Greg Lynn's Embryological House: case study in the preservation of digital architecture

Introduction     Background     Animate Form     Digital Life     Technical Challenges     Other Challenges     Discoveries     Future Steps

While several institutions have been instrumental in developing strategies for digital preservation generally, and standards for digital preservation of images and text documents are now well-developed, standards and strategies for the long-term preservation of digital files produced as part of the architectural design process are still being debated. Preservation of such files has generally been carried out on an ad-hoc basis, and treatment of them as part of an archive has been rare—in fact these kinds of archives are only now becoming available to architectural institutions.

Architects use a wide variety of digital formats for creating and storing visual information in two and three dimensions, and increasingly in four dimensions also—as animations. The Embryological House archive, for example, includes formats appropriate to several different kinds of files:

The case study is an opportunity to research the preservation challenges specific to such formats. To date several general strategies have been identified as options for the preservation and long-term access of the archive. They include:

Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages; it is expected that several will be adopted in parallel in order to ensure the files' preservation and accommodate the needs of different research interests.

Above, left to right: Microstation drawing of "primitive" geometrical form from which the House iterations were developed; Microstation drawing of developed Embryological House; Maya model of the House, rendered; MEL script file; still from MOV animation of the House.