Exercise: An Architectural Folly


From the Oxford English Dictionary one definition of folly is "An example of foolishness; a foolish action, error, idea, practice, etc.; a ridiculous thing, an absurdity."

An architectural folly is a building without definitive purpose. You might think of it as a sculpture that can be inhabited. Some consider an architectural folly to be decorative (not a positive way of looking at architecture). 

In this exercise you will be constructing an architectural folly. Yes, that's right, a building with no purpose. The exercise, however, has a purpose. That purpose is to give you opportunity to explore modeling using the 3DS Max software. 


Objectives/Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

Students will acquire and demonstrate:  1.) technical competency in working modeling tools in 3DS Max, 2.)sense of craft through precision and care in the presentation of the work, 3.)design aptitude in the ability to solve a formal and spatial  problem and explore possible solutions, 4.) judgment in the composition of objects within a context. 5.) consideration of limitations and constraints in the problem solving process.


AF.1. Go to Google and search for images under the search terms "bernard tschumi parc de la villette". You should see a bunch of images of Tschumi's architectural follies in the Parc de la Villette in France. If you click on Web next to Images, you can read up on the park and its design. You can also do a little research on Bernard Tschumi to see what is all about. 

AF.2. Open 3DS Max. Make a copy of your context model and rename the file with your name followed by Architectural Folly. Bernard Tschumi would name his file BernardTschumi_ArchitecturalFolly.

AF.3. If you study Tschumi's follies, you will see that, of course, they are red. You will also see that they tend to have a grid that establishes an underlying order for things. The grids are three-dimensional frames made up of columns and beams.  The grid provides a framework for the more sculptural elements of stairs and volumes.

AF.4. Create a new layer. Name it whatever you like and make that layer the current layer. To make a layer the current layer click on the box. A check mark will appear. By the way, you can change the layer of an object by 1.) clicking on it, 2.) going to the Layer window, 3.) clicking on the desired layer, and 4.) click on the + symbol.


AF.5. You may find it helpful to freeze some of the layers in your model. When you freeze layers in 3DS Max, they are visible in gray tone, but they cannot be moved or altered.

AF.6. In the previous exercise you left an open space on your context model. In that space you will begin by constructing a frame of columns and beams. Zoom to that area in the top view of your model.

AF.7. Set up a camera in one of your viewports so that you have a view of the whole site. This way you can observe the changes as you make them in the other viewports. In the image below the first column is shown. See the steps below for the size and placement of that column.

AF.8. You may find it helpful to turn off the grid. To turn off the grid remove the check mark next to Show Grids.

AF.9. Make a box using a solid primitive somewhere in the space. The box will become a column. The initial size doesn't matter. In the next step you will be changing the size of the box.

AF.10. Click on the box and change the dimensions of it. Make the length and width 0'-10". The height can be 2-stories (24'-0") or 3-stories (36'-0").



AF.11. Move the column so it is approximately in the lower left corner of your site. 

AF.12. Next remove any inches or fractions of inches from the the box's coordinate location. For example, if the X coordinate reads 267'-4 5/16", consider changing it to 268'-0" or 270'-0". This will make the next steps easier.

AF.12. Use the Clone tool to create copies of the column. 

AF.13. You will be given the option of changing the type of clone. 

From Autodesk's 3DS Max  Help are the following definitions.

  • The copy method "Creates a completely separate clone from the original. Modifying one has no effect on the other."
  • The instance method, "Creates a completely interchangeable clone of the original. Modifying an instanced object is the same as modifying the original."
  • The reference method "Creates a clone dependent on the original up to the point when the object is cloned. Changing parameters for modifiers that were applied to the object before  the object was referenced, will change both objects. However, a new modifier can be applied to one of the reference objects, and it will affect only the object to which it is applied."

If you want to make unique objects, use the Copy type. If you want to make several identical objects, use the Instance type. If you want a little of both, use the Reference type, but this one is more complex to set up.

Refer to Help on Clones for more detailed explanations and examples.

AF.14. Once the columns are in place you can begin to add beams. As with the columns, the beams can be constructed out of boxes. The following dimensional parameters can be used to size on of the beams. The beam will overlap the columns. Note that the width of the beam includes the 20'-0" spacing plus the width of a column.

AF.15. Move the box so that its bottom is 10'-6" above the ground plane and it runs along the columns. Use snap tools and coordinate points to precisely move the beam in place.

AF.16. Make clones of the beams at each row of columns so they run in the east-west and north-south direction. Use the rotate tool or make a new beam for the north-south ones.

AF.17. Repeat for an additional level of beams. The bottom of the beams should be 22'-6" above the ground. If you have additional levels repeat as necessary.

AF.18. Add objects within or extending from the frame. The objects can be generated entirely in 3DS Max or they can be constructed in AutoCAD and imported into 3DS Max. You may find it helpful to generate new layers. You might click on an object and go to the Modifer list to explore different ways of editing objects. 


AF.19. Load materials as needed for the objects. Assign materials to the objects. The choice of colors and materials is yours.

AF.20. If you haven't already, set up a daylight system. Keep in mind that you can move the daylight system by going to the Modify panel and clicking on the Manual radio button.

AF.21. You can change the background to a solid color as well. 


The images below show renderings with default and manually changed locations for the daylight system and a solid background for the sky.


To achieve high quality images you may need adjust some settings. Changing the size of the image can help. In the image below the output size has been increased. Please note that the higher the quality of the image the longer it will take to render. If you are working in the lab, you can render on one machine and work on something else on another machine.

AF.22. Generate 5 rendered views in the jpg file format. Two should be street views as if you were walking down the street so the camera should be set at approximately 5'-0". One should be an aerial shot looking down at your frame and should include the buildings surrounding the site. Two should be from within the frame. Make sure that you can not see the edges of your context model in your views. Upload the jpg images to your Google Drive folder. Upload the 3DS Max file as well.