#AU2017 wrap up

Well, if you’ve ever spoken to Autodesk University you know how it goes. Your life gets divided in two parts: “before AU” and “after AU”. Everything you need to do for AU… well, you have to do it “before AU”. Everything else gets postponed “after AU”. When you get back, all you would like to […]

Well, if you’ve ever spoken to Autodesk University you know how it goes. Your life gets divided in two parts: “before AU” and “after AU”. Everything you need to do for AU… well, you have to do it “before AU”. Everything else gets postponed “after AU”.
When you get back, all you would like to do is go to sleep.
But no.
Do you remember all the things you promised you would do “after AU”? Well, good morning: “after AU” is now.
Special thanks to Alberto Pavan, who always manages to give us a task with a deadline immediately “after AU”.


The waves have settled (sort of) and these remain exciting times (tell you later) but I finally find the time to wrap up my experience at Autodesk University Las Vegas 2017.

My focuses this year

Should you be interested in AutoCad, Civil 3d or Formit, I’ll immediately tell you what my focuses were this year, so that you can stop reading right now.
This year I was particularly focused on Computational Design, Virtual Reality and Education, and I selected my classes accordingly.
I was there with Claudio, of course, and this year we also had an additional guest for our class: Gabriele Gallo, who you might have seen mentioned while talking about the book we published last year, is a teacher and game designer and focused on some of the same things and on some different things than us. Harass him if you want to know his perspective on Virtual Reality in our industry: he has some interesting insights to share.

Advanced Computational BIM Workshop and Forum

Yeah, this year we were crazy enough to arrive on Saturday and attend one of the pre-conference forums. It was an additional 300 $ and they were well spent.
The workshop was led by the amazing guys at EvolveLAB, you might remember their leader Bill Allen and his speech last year. Particularly, John Pierson himself led the way alongside Mark Mendez who did the most amazing and best explanation I have ever seen on a complex topic such as lists and levels in Dynamo. Well done sirs. Brilliant, smart guys who were able to face with charm and wit all the technical difficulties that seem to be bound to happen during a workshop at AU. And if all of this was not enough, Marcello Sgambelluri himself was one of the lab assistants, you got free stickers by answering questions and a complimentary t-shirt for your warm days in the desert.

2017-11-29 10_57_50-AU2017 Computational Design in Practice Program.pdf

The late afternoon was dedicated to Computational Design in Practice, a series of talks about the actual usage of Dynamo in actual projects. On the line-up there were:
– Håvard Vasshaug himself, Bad Monkey and Design Technology Manager at Snøhetta, with the new Le Monde headquarters in Paris;
– Italian Ilaria Giardiello, architect at Sasaki in Delft, who showed us how Dynamo was used to create a complicated pattern for an Interior Design project;
– Masha Pekurovsky, now Digital Solutions Designer in Stantec, and of course you remember her from last year: she talked about the deployment and maintenance of a Dynamo library with her usual wit and charm;
– Islay Burgess, Digital Design Manager in Gensler, talking about Dynamo for stadiums;
– Martha Tsigkari herself, Partner and member of  the Applied Research + Development Group at Foster + Partners: it’s always a pleasure to see her talking, I love her science fiction references and her perspective on Computational Design, I had the privilege of hearing her last year as well in the Computational Design Symposium and she always manages to be captivating.

The Conference itself

This year too I was a speaker and of course it was a honor to hold that badge once again. We were selected for a class about the usage of gaming techniques in education, hence the presence of Gabriele with us, and our class was the first session of the last day. Thanks Autodesk. Therefore we could have fun but we had to behave.

1. Virtual Reality (and Game Engines in general)

My first focus was this. It’s the trend of the moment, everyone is talking about it, but there was a slight issue. Our beloved Stingray for architecture was re-branded 3ds Max Interactive, halfway across the conference preparation apparently, so each and every speaker had to constantly correct himself throughout his presentation and it was a little funny. It also led for an additional rule to be added in our BIM Convention Drinking Game: if the speaker says Stingray by mistake, you drink.

1.1 Marcello Sgambelluri, Spice Up Your Revit Live Projects with Autodesk’s Stingray Game Engine

Is there a better way to start Autodesk University than a demo by Marcello? First class of the first day, even before the Opening Keynote.

Of course it’s physically impossible to be disappointed with a demo by Marcello: he danced with us through the usage of Sting… 3ds Max Interactive and showed us how to manage a model from Revit, create objects with physics and shoot them into oblivion, have objects moving around, simulate rain, drive around a construction site excavator. So much fun and loads of material you can study and ready to use in your projects.

1.2 Chris Murray, Thinking Like a Game Developer: What I Had to Forget and Relearn to Use a Game Engine

Well, there’s a downside to the rule I stated above: it’s hard to be pleased by any class on the same topic after you saw Marcello. This is probably why I wasn’t thrilled by this class. The topic was compelling and I loved the perspective provided in the title, though it followed up on that leaving loose ends. One of the most interesting news delivered during the class was the Datasmith Beta, a toolkit Epic Games is developing to make easier for architects to work with their game engine. It’s supposed to be amazing: try and subscribe.

1.3 Peter MarchesePower Up Your Stingray Projects! Create Smooth Revit Workflows and Take Advantage of Your Models’ BIM Properties

I has the pleasure of talking with Peter at the Speakers’ Reception table with my mentor Steven Shell, and I was captivated by his passion and knowledge. The feeling only got confirmed by attending his class. Do you know what the worst pains are, when exporting a model from Revit to Stingr… 3ds Max Interactive? Well, he does. And he provided practical solutions to those problems you are experiencing or will experience while trying the simple workflows showcased everywhere. Thanks sir: extremely well done indeed.

1.4 Christopher KelusakDesign to Visualization: How to make Virtual Reality a Reality in a Design Firm

It promised to be a class about implementing a new technology in a design firm, therefore we were interested. As you know, implementation techniques and strategies are one of our main focuses (here‘s our class from last year, also presented at BILT Singapore).
The idealized vs. actual design process schemes were sharp and clear, and although I do not completely agree about the virtue of the proposed workflow, it was well presented.

The class ran a little short, but I’m told that a nice discussion aroused after that. Maybe Gabriele will tell you more about it. Anyway, you can watch the class for yourself as it was live-streamed. It’s here.

2. Computational Design (and other amazing stuff)


2.1 Shane BurgerThe Long Game: Maintaining Interoperable Workflows Through Multiple Phases and Teams

Amazing. Simply amazing. Shane Burger, Principal & Director of Technical Innovation at Woods Bagot, delivered a wonderfully paced presentation about their computational design and optimization workflows during the 76 11th Avenue Towers project by the Bjarke Ingels Group. The project was presented in terms of workflow optimization and techniques, with an always-present focus on business value and time-effectiveness. Without any doubt one of the best speeches I saw this year, if not the best. If you don’t think you know them, they’re the Wombat guys. You know them.

2.2 the Dynamo Slam

They grow up so fast! Last year it was almost a rogue competition on a table set up in the main hall: do you remember? It was won by John Pierson with his “build bridges not walls” project. There were dice-rolling-ruled buildings involved, and a Vegas strip that ran across the whole globe. This year they stepped up and wanted to build a stadium for Celine Dion on Mars. Not kidding.

Mickey McManus was hosting: he’s Visiting Research Fellow at Autodesk, involved in the Autodesk Education Experiences. And who could be a better co-host than Marcello Sgambelluri himself? Competitors were Dieter Vermeulen, working with Dynamo on Advanced Steel, Robert Cervellione, working with Dynamo on Maya, and Adam Sheather, rocking directly between Dynamo and Forge.

Tears were shed, beers were drunk, t-shirts were given away. Dynamo crashed. Like several times.

At the end, the undisputed winner was Dieter with his optimized steel answer to an undying question: do they have Doughnuts on Mars? Nice job.

2.3 Havard Vasshaug, Creating Transparency in France with Dynamo

I didn’t attend this one, but I’ve head so much talk about it that my ears are bleeding.

Vassaug led a lab showcasing his work on the LeMond headquarters and showing how he did the magic with Dynamo and Flux. Only good things can be said about this approach and his handout is really insightful! Check it out.

3. Education

As you know, I work also as a tutor and teacher and I strongly believe training is one of the key aspects we need to focus if we wish to “cross the chasm” of BIM. This was the principle behind our class this year, this was the meaning of the article I recently wrote regarding the Autodesk Certified Instructor program, this was the focus of many of the classes I selected this year. I was surprised, and in a much positive way, to see this was also one of the focuses for Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost during his opening keynote speech. The guy is amazing and if you don’t believe me you should start by reading his LinkedIn profile.

3.1 The Opening Keynote

You can watch it here and, as last year, part of it was focused on how Artificial Intelligence is not going to eat away our jobs. Remember? Robots are not COMING FOR US, they’re coming for us. The discussion here was also taken on a higher level. 100.000 drafters in the US were replaced by 10 million designers, «automation made possible to have more people to design more things» and it’s refreshing to see abroad the very same perspective we have in Italy regarding how people work in relation to computational design and BIM in general (BIM modeller my ass, I should add). Adaptability, resiliency and a spirit of community are going to be needed to face the changes that are coming but, most importantly, training is needed. «The skills you had in the past are not the skills you are going to need in the future» and this is something one can never repeat enough.

3.2 Marcello Sgambelluri, Share Your Wits Not Just Your Models to the Entire Project Team

It was my first roundtable and it was a good one: lots of people from different areas were brought together to exchange ideas and experiences on the spread of knowledge across project team members.

Most building projects require that team members share 3D models and drawings; but there’s something even more important to share: knowledge. Projects would reap great benefit if all the project team members were able to contribute their knowledge or wits.

So, how come that principals don’t want you to share your knowledge with other people? What do you do when people just won’t listen? How do you deal with the Dunning-Kruger effect? It’s a discussion that should go on and on and on, beyond this roundtable and this Autodesk University.

3.3 Kayleigh HoudeBIM Boot Camp

The class promised to be an insight on «a thorough yet practical internal training program» for Revit and Dynamo set up by BuroHappold Engineering New York. Expectations were high. I don’t deny I would have liked to be allowed a deeper exploration in some of the issues presented: is training mandatory? How does people react to hackathons used as a training techniques? Is competition positive or actually destructive in a working environment? There is no handout too, so questions will go unanswered I guess. A pity.

3.4 Mark LaBellInnovation and Hackathons: Starting a Program that Ensures Relevance in Your Industry

I have never ever dreamed to get so much out of a class. Rules and principles to follow when setting up a program, techniques to face the different reactions you might get, tools to lead the hackathon itself and proposals to follow-up on projects developed during these events. If only all people in the industry were like mr LaBell, innovation would be a reality, right here and right now.

Among the most interesting pieces of knowledge mentioned, the LUMIAMI scheme. Check it out.

Old friends who rarely meet

Alongside classes and knowledge, Autodesk University is also a great opportunity to meet your peers and exchange knowledge, or to cling to your favorite industry guru and harass him to death. It was of course a pleasure seeing each and everybody of you. Special thanks and lots of love to everyone I mentioned and, on top of them, Jay Zallan, Steven Shell, Zach Kron, Giacomo Bergonzoni, Alberto Tono, Paolo Serra (it was a priviledge to attend one of your classes), Phil Read, Robert Bell, Anthony Buckley-Thorp, Thomas Trinelle and the guys at Flux (their product gets better and better each day + they had smarties!), Moritz Luck and all the guys at Enscape, Eric Marrapodi at BIM Track, Cesare Caoduro, Andrea Torre, Case Rutland with his BIM Open Mic initiative, Rebecca De Cicco (at last!) with her Women in BIM, Adam MunozVanessa Pierson and everyone who was brave enough to wake up on Thursday morning and come to our class. You are real heroes.

Until next time!


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