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Butterflies floating around at the RTC 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand

A conference such as Revit Technology Conference (RTC), is a concentration of a great deal of ideas, floating around as butterflies at the same place, at the same time, during three days. It is impossible to catch them all, because some of them are flying at the same time as our own events, or just before, or just after… For that reason, for me, it is important to look at all the handouts and presentation files of the conference, to learn something from all the speakers, even knowing that reading is just a small part of the experience, which is missing the speaker’s voice, presentation skills, comments, personality, even the jokes. So I want to compose this blog article with a brief comment and one collage image of just seven of the classes that I found in the handouts, which represent just a small portion of all the knowledge that was floating around there at the Langham Hotel in Auckland, New Zealand. There was a lot more to see; this is just a small selection…

By the way, some of these presenters and some of these classes (just some of them) will be available at the upcoming Revit Technology Conference in Vancouver, Canada (July 11-13, 2013). Or, you may want to attend the new RTC Europe, in Delft, The Netherlands. For a complete list of speakers of all the events this year, please visit this previous blog article. For my personal notes about RTC in Auckland, please visit this other previous article.

If you go to one of these future conferences and you see some nice and exotic butterflies like these ones, catch them:

Tim Waldock :
Fractal fun with Revit repeaters

In this lecture class, Tim Waldock has combined ideas from two previous lectures: “Designing in Revit using Parametric Formulas” (from RTC 2011) and “Divide & Conquer Adaptive Components” (from RTC 2012), and he has worked on answering the following question that was raised during one of his lectures last year: “What happens when you nest repeaters?” After lecturing about the roots of this topic in two previous events, in this third lecture Tim wants to reach the top of the possibilities of repeaters, going deeper and deeper each time, nesting once, nesting twice, nesting trice, to see what happens, until the point that Revit becomes slow and not responsive, and Tim is eager to see more powerful versions of Revit in the future.

Tim begins with an exercise about fractals, which are objects that are created by the combination of patterns that subdivide in smaller versions of themselves (upper right, in the image, above). He continues with the making of a beautiful pattern that is like a woven tapestry, with different depths (upper left ). Then he demonstrates how to combine and nest different elements that repeat at different frequencies, to create a fence, a fence that can follow the hills of a topography (lower, left). As if all this was not enough, at the end he demonstrates an exercise that requires three levels of nested repeaters, and with this he makes a beautiful model of the structure of a train station, a design by architect Santiago Calatrava. This is a great demonstration of a “what if” method of research on Revit until Revit can do no more.

To catch more ideas by Tim Waldock, visit his blog: RevitCat

Steve Stafford:
What is new in Revit Architecture 2014 [Architecture]

A new Revit version is like a box of surprises. Even after reading the usual reviews of “What’s new” in each year, one continues to find and learn little things of the new version every month, from April to April, until the new version comes in. Which means that none of the listings of “What’s new” can cover exactly all what is new. Which is a good thing, because there is always room for discoveries. In this lecture class, Steve Stafford exposes the new things of Revit 2014 by classifying the features into categories of “stuff”, like this: Big Stuff, Other Stuff, and Subtle Stuff. Considering the long list of features exhibited by Steve in the 47 pages of his comprehensive handout, I have to select just some of the features for a brief comment:

  • From the Big Stuff, Displaced Elements: A feature that was common in software for designing mechanical objects, is available now for buildings. I can think of some presentations in which this feature will be very handy: schematic design, architectural competitions, 3d details, logistics of construction.
  • From the Other Stuff: Point Cloud. I am impressed to see how much this idea is evolving. We don’t have to see a slow and confusing cloud of black dots anymore, but a colorful, lively, understandable cloud of points that actually make sense for the naked eyes, with the help of the new technology, which includes the new Autodesk ReCap application, included in the suite.
  • From the Subtle Stuff: I liked the new methods of selection, such as being able to select an object by hovering the mouse over the face of that object instead of selecting an edge. I also like to see that finally we have options about the double click feature, which were missing in 2013.

The handout is very well written, well organized, and full of the usual subtle things that Steve knows how to discover, with the same attention to detail that he puts in his blog posts.

To catch more ideas by Steve Stafford, visit his blog: RevitOpEd.

Ceilidh Higgins & Will Joske :
What’s in a room? Revit Models, Room Data Sheets
[Interior Design]

This is the longest handout of RTC AUS 2013. There is a handout with 70 pages by Marcello, a presentation of 81 pages by Aaron Maller, but this handout by Ceilidh and Will is the mother of all handouts this year: 111 pages!. Well, this class is a very interesting and elaborated story with one main character: the room entity. Before digging deep into rooms, Ceilidh talks about the dilemma of what to model. She asks this question: “What is a model made up of?” 3d Objects, 2d Objects, and Data. Yes, but what items in interior design should be 3d objects, 2d objects or Data? Well, she discusses the pros and cons, the bad practices and the good ones. Should we model a finish, or should we type the name of the finish in a parameter? What if we include the LOD (levels of details) into the equation?

Then she gets into rooms, parameters, and schedules. She makes us realize how important the room entity is for interior design work with Revit. She shows us how to prepare the rooms, how to fill them in advance with data, outside of Revit. To fill the rooms with data, she uses different tools in combination with Revit: Microsoft Excel, Ideate’s BIM-Link, RVT-Tools’ Shared Parameters Manager, and even the Visual Basic editor within Excel, to make macros. Using all these tools she creates a template, and she shows us how to apply this in a sample project, with colorful plans and schedules. Once we need the rooms in Revit, we use the template with the data that was created in advance, and we create rooms by selecting them from a pull down menu, and the rooms fill the spaces and populate the schedules with all these properties.

To catch more ideas by Ceilid Higgins, visit her blog: The Midnight Lunch.

Anthony McPhee:
BIM Execution Plans: avoiding the Noose
[BIM Management]

Anthony McPhee begins his handout with this shocking sentence: “There are many BIM Execution Plans, guidelines and examples floating around. But they are all fundamentally flawed”.

This must have been a very entertaining and informative lecture, with a breeze of fresh air. Why is it entertaining? Because of the presentation skills. Anthony used some old photographs, maybe from the 60’s (they make me remember some old black and white photos of my father). With these photographs, he creates all these characters that play a role in a building project. He begins with a photo of 3 guys. One guy is the owner, another guy is the architect, another guy is the engineer, and he presents them as “Wanted” for “not delivering BIM”, even describing their crime, the reward, and the precaution that the society must have about them. Then he uses a photo with 6 guys, the same three guys with the same roles, and two other guys who are representing the contractor, consultant, and so on… In some slides of the presentation he highlights one guy, then in another slide another guy… so he uses these roles and images to tell a story in a fun way, a story that is sometimes hard to listen to when it is told in more formal ways. Why is this class informative? Because Anthony includes a list of public BIM Execution Plans, and makes a brief comment about each of them, and provides all the links. Why is this class a breeze of fresh air? Because of Anthony’s critical approach, and because Anthony proposes at the end his own structure for a BIM Execution Plan (BxP), proposing new names for it, and different ways of organizing it. Anthony is critical about all the fuss about BIM, but if we are going to do BIM, he wants to make things very clear for all the parties involved. After the conference, he says in his blog, he was a bit “overBIMed”, as he prefers to deal more with his true love, architecture.

One of the sentences from Anthony’s last page of conclusions about what to include in your BxP is this: “Only include things you can control, and requests of what you want others to do”.

To catch more ideas by Anthony McPhee, visit his blog: Practical BIM.

Andrew Millburn:
The Way we Build: Official Propaganda for Fascists, Soap, and Finance

This is an original and fascinating lecture, in which the speaker is not actually teaching any features of Revit, but proposing Revit as a tool to analyze the composition, spatial organization, rhythm, language, structure, of some notable works of architecture, all this combined with a personal commentary of the life of the speaker and his relation with architecture, family, personal interests, and some buildings in particular. The three buildings chosen by Andrew for this personal analysis were:

  • The “Casa del Fascio“, a design by Giuseppe Terragni, built in Como, Italy, completed in 1936. The client was the Italian government at the moment, under the regime of Benito Mussolini.
  • The Lever House in New York, a design by Gordon Bunshaft of SOM, built in Manhattan, NY, US, in 1952. The client was the British soap company Lever Brothers.
  • The “30 St Mary Axe” building, known as the “gherkin” (cucumber), a design by the office of Norman Foster, completed in 2003. The client was Trafalgar House, a financial company based in London, UK.

What Andrew proposes to us in this lecture is to deviate from the “BIM-talk” and take more advantage of the usage of Revit as a visual thinking tool, a research tool; another step in our progress as a species, in our long journey to conquer drawing and visual representation, a journey that we started by drawing animal figures in the caves.

This class reminds me of something I used to do when I first discovered that I could draw a building in 3D, in AutoCAD, some 20 years ago. I remember having spent some countless but delicious hours modeling 3 buildings that I admired, just to learn about them, and I can tell you that, as Andrew has done with these buildings, you get to discover things that you could not see by just looking at drawings and photographs. The buildings I modeled were: from Corbusier: the Mill Owners Association Building and the Villa Shodan, both in Ahmedabad, India; and from Richard Meier, the Weinstein House in Old-Westbury, NY, US. With the years, I lost the models, of course, but I remember the excitement I had seeing the projects taking shape on the screen, column by column, wall by wall, as I was learning about the circulation, the structure, the organization, the proportions, the exterior-interior relations, etc. That’s the kind of exercise that Andrew is proposing us to do now with Revit, using it as a powerful tool for discovery, analysis, and self-education.

To catch more ideas by Andrew Millburn, visit his blog: Shades of Grey.

Aaron Maller:
Rethinking your Deliverables
[BIM Management]

As I said in my previous blog article, I had this class in my schedule, but I missed it because it happened to be at the moment when I was most tired. But now I regret having missed the class, because Aaron’s handout is brief, just 5 pages long, and I realized that I missed the core of the information which was listening to him. The presentation file is much longer, though, 81 pages, and it contains lots of nice graphics and brief text. So, based on that, I am going to try do my best to make an accurate comment of what the class is about.

Aaron talks about his experiences at Beck with three projects, like this:

  • Project 1: The Garden Trellis (upper right, on the image, above)
  • Project 2: Theater and Old Parkland (upper left)
  • Project 3: Hospital and Field Layout (bottom, right).

In describing what the office did in these projects, Aaron raises some very interesting questions about the validity of the traditional methods of delivery of a project. Questions such as “What does it mean to have a ‘model deliverable’ ?” or “Sending models instead of drawings?”, “What does paperless really mean?” In the project of the Garden Trellis, for example, the Beck Group made a model of the design even though they had not designed the Garden Trellis. They received the drawings in 2D AutoCAD for the Beck Group to be the general contractor, so they made a Revit model for coordination purposes, which became a valuable tool for the construction, especially for documenting with precision the elevations, rotations, inclinations, etc. of all the elements of the trellis. The model ended up being a tool for fine tuning the design for construction; at the end, the model was included in the final delivery for the subcontractors, along with the printed sheets. Is the model destined to become a more important deliverable than the construction documents, or perhaps the only deliverable? Aaron says, though: “Be careful what you wish for”.

Some acronyms suggested by Aaron in his presentation:

  • BIM : Building Imitation Modeling
  • DIM : Design Information Modeling

To catch more ideas by Aaron Maller, visit his blog: Malleristic Revitation.

Kelvin Tam:
Patternworks : Alternative Uses of Surface Division in Revit [Families]

It seems that my friend Kelvin Tam can model anything you can imagine, and once he finds the way he will document everything with nice illustrations. Just look at his blog. He has modeled all kinds of beautiful chairs, and platonic solids, and stars, just for the joy of learning. Having fun is a key condition to learn something. If you love something, you have fun with it, and Kelvin definitely has fun solving complicated models applying all kinds of combinations. In this very interesting lecture, he begins by making a list of all the methods that we have available for repeating elements in Revit. From all those methods, he uses mainly two for the exercises presented in this lecture. Those two main methods are:

  • Divided surface with pattern-based curtain panels.
  • A family with adaptive points, repeated with the the Divide & Repeat feature.

From al the exercises (about 10), I want to highlight 3 of them:

  • Exercise 2.3: “Fence” (lower, left, on the image, above). This is an inclined fence design, somewhat similar to the inclined glass railing that caught Kelvins’ attention at the museum of the Maori culture in Auckland (See photo). In this exercise, Kelvin creates an inclined surface that is filled with posts. The posts are inclined but their top and bottom surfaces must remain flat, which represents a challenge since each post has a different tilting angle. It’s an interesting and complex exercise that Kelvin resolves with a divided surface and pattern-based curtain panels.
  • Exercise 2.5: “Board Walk Railing” (upper, right). This design reminds me of the curvy bench that Antoni Gaudi built at the Park Guell in Barcelona. I don’t know if Kelvin was inspired by that design, but the results of his exercise are similar. Beautiful model. He begins with a path, then he creates a surface with the path, then he makes an adaptive picket that is applied to the surface, then he completes the design with all the other accesories.
  • Exercise 2.6: “Stadium Seating” (lower, right). Who would have thought that you could consider the sloped slabs of a stadium as a surface that could be divided with curtain panels as chairs along with the concrete steps, having the steps and the chairs in the same panel? Kelvin! Brilliant solution! With this, he can create a seating that is not only at the correct slope but also parametric, and with the steps in between rows.

To catch more ideas by Kelvin Tam, visit his blog: Revit Swat.


Well, believe me, there is a lot more than this in an RTC event. Don’t miss the next one if you want to catch the ideas that fit the best for your work. There are excellent classes about API, about formulas, Navisworks, Families, MEP, Structure, Robot, Grasshopper, Point Cloud, Revit Server, VEO, etc., you name it… it’s there.

Notes and credits

1. The images for the two true butterflies on the first image come from the website of the James Cook University in Australia.
2. The image for the other ‘butterfly’, “Revitamia Origamis“, is the new strange registered logo of Autodesk Revit (2014). It kind of looks better rotated.
3. The credits for the images included in the collage images that I made for each handout belong to the speakers.
4. The handouts and presentation files are available for the attendees of the event, only, and are under RTC’s administration. 13 months after the event, the handouts will become public domain.
5. Another related article in this blog: My personal notes from the Revit Technology Conference 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand6. Another related article in this blog: Upcoming Revit Technology Conferences in 2013

See you in our next blog…

2013 Planta1.com, inc. , Alfredo Medina | permission to reproduce this article is granted if the name of the author and the URL of this article receive proper credit.


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