How the platform developed in Armenia enhances teaching process in Nantes' Superior School of Architecture: Interview with Laurent Lescop

April 11, 2024  19:28

With the ability to generate complex forms and structures based on predefined parameters, computational design has significantly advanced the realm of 3D modeling. This approach has gained immense popularity in recent years. At the forefront of this movement stands BeeGraphy, a platform developed in Armenia. The platform’s innovative solutions are widely adopted in many prestigious institutions worldwide, including the renowned Nantes' Superior School of Architecture (ENSA Nantes), France.

Laurent Lescop, a professor at the mentioned School, underscores the significant advantages of Beegraphy in computational design. He elaborates on how the platform also has enhanced the teaching process, enabling students to grasp concepts more effectively. Lescop also shares his journey of discovering BeeGraphy and how he actually came across this team from Armenia.

How did your “initial encounter" with BeeGraphy come about, and what drove you to incorporate it into the curriculum at the Nantes' Superior School of Architecture?

I'm constantly seeking effective tools to encourage students to delve deeper into the use of digital tools. I strongly believe that mastering advanced software, particularly algorithmic tools, enables us to tackle more complex questions more effectively. Why? Because it aligns with the natural flow of our thoughts. I've been using Grasshopper [a plugin for visual programming in a CAD software called Rhino 3D], but BeeGraphy emerged as a crucial platform for providing an ergonomic and accessible entry point into the world of visual programming. So I decided to give it a try.

Can you elaborate on how exactly you use BeeGraphy in your practice? Did this integration influence the way of the teaching process?

BeeGraphy serves two main purposes: firstly, it functions as a 'virtual algorithmic sketching' tool. This means we can explore shapes, structures, or concepts using parametric functions. We can stretch, deform, or use random functions to generate unexpected and inspiring results. For instance, I can import an image from BeeGraphy into Stable Diffusion to envision further project developments with textures, materials, and environmental settings. I can also print a scale model and compile a collection of formal hypotheses to share with others. Algorithmic applications operate on a different logic compared to conventional software. In programs like Word or AutoCAD, functions are contained within menus that users must be familiar with, and the software executes predefined tasks. However, with algorithmic applications like BeeGraphy, users must formulate their reasoning and implement it. Interestingly, when analyzing a definition in BeeGraphy, it visually reflects the thought process behind its creation. This reveals whether the thinking was hesitant or deliberate, whether clarity was evident from the outset, or if ideas evolved gradually during the design process. All these aspects make the teaching process engaging and effective.

What were the main features of BeeGraphy that influenced your decision to integrate it?

Firstly, accessing BeeGraphy is easier compared to Grasshopper, which requires a Rhino license that can be costly for students. Secondly, BeeGraphy ensures uniformity as everyone has access to the same version and software updates, which is crucial for teaching consistency. Thirdly, its ergonomic design is very good, resembling Grasshopper but with a more visually appealing interface. The use of colors aids in understanding the connections between components. Additionally, BeeGraphy offers features to showcase results and create real interfaces. It also provides a lot of sharing options, allowing users to share definitions with others

Can you share any notable achievements or successful projects accomplished by your students using BeeGraphy?

I appreciate it when beginners share that they were able to successfully complete an algorithmic design project for the first time. Many of them had previously attempted Grasshopper with limited success and eventually gave up. It's rewarding to hear that they were able to dive into BeeGraphy and achieve results. More experienced users often compare BeeGraphy with the software they used previously and find it easier to navigate in BeeGraphy.

What challenges does the lecturer/tutor face today generally?

The teaching process has changed a lot. Previously, it involved a one-way delivery of knowledge from me to the students, followed by an evaluation of their understanding. However, this approach is no longer relevant. Nowadays, teaching involves a collaborative effort where both tutors and students work together to solve complex problems. My role as a tutor is to provide guidance, share my knowledge to expedite the process, and explore various paths to solutions. Each student then charts their own course of action. It's a hands-on, active learning approach where students learn by doing. As tutors, we invest considerable effort in preparing for each session, anticipating various scenarios and questions. We must be able to answer a maximum of questions, demonstrate that we're actively engaged in finding solutions alongside the students, rather than simply lecturing. The outcome is twofold: firstly, we illustrate that there are multiple valid solutions to every problem, and secondly, we engage students in a research-oriented process that begins with asking insightful questions.

In your recently published tutorial, you demonstrated the solar path using BeeGraphy, focusing on Yerevan as a sample city. Could you tell a bit more about it?

The concept of a solar path presents an engaging opportunity for beginners to explore BeeGraphy.
[A solar path refers to the trajectory or path that the sun appears to follow across the sky over the course of a day or throughout the year. This path is influenced by factors such as the Earth's rotation, its tilt on its axis, and its orbit around the sun. The study of solar paths involves understanding how the position of the sun changes relative to a specific location on Earth at different times of the day and year]. To develop the algorithm for that it is essential for students to learn how to work with data and how to manage it using various tools, and also to understand a bit of trigonometry.

Exploring solar paths also offers insights into how ancient sites were oriented, making it valuable in archaeology and heritage preservation. Moreover, it's relevant in modern architecture, where architects benefit from knowledge of solar paths to design sustainable buildings. Given Armenia's rich heritage sites and contemporary constructions, this knowledge holds particular significance in the country.

Considering the friendly relations between Armenia and France, did BeeGraphy's Armenian background influence your decision to include it in the curriculum?

I didn’t know they were from Armenia. When I first discovered BeeGraphy, I saw a US bureau (office) indicated, which made me assume it was an American company, possibly with Armenian roots, but definitively American. I thought it was a group of Armenian-origin guys coming together for an innovative project in the US. I created my first tutorial and published it on LinkedIn and Lernik [Lernik Mirzakhanyan, the CPO of BeeGarphy] noticed it and reached out to me. Through our correspondence, I learned that the BeeGraphy team indeed was based in Armenia!

Have you had any prior relation to Armenia or with Armenian descent before this discovery?

For the French, Armenia holds a special place in our hearts. We admire many great artists and politicians from Armenia. This year is particularly significant as Missak Manouchian has been elevated as a national hero. I am very proud that my country has honored the heroic deeds of a foreign partisan, especially Manouchian.

Personally, I have always dreamed of visiting Armenia, and my sons had the opportunity to go there and were captivated by the country and its people. Additionally, I am fortunate to have had a wonderful PhD student, Arpi Mangasaryan, from Yerevan, for the past year. We worked hard to secure a grant from the French Ministry of Culture. Arpi is an exceptionally talented and skilled lady. During her visit to Yerevan this summer, she had the chance to meet the BeeGraphy team and reconnect with some fellow students. This illustrates what a small world it truly is.

Do you have any plans to visit Armenia to meet the BeeGraphy team or just to explore the country?

Oh yes, whenever I can, I’ll go there for sure. I just can’t wait for that. Maybe this summer!

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