Computer-Aided Architectual Design. A description of Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics (HLCG) research in Context, a publication of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. (Model and rendering by the BUILDER program, 1982).

  Robinson Hall in Harvard Yard was the home of the Graduate School of Design before the construction of Gund Hall. It now houses the History Department. (Model and rendering by the BUILDER program, 1982).

  Plan perspective rendering of Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, GSD. (Model and rendering by the BUILDER program, 1982).

  I want to make a comment on the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) work we did at Harvard.

Today, we have tremendous mapping and analysis software on the phone in our pockets. But in the 1970s, it was a technical feat just to make a map using a computer. The computers were large mainframes that were only available at sophisticated laboratories and universities. To make a map required substantial expertise in computer science, cartography, and engineering. When Libya invaded Chad, the HLCG geographers went into work at 6 AM to delete the "chain" (topological data structure for international boundaries) between the two countries -- and to make a new map. (Later, after the invasion was suppressed, they reinstated the chain).

It took years of foundational work in algorithms and data structures to establish GIS. That meant that, later, GIS plus GPS and flash memory obtained the iPhone, Google Maps, etc. Much of this foundational work was done at Harvard and similar laboratories in the 60s, 70s and 80s. For example, topological data structures were regularly used in the Harvard GSD in the 70's, long before computational topology became a vibrant offshoot of the geometry and computer science communities.

To give an idea of what a different world it was before GIS, pictured above is a "directions" call center long before satellite navigation and GPS were commonplace. The image, taken in 1963, shows operators giving directions to callers who would inquire about driving directions before they left their home on a trip (Source).


Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis
Graduate School of Design
Harvard University

Computer-Aided Architectural Design
Bruce Donald

Go to more of the images

Go to the text

Selected Images in a Small Format

Builder Images: Computer-Aided Architectural Design

Index image 1

All Images, in a Large Format

Index image 1

Index image 2

Harvard Lab for Computer Graphics (HLCG) People

  The ODYSSEY Team (c. 1981). More information.

  Two of my collaborators on the ODYSSEY project, Nick Chrisman and Scott Morehouse (c. 1978/1979). More information.


GSD 75 Anniversary Exibition

  Dispatches from the GSD: 75 Years of Design  (2011). A Retrospective exhibit on the 75th anniversary of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).
See When the GSD Designed Software: Experiments in Computer Vision, 1965-1991. "As you might expect, both `design' and `computation' were redefined along the way. Today it seems obvious that each implicates the other; the Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis helped usher in our computational second nature. Reflecting on the images collected here -- each the output of software tailor-made to carry out a particular type of analysis and produce a particular type of image -- exposes the work required to connect design to computation."

BUILDER is discussed in this exhibition, as you can see in this PDF.

  Exhibit on the Builder Program and our research on computer-aided architectural design, at Dispatches from the GSD: 75 Years of Design  (2011). More information