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ACUE 2004, nottingham . . .

thursday 9th september

david nicholson-cole kicked-off the event with a welcome, his usual infectious enthusiasm, and a mobile phone call in the middle of his speech! welcome to ACUE 2004 . . .

james murray's 'encounter group'
james, freshly landed from the US, held court over a large and diverse group of people and practices from several different countries. our focus began with the 'ideal' of the virtual building and the need to bring the 'reality' closer to achieve a more efficient and better documentation output. this led to talk of GDL and the importance it has to play in this regard, but the lack of knowledge in this field, and the lack of real life objects and commitment from manufacturers (or graphisoft to promote GDL) that makes this difficult.

in summing up the findings and discussions of all encounter groups this seemed to be a recurring theme!

evening keynote presentations
this began with the self-styled "warm-up act", ben walbank, showing some stunning images and documentation drawings from his current project at HRA in london, proving that with vigilance and a carefully managed process, the virtual building concept can prove extremely beneficial. his discussion ranged from the need for the model for simple clash detection to a complete and efficient production of construction documentation.

mitch boryslawski took this a step further in demonstrating the importance of the virtual building model to project managers and contractors with his letterman digital arts center project. he takes full responsibility for the production of the model himself in his position between flatCAD consultants and the contractors. in a similar, but bigger and more complex, than kajima last year, he further reinforced my belief that the change in the industry to BIM solutions will be led by the contract team rather than from the design consultant field.

the bar
was extremely full! and i took the opportunity to catch up on a few promised drinks . . . thanks to everyone!
b e n f r o s t
b f [a t ] p l a n b a r c h i t e c t u r e [d o t] n z
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friday 10th september
graphisoft morning
mark sawyer, VP of worldwide sales kicked off 'graphisoft morning' with a presentation dedicated to the company's performance and directions of growth. graphisoft have just opened a south-east asian office to promote their products in the region. the chinese market has a staggeringly large potential customer base (45,000 employees in the ministry for construction alone!), with a huge construction programme.

it was interesting to note that the UK and australian archiCAD sales figures were the only two regions down from this time last year. mark suggested that the further marginalisation of the role of architect here in the UK could have something to do with this. he hoped that we wouldn't be offended by this remark, but from my point of view there was no offence taken. i actually agree wholeheartedly - it's one of the reasons why i'm just about to up-sticks and travel to the other side of the world to work . . .

he finished by giving an overview of the role of IT in the complete procurement and management of a building. when split into three distinct phases, 'design', 'construction', 'management', it demonstrated a big requirement for IT solutions in the 'construction' phase that graphisoft's current products don't reach . . . and asked us to 'watch-this-space' over the next few months for their answer to this. interesting . . .

bence kovacs and akos bezegh then began the main event! (you may well have noticed that archiCAD 9 was given its premiere at the archiCAD university ) we were treated to an overview of the new features with bence narrating through the focus areas of 'easy', 'polished' and 'powerful' whilst akos demonstrated the practical application of these features.

as a beta-tester, i can't help but feel that it wasn't done as much justice as it shoud've! many new features that i'm feeling the benefit of every day weren't mentioned (manual-rebuild sections, syringing library part parameters, etc, etc...) proving that this really is going to be a tricky upgrade to sell. but we did get to see (amongst others) the new (and long overdue!) implementation of the 'text editor', the 'work environment' customisation process and . . . drum-roll . . . the incorporation of the 'lightworks' rendering engine! thanks graphisoft!

bence also ran through a reassuring outline of the graphisoft quality assurance process and procedures. starting with a full-monty style (well, nearly) strip! he revealed a t-shirt with the logo 'no R2' emblazoned across it - graphisoft's aim for the release of 9. far more automatic testing has been put in place to ensure the quality of the code is at a much higher standard before it even gets to the beta phase. 'hatteras' testing began the beta process with a selection of users invited to graphisoft's offices around the world for two days of testing and discussion with the developers.

the beta test followed with a 'points-race' incentive for the testers, the top three of whom were given an honourable (ahem! ) mention! eight companies then participated in a 'project validation' - using AC9 on live projects within their practice. it was disappointing to see only one UK practice amongst them . . .

workshop #1 - GDL: an introduction for beginners
now - as some may know by now, my GDL skills are not quite on a level with my archiCAD skills. i'm rubbish! i can take the most complex of objects, understand its structure, pull it apart and put it back together in new ways, 'parameterise' it, etc. but ask me to make a simple object of my own and i'm stuck. big time.

so it was a great relief to attend herbert peter's workshop and finally have the basics explained in a thorough and patient manner. herbert was an excellent tutor, running through the syntax and examples of some basic keywords before putting them to use in a simple object. i can now actually remember some basic GDL and with a bit of luck, a tailing wind and lots of practice i might get there yet! thanks herbert!

'visualisation' half-plenary
adrian harms chaired a two-hour session dedicated to the various visualisation products that work with, in and around archiCAD.

pavol elias began with a clear and concise introduction to the basics of the new 'lightworks' rendering engine within archiCAD 9. 'lightworks' shaders are easy to import from five libraries of default materials included with AC9 and modifying their various classes can be easy or as complex as you wish! 'lightworks' shaders can also be downloaded from the 'lightworks user' website which has hundreds of shaders for free or proprietary shaders for sale. also mentioned were the three new lamp objects included in the archiCAD 9 library, 'sunlight', 'skylight' and 'window light', which replace the built-in sun and ambient light with a better quality of light and soft shadows for some stunning results.

next, gerard bomer of abvent gave us the second big treat of the day - a trip through the new features of a working art•lantis 5! on speaking about the design and considerations for the new version, one of the first things that struck me was the declaration "respect the operating system"! gone is the traditional art•lantis garbled interface! yay! and - the demonstration was on a mac - in came a slick cocoa-style UI that a mac user could pick up in minutes. graphisoft take note!!! what followed was a tour-de-force of new features including the terrific seasonally-aware trees, (seeing is believing!), and their new proprietary radiosity solution along with some very impressive images.

unfortunately, i have to confess that i needed to absorb some of what i had just seen and so missed out on perry stacy of maxon demonstrating cinema 4D and david rimmington's piranesi 4. next time maybe . . .

workshop #2 - archiCAD 9 features, IFC, import/Export
simon gilbert was caught a little off-guard at the introduction of "IFC, import/export" to his "archiCAD 9 features" workshop(!), but nevertheless held court on a Q&A session over the use and production of DWGs within archiCAD. it was a small group and so particular issues could be raised and looked at in more detail.

we saw the improvements to the DWG translation engine in archiCAD 9, including cropped content DWGs from plotmaker! at last! in addition, the attributes of DWG files that have been x-ref'ed into the archiCAD file are now deleted when detaching them (with relevant warnings!). a double-whammy!

workshop #3 - project organisation
unfortunately, i felt that matthew lohden's workshop became a little off-topic a little too soon and became stuck firmly in a particular issue of one of the participants. however, it's always a pleasure to hear matthew's clear and calm reasoning on any topic that falls his way! i became a fan after hearing his plenary last year on the topic of office standards and many-a-time he has unravelled and explained a particular issue on archiCAD-TALK in a way that turned the light-bulbs on in my head!
i just wish that i had had more of a chance to speak with him, but our paths didn't seem to cross as much as i had hoped.

the pub!
take two - more drinks seemed to fall my way. it would've been rude to turn them down! thanks again!
b e n f r o s t
b f [a t ] p l a n b a r c h i t e c t u r e [d o t] n z
archicad | sketchup! | coffeecup
saturday 11th september
'professional practice standards' half-plenary
matthew lohden again took up residence in the penthouse seminar room looking a little more in-depth at some of the specifics of office standards: the need for them; the need to implement them; the need to maintain them; and procedures beyond archiCAD. he went over the same important example of the organisation and maintenance of standards as last year, but it is one worth repeating: 'standards', 'methods' and 'techniques' -

the rigidly adhered to 'standards' that ensure an efficiency and quality throughout the office. 'methods' that are clear ways of working with and defining the 'standards'. 'techniques' which are important to the workflow and may one day become 'methods' or 'standards' in their own right.

his hand-out accompanying the seminar contained examples of standards in action: examples of pens and layers settings, albeit with a leaning toward US national cad standards. but there was plenty of food for thought on these systems work and how they can be adapted to suit your own best practice.

matthew also (a wee bit prematurely!) announced his up-coming website for the discussion and distribution of stanards: - coming soon!

workshop #4 - 'working with plotmaker templates'
my final workshop of the ACUE 2004. link, the travelling archiCAD consultant, gave us a thorough run-through of his ideas for maximising the efficiency of plotmaker. this wasn't just about setting up a template file (as i had somewhat ignorantly assumed!), but also ideas, tips & tricks and often forgotten yet simple methods for getting plotmaker working for you (layer combinations anyone!).

it required a thorough understanding of the methodology behind the archiCAD->viewsets->plotmaker workflow, which should really have been a prerequisite for attending the workshop. maybe next year link should run two workshops: one addressing the basics archiCAD viewset organisation and how plotmaker relates to this for new users and those not really using plotmaker in their workflow. the second, an advanced follow-up, taking this a step further by covering the contents of this year.

that said, i thought link's presentation was well organised and he did well to keep on track with wide variety of questions and puzzlement coming his way! like matthew's 'practice standards' , link gave us plenty of food for thought for creating and organising our own templates by adapting his ideas.

tips, tricks and case-studies
the afternoon saw everybody back together for the light-hearted tips, tricks and 'look-ma-no-hands' short presentations by anybody willing and able. herbert peter and DNC led with plugs for their latest and greatest offerings: hertbert's 'archiCAD: best practice' book - now available in english, and david's ACU winter-school in january (go! i went last year - it was great!) and ACU west in las vegas next march.

now. i forget the next order of events and so apologise in advance if i get these in the wrong order, or have missed people out. put me straight if required!

ben wallbank again entertained us with "how not to do fly-through's". although i'll have to admit that i don't believe it began with this title! miguel krippahl had run a couple of workshops on 'better movie-making with archiCAD and art•lantis' and i feel that this may just have influenced ben's choice of title somewhat!

miguel himself then showed us how it should be done with the assistance from one of nottingham's own students (i forget your name - please help me out if you're reading this!). miguel's kafka-esque 'how not to be a giant fly in a fly-through' presentation was delivered with humour and many simple but effective guidelines for creating a better movie. it was a shame that i missed his workshops - the people i spoke to who did attend were extremely encouraged - next time . . .

gerald faustenhammer also showed us some GDL key objects made with archiPhysik for inclusion in your archiCAD projects and marie sofie larsen presented the work she and some of her class have been doing with GDL in aarhus, demmark. this involved a method of teaching whereby fabricators and manufacturers joined with students to create real-life parametric objects for usein the industry. the students learn the technical components of building elements (and a bit of GDL!), the manufacturers get free GDL objects for distribution and architects get these objects for use in their projects. everybody is a winner! i was lucky enough to have met charlotte darre from the same class at the winter school in january and am glad this was also presented to a wider audience here in the UK. it is, i believe, an invaluable method for teaching and the promotion of GDL.

david closed with a very extended prize-giving ceremony! any excuse to give away polo-shirts, baseball caps and art•lantis shaders was used until there was nothing left to give away.

the archiCAD university also ended in a similar manner to how it was started: david receiving another mobile phone call in the middle of his speech! anybody care to own up?
b e n f r o s t
b f [a t ] p l a n b a r c h i t e c t u r e [d o t] n z
archicad | sketchup! | coffeecup
of course all of this covers the content, not the people.

old faces, new faces and old names that i'd yet to put a face to . . .

richard payne, paul josza, chris johnstone from the ski trip/winter school - it was great to see you again and sorry that i didn't get the chance to talk properly

simon, bence, akos and the guys from graphisoft - you'll be hearing from me!

james murray, link - great to meet you guys. hopefully our paths will cross again soon.

matthew - i was really hoping to talk 'big ideas' with you but it never happened. see you online, and maybe next time?

ben, torbjörn and the lovely susanne from malmö - find me a job and i'm there!

fabrizio! what can i say? thanks again! next time i'm italy we'll party again!

see you next time . . .
b e n f r o s t
b f [a t ] p l a n b a r c h i t e c t u r e [d o t] n z
archicad | sketchup! | coffeecup
Ben Odonnell
It was great to put a face to the LEGEND!
I can't wait for that pic out side of Antibos to show up

I promise you that I'm working on finding you a job!

Link, Matthew and of course Fabrizio, you are always welcome here in Sweden, to the rest of the fantastic people that I had the chance to meet in Nottingham thank you all very much!

David, as usual, what a great time had by all, thank you for your hard work behind the scenes.

To Bence, Laci and Akos, you guys need a standing ovation for your tireless work that you guys keep producing, you guys, with all of your development team can be very proud of this version of ArchiCAD!
Great work.

And on a closing note, ben this is a public promise that I will kick your arse on the next beta test, can't wait to start testing ArchiCAD 10

Ben O'Donnell
Architect and CTO at BIMobject®
Get your BIM objects from
Ben wrote:
David, as usual, what a great time had by all, thank you for you hard work behind the scenes.
of course, david!!! how on earth did i forget to thank the organiser? i completely echo those sentiments of ben's. thanks again david.
And on a closing note, ben this is a public promise that I will kick your arse on the next beta test, can't wait to start testing ArchiCAD 10
there's going to be another one?

b e n f r o s t
b f [a t ] p l a n b a r c h i t e c t u r e [d o t] n z
archicad | sketchup! | coffeecup
Not applicable
Ben wrote:
Link, Matthew and of course Fabrizio, you are always welcome here in Sweden, to the rest of the fantastic people that I had the chance to meet in Nottingham thank you all very much!

David, as usual, what a great time had by all, thank you for you hard work behind the scenes.

To Bence, Laci and Akos, you guys need a standing ovation for your tireless work that you guys keep producing, you guys, with all of your development team can be very proud of this version of ArchiCAD!
Great work.
Ben O.,

Thanks very much for the invitation. Since my partner Jude (did you meet? she came up Saturday) just found out that she has quite a bit of family in Sweden (her great-great(-great?) grandparents house is still standing) so we will be looking for means and excuses to come visit.

Ben F.,

I too am sorry we didn't manage more than passing greetings. Next time...


Thanks to all for making ACUE2004 the best yet. I only wish I had more time to meet and talk with everyone.

Three cheers for David for making it all possible.

I am certainly looking forward to seeing you all again next year (maybe I'll fly in earlier so I'm not so tired on Thursday night) and with any luck I'll see some of you on the slopes this January.
Thankyou Ben for your wonderful post conference report.... (although you have left me with a dilemma about whether to correct all your lower case in any quotations from it!!)

I am beginning to post feedback comments on the Website, and would be grateful for additional contributions from any of the ACUe delegates.

Next year, we shall have a larger venue, a totally new building, finished only this week!! more space for workshops and plenaries and food and lounging around comfortably!!! its already booked, fix the dates of 8-9-10 Sept in your diary.

We also have plans for a SAILING ACUe for about 6 to 12 people in Western Ireland next April, on a large comfortable ocean going yacht. More about this later, please let me know if you are interested. For the 'worried about sailing', we shall be staying on comfortable Dry Land at night, and doing Day Sailing only!! there are cheap and easy flights to Cork from Nottingham, Birmingham and Stansted, so this is something you might consider - please email me for further interest.

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