What happens when you give two assignments to six talented students and provide them with just three weeks to develop concepts? Our collaboration with The Oslo School of Architecture and Design put everyone to the test — and ended with extraordinary results.
Late last year, we introduced Spacemaker to the Digital Service Experience class at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design. My colleagues Espen Philip Haugen and Hans-Martin Erlandsen challenged the students with two assignments. They could choose between:
Three weeks later, six master’s students presented their concepts to a captivated crowd at Spacemaker. Below, we explore these assignments, the process undertaken, and the results.
The Digital Service Experiences course is open for students who have a focus on either interaction or service design. The two assignments offered were chosen specifically because of these focuses.
“Digital Service Experiences” is an advanced Master course in interaction and service design. The course addresses current developments in the design of digital services, with an emphasis on experiential, creative and innovative qualities. — AHO
The ‘Life between buildings’ assignment focused on the outdoor area created between the buildings, highlighting questions such as:
- How do we design the parts of the site without buildings?
- How is, and more importantly how should, this space be considered in projects?
- This UX assignment was tightly connected to our platform — how can our users input their (possibly contradicting) preferences for an outdoor area on their site?
- Can Spacemaker assist our users by revealing the qualities of a space between the buildings?
The second assignment was focused on service design, named ‘Evaluating architecture.’ This prompt examined the subject of new tools and processes for public governance and decision-making within the built environment. The task was not small. In comparison to the first assignment, this one was less connected to the interface of our platform. Instead, it took a macroscopic perspective, looking at the possibilities Spacemaker could serve in a larger scheme. Ultimately, the assignment asked:
- How can we use AI to aid civil servants and local politicians tasked with evaluating proposed buildings and the urban environment?
Without much prior knowledge in either the science behind our analyses or the architecture those analyses inform, I don’t find the work we do at Spacemaker readily is understandable. Aside from the technically- and disciplinary heavy terminology, we must consider the intertwined affiliation between several stakeholders: site developers, the municipality, consultants, architects, and most importantly, the people who’ll be living in and around the cities we’re creating.
These challenges meant that getting a full overview of the intricacies of Spacemaker would simply take too much time. Nonetheless, Bilal Chaudhry and I delivered a fast-paced walkthrough of the platform. It was a positive sign when, just a week later, the students were back, ready to discuss their first thoughts and the possible directions of their projects.
Over the next couple of weeks, (perhaps encouraged by free lunches) the students showed up each Monday afternoon at the Spacemaker office — an opportunity for them to speak to the many experts available. When they weren’t physically in the office, we’d still be in contact through Slack, enabling them to continue testing and improving their ideas.
Not surprisingly, after years in the business, we’ve had some time to reflect upon the subjects of our two assignments. This reflection has resulted in an overwhelming volume of related reports and information. “Yes, we tried that once…” became somewhat of a catchphrase as the students poked and prodded the assignment from multiple angles. Admirably, this repetition never diminished their eagerness, and was matched from our side as we followed their progress with anticipation. We knew that it was only by close engagement between the students, Spacemaker, and the professors that we could ensure the projects ended up having a high level of disciplinary accuracy. We were proved right; the end results from the students were truly exceptional.
Three weeks after the projects had kicked off, the students presented their final concepts. Of course, we weren’t the only ones at Spacemaker keen to hear their conclusions — many others from across the company attended a special presentation.
Thomas Wang started out presenting what he and Vegard Hartman had created for the “Life between buildings” assignment. They developed high fidelity concepts on how to visualize good outdoor areas between buildings on a site, based on analyses Spacemaker provides: sun, wind, and noise qualities. One of the concepts was about enabling the users to interact with these qualities by actively “pulling the levers” and observing the change in conditions, showing the positive and negative impact of each decision. This idea is a fantastic way for our users to utilize the capabilities of Spacemaker and make improved outdoor areas.
Next, Jonas Vetlesen and Fredrik Just followed up with their delivery for the same assignment. They had investigated how the functions of an outdoor area are defined, whether they are dependent on the nature of the site, or by the activity planned for it. One of the concepts Jonas and Fredrik presented was about the possibility to consider indoors and outdoors in unity. This way, users can learn how functions like a kindergarten or café can impact their surrounding outdoor area and vice versa.
Last but not least, Martin Bøckman and Julie Sandvoll presented their response to “Evaluating architecture.” They had explored the process of architectural competitions, the stakeholders, and the possibility of including the community in these competitions. Competitions like these receive hundreds of submissions; going through them is a comprehensive exercise. Martin and Julie presented the possibility of using the capabilities of Spacemaker for politicians and peers to evaluate the architects’ proposals. Their concept envisions a way to use AI/ML to save time while including the public.
An Impressive Result
We were nothing but delighted to see the students’ ability to absorb the complexity of the tasks, explore a vast space of possibilities, and develop finalized concepts, all in just three weeks.
We extend tremendous appreciation to the students Vegard Hartmann, Thomas Wang, Jonas Vetlesen, Fredrik Just, Martin Bøckman, and Julie Sandvoll for showing us new potential within our software. Additionally, recognition must be given to their professors, Mosse Sjaastad, Einar Sneve Martinussen, and Kai Reaver for supporting this extraordinary collaboration.