- Who needs it: Architects, landscape architects, urban planners, interior designers, and furniture designers are the core collaborators for this discipline. It is also relevant to design-oriented disciplines from textiles to mechanical engineering (CAD, CAE) to industrial and manufacturing systems engineering (CAM). I have talked with people in Civil Engineering who have shown me the relevance of this area to CE, Architectural Engineering and Construction Science, Materials Science, and even areas of the physical and life sciences where design technology is needed. The physics and materials science aspects are also related to nondestructive evaluation (NDE).
- Why we need it: Development of tools is a primary rationale, but there is also staying timely. We need to remain receptive and adaptive to new fields. For example, we have lots of people with Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) interests, and we have human factors researchers with expertise in certain kinds of ergonomics, but there just isn't a place for a user interface ergonomist (for example) to earn tenure. At Virginia Tech or UIUC, there are always a few people who have HCI as a core area, and there is always a center such as the UIUC Beckman Institute where they can cross disciplines to get cooperative efforts funded and published. Here, we have to do a little more than ask.
- When we need it (and how long we've needed it): We need it ASAP, and this has been the case since the late 1990s. We have some visualization infrastructure in the College of Architecture - an Elumans VisionDome and more at the Krider Center operated by Jeff Head - but it yet hasn't quite hit the big time in terms of full utilization. Similarly, Charlie Zheng in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (MNE) uses visualization in his research, but there isn't yet a college-level visualization center in Engineering or a university-level one. I've operated a visualization lab in our department for eight years, but aside from massforge, there hasn't been a long term project that it supports. By contrast, top research universities such as MIT have CSAIL (a recombination of the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Lab), the Media Lab, etc. The computer graphics course is jointly offered by CS and Architecture.
- How bad we need it: A visualization lab is just the beginning. Planning informatics - from simulation research and tools development - would help us advance the state of the field in intelligent systems. So would a research and teaching program in informatics applied to design. We need these as much as we need work on optimization and scheduling. I believe that this is one of the most eminently fundable areas in all of informatics.
- Where it should live (i.e., to what college it should belong): Seeing as it would be primarily an offshoot of Landscape Architecture and its urban planning program (Regional and Community Planning), I think the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design would be its natural home.