The Role of Adaptable Context Representations in Computer Aided Design Activities
Architectural design is characterized by the important relations between the design object, the user and the urban context. A building cannot move to it's own specific market. Buildings should function in the environment where they stand, for several decades or even for centuries. Therefore, the experience of the urban environment as context for architectural design is an important starting point for most architects. Design problems are initially ill-defined. A process of exploration, conceptualization, development of alternative solutions and tests of the initial ideas is needed to find interesting and useful solutions. The urban context of a building site can provide hints, inspiration and constrains for various architectural design options. By means of design media, that represent the urban context, the design process can get the form of a constructive conversation between the designer and the applied design media. This paper will report on an almost finished PhD research for design support systems that visualize the urban environment as a context for new architectural design. The main experiment focused on the constructive conversation while the architect and the researcher 'wandered' through the digitally represented urban environment. Six architects participated each in two design sessions. During the sessions all actions and reactions were recorded. The virtual reality system showed a 3D-model of a specific urban setting and it allowed to interactively change view-position and to alter various representation types. Thus, the architects were provided with much contextual data for a specific design task. The evaluation of the recordings focused on how the provided data served as information for the architect and subsequently how this information triggered the emergence of their design ideas. The insights contribute to the current knowledge about the architectural design process, design media and about 3D-models for design. This new knowledge is supposed to lead to more efficient and creative use of existing tools and to developments of new types of design media with new features, which are in accordance with appropriate modes of representation. The gained insights can also lead to a more effective organization of 3D-urban models so that, during the design process, different needs for information can be better supported with accurate visualizations. This paper will briefly focus on the research framework, the hypotheses and some conclusions of the research.