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A fuming coffee mug talk on ArchSociety's development
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Tue Oct 06 2009, 07:44pm Print
Admin Registered Member #4 Joined: Thu Aug 04 2005, 04:54am
: Dhaka
Posts: 666
Recently after starting the facebook group of ArchSociety sending notifications to members and non-members got more easy. And we are kind of sorry for our stimulating frequent messages. We hope you you people didn't treat those as spams!

In this verge of out-reaches one of our old friends (who is literally one of my favorite teachers) Arman Chowdhury knocked us with some inspiring, insightful talks about the present and future of ArchSociety via Facebook messages. And it was heading towards a fuming coffee mug discussion that may lead to some game-changing decisions for the future. So we decided to open up the FB discussion to all ArchSociety members and readers. Here I directly quote the messages from Facebook and declare a new start here in our open forum.

(Keep your forehead straight! I am publishing these messages after permission from both ends)
One of our mass-message's (sent by Rubel Raf) title was "You think you can think? Only writings say you think" on a reply to this message

Arman Chowdhury wrote:

"this post did capture my attention. this should not be taken as ranting but we come from a culture where even the so called greats don't do research work or write books in & for our discipline... but we bengali architects are so full of it when we seat in a discussion or forums yet have done nothing to properly document and publish them. there will never be systematic acculmulation of knowledge as long as we do not write ( by write i mean scholarship_ scholarly work in one chosen field of expertise). my previous generation has failed us measerably ( this includes all the so dear faculties of ours). but we should take a different route and do our part for i do not want to be at the receving end of tirads from our next generation saying we have done nothing. so who ever is reading this , simply act upon your wishes constructively and stick to it."

I replied back:
"Dear Arman Sir,
Thank you so much for your message. We agree with what you wrote/think (!
"we come from a culture where even the so called greats don't do research work or write books in & for our discipline... but we bengali architects are so full of it when we seat in a discussion or forums yet have done nothing to properly document and publish them. there will never be systematic accumulation of knowledge as long as we do not write"

ArchSoceity starts the journey... and keeps going... with no fund, almost no supports. No architects (other than very few of us ) writes in ArchSociety from Bangladesh. Every option is open there. Then whats wrong with us or them? What can we assume:
1. They don't understand/appreciate the power of 'Open-source' knowledge culture over the internet.
2. They are reluctant, ignorant and selfish enough for not to write and share!
Otherwise they should be proud of something like made and maintained in Bangladesh. Which now has recognitions from organizations like TED (, UN Habitat and several others.

Right now we are thinking of expanding our works to two new ventures:
1. Open Urban Design Think Tank
(A project to collect, accumulate already designed solutions and to research and provide new solutions to critical urban crises of the fastest growing poorest megacities like Dhaka, Lagos and Mumbai. And after that, all data and the solutions will be published online for free to use by anyone, specially intended for Govt. organizations and policy makers those who 'suffers' to take decisions and use valuable donations properly.)
2. Connected Studios
(A concept of global design studios for students. Its like few universities will agree to give same project in their certain semesters and the studio resources, teachers opinions, students outputs will be shared online simultaneously, seamlessly. At the end a global jury and grade will be awarded. This will help seriously to bridge the gaps among the schools around the world)

I would highly appreciate if you start writing in the ArchSociety forum. And we would be so glad to get your advices in how to make ArchSociety better and about the new projects we are thinking of. And of course some clues about how to raise fund!
Thank you so much, sir, for your concern."

Arman Chowdhury replied:
post 01: I am listening, there are so many fronts we can collaborate. but we can start by ditching the arman "sir" thing. call me by my first name. all of you. that's the problem in academia in our country, we faculties some time hide behind this sir thing and wriggle our way out without having at par conversation. In creative education & industry there is no space for , " u have to do it for i told you so" notion. every thing has to be explained and tested.

now for few of the issues that you & your friend have mentioned. Broadly speaking, i am totally on board with free sharing of technique, technology and know how, (and believe me when i say this i mean cutting edge technology_the kind of stuff Gehry and Hadid uses and even beyond, i also happen to be an alpha tester for autodesk & there are 50 such people in the world). There are tons of stuff i can provide from my side & i'll speak to that issue in a bit. But i want maximum sharing with your friends, colleagues, students and and new graduates and most important, dedication in following through the projects we decide upon. And of course systematic documentation & publication of the work we do. Plz be inclusive to all_ all will have access to our work, so that they can pick up the threads and do fruther work. this is how we can take the lead & be innovators ourselves as bengalees and come out of the shadow of the West. this will benefit all, both professionally and academic wise. let me know what you guys think of this format? stay tuned for consequent posts on this.

I think your # 1 agenda is a very relevant issue, we will chat on this further.

Now it will continue in this thread.. (Everyone is most welcome to join us in this brain work!).
Edited Wed Oct 07 2009, 07:22pm
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Tue Oct 06 2009, 08:21pm
Admin Registered Member #4 Joined: Thu Aug 04 2005, 04:54am
: Dhaka
Posts: 666
Openness and inclusiveness were the two basic attitudes ArchSociety tried to develop from the beginning till now.
Although if you look at the articles section of ArchSociety there are only few of them published. Among the Bangladeshi architects you'll find only an article on Muzharul Islam and two on Jalal Ahmed. And it may give you a notion that we are not wiling to include all. The truth is I started with Jalal Ahmed and had/have the plan to include more. I was a student then. And I was/am failed to gather volunteers to work on other architects from around the world, specially from developing nations. And I myself couldn't manage to work on other architects' works after taking care of all the sections: news updates, articles, forum maintenance, server and backend works, public relations etc. together. Surely we'll eventually keep publishing works and profiles of other architects as soon as we get some voluntary supports.

Now let me talk about the financial part! ArchSociety is running on almost zero funds from beginning till now. We got very poor support via Google Adsense and now we have removed those irritating ads from the site. We have to raise fund anyhow to think and work seriously on development of content and for the new projects we are thinking of. Another issue is the legal issue! ArchSociety is still not a registered organization. How should it be registered? A non-profit or a society or online-media or magazine or dotcom incorporation? The core intension and focus is to build and expand open-source knowledge resources for the architects and designers in developing nations, which will be free from the archi-glamor centric typical magazine attitude focusing on more practically helping the community through free contents, updated information, publication and sharing. This focus more goes with a non-profit business organization, I think.

The Open Urban Design Think Tank (lets call it 'OUT'!) project has a specific time-line and budget already (budget not fund!). I may publish those plans here if you (plural) are interested.
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the albatross
Sat Oct 10 2009, 05:04pm
Registered Member #1674 Joined: Sat Oct 10 2009, 03:27pm
Posts: 6
sorry for the delay in the post. have been travelling and will be wired up until the 15th. but let's get movin'.

post 02: let's try to set a working format & nothing is set in stone. do suggest ideas if things need to be adjusted. we will engage both in theory ' kappchano' and practical application & most importantly implementation parallely. for we all know practice without thoery is blind and only theory does not have a soul. we will test these in actual field...may be enable kidz to try out new stuff in pavilion design coming up in the winter.

this has to be a two way traffic. there are stuff that i can provide from my side but there are tons of stuff that we can learn from good old bangladesh and make it relevant for our times. only we have to have the eye and the heart to do so. exhibit 01: did you know F R khan had the idea of the john hancook centre from the rural ' basher shako' structure? exhibit 02: the advance studio at UPenn spent months in bangladesh to do their final 3rd year project for the m.arch degree and they did not spend time in the city rather in the villages.

here is what i am thinking...let us first do an audit of how we architects work in bangaldesh. our tooling is obselete ( no one uses auto cad these days in the west) and our theory is obsolete ( it seems faculties cannot talk beyond modernism and form follows function thing  ugh!)...and most provide critique in terms of program function regardless of what the context & performance intent of the project is. all 'Isms' are dead, these ism talk is relevant only in professional circuits and has nothing to do with the client & society at large. exhibit 03: what has modernism to do with a rickshawala riding his rickshaw in the street? when we go to doctor does he bore us with his philosophy or just straight forward diagnosis of what the problem is?

isms were relevant 80 yrs ago when we needed a theory to handle the new building materials we were using namely reinforced concrete. things have changed and so have the isms , right now i use my computer not only as fast efficient documenting tool, not only as a visualization tool but as a design partner, i state & describe the relationship of the elements driven by actual data  and complex forms are generated and documented. that is our current tooling. what has modernism or post moderinism to do with such tooling. right now the world is talking parametric and associative design and environmental data driven design and the rest is secondary. let me coin an exact metaphor, will it make sense if you fix a 'gorur gari chaka' to a mercedes E coupe class? Wake UP you pompous bangladeshi architects! update you working tools & then design will follow suite.

exhibit 04:

check these out...

which leads to project like these:

1255194284 1674 FT3970 Gerkin

let's get warmed up. I am sure some of you use rhino 3 or 4, go to tools tab, rhino script and then go to the floater paste the following script:

Option Explicit
Sub Weave'script by arman chowdhury
'for daniel bosia, chris lasch, veronika schmid
'Explanation: sine & cosine values of the two helixes insures no two points are in the same position in space
'which also helps in the weft and warp construction of the weave
'provide a=12,b=9,c=9,d=12,k=34,coils=6 for quick execution of programme
'but any input is good enough
'plan of future work: in a specified field arbitrary position of weave columns can be selected;
'the positions selected will determine various heights of weave column growths and canopy levels;
'the lateral growth of the canopies will merge geometrically into a common canopy
Dim x, y, z,x1,y1,z1
Dim firstcurve(),secondcurve()
Dim i, t, pi,l
Dim a,b,c,d,k,coils
a=12:'Rhino.GetString ("input sine value for first helix")
c=9:'Rhino.Getstring ("input cos value for first helix")
b=9:'Rhino.Getstring ("input sine value for second helix")
d=12:'Rhino.Getstring ("input cos value for second helix")
k=34:'Rhino.Getstring ("height of canopy")
coils=6:'Rhino.Getstring ("no.of coils")pi = 108*Atn(1)
i = 0Rhino.Addlayer "weave",RGB(216,165,204)
Rhino.currentlayer "weave"''*******exapansion modules when degenerating weave************* l = coils*6*pi
For t = 0 To l Step (pi/20)
  If t > l-4*pi*coils Then k=k-.1:If k<10 Then k=k+.2 ' ripple code
  If t > l-4*pi*coils Then a=a+.1
  If t > l-4*pi*coils Then b=b+.1 
  If t > l-4*pi*coils Then c=c+.1 
  If t > l-4*pi*coils Then d=d+.1
'' ******* main code******    
 x = Sin(t) * a : x1 = Sin(t) * b
 y = Cos(t) * c:y1 = Cos(t) * d
 z = k/(12*pi)*t:z1=k/(12*pi)*t
 ReDim Preserve firstcurve(i):ReDim Preserve secondcurve(i)
 firstcurve(i) = Array(x,y,z):secondcurve(i) = Array(x1,y1,z1)
 'Rhino.addpoint firstcurve(i):'Rhino.addpoint secondcurve(i)
''*******exapansion modules when generating weave************* i = i+1: a=a+.1: b=b+.1:d=d+.1:c=c+.1
 If b>z/1.25 Then b=b-.1:If d>z/1.25 Then d=d-.1
 If a>z/1.25 Then a=a-.1:If c>z/1.25 Then c=c-.1
'' the following command is for understanding growth pattern
 'Rhino.AddInterpCurve firstcurve:Rhino.AddInterpCurve secondcurve
'*********** warp and weft construction*************** 'Rhino.Addlayer "reinforcements",RGB(82,47,98)
 'Rhino.currentlayer "reinforcements"
 'Dim g,h
 'For g=1 To i: h=g+40: If h>i-7 Then Exit For
 'Rhino.Addline firstcurve(g+6),secondcurve(h)
 'Rhino.addline secondcurve(g),firstcurve(h+6)
 Dim s,p':ReDim m(i),n(i)
 For s=0 To i: p=s+37: If p>i-7 Then Exit For
  Rhino.Addlayer "vertical reinforcements",RGB(82,47,188)
  Rhino.currentlayer "vertical reinforcements" 
  Rhino.Addline firstcurve(s),firstcurve(p)
Rhino.Addline firstcurve(s),firstcurve(p+6)
   'Rhino.Addlayer "vertical reinforcements 02",RGB(124,104,184)
   'Rhino.currentlayer "vertical reinforcements 02" Next
 Dim arrPoints,s1,p1,arrpoints2,s2,p2
  For s1=0 To i Step 2: p1=s1+37: If p1>(i-7)Then Exit For
arrPoints = Array (firstcurve(p1),firstcurve(p1+3),firstcurve(p1+6),firstcurve(s1))',firstcurve(p+37))Rhino.AddSrfPt arrPoints NextFor s2=0 To i Step 2: p2=s2+43:If p2>(i-7) Then Exit For
arrpoints2 = Array (firstcurve(p2),firstcurve(s2+6),firstcurve(s2+3),firstcurve(s2))Rhino.addsrfpt arrpoints2 Next
 End Sub

after that run the arrow command to run the script...have fun tweaking the parameters. there other softwares that does not require scripting knowledge and we'll look into those in subsequent posts but for now let's do this get to know what these are all about. there are also tecnhniques that can document these custome members and be published ans annotated in 2D ...when you have that you can talk to any carpenter or steel contractor who are willing to do something new.

now what does these all mean? say you are working with the weaver in the village and understand their technique . interprete those relationship into scripts run it and you have a structural template that you generated from your back yard and you don't have to look at gehry's , zaha's or rem's work to try to create cheap copies. or let's say you describe the relationship of a rural courtyard houses and develop a master plan strategy for project to be executed there. i say, it will be something very indegenous and not something we will have imported or basterdized from the west. or you are facinated how the leaves of a fern unfolding and develop the reletionship and run it through the computer and walla...! the sky is the limit or rather the sky is not the limit...

feed back encouraged... btw...lovin the look of archsociety...very impressive! 

"spread your wings and u'll see you control your destiny" _the albatross [/html] Edited Sat Oct 10 2009, 06:13pm
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the albatross
Sat Oct 10 2009, 06:11pm
Registered Member #1674 Joined: Sat Oct 10 2009, 03:27pm
Posts: 6
The Open Urban Design Think Tank.....elaborate further plz.
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Sun Oct 11 2009, 12:22pm
Admin Registered Member #4 Joined: Thu Aug 04 2005, 04:54am
: Dhaka
Posts: 666
Exactly. Even being the oldest architect of the region Muzharul Islam always talks about a 'No Ism' concept for the new generations. In a gathering in his living room (around 3 years ago arranged by Discourse) after all our question about the future directions of architecture he uttered only few words. Those were something like:
"I didn't care about any symbols and isms. I did what it was supposed to be. And you (younger generations) should do what is right for the people, sincerely. That's it. Keep this in mind, your works will automatically be good for places and the people."

Hmm, the way AutoCAD is being used in Dhaka's school and offices its just a mere replacement of drafting tools. The software doesn't help to take any decision anyway.
In TED 2009 I met Carl Bas, the CEO of AutoDesk and a research fellow Tom Wujec. We had some discussion on the current and future technologies in AutoDesk lab. I saw some demo products. It was amazing! And then I realized where I am living in a world of drafting tools when the technologies have reached up to the level of mixing direct human interactions with forms and energy policies.

Thanks for coining this issue!
Personally I am also a layman in Rhino, ArchiCAD, Microstation, Revit, Cinema 4D. I am still on AtudoCAD and SketchUp. However now I have all those softwares installed either in Mac or PC. But I get no one near me who can at least introduce me with the techniques of object oriented CAD and use of scripts. And our schools are pathetically awful in teaching technology.
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Sun Oct 11 2009, 12:29pm
Admin Registered Member #4 Joined: Thu Aug 04 2005, 04:54am
: Dhaka
Posts: 666
The OUT (Open Urban-Design Think-Tank) Project: (I submitted this idea of a project for TED Senior Fellowship application. So it may be in a format that supports their requirements. Here is what I submitted:)
The Project
Better Cities through an Open-source Urban Design Think Tank
The general practice of urban designers is to say ‘oops! It was a wrong design’ after 20-30 years of the implementation! Almost none of the planning and urban design projects are ever successful in a long run especially in the growing megacities.
The fastest growing cities are now located in the poorest countries in the world. Most often they are growing without any planning or design at all. I am living in one of them, Dhaka. Crises are better realized from inside the crises!
Dhaka now has a population of around 14 million with a crazy density (probably the highest density in the world) of 45,508 per km2. The city still runs! Obviously Dhaka suffers from thousands of problems. For example few of the current severe problems are deadlock traffic jams, a tannery industry area and two cantonments inside the city, serious lack of public transportation services and thousands of small-scale urban neighborhood problems.

This project can be an extension of or may be an independent new project which will be called as the ‘Open Urban Design Think-tank’ (OUT) consists of a small team of multidisciplinary design professionals, thinkers, politicians or/and general citizens. Through own research and public opinions OUT will identify the crises in the fastest growing cities of developing countries. In a 6-month’s framework OUT will try to figure out the solution of a problem in a city. At the end of the 6 months time of a specific project OUT will host a public exhibition with the better realization of the problem and possibly with the solutions. General citizens and professionals will have the opportunity to add their comments and thoughts to the solutions through the activities in the exhibitions or via the website. Thus finally after 6 months OUT will come up with a solution of an urban crisis. All those surveys, research works, designs, comments and the solutions will be published under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. Later any organization (including the government policy makers) may take those projects as references or for implementation.
Every 6 months this process may run in different cities. Initially Dhaka, Mumbai, Delhi, Lagos and Manila are in the list. The initiated projects may vary from looking towards the solution of citywide problems, very small urban-infill designs or revitalization of losing cultural richness of neighborhoods. Others may replicate the process and format of OUT projects, do their exhibitions and submit their projects to the free database. Beside these self-initiated projects OUT website will always remain open for accepting new project proposals in different cities, publication of already done research works from universities and other government or professional bodies.
Thus after the 3 years time the OUT will become a host of at least 5 solutions of major crises in cities plus hopefully more projects submitted by others. All projects will remain open to accept modifications, comments and new ideas. Thus we may hope for future-proof-solutions of urban crises in developing megacities.
The public exhibitions and involvements of people from different sectors will surely help raising the awareness about the problems and the solutions in the cities in crises. And the proposed solutions may get the opportunity of implementation whenever the politicians and governments are motivated to initiate the projects in reality. At least it will become a free database of solutions for small to large-scale urban crises of poor megacities.

In cities like ours we can not afford to do anymore mistakes, we can not afford to carry on the previous mistakes and at the same time often we can not afford to buy data, design or host R&D for the development of the cities. So offering sustainable solutions to the urban crises for free to the government and policy makers may help change the situation.

Project Timeline:
Initial 6 Months:
-Initial frameworks
-Managing funds, Building the team and the associations with universities, architects, urban planners, engineers, Politicians and citizens.
-Development of the project management and archiving web-engine to host the OUT projects online.
Initiated 5 projects in the following 2 and half years (6 months each):
- Taking up projects, survey, collecting research data, adding comments and analyses, design and solutions (Continuous process).
(Example of few initial possible projects in Dhaka: Redesigning road network around Mohammadpur Bus-stand area, Relocation of Hajaribagh Tannery industries from residential area, Redefining road network around Moghbazar area to reduce traffic jam)
- Exhibitions and direct public involvements.
- Rethinking of the solutions according to public opinions.
-Archiving the final outcomes, declaring new solutions and policies of solving those problems.

After 3 years: at least 5 initiated projects' results will be online. And they will become free to copy and use resources for developments. Besides the initiated projects the OUT will remain open for accepting any other proposals and research data and upgrading and future proofing of existing projects.

(BDT= Bangladeshi Taka, 1USD = around 69 BDT, Budgets are predicted assuming all projects are in Dhaka)
Initial development of the frameworks: 5,00,000 BDT
For each initiated projects:
-- Team development and remunerations of the core members: 40,000 BDT per-month per person. 4 persons: 4X40,000= 160,000 BDT per month;
> 19,20,000 BDT per Year.
-- Remunerations of supporting members: 2 persons: 35,000X2 = 70,000 BDT per month
> 8,40,000 BDT per year.
-- Additional 1,50,000 BDT per month for administrative and other expenses
> 18,00,000 BDT per year
-- 2,00,000 BDT for exhibition twice a year
> 4,00,000 BDT per Year

Total: 54,60,000 BDT per year > 1,63,80,000 BDT in 3 years. = 237,392 USD in 3 years Edited Sun Oct 11 2009, 12:39pm
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the albatross
Sun Oct 18 2009, 11:59pm
Registered Member #1674 Joined: Sat Oct 10 2009, 03:27pm
Posts: 6
post 04: after reading much and i am still going through the ins & outs of your scheme, i think you have to be a bit more realistic. we will always dream of the ideal, we have to do it, that's what keeps us going. But at the same time we have to see how these or some of it can be achieved.

i would say a long term enbgagment with dhaka city as the prime project will make more sense for archsociety. Once you have a success story a lot will follow afterwards. bUt you have to have that One success story. 

the budget that you have outlined is a work budget and more in line to what you have proposed to TED 2009. but people are & will be more interested to know what any of these projects will yield monetary value & profit wise? hang on, every thing is driven by investment, how that yields profit and who gets what in the end. every thing is driven by that. if you have a sound plan that investors and politician cab understand then rest is relatively easy.

so here are some basic questions: 

1. you have talked about the working format of the group but not about what the group actually is goign to do , what objective, tangible ones, not like we will solve the traffic congestion but more like we will address the issues with such and such strategy supported by such and such data, supported by such & such investment &  return , supported such & such stake holders.... just to begin with. So I will begin simply by asking WHY do we have traffic congestion in dhaka city? a detail study of issues and infrastructure is required, some of these you already have but you need a formal well structured report.

2. the report in its self is nothing, thousands of such report has been done in the past years gathering dust and is mostly BS. so to make the report worth while, you have already undentified the WHY...then you go about setting the ideal but REALISTIC scenario of addressing the WHY of this issue. and you will see a lot of investment and return aspects will surface and you will realize that this will require a lot networking with a lot of relevant people.

3. that will begin to identify the stake holders. At this stage a detail economic analysis will be required by a very competent professional along with actual proposal of the solution. Now you have a working document. Still to many it will be just another BS.

4. now comes the most important part of the whole endevour. you have to network with all the relevant people who are actually in position to do & influence movement, no matter wether you like the person or not. You have to have your list of people who are essential fo rthe project to gain ground and no matter what, they have to be brought on board. that also includes people like Dr. Nizam wth whom say Jummu bhai or vitti will never work. But Shut up ye all! we have to learn to work together for a greater good even if it means i have to talk to the devil, then i will. that's how it is done else where and that is the effective way of achieving progress. You said you will be inclusive. That MEANS inclusive of all. the good, the bad & the ugly! can you manage that? do you have that mind set? if yes then there is hope, else its all wasted time. This doesn't mean you are goign to sing Cumbaya with all but we will learn to work with all. In the end you will see a lot more have been achieved!

5. Once the key people are convinced of the economic and social benefit and move on to a PPP ( public private partnership scheme) where the public is able to invst in such schemes, that's where the capital is. Forget govt investment. And you will be amazed how much currency can be generated in that way. Bnagladesh IS not  a poor country. it is simply ill managed. 

6. and to achieve # 5  you will have to have proper endorsement and a lot of public PR . & there are thousand and one way of doing this.

I am not going to go into other phases as they will not make sense at this phase

So does this make sense to you and to all who are reading this? what i am driving at is that projects in itself will yield nothing if they are not accompanied by stake holders and investment scheme. We bangaldeshi architects are never trained in that way, but any where else , be it in middle east, india , china or any other countries of far east , or europe and america that's how it is done. So lets start by addressing # 1. I am waiting.
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the albatross
Mon Oct 19 2009, 12:12am
Registered Member #1674 Joined: Sat Oct 10 2009, 03:27pm
Posts: 6
post 05 : this is regarding tooling. I am glad you have some of the softwares already with you and some you can buy and down load through the internet. i suggest let's start with Rhino, and will move on to Generative Component or Revit 2010 or 2011 depending where we are at that time. since rhino is more readily available, let's start with that. are others interested? ideal will be couple of your colleagues, One senior practioner, One faculty. we will go through the loops with all these softwares in a 2 year time period, slowly but consistently. And I assure you my friend, you all will WOW the world. 

have you run the script yet? let's see some pretty pictures!
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