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Introduction to DesignWorkshop

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A Simple Modeling Environment

DesignWorkshop is a three-dimensional modeling program for architectural design and related endeavors. Its unique interface makes it more profoundly "Mac-like" than any prior modeling software. This interface allows it to support actual design in three dimensions, as opposed to just recording design ideas already worked out with other media.

The power and flexibility of DesignWorkshop are based on the direct manipulation of 3D objects in three-dimensional space. This is accomplished with a three-dimensional crosshair, controlled by the standard Macintosh mouse. Dragging the mouse around on the table top moves the crosshair around in a horizontal plane, and dragging the mouse with the Option key (the Alt key for Windows) held down (option-dragging) moves the crosshair vertically in the model space.

Models are built from solid objects such as blocks, which are drawn with the Block tool by dragging out a base rectangle, and then option-dragging up the height in continuation. Although a full range of views are available for editing, most work is accomplished in a realistic perspective or axonometric view.

Maximum Power from the Minimum Number of Tools

To adjust and create building forms, basic blocks can be built and transformed in various ways. No specific menu commands or tool icons are needed for most transformations in DesignWorkshop, including moving, resizing, reshaping, extruding most objects. Just push and pull on the objects and their handles to accurately create almost any building form.

Instead, these transformations are part of the DesignWorkshop environment, performed with the default selection cursor. For instance, a block can be resized or reshaped (in three dimensions) by dragging on object handles. Non-quadrilateral solid objects can be created by drawing a polyline profile and then pulling the profile out into space. This extrusion is done by dragging up on an object handle, again with no special mode or command necessary.

To summarize, when in the default selection mode, to move a block, drag it in three dimensions from anywhere except on one of its handles. To resize a block, drag on a corner handle of the block (shown in solid black). To move one edge of a block, drag on a mid-edge handle, (shown in outline). To tweak a block, meaning move just one corner to distort the block out of square, command-drag on a corner handle (with the Command key (the Control key for Windows) held down before the mouse button for dragging). Finally, to extrude a 2D polyline into a true 3D solid, just drag up on a corner handle (using the Option key).

Viewing operations are also simple and direct. To move the eye-point, click on the Eye tool, and then drag in the model window to move your viewpoint around or over the model. To move in and out from the model, option-drag with the Eye tool. The center of interest is moved similarly with the Look tool (target icon). When the Eye or Look tool is selected, views can be nudged with the arrow keys (with option up-arrow to move in or option down-arrow to move out).

The "working orientation" of the crosshair can be changed with an icon click to facilitate horizontal extrusion, drawing in an elevation plane, and vertical rotations. More specific manipulations can be accomplished with particular tools, as described in the tools section.

Design-Oriented CAD

DesignWorkshop has been created from the ground up to provide a powerful, natural, broad-spectrum design environment for architects and related designers. Graphically oriented computers have become an efficient means for the production of construction documents, but despite large advances in computer graphics capabilities, traditional computer-aided drafting software has failed as a professional tool for creative design work. DesignWorkshop is different. Over a period of years, our research has focused on the interaction between existing design media, such as pencil and paper sketching, and design processes. This has provided the foundation for a new approach to design-oriented CAD.

It is vital for any real design tool to get out of the way of the creative process. In the hands of an experienced user, pencil and paper certainly get out of the way. With a moderate amount of practice, the classic Macintosh 2D drawing interface also gets out of the way, allowing the designer to focus on images and ideas. This is possible because the total interface including noun-verb selection syntax, direct graphic manipulation of objects, and a minimalist iconic command set allows the designer to produce graphic results with a small set of fairly general functions.

This power of the Macintosh drawing interface is opposite in approach to traditional CAD software, which tends to use a large set of very specialized commands to produce drawings in a painstaking and linear process. But, in the traditional CAD environment, becoming more expert can actually make it more difficult to get back to a creative aesthetic or problem-solving mode, as command complexity is accumulated.

DesignWorkshop solves this contradiction by extrapolating the classic Macintosh drawing approach into three dimensions, building a familiar-seeming though fundamentally new interface. The interface is familiar because it builds directly on the standard Macintosh way to perform key operations. For instance, to move an object, the user can simply click on it, then drag it to a new location anywhere in the model space. To resize an object, the user selects and then drags on object handles. Advancing these familiar methods from the 2D Macintosh drawing world into 3D provides tremendous modeling flexibility using just a few commands.

True 3D Direct Manipulation

The DesignWorkshop interface is also fundamentally different. To allow 3D direct manipulation, interaction is based on a three-dimensional crosshair, easily controlled by the standard mouse. Dragging the mouse around on the table top moves the crosshair horizontally, in an x-y plane, while dragging with the Option key (the Alt key for Windows) moves the crosshair vertically. By dragging the mouse and pressing and releasing the Option key, the crosshair can be moved quickly anywhere in the model space. The 3D crosshair brings the design tool into the model space, instead of floating across the 2D window like a normal cursor. This is the foundation for a complete 3D analog of the classic Macintosh drawing environment.

The proof of this approach is that major 3D editing operations like moving, resizing, and reshaping objects are accomplished interactively in perspective or axonometric view in the default selection mode, without giving any commands. Poly-lines are extruded into solid objects just by pulling up on them (or sideways, if the lines were drawn in an elevation plane). DesignWorkshop will automatically supply a missing segment if necessary to form a solid when extruding, and extrusions are readily reshaped, interactively, in place, with object-global transformations in default mode or by local transformations when in the special reshape or faces modes.

Feature-based Solid Modeling

The crosshair is coupled with an underlying object-oriented geometric structure classified as feature-based solid-modeling. This approach means, for instance, that a complete 3D window object can be put in a solid wall object just by clicking on the Opening tool icon, then dragging a rectangle on the face of a selected wall. The crosshair aligns to the wall automatically. After the opening has been drawn, it can be selected by clicking and then moved around the wall, and it size and proportion can adjusted by dragging on a corner handle. It is duplicated by the Duplicate menu function (or the standard Command-D shortcut), or deleted by hitting the Delete key (the Backspace key for Windows), leaving a solid healed wall.

Innovations at other levels of the program support the three-dimensional architectural design environment. Two innovations that support accurate working in free 3D space are Space-Jump and "projection lines". Space-Jump allows instant setting of the crosshair to the position of an existing object handle (for instance, to draw a roof on top of a wall or building mass) by converting a 2D alignment of the 2D cursor into a 3D alignment of the 3D crosshair when the spacebar is tapped.

Projection lines are like outline shadows cast vertically from objects down onto the ground plane. These show automatically for selected objects and objects being created, and for other objects as turned on and off with functions in the Arrange menu. The viewer's perceptual system learns to automatically and unconsciously use the projection lines in building a correct mental model of a 3D scene in wireframe view. For instance, without projection lines you might not be able to see the difference between a small block close to the view point and high above the ground versus a large block in the distance sitting on the ground.

Beyond Working Planes

The 3D crosshair makes the traditional "working planes" concept somewhat obsolete, because the 3D crosshair allows immediate access to all parallel planes. (This family of parallel planes includes all those perpendicular to the current "z" axis.) Instead, we talk about the "working orientation," which can be switched instantly from plan to an elevation plane or to the perpendicular elevation plane. Also, with a simple double-click on the arbitrary working orientation tool, the working orientation can be set to any arbitrary location, twist, and tilt in space, or matched instantly to the attitude of a selected object or object face.

The viewing tools are also based on 3D direct-manipulation, and from the building designer's perspective. On a typical hardware-graphics 3D workstation, dynamic view controls are used to move a part around on screen to see it from different angles. This is subtly incorrect for architectural work, because, unlike mechanical parts, buildings do not move. In life, to see a building from another aspect, the viewer moves rather than the building.

Immersion-based View Controls

Much as we move through the real world, in DesignWorkshop, dragging in the scene with the Eye tool moves the viewpoint around the scene in real time, pivoting around the center of interest. Holding down the Option key (the Alt key for Windows) while dragging up or down moves the viewpoint into or out from the scene. The Look tool is used to drag around the center of interest, or "look point", providing the equivalent of standing in one place and looking around. With simple, interactive view adjustment, shifting the view a bit to see the project differently, check a sight line, or inspect an alignment becomes natural, frequent, and nearly unconscious.

Fast 2D zooming functions allow the user to get into and out of detail, and 2D panning is controlled by standard Mac scroll bars. Multiple windows can be opened simultaneously showing a model from several views, and multiple models can be opened at once, with standard clipboard cut-and-paste of 3D objects between models. Particular views are easily saved, with the name of each saved view added to the bottom of the View menu for easy access. These saved views form the starting point for walkthrough scripting, with variable interpolation.

The goal of making DesignWorkshop a fast and efficient tool for architecture has driven the detailed modeling features as well as the fundamental interface. For instance, the Edit menu Wallify function turns multiple selected massing blocks into walls enclosing spaces in one menu pick. The Object Info box allows direct inspection and quick numerical editing of object dimensions, orientation, etc. Objects carry material information, and, optionally, object names and data. All coordinate information is floating point, so there are no worries about scale changes and rounding errors.

At any stage in its development, a model can be viewed and edited in shaded or hidden-line view for visual completeness, or in wireframe for speed. The shading routines include such architectural niceties as automatic poché of cut faces in section views. Shadowcast renderings are done in 32-bit color with an object-oriented algorithm, and sun angles are set by time, date, and latitude. The sun study function renders sequential time-lapse frames in parallel and directly saves QuickTime movies.

The Virtual Building Toolkit

Now with DesignWorkshop, automatic texture-mapping coupled with real-time QuickDraw 3D rendering makes detailed visualization easy for interiors and landscapes as well as building exteriors. With personal computer technology constantly improving, the combination of easy direct manipulation modeling with realistic immersion viewing is no longer just a dream or a promise. With DesignWorkshop, it's right at your finger tips.

Whether your work is traditional architectural design, or modeling of virtual spaces for the Internet, theatrical or exhibit design, interior or exterior, in rough early design sketches or in beautiful renderings for marketing a completed project, DesignWorkshop is probably just the fastest way to bring your creative ideas to life.

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