Conestoga Wagonfull of conventional curiosities

Every time I talk about (automatically) aligning drawings into models, like this: (introduced by Bentley software in 2012), I set myself up to the charge of being hopelessly archaic, clinging to the obsolete, failing to look forward…

But to look at it another way (yes I offer my own defense), not only does putting two different kinds of things together (like sound and motion picture) make something better than either of the components in isolation (modern cinema is better than silent film, for communication, for example), …there is something else.

By combining ancient curiosities together , we honor (and make use of) what is essential from the past. We bring the past into the present and transform it for the future.

For Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (and for other domains) this transformation of media (and data) marks the beginning of the solution to two previously intractable fundamental problems.

1. drawings in their conventional form are too abstract, and are often misunderstood. The goal is to communicate what to look at, understand, and do. These are directives. Drawings are directive statements. They must be understood, correctly and thoroughly. And this must be made easier. Contextualizing them in their natural environment is an important and productive approach. (See Jeff Jonas: )

2. models (and other environments) have been completely unclear about the locations at which anyone in authority asserts and affirms that everything that should be present, is present, and is suitable to the task conveyed by the directive.

By taking the concept of directiveness from the conestoga wagon of the history of drawing, and applying the concept within the captured or modeled environments of today, we deliver new possibilities for “Directive Environments” in the future. Environments must be directive. They have to show us what to look at, understand, and do, and they have to assert the validity of those directives, making clear to us where the environment contains reliable information and conversely where it may not.

Environments should no longer be passive, as they have been, particularly with regard to the two aspects listed above. Environmental directiveness asserts its own validity (as drawings have always done), solving problem 2, while contextualization of the directive solves problem 1 (abstraction).

The alternative to this reaching backward into the Conestoga Wagon of ancient curiosities (to the history of drawing) is the mistaken notion, very common today, that we could replace the conestoga wagon with the frontier itself.

Does this make sense? The wagon is a conveyance; it conveys things, and people, and let’s say – it is a conveyor of ideas, from one place to another, or from one person to another. Of course the wagon should be modernized; but to say that the frontier of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and California are its replacement, just simply makes no sense.

Environments do not replace vehicles (nor directives). These are fundamentally different things. They belong together. Naturally they are inseparable from each other. A wagon conveys things through a frontier, through an environment.  A directive draws attention within an environment, toward what should be seen, understood, and done, while it asserts and affirms its own validity.

A wagon is more meaningful immersed and functioning within its environment than it is abstracted in a museum. Likewise, directives are more understandable and more meaningful (useful) aligned, immersed and functioning within their environment than they are isolated and abstracted in their conventional form only.

The future is the directive environment. It starts with this, but by no means ends with it. This is a wide open frontier we’ve only just begun to enter.

Pack up the wagon…


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hello,
    Is your picture of the Conestoga wagon above copyrighted? I would like to use it in a book I am writing.

    1. Bea, perhaps. I had included a link to the source here

      The image in my blog post would launch this source page for the image, if you clicked on the image on my blog. But perhaps that is not sufficient, if this image indeed is copyrighted.

      I removed the image from my blog.

  2. Thanks so much for getting back to me. That was the nicest picture of a Conestoga wagon I found. I will try the link above. Bea

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