BUILDING AND CITY INFORMATION MODELLING | Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry and his chief technology officer, Dennis Shelden, have expanded their companies’ Board of Advisors to form a ‘strategic alliance’ of distinguished architects and construction industry experts who (in Gehry’s words) are friends who ‘can help me find the solutions that will ultimately lead to better buildings throughout the world’.

Gehry and Shelden already have been widely applauded for applying to complex building designs advanced computer programs which accurately simulate for automated manufacturing processes the structures of aeroplanes and spaceships.

Now they are placing Gehry’s two main companies in an ‘honest broker’ role between arch-rivals Dassault Systèmes (France) and Autodesk (United States), which have been competing to lead technology efficiency reforms in the notoriously resources-wasteful international construction industry. Construction-oriented markets are estimated to be worth more than $US5 trillion annually.

Since the early 1990s, when Gehry was designing Disney Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (the first of his civic landmarks featuring complex arrangements of multi-curved sheets of titanium), Shelden has been leading a team of computer modelling experts developing the world’s most sophisticated building information modelling (BIM — also known as CAD/CAM) system.

Closeup of Digital Project structural model for the One Island East project, showing structural clashes yet to be resolved. Courtesy Gehry Technologies.

They began by adapting Dassault’s CATIA and other advanced structural simulation softwares to gradually create their own architectural modelling system named Digital Project. DP now is used in the offices of some of the world’s most sculpturally ambitious architects and is promoted to Gehry Partners’ architecture clients by Gehry Technologies in the software-as-a-service format. GT’s major independent project, the One Island East office tower in Hong Kong, developed by Swire, has won green building awards internationally.

Members of Gehry’s new strategic alliance include Massimo Colomban, founder of Permasteelisa; architects Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher, Greg Lynn, David Childs, Wolf Prix, David Rockwell, Moshe Safdie, and Ben van Berkel, landscape architect Laurie Olins, visual communications strategist Richard Saul Wurman and solar engineer Matthius Schuler. Some of this group are existing members of the Gehry Advisory Board.

Further information on the Gehry Technologies site at

Announcement of the Gehry efficient buildings alliance can be seen as a key contribution to the new GeoDesign movement which has been promoted for several years by Jack Dangermond and his geographic information science corporation, Esri (United States). GeoDesign’s supporters are more focused on how to apply spatial information sciences technologies to the challenges of urban planning – but including buildings. Esri plans its third GeoDesign conference at its Redlands CA campus in early January 2012. It recently acquired Procedural, a spin-off company from ETH-Zurich’s building modelling researchers who developed a software system named CityEngine.

Shelden recently agreed to host an initial meeting of technology experts in both building and city modelling to discuss a potential Virtual North America simulation project which has been conceived as a potential collaboration between US and Canadian government agencies and private sector partners. Other continent-wide simulation projects are in early stages of development in Europe, Australia-New Zealand and China.