Veronika-Ortega
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Designing tomorrow

From super-tall structures to “citizen science,” research sometimes comes in unexpected forms at CAMD. We sat down with researchers in architecture and game design to learn more about the boundary-pushing thinking that inspired their projects and what that means for an entire industry.


Veronika-OrtegaIn fall of 2013, the School of Architecture launched a new graduate research studio on tall buildings with Professor of the Practice Gary Haney (read more about Professor Haney here). We spoke with graduate student VERONIKA ORTEGA, AMD’12, M.Arch’14, about the research studio and how her team’s work will inform her future practice.

WHAT ARE “TALL BUILDINGS” AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT FOR ARCHITECTS TO UNDERSTAND?

For the purposes of our research studio, “tall buildings” are super-tall structures usually measuring 1,500 feet or more. Since the late 19th century, architects have been interested in building tall structures; discovering new materials, such as steel, that allow for higher construction; and designing devices such as the elevatorsrthat transport humans to great heights. Researching how to build these super structures is key for our generation of architects because we are constantly looking for ways to break the mold and “go higher.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TALL BUILDINGS AND HISTORIC CENTERS?

When building any type of new structure in a part of a city where historic buildings dominate, we as architects and designers need to take into consideration not only the aesthetics of the building, but also people’s tastes and opinions. Tall structures in historic city centers have a particularly delicate relationship with their surroundings, making it especially important to conduct environmental analyses such as wind and water table tests. At the same time, it is important to meet the public’s demands whenever possible. A successful design focuses not only on aesthetics, but also on pleasing the people that inhabit the building and its surrounding areas.

Veronika Ortega in the Architecture studio

Veronika Ortega in the Architecture studio

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM’S RESEARCH FINDINGS WILL INFORM YOUR OWN ARCHITECTURE PRACTICE MOVING FORWARD?

Our research meticulously breaks down tall buildings and analyzes their structure, with the goal of changing specific aspects of the building to see how those changes potentially affect the building’s overall performance. I have much more knowledge about how tall structures behave depending on their height, shape, orientation, and so on. Moving forward in my architecture career, I will feel confident if presented with the task of designing one.

Additional findings from the research studio can be found in the School of Architecture’s publication, Efficiency: An Analytical Approach to Tall Office Buildings.


L–R: Casper Harteveld, Gillian Smith, and Nolan Manning

L–R: Casper Harteveld, Gillian Smith, and Nolan Manning

Humans are already helping computers solve complex scientific puzzles. But how can “citizen science” be more democratic and have a broader impact? With the help of a College of Arts, Media and Design faculty grant, Assistant Professors of Game Design CASPER HARTEVELD and GILLIAN SMITH and CAMD student NOLAN MANNING, amd’16, are working to answer that question. We sat down with the research team for a conversation about their project, “A Game-Based Platform for Crowdsourced Experimentation and Citizen Science.”

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS PROJECT?

CH: Games are a great way for humans to help computers solve problems. People spend a tremendous amount of time playing games on a computer anyway with no productive output—just think of all the time people spend playing solitaire. What if you could actually get something out of it?

GS: Human cognition is very strong compared to computers. Some games that have already been developed put humans to work to help solve problems that computers can’t. Players can even be used to solve scientific problems—this is what we call “citizen science.” But in many existing citizen science projects, a team of research scientists dictates the problem that the players are trying to solve. This maximizes the game’s usefulness for the researchers, but the players are doing work without any real gain. They are basically unpaid workers in a large-scale virtual factory.

HOW WOULD YOUR PROJECT CHANGE THIS?

CH: We envision a game-based platform that allows a global, multicultural audience of citizen scientists to actively participate in the scientific process by setting up experiments based on their interests and hypotheses and investigating the results. The platform will come with a set of tools to enable crowdsourced experimentation by amateur and nonprofessional scientists.

In other words, we want our users to conduct science. That’s what we’re really excited about in our project—breaking down the barrier between citizen science and its problem-solvers and empowering people to set up their own research scenarios.

Citizen Science in action

Citizen Science in action

GS: We also want to make sure that the project integrates art and science. Our co-op student from CAMD, third-year digital art and game design major Nolan Manning, is helping us art direct the game to make it visually fun and interesting—a little less like a science class.

HOW DO YOU ENVISION FUTURE STUDENT INVOLVEMENT IN THE PROJECT?

CH: Nolan has been essential in helping us make our ideas concrete. Eventually, I can see us needing additional student help in testing, developing, and programming the game. We want to continue investing back in the college by working with students.

NM: From my perspective as a student, this co-op experience is a stand-out for sure. Working on this project has given me a lot of creative freedom and my input on the game is treated as if I was a peer and not just an employee.