Category Archives: Crap

RTCAUS 2015 Prelude

Later this evening I get on a plane that will keep me locked up for more than 26 hours and then release me on the southern hemisphere. In Brisbane, Australia, to be more precise. There I will hook up with my buddy Arnfinn, before venturing to Gold Coast and RTCAUS 2015.

At RTCAUS I will give two Dynamo presentations; Dynamo in Structural Design and Enhance Your Project Workflow with Dynamo. Both should be pretty awesome. If you are going to the conference and haven’t signed up for them, I suggest you do. You will learn lots of basic Dynamo. You’ll also see some pretty advanced stuff, like for instance use of Konrad K. Sobon’s Mantis Shrimp, that creates a live link between Grasshopper and Dynamo.

Mantis Shrimp allows users to live update Dynamo and Revit from a Rhino/Grasshopper session

Mantis Shrimp allows users to live update Dynamo and Revit from a Rhino/Grasshopper session

I also look forward to hooking up with Adam Sheather and Jon Mirtschin again. Keen the beer cold guys!

The Voice Inside My Head

There’s a voice inside my head.

It constantly reminds me of how retarded I am. How much mess is going on inside my impulsive and unfocused mind. It reminds me of how many smart real engineers I know. Smart people who know and do actual engineering for a living. They build stuff, or do advances finite element analysis. I wouldn’t be able to build a wood shed even if someone bought all the tools and materials. Says the voice inside my head.

The voice inside my head points out, with surprising accuracy, how much harder my coworkers work. It elaborates passionately about how much real hard labor they lay down each god damn night, while I sit and play around with my ego trip software nerd dream. When I travel to conferences to talk with all the other ego trip software nerd people, my coworkers carry the weight of real projects back at the factory. They pay with blood sweat and tears so that I can drink free beer with the international Charlie Foxtrot of drooling technology freaks who gather in highly lit halls to enjoy pipe dream rants about the future of design. The voice asks me, “what the hell are you doing here? You’re not making the world better. Go do some real engineering and stop embarrassing yourself with that ridiculous Thor Heyerdahl accent. Like the Swedish Chef you go on about oodie boodie schmoodie like there’s no tomorrow”.

Before I get on stage, the voice inside my head gets really excited. It goes on and on about all the shit that can go wrong. All the public humility that awaits me when I produce some stupid impulsive rant sentence that nobody understood, or that someone got offended by. It reminds me how low level my content is, how far it is from real engineering and how ridiculous it is for a guy who failed four times at Laplace and Fourier to be lecturing real engineers in computational design. It’s super ironic, says the voice, that the most unintelligent homo sapiens ever to walk out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with a not fake Master’s diploma is lecturing real engineers in advanced application of periodic functions in structural design. It points out, with painful precision, that it’s all copied from smarter people’s work. It suggests the only reason I keep getting invited to speak is they are charmed by my Scandinavian joviality or perhaps they have some sort of foreign speaker’s quota of some sort. The voice inside my head can be quite entertaining actually. Except when I’m about to enter the stage. Then it terrifies me.

Funny thing, my son doesn’t seem to have that voice. He’s my son – it should be genetically inherited, like mine was. No, he just approaches strangers anywhere with all kinds of weird questions and statements. He can stand in front of a whole line of adults and perform any retarded combination of movements and words. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Imagine if I acted like that during a real engineering project meeting, or during any of my professional presentations about serious topics like building information modeling. Or imagine if I brought some elements of my son’s apparent lack of head voice while discussing project delivery requirements or demand specifications with Project Managers and Building Owners. Just the fact that I write Project Manager with capital letters makes me shiver with fear at the thought of not containing myself within the boundaries of expected behavior.

But is this real? “Hell yes!” responds the voice inside my head. I’m not sure.

The people I meet after my presentations always seem very happy, and while I’m sure there are always some who thinks I’m an alpha jackass, I seem to get pretty good reviews too. The people I work with seem to be doing well as far as I can tell. I’m convinced that some are frustrated by the overload of real serious detail design project work, and that some are skeptical about what I do and even my personality. But most seem pleased to see me in the morning, and I get lots of attendees when I arrange internal knowledge development sessions. I also get real vocal positive feedback at some of the design work that I do. And sometimes, when I pull a stupid joke in front of a project manager, she laughs. And then I think I did something good, because John Cleese did a famous presentation on creativity, where he claimed that laughter was one of the most important catalysts in creative work. He should know.

This makes me wonder if others feel the same way. Would it help if I actually told someone who did something really awesome how I felt about it? If I think a person is doing a real good job, or that I’m impressed with the presentation skills of a friend who just came off stage – would the appreciate me helping silence their voice?

Below is a picture of Aaron Maller during his gala dinner software presentation in Dublin a month ago. Aaron get’s pretty nervous before he talks in front of people, just like me. But when he get’s on stage, he’s absolutely amazing, like in Dublin. All software failed and there were (as you can see) at times four or five persons on stage with him trying to fix technical issues while Aaron held the mic. That’s pressure. But with articulation, speed and wit he delivered an epic elevator pitch-like presentation. It was funny and informative, while at the same time maintaining a clear view of where it was going. I wish I had that capability. When I talk it always feels like I have the overview and course of a maggot. (Go away, voice!)

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The voice inside my head is there for a reason. It’s controlling me with fear. I need it. We need fear to stay alive. But not too much. I need to be able to control it with objective information about the world around me.

It would be absolutely hilarious if my boss read this and thought “He is actually doing a pretty bad job and I need to fire his lazy ass”. That’s okay. But I don’t need the voice inside my head telling me that. I need real feedback. From real people. And I’m going give that to others. Starting from today.

Dark at Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014

In about 24 hours my colleagues, friends and me depart for Dublin and Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014. This year’s conference is the second ever, with the first being held in Delft, Netherlands a little over a year ago. That was a truly epic event, and I am confident we will bring the level of awesome in the building design industry community to new heights this weekend.

Thomas, me, Kaja, Lars, Vilde, Arne and Ricardo are heading for Dublin and RTC Europe 2014

Thomas, me, Kaja, Lars, Vilde, Arne and Ricardo are heading for Dublin and RTC Europe 2014

My company Dark Architects is sending a total of seven architects to Dublin this year. That’s 13 % of our entire crew of employees, and I’m proud of our ambitions and willingness to invest in the digital design knowledge among our young designers. I am also exited to introduce the brilliant people that I work with to my tribe; the characters leading technology development and dissemination in the building design industry world wide. I want Ricardo to meet Julien Benoit, who I met in Delft a year ago, and who has become one of my best friends since. I want Vilde to meet Kelly Cone from Texas. Kelly did a swing class at RTC North America in Chicago in June, and I’m hoping Vilde will perform a similar Riverdance session on Saturday. I hope Anthony Hauck and Jim Lynch will come over and say hello to Arne, who has been pushing their software to the brink of exhaustion the last couple of six or seven years. Kaja will surely enjoy meeting Jose Fandos, almost as much as Jose will enjoy meeting Kaja. With nervous anticipation I’m waiting for Lars to meet up with Aaron Maller. Both should have a thing or two to say about the higher purposes of life, and both are by far two of the most brilliant humans I have ever met. And I’m looking forward to introducing Thomas to Dynamo Grand Master Andreas Dieckmann. Thomas has been working at Dark for less than a year, but has already written Python scripts for my Dynamo iterations. Those two brains should be able to perform miracles together. Hooking up with my roadtrip buddies Jay and Martijn is a reunion I can’t wait to have. Our drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas last year is going to stick with me for a long time, hence will they.

The Eight Knights of Castle Awesome

The Eight Knights of Castle Awesome

On Friday and Saturday I will host my two class sessions, and I can honestly say I have never before been looking so much forward to presenting at a conference. It’s the first time ever I present at an international event in Europe, and both classes are going to be so much fun. The first is a 75 minute presentation (I click and talk, you watch and listen) on Computational Logic in Structural Design. This is a repeat of topics I discussed and taught in Melbourne and Chicago previously this year, and I have now streamlined the content further since then. Migrating to Revit 2015 and Dynamo 0.7.2 has been much work, but the process has helped reinforce my understanding of how visual programming works.

Two complete Dynamo handouts

Two complete Dynamo handouts

The personal highlight of the entire conference will however been Julien and my joint double lab (we click and talk, while you click and ask questions) session on Saturday. The content is brand new, the exercises are AWESOME and the handouts are straight from the press. If the material covered in this lab does not create some discussions about Dynamo, I don’t know what will. I’ll mostly be covering simple basic math, but Julien’s research on Python and Revit API possibilities in structural design is mind blowing. Here’s our teaser preview from June:

My biggest worry for the weekend is the dress code for the Saturday night gala dinner. My presentations are all set and done, all travel arrangements are good, but this small note in the conference details is terrifying me: “semi-formal”. What is this? What do I wear? What do I not wear? What will happen if I put on mismatching pieces of clothing? Do I put on a tie or not? So many potential mistakes to be done. Luckily, there’s always Google to the rescue, and in case others struggle with the same paranoia, here’s an excerpt from an article I found both useful and frustrating:

“Groom correctly. Remember to take a nice long shower, style your hair, and shave your face before attending a semi-formal event. If your hair is getting long, make sure you cut it before you attend the event, or you will look disheveled. Take time with your appearance before you leave the house.”

Apparently semi formal requires that you do wear a tie and a suit, but most importantly DO NOT EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WEAR A TUXEDO. Good to know. Here’s the entire article: How to Dress Semi Formal for Guys

Groom correctly

Groom correctly

In  June Steve Stafford remarked that my t-shirt and shorts matched my red eyes poorly, and I’m firmly determined not to let the man down again.

See you all in a little while, and be prepared to raise our universe’s total level of awesome a few notches more.

Dynamo for Structural Design at RTCEUR 2014

One of this year’s definitive personal highlights will be the dual lab Julien Benoit and I will be hosting at the Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014 in Dublin by the end of October. My recent adventures at RTCAUS in Melbourne (read more here) and Julien’s unstoppable research has produced some interesting results, particularly on working with Adaptive Components, Structural Framing, Analytical Models and Loads effectively. We’ve made a short teaser to show a glimpse of what you can expect to learn if you decide to show up on the green island.

Sign up for the conference: Revit Technology Conference Europe 2014

Julien’s blog: AEC, you and me

See you there!

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

Space Frame with Structural Framing in Dynamo

The Passion of You

It was damn cold in Drammen in October.

My girlfriend’s mother’s old bicycle was struggling underneath me, more because of the state of the bike itself than the weight it’s passenger. It was damn early as well.

It was 7 am and I was on my way to the warehouse where I worked for the time being. After a summer of all kinds of weird and unpleasant jobs I had finally managed to get a steady income working indoors, sorting athletic gear and underwear. Being a graduated engineer with a master’s degree in structural analysis and design in 2003 was pretty hard. I didn’t have the best grades and the market was slow. So slow that I had to take whatever work that would pay my bills.

And every morning, riding my girlfriend’s mother’s old bike, I passed the huge castle where one of the biggest and most renowned engineering companies in Drammen had their offices. The building was located some distance up a hill, and loomed majestically as I passed, shivering in awe.

I had been trying to get an opportunity at the company, but nobody wanted to take a chance in a very uncertain building industry. After some time though, they accepted my initiatives and I got a job working as an engineer 5 months after graduation. I still remember the day as one of the happiest moments in life. I would be working in a heated office – a castle! – not a cold warehouse. I would even get my own computer and a telephone.

During my studies I had come across 3D modeling in AutoCAD and 3ds max, and was naturally both pleased and excited that I’d be working with the former. LT actually, but who cares – there was warm coffee in the kitchen! I’d done some pretty advanced modeling in acad, learnt sweeps and extrusions, and boolean operations. I had also learnt how to blow everything up in max. I knew I liked it, and I knew I could do it pretty good.

9 months later I sat at the same place, staring at my computer screen. I was the world champion of offsetting lines and counting rebars. Every time a design changed, I’d redo some pretty basic calculations, offset lines and count the rebars over again. And over again. I never saw the faces of the architects that I worked with and I very rarely did more advance engineering work than validating concrete foundations and wood structures. I had become disillusioned and demotivated. Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful to the leaders and colleagues how took me in when no one wanted me, but I was simply not passionate about the tasks I was doing.

By 2005 I got a job offer. Through coincidences and connections I was approached by a company who needed someone to teach 3D AutoCAD. Both my mother and father were teachers, I knew I loved 3D and the decision became pretty easy to make. I spent 3 months preparing my first Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT) Basic Training session, and learnt more during the 3 days of the course then I did preparing. After a few of the next training sessions I learnt all the modeling tools, the Style Manager and even the infamous Display Manager.

Then one day I saw it.

I still remember the venue outside Barcelona in the summer of 2005. Tatjana Dzambazova and John Adams were showing cross-disciplinary coordination using a software called Revit. After them, a tall man with a big ass afro – David Conant – strolled up on stage showing off some features in this apparently groundbreaking program. It soon became apparent that all the cool guys used Revit rather than ADT, and it din’t take long before I started playing around with it. I bought Paul Aubin’s Mastering Revit Building 9.1, and after some months learning I got a new job teaching Revit.

Almost 6 years later, in December 2012, I stood in a carpet room at Autodesk University Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada, talking to the participants who had just attended my first ever presentation off Norwegian soil. I had talked, stuttered and fumbled about concrete reinforcement modeling in Revit for 90 minutes, and was ready to find a bar with some Aaron Maller in it. At that exact moment I realized that I had just found the core of my passions: teaching others about the tools I wish I had nine year ago. Showing young architects and engineers that there are more things to a working life than offsetting lines – that we can build, coordinate and analyze digital 3-dimensional prototypes before they are built, and do so with building blocks that are connected in a database that allows you to revise your design instantly. Anywhere. Any time.

Last year, in 2013, I read Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I have developed a firm belief that one of the biggest potentials for innovation in the building design industry is helping young people find their passions. I know this from my own experience. In order to do great work you need to be passionate about what you do; In order to do great creative work you need to absolutely fucking love it.

Robinson says that there are two main features and two conditions that need to be in place in order for an individual to discover her Element. The features are aptitude and passion, and the conditions are attitude and opportunity. The sequence goes like this: I get it; I love it; I want it; Where is it?

I really like the way Sir Ken Robinson finishes his book:

To make the best of our time together on this small and crowded planet, we have to develop – consciously and rigorously – our powers of imagination and creativity within a different framework of human purpose. Michelangelo once said, ” The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” For all our futures, we need to aim high and be determined to succeed.

To do that each of us individually and all of us together need to discover the Element.

Have you found your passion? Do you know your Element? Does time fly when you concentrate on the fun parts? Does your work include fun parts at all? Do you know anyone who definitely know their Element? Do you know anyone who definitely don’t? Ask yourself these questions, and in case you have found yours: help someone else find theirs.

It was damn warm in Las Vegas in December. I looked back at the sea of change and wondered where my (ex) girlfriend’s mother’s bike was.

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Why am I doing what I’m doing: A rant about challenges for a professional technologist and visions for the future

Double-curved wall reinforcementIn my handout material for the already mentioned class at Autodesk University I wrote an introduction discussing my motivation for doing what I’m doing. This is only a part of my motivations, and written with concrete reinforcement in mind. However, I believe in all possible humbleness that the words are too good to reside in a pdf attachment. Perhaps someone else reading this can relate to it? Is that the case with you? Then I’d very much like to hear from you! And if you think this is crap? Well, let me know that as well 🙂

When I first started working as a structural engineer back in 2003, I was introduced to the concepts of reinforcement drawings and bending schedules for the first time. This was of course something we never saw at the university, where static, dynamic and finite element analysis covered the curriculum. Little was I to know that these drawings and schedules were to be my main occupation the first years. And now, looking back, not always did I feel like Michelangelo drawing away.

Today, most of my fellow engineers and I are modeling almost all reinforcement in our projects in 3D. Some structures are harder to master, but most are quite easy. We are planning for our skills and knowledge to append a future where all fabrication detailing is done in a 3D database, and what better 3D database than Revit?

Our two biggest challenges in doing this are efficiently modeling reinforcement in non-rectangular, curved and double-curved concrete forms, and the shouting valley of a gap between new BIM and old CAD. The first problem is something I will discuss shortly.

The last problem is one we share with our software vendors. They are given an impossible task by us; “Please make the most sophisticated modeling software in the history of humankind, and make it how I want it in 5 years. At the same time, make it compatible with 50 year old symbolic drawing standards.” How do you solve a problem like that? As I said, and in particular this is true for reinforcement, we are faced with the same challenge when we need to model all reinforcement in a 3D building information model, and simultaneously represent and communicate it in the same way as we did 20 years ago. It is the ever present gap between future and past. In the end we are dealing with humans. And many humans love the past.

The future, however, is way more exciting. The future is a place where everything that is to be built is represented in an intuitive 3D model, just the way it is going to be built. The future is a place where the materials ordered and delivered on site, is done so from the same high-detail 3D model. The future is a world where engineers and contractors communicate design using the most intuitive way possible yet; the visual 3-dimensional representation of future.

Then, perhaps, we can feel more like Michelangelo.

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