Introduction to Design, Fall 2012

Case Study: Christ the Light

Kyle Steinfeld

In this exercise, students explore the descriptive conventions and capacities of computer-aided geometric modeling. First displaying a basic competency in canonical 3d modeling techniques, students then aim to move beyond these techniques to carefully and willfully deploy visualization techniques to achieve a particular formal result.

CAD models imply a totalizing description of the object under consideration, and can easily be mistaken as a complete depiction of the world, or as a stand-in for the product of design thinking. By momentarily suspending our suspicion of the totalizing nature of computer models, in this exercise we seek to become "true believers", thereby exploring the limits of what computer-based geometric description can capture about a design object. To focus our attention, we limit the scope of this exercise to the documentation of an existing building, and seek to capture as much as three-dimensional information as possible and to represent this information as a set of finished design drawings.



Working in groups, students produce a detailed three dimensional computer model of Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland, capturing as much detail on the cathedral as-built as possible. Reference images, production drawings, and photographs serve as the basis of this model, supplementing a class trip to the cathedral itself. Students endeavor to document as much geometric information as possible, and to organize this information according to properties of formal division and material properties.


This portion of the exercise addresses the tension between the phenomenological experience of architecture and perspectival-based representations that often proceed, and claim to transparently embody it. Ray-traced rendering techniques employed for representing the case study, and students are asked to apply tactics for post-processing and collaging the resulting images.

There's more!

Some other projects from this same class have been posted, as well as some interesting student work from this same year.