Research: Built Environments

Built Environments

Studying architectural design and working in schools of architecture led to a collection of computing projects specifically about the built environment. One interest, born of frustration with the poverty of CAD software, is “smart” design tools: simulating and predicting pedestrian behavior, a domain specific language for expressing architectural qualities, systems for collaboration and coordination, including ways to embed layout and assembly rules into design software. Another interest is building “virtual heritage” sites that provide digital simulacra of buildings and places.  This interest began when an anthropologist asked my team to create renderings of a village in El-Salvador that he had excavated.The effort involved in building an interactive desktop virtual reality model of the village suggested tools to make the job easier. A third interest is architectural robotics: embedding sensors and actuators into buildings.


2009 Rule-based spatial layouts that define a certain design style.

Architectural Robotics

2012 ACM Interactions article on the inevitable embedding of robotics in built environments.

Computer Aided Architectural Design

2000, 2008 Three papers on computer aided architectural design.

Environmental Modeling Language

1994 A modeling environment for exploring landscape dynamics.

Grids in Design

1991 Grids and placement rules offer a discipline to help a designer lay out complex designs, facilitating group design work.

Hagia Sophia

1999 A Web resource about the famous church/mosque in Istanbul.

Light Pen

2003 A lighting design assistant driven by sketching on 3D virtual models.

Modeling Makkah

1998 A modeling strategy for a class of buildings in Makkah leverages common elements, symmetry and repetition, and standard operations.


2003 Simulate pedestrian activities in a virtual urban environment.

MouseHaus Table

2003 A tabletop tangible interface for the MouseHaus pedestrian simulator.

MUD – Multiple-stakeholder Urban Design

1997 An environment for collaborative urban design.

Place Based Web for Historic Buildings

1999 A Place-based Web Resource includes panoramic pictures, photographs, interpretive text, and a VR model about a building.


2000 An authoring tool for interactive multimedia documenting a place with panoramic pictures, interpretive text, and a “you-are-here” base map.

Sketching in Design

1999 Two studies on architectural design and drawing.

Spatial Qualities Descriptor

2008 Descriptor visualizes spatial qualities as a designer diagrams building elements.

Thinking with Diagrams in Architectural Design

2001, 2009 A paper on the use of freehand diagrams in architectural design.

Virtual Archaeology at Ceren

1997 A virtual archaeology project reconstructed structures and artifacts at the Joya de Ceren excavation site in El Salvador.


1990-1992 Toward a computational model of wayfinding using schemas, or generic expectations, about building layout.