This specific exercise was carried through at the 3rd year level of the architectural course I teach in.
The students received a theoretical program that consisted of a fictitious schematic allotment, where each student would assemble a habitation.
The only design constrains where the implantation polygon and the maximum height of the buildings.
The semester was divided in two parts, being the first half dedicated to the conception phase and the second pertaining documentation production.
As a design methodology, pupils where discouraged (but not forbidden) to use any analogical support.
The purpose was that ideas would be developed exclusively in a virtual environment, and that the design options would be registered by the evolution of shapes and solutions.
The determinative factor of this exercise was that each project, although individually developed, resided on a common database.
Through ArchiCAD, a file was created with all the necessary templates, layers, stories heights, pens, materials, etc.
Each student had his own allotment and layer combination.
As all the Architecture Laboratory computers are connected through a net, each student worked in a local copy, making frequent uploads to the central file, downloading the colleagues work left there.
Hence we had all students working simultaneously on a common data base.
As predicted, development of individual design influenced each other, as the work got along.
It was thus possible to create unique operational conditions - 14 students working on one same virtual space, influencing themselves mutually in real time - only feasible trough the employment of information technologies.
This exercise, besides simulating and stimulating collaborative work, intended to demonstrate that the concept of digital databases applied to architectural design necessarily means a redefinition in the methodologies.
In the second half of the semester each student developed his project independently, into the documentation phase, with automatic generation of drawings from the model – floor plans, sections, elevations, details, perspectives and quantity takeoffs.