Computational Design Gallerbee Concept for Exhibition Design Parametric Design

Proof of Concept #5 | Airtable + bi-directional data transfer

So far Excel has been used in the examples but in this demonstration we will see how to use the more comprehensive online database system Airtable.

Airtable is currently used by the chief curators of the Barbican Centre in London for exchanging data and managing traveling exhibitions. I was shown this in an interview with them that was part of the field research for this Gallerbee project. I had the opportunity to see how they work with this system and the kind of data and connections they keep. The connections they make between different data sets were also very interesting and inspiring. The level of detail was very far reaching. Due to security concerns, I am unable to submit images of this, but work is currently underway to grant me access to a limited portion of the dataset.

There are many differences between Excel and Airtable. But one of the major differences is the fact that Airtable can house any type of data and has a unique API connection per database.

Example of database in Airtable

This means that Airtable can store textual and numerical data by default, but also images, videos, audio files, geometry, etc.

Using remote Python outside of Rhino3D (Ghremote), I was able to establish a live connection between Airtable and Rhino3D.

In this proof of concept, we see two major improvements over Proof of Concept #1:

  • Data exchange is now really 2 way: The design can be influenced by pinning objects from the Airtable. And feedback on the design and object data is sent back to the Airtable base.
  • Image data for objects is stored directly in the database and downloaded by Rhino3D.

We have in this proof of concept an exhibition space with some structural building elements in it. These could be columns and a staircase, for example. In the space we place some objects from the Airtable. As we create the layout, there is continuous feedback on the degree of security of these objects. This is based on the visibility through the 2 security cameras mounted along the wall.

Instead of moving the objects, we could also move the cameras to get a better view. This feedback is then also updated in Airtable.

A setup in grasshopper where camera angles can be analyzed in an exhibit.

We can lock an object in the Airtable if we are satisfied with the location of an object. This prevents even more random movements in the Rhino3D model.

This model is as close as you can get to a more advanced Gallerbee system. Some limitations that still need to be overcome are:

  • Speed: the loading time after each change is a few seconds. This should be shorter for a better user experience.
  • The Airtable database is not very intuitive. An accessible interface is a very important factor in the success of a Gallerbee system. This should be a layer on top of a database with similar capabilities to Airtable.

This particular example demonstrated the ability to evaluate security issues. This could be of interest to the museum itself or to insurance companies and parties lending artworks. This data could also be used to improve the security plan for a museum in general.

Other aspects that can be analyzed in a similar way:

  • Evaluate visibility for visitors
  • Evaluate visibility for security personnel
  • Evaluate exposure of objects to light

These are just a few examples. But by modifying the algorithm, the possibilities are literally endless and can be optimized for any scenario.

A YouTube video of this proof of concept can be found here: