FACADE - Future-proofing Architectural Computer-Aided DEsign

A two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the MIT Libraries.

[Image: MIT Libraries' 'Bibliotech' article on FACADE; Spring 2007 edition. Photo by Andy Ryan.]

MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center.
Gehry Partners, LLP.
Photo by Christopher Chan.

The MIT Libraries, in conjunction with the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, have recently completed work on the research project FACADE: Future-proofing Architectural Computer-Aided DEsign. The FACADE project conducted research on the methods and best practices to capture, describe, manage, preserve, and make available digital CAD models that are created by architects during building projects. The research data included CAD models produced for the MIT Stata Center that were designed by its architect, Frank O. Gehry. The project has captured these models for archiving in DSpace, MIT's digital archive system, and further developed DSpace's digital preservation capabilities to support the storage and use of this type of digital material for future use by architects, architectural historians, and design and architecture instructors.


FACADE Project Research Problems, Major Objectives

Libraries, museums and archives around the world are increasingly faced with acquiring and preserving the artifacts of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) development, and while these cultural memory institutions have gained a degree of control over many important digital formats over the past decade -- text, image, audio and video material -- CAD software output remains in the category of proprietary and rapidly changing data formats that are still difficult, if not impossible, to preserve over archival timeframes. Below are described the research problems and major objectives of the FACADE project in addressing these problems.
[Image: United States Institute of Peace; Moshe Safdie and Assoc.]

United States Institute of Peace
Moshe Safdie and Assoc.

Research Problems

  • What techniques can and should be applied to preserve the native CAD architectural models over archival timeframes? Given that CAD files require particular versions of specific software programs to interpret them, is it necessary and sufficient to archive the software as well, or is an "emulation" framework needed for the digital archive platforms that host the material?
  • What additional process information is needed to capture the entire building life cycle, and how can that information best be stored in digital archives? Is a new standard necessary for encoding that information, or is a linked document sufficient?
  • What other annotations need to be supported to capture the architect's intentions and instructions to the contractors and subcontractors who do the construction (i.e. the Building Information Model) and where and how should that information be kept?
  • How can we archive this type of data into institutional digital repository systems like DSpace, which are designed to cover the entire range of digital data formats that libraries, archives and museums need to manage and preserve?

Major Objectives

  • Analysis, identification and description of native digital formats produced by top CAD software used by architects, primarily CATIA and AutoCAD formats. Registration of these formats into the Global Digital Formats Registry for general access.
  • Analysis, design and implementation of native CAD file ingestion, management, preservation and dissemination practices, and development of necessary modules for the DSpace digital archive system. These may include archiving of relevant CAD software packages for future processing, or development of emulation tools and frameworks for rendering these files in the DSpace platform at a minimum.
  • Analysis and recommendation related to process documentation (relationships between various CAD files and versions, and between CAD files and other project communication and documentation).
  • Analysis and recommendations related to annotation of CAD files for important related information, such as non-graphical files related to materials used.
  • Documentation, training, outreach and dissemination of results to the digital library, digital preservation, and DSpace user communities

Project Outcomes, Findings, and Deliverables

[Image: Caltrans District 7 Headquarters; Morphosis, Thom Mayne]

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
Morphosis, Thom Mayne

For information on the project outcomes, findings, and deliverables please see the Project Final Report.
A preliminary version of a demo walk-through of the prototype end-user interface is available, in a series of sets of annotated screen captures.

Key Topics

Links to pages summarizing particular topics, with content from the research project wiki:
  • CAD Derivatives Generation - summary report on derivative format strategy, and use of CAD tools to create derivative formats
  • 3D Emulation Case Study - programmer investigation of "use of emulation to preserve access to obsolete CAD data files"
Project Team: Principal Investigator, MacKenzie Smith. Ann Whiteside, Larry Stone, Rob Wolfe, Sands Fish, Richard Rodgers, William Reilly, Simon Kim, Skylar Tibbets
Project Advisory Board: Chair, William Mitchell. Stephen Abrams, Alonzo Addison, Howard Burns, Kristine Fallon, Bill Regli, Dennis Shelden
Stata Center image c/o http://www.flickr.com/photos/chanc/ / CreativeCommons BY-NC-ND 2.0