacon in the history of human culture, the answer should be clear.

Important Note on Distribution Media --   This collection of academic background materials has been assembled primarily in the form of a hyperlinked World-Wide Web area, due to the importance of hyperlinks in many of the included digital originals. The web-based assemblage is also being printed and photocopied so a hardcopy reference is available to reviewers. While great efforts have been made to match the web and printed versions, unavoidable practical compromises mean that some items will be found only in either the web version or the hardcopy version. The live online web version will of course represent the most up-to-date assemblage, while some archival material remains only available in hardcopy.

Architecture Foyer | Architecture Index | Architecture Faculty | Matthews Index
This document is provided for on-line viewing only, except as printed by Author.
© 1996 Kevin Matthews, All Rights Reserved.
Posted 96.07.26 KMM, rev. 96.09.23