AU London 2018 — Wrap up

Post originally authored for the blog of Strategie Digitali, on June 21st 2018. Well, this week we’ve seen the second edition of Autodesk University here in Europe, specifically in London. As you know, we’ve been going to the Las Vegas edition for the past two years, with an overall of three classes, but we didn’t […]

Post originally authored for the blog of Strategie Digitali, on June 21st 2018.

Well, this week we’ve seen the second edition of Autodesk University here in Europe, specifically in London. As you know, we’ve been going to the Las Vegas edition for the past two years, with an overall of three classes, but we didn’t have time for the London edition last year and didn’t this year as well. Until, in a fortunate turn of event, my agenda cleared for the week, I was able to grab a flight, book an apartment and off I went. I never say no to a week in London.

The venue of the event was the beautiful Tobacco Dock, a wharehouse that’s listed Grade I as an historical building and will make you feel both like you’re in a Charles Dickens novel and in a pirates movie.


As usual, it was a mix of three type of classes:

  • lectures, where you sit and try and stand still while someone dumps on you a huge amount of information in dramatical fashion, trying to make you retain them;
  • demo, where you sit and try and stand still while someone dumps on you a huge amount of information and performs songs and dances with the software, while everyone’s waiting for something to go wrong or for dynamo to crash;
  • lab, where you sit and try and keep up while the same guy who’s dancing is also expecting you to dance to the same music.

Any format you pick, it’s a challenging set of days for learning and networking.

Classes are of course at the center, so let me start from those.


On a set of two days, you had to pick among dozens of classes: the full agenda is here. Of course I had to pick, and coming on such a short notice some classes I wanted to attend were sold out: I’m really sad I had to give up on both the class by Mark Thorley of DesignTech and the one by Eckart Schwerdtfeger, BIM lead of Zaha Hadid Architects, I’m sure they were great and I can’t wait for the recordings to be published. Anyway, here’s my personal top 5 among what I saw.

5. Using Revit to Deliver Large Residential Projects: Circus West at Battersea Power Station Case Study

Speakers: Anthony Campbell and James Savage, both from SimpsonHaugh.

I’m not particularly fond of case studies, I usually avoid them, but this one looked interesting and well prepared. The class was mostly about model management and showed a massive use of links, for reasons I completely agree upon. No rocket science, workflows that aren’t going to take us to the moon, but sometimes you’re in need of this as well, to keep you grounded. What was shown was a good, solid workflow to deliver a huge project.


4. CFD Simulation Workflow: The Botanical Institute of Rome

Speakers: Riccardo Pagani and Veronica Veschi, both from BIMon

Riccardo Pagani is a fellow BIMmer from Italy and I couldn’t not go and support him. With Veronica Veschi, who’s BIM coordinator in their consultancy company based in Rome, BIMon, they showcased usage of CFD (standing for Computational Fluid Dynamics) for the analysis of the Botanical Institute in Rome as it is now and as it was before the many redevelopments that occurred across the decades. It turned out that ventilation was screwed up, like big time, and the analysis is meant to support a renovation that brings back the original efficiency. Lots of LEGO in the presentation too, so I can’t help but approve.


3. The Virtual Mockup: Parametric Design and Optimisation of Complex Façade Panels in Virtual Reality

Speakers: Sandra Hombergen and Chris Van Der Ploeg, both from ABT.

The title was promising a little more than what was offered, but this doesn’t mean that what was offered wasn’t good. Again, a good solid workflow involving the deceased Flux was used to migrate design from Grasshopper to Revit and another solid workflow was used to transfer geometries to 3ds Max “TAFKAS” Interactive (The Application Formerly Known As Stingray) into a virtual reality environment. And there was a T-rex too.


2. BIM on Large-Scale Projects

Speakers: Aurelie De Boissieu and Radu Gidei, both from Grimshaw

Don’t be fooled by the title: this was actually a brilliant speech around project management and what Grimshaw is calling “The human side of BIM” (and I can’t believe they really trademarked it): good to see on the big screen naughty words like “AGILE”, “Scrum” and “Kanban”. BIM brings a big change in project management too: it’s pointless that we keep fighting back the inevitable.


1. DynaShape Your Architectural Designs: A Practical Approach to Designing Complex Forms in Dynamo

Speakers: Long Nguyen from the University of Stuttgart and Dieter Vermeulen from Autodesk

A fantastic demo for the magnificent DynaShape Dynamo package. Long Nguyen makes it look so effortless and triggers the design of inflatable cubes, reverse catenary systems, tents and domes. Take a look at the math behind and it will blow your mind.
My favourite quote from this AU is his: the algorithm needs to propose one solution, among all the possible ones, and in doing so it needs to pick those to which the designer can intuitively relate to, otherwise the tool will not be usable.


Also, it was a chance to show the Refinery Project, which is replacing Project Fractal. It’ currently in version 0.3.3: you can subscribe to the beta but you need to engage in the conversation.

The floor show

With a good two halls for exibits, the beautiful venue of Tobacco Dock certainly had something to offer. No classifications, this time: just a list of things I saw and of people who were kind enough to let themselves be harassed by me. A special thanks to Ernesto Pellegrino, who accompanied me in my journey to try and break the new technologies out there.


We already met with the guys in Singapore and then online, but face to face is another thing. Their product, BIM Assure, is a beautiful model checking tool, working both with IFC and Native files: it’s able to write rules intuitively and with a smart customizable level of granularity and creates a double connection between the platform and the Revit model, meaning that data can be updated online and then sucked back into the model.

The Design and Manufacturing Lab

These wonderful guys from the University of Bristol had a huge amount of projects on their screen, but one in particular caught my attention: it’s KadLytics, an analysis tool for mechanical design that has a huge potential also for BIM. What it does is keeping track of change and of logical connections between what is changed in a component and how many other components were affected by that change. The collected data helps us to understand that the previsions upon which we base our team management strategies are, sometimes, very far from reality. With something as holistic as BIM is, we can’t really ignore the need to gain a more profound understanding of how model elements are affected by changes during the design phase.

HP Virtual Reality backpacks

They didn’t include rockets, but they might as well have. The new concept from Hp on Virtual Reality is a very light tower station that connect on a lodging you wear on your back and can be carried around, such reducing the risk of strangling the client with cables.


What was really impressive about virtual reality, anyway, was a boot with an impressive virtual reality project and I don’t mean it from an aesthetics point of view. What they did was providing an immersive experience for the community of a town in Holland, to help them evaluate and to reassure them about an infrastructure project. The renovation involved a whole street and could be experienced by foot, on a moving train, on a bike or on a car.


As we know, one of the best applications of 3d printing is in medicine with the massive production of prostethics. Autodesk has been active a lot in promoting these kind of applications, especially when involving children. What sometimes we don’t appreciate enough is how easy it is nowadays to access these kind of technologies. On display in one of the corridors, you could see a movie and some examples of a project done by a father to give his son an arm during the very first years of his life. He was also holding a speech, The Story of Sol Smith, who is his son. Amazing and inspiring.


The Dynamo User Group


To me, London wasn’t just Autodesk University. One of my main reasons for coming was to see the guys at the UK Dynamo User Group, meet with friendly faces, and support our client Giacomo Bergonzoni who was presenting one of the computational BIM workflows in Open Project. Thanks for mentioning the Model Checking Buddy we have under development.


Presentations here were fast and all lf them were top notch, so it’s really impossible to nominate a best speaker there. I’ll just list them:

The event was organized in conjunction with the amazing guys of DesignTech. It also featured a set of amazing workshops during the morning and the afternoon, led by Sol Amour, John Pierson, Mark Thorley and Mike Turpin, assisted by Michael Hudson, Radu Gidei, Kevin Fielding, Rob Clark. Tough to imagine a better roster than this.

Of course this wasn’t the only networking occasion we had and I’m always grateful for the chance to mingle and meet both old friends and new people. That’s what these events are for, right? So, see you next time, guys!



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