Building Information Modeling: A World View
Columbia GSAPP, 2018-19

Research thesis




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Abstract

This thesis examines the world-making impulse of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in an increasingly complex global construction landscape. Soon to be the de facto design medium of our times, BIM refers to a “7D” modeling ethic that aims to fully know a building, through a single data-rich model that generates drawings, schedules costs, detects clashes, produces objecthoods, and coordinates global teams. BIM constructs a fluorescent “systems realism” of total integration, in which parts add up to a calculable whole. While not conceptually new, this engineered world-view is being increasingly adopted (and accelerated) by conglomerates of Architecture, Engineering, & Construction (AEC).

Yet its outwardly airtight circular logics present aporia that raise questions about their operation. As pipes outgrow and outsmart their physical enclosures, so do the exigencies of integrated management. What is the ontology of this multi-scalar engine of production, traversing bolts to buildings, and supply-chains to entire cities? Between technical imaging and its public-relations image, what are the social and political stakes of BIM media? By beginning in medias res—in the middle of things—this research probes the frictions, facticity, performativity, and visual economy of our advanced drawing machines, and materialities attendant in the digital making and managing of built and yet-unbuilt worlds.