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Robert Aish leaves Bentley
by Lars Hesselgren - 01 November 2007

The future of Generative Components is still safe.

Most people's reaction to the news that Robert Aish has resigned from Bentley and is joining Autodesk is "Well what happens to GC now?". As you may imagine this was indeed the reaction of myself and the members of the SmartGeometry Group.

Reassurance was swift from Greg Bentley - GC is not only a released product but the development team under Makai Smith (the GC product manager) is working hard on the next release and Bentley is fully committed to the continued development of GC.

This commitment is reflected in the continuing support for the SmartGeometry group.

The SG 2008 event will be in Munich and the Conference will be at the brand new BMW WELT building (naturally followed by a reception at the Olympic Park across the road of Frei Otto fame, still my favorite Olympic Stadium). The details of the event can be found at www.smartgeometry2008.com.

We have to acknowledge the enormous role Robert played in creating Generative Components. It was very much ‘his baby’.

When we created the SmartGeometry group back in 2002 it was as a reaction to a particularly dismal discussion at an Academic summit – the Professors simply seemed to have no idea of the real world and how computing power should fit into the design process.

Hugh Whitehead and J Parrish readily agreed that ‘we must do something’. Incredibly fortuitously our friend Robert Aish from YRM and Intergraph Master Architect days had joined Bentleys and was testing his first iteration of GC, so he joined the group. Our first outing with an incredibly rough Alpha was in Cambridge (2003); Robert did a new build every day, but we were only 20 or so. Things were slightly better at our next outing at ACADIA in 2004 (again in Cambridge, but Cambridge, Ontario Canada) when we were about 40 people. The next event drifted from 2005 into 2006 when we returned to Cambridge UK (with about 100 attendees) but we bolted on a Conference to show people what we were doing with the software. The Conference was held at the British Museum with a reception in the Great Court where lots of people turned up. Our next goal with a very reasonable Beta of GC was New York where we had 120 people at the workshop, 350 at the Conference at Cooper Union and far, far more at the reception at the Guggenheim Museum.

All of these events were of course courtesy of Bentley who have been fantastically supportive through the very long development cycle.

So this August 2007 the mewling GC baby was born, without much fanfare – that is the software had its commercial launch.

Through Robert’s and SG’s intense efforts the software has already infiltrated the academic institutions and I now regularly get CV’s stating the student has attended GC courses (alongside Rhino, Maya and all the usual suspects). GC is being taught worldwide in dozens on institutions ranging from MIT to the Architectural Association.

And an increasing number of offices use GC for actual buildings, more often than not at concept stage. KPF is now using GC for the primary design for our Pinnacle Tower (the top of which is exactly at the same height as the Shard) and our enormous airport in Abu Dhabi as well as on a range of projects from KPF NY.

So the baby is squealing lustily. But Dad has left, so now a new generation of parents has to step in. Step-parents, such as the SG group, are willing participants in seeing this baby grow up into a young adult. Darwinian evolution is stiff in the CAD market, products develop to fill niches and existing products grow and develop. Convergent evolution is very much a theme, as in other areas of mature technology (have you noticed how all cars are the same these days?) and undoubtedly GC has already kicked off an evolutionary arms race.

SG is proud of what we have done so far, no software survives without users. We have focused on the single platform because it created a level playing field when running hands-on workshops which are at the core of the ‘SG experience’.

And of course at the end of the day Autodesk’s move underlines the acceptance into the marketplace of tools designed for the new design age where computers are used as active design participants. It is a fundamentally different concept from BIM which is a wonderful
data storage method, but which leaves design out of the equation.

From all the reactions I have had so far it is clear that GC will carry on without Dad. Being brought up by foster parents he will be different. We can look at it as an experiment in the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. We the GC users hope to nurture him through adolescence to a fully mature and rounded young man. And we wish Dad the best of luck in his new life.