Taking the next step of architectural design pedagogy with Digital Photogrammetry

By Wafaa Wajihah Mohammad Rosmadini and Akkani Alexander Warning, AUN interns
25 January 2021

Architecture: The art or practise of designing and constructing buildings. One key aspect to master the art of architecture is to study and understand buildings and constructions. A particular component is the process of replicating these buildings through measured drawings. Not only does this process require time and effort but also the resources and utilities to create the mentioned replications, which are rarely affordable for students. A great way to approach this issue is by using the method of digital photogrammetry. Dr Takehiko Nagakura, an Associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dr Yeo Kang Shua, an Associate professor at Singapore University of technology and Design (SUTD) have advocated their lives and profession in the pursuit of advancing the architectural design pedagogy by introducing the art of Digital Photogrammetry.

Digital photogrammetry supplements the lack of measured drawing education in today’s architecture. It consists of a series of steps that are quite adaptable whereby students need to take a lot of photographs which will then overlap with each other to construct a 3D Model. Students will later go back to the studio as the photos go through a post-processing software to form a 3D model. However, the accuracy of the model depends on how well the photographs are taken. Otherwise, students would have to re-visit the site and enable them to look at the building in greater detail. Dr Yeo recommends the utilisation of photogrammetry due to its low entry threshold in terms of cost especially for students in comparison to other architectural modelling devices such as laser scanners or portable RGBd devices. In comparison to expensive orthodox modelling devices, phone cameras are the better and more affordable option even the ones with lower resolution are also compatible with the task. From an educational viewpoint, the usage of the own phone creates an innovative method of learning, adding variety to the more theoretical based studies of architecture.

Consequently, Dr Nagakura has created a workshop on ‘Heritage digital photogrammetry’ that specialises in teaching students the best way to utilise modern technologies and incorporate the historical tradition of measured drawings to do architectural documentation. He reiterated that the habit of making model measures with the set idea and instinct of architectural preservation allow experts and scholars to study tiny details such as textures, materials and colours as well as appreciate the architectural intricacy of the site. Dr Nagakura and Dr Yeo have also collaborated on a project called ‘Collaboration platform: MIT-SUTD design heritage’ which is a web-based website that collects different aspects or components of a building for different students to do part photogrammetry models and later combine them into one huge model. The website is devised with the ability to handle visualisation of 3D models with an immense amount of data.

A supplementary tool, an Augmented reality (AR) Mail from Harbin utilises the transcribed 3D models with the use of AR to study and understand space. Dr Yeo highlighted that “Photogrammetry and Advancement in Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR) provides a great opportunity for architectural education”. Thus, creating an innovative method of learning, adding variety to the more theoretical based studies of architecture through the integration of modern technology.