National Endowment for the Humanities Awards a Digital Advancement Grant to Baylor Researchers to Develop an Automatic Architecture Analysis System

  • NEH graphic
  • Elise King
    Elise King, assistant professor of interior design in Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences at Baylor University
  • David Lin, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science
Dec. 13, 2017

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 13, 2017) — Elise King, assistant professor of interior design in Baylor University’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, and David Lin, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, have been awarded a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to expand and develop their prototype for an open-source system that reads and analyzes floor plans automatically.

The project — “Digital Floor Plan Database: A New Method for Analyzing Architecture” — will allow users to compare thousands of plans to discover common design elements, examine spatial relationships over time and mine for patterns across datasets.

The NEH, which will fund the project for Building Database and Analytics System (BuDAS) through 2019, is an independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. The digital grants support the implementation of innovative digital humanities projects that have successfully completed a start-up phase and demonstrated their value to the field.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded a Digital Humanities Advanced Grant from NEH. The funding will allow for the expansion of our prototype and development of an open-source system for reading and analyzing floor plans automatically,” King said. “It would have been very difficult to develop this type of project without Baylor's support for interdisciplinary research. Over the past year and a half, we’ve had the opportunity to work with graduate and undergraduate students from computer science, interior design and history. Dr. Lin and I are excited to continue onto the next phase of BuDAS.”

“We are very grateful to be awarded a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from NEH. I believe it shows that interdisciplinary work between the sciences and humanities has a lot of potential,” Lin said. “We are looking forward to continue developing our prototype into a system that will have many positive impacts on the field of interior design and many other related fields. In addition, the development process will introduce more scientific challenges which will also benefit the field of computer science.”

King and Lin say that those who design and study the built environment are hindered currently by an inability to examine large datasets of architectural drawings. Despite advancements in image recognition, no integrated system can store, read and analyze floor plans. To solve this problem, the researchers are developing the BuDAS to partially automate the process of floor plan analysis.

“While floor plans are information-rich architectural drawings, analyzing them manually is challenging,” King said.

For example, a prolific architect like the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 buildings, many which have multiple plans, she said.

“Completing a single longitudinal study of Wright's work, such as calculating the square footage of rooms in Wright’s residential designs, would take years to complete,” King said. “Currently, it would be very difficult for a researcher to compare the size of the living room over the course of Wright’s entire career or examine how the size/configuration of rooms changed with geography or budget.” 

But expanding King and Lin’s prototype into an integrated open source system — with image recognition software for automatic floor plan detection, a database for the storage and management of data and advanced query and graphing tools — can be a solution for those problems.

“These findings will allow for a deeper understanding of the trends and patterns of space usage and the relationship between buildings and human experience,” King said.

King and Lin have partnered with Alexander Architectural Archives at the University of Texas at Austin to use the William A. Storrer papers as the sample for the project. Those papers include one of the most comprehensive and detailed collections of floor plans by Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Baylor students from interior design, computer science and history have worked on the prototype and research for BuDAS, which also received support from an Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement grant.

The NEH announced $1.6 million to support 13 digital grants, which only have a 13 percent acceptance rate. This marks the first time Baylor has received a digital grant from NEH.

“The humanities offer us a path toward understanding ourselves, our neighbors, our nation,” said NEH Acting Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “These new NEH grants exemplify the agency’s commitment to serving American communities through investing in education initiatives, safeguarding cultural treasures and illuminating the history and values that define our shared heritage.”

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES

 

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

 

ABOUT THE ROBBINS COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SCIENCES

 

The Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences at Baylor University was established in 2014, a result of identified priorities for strengthening the health sciences through Baylor’s strategic vision, Pro Futuris, which serves as a compass for the University’s future. The anchor academic units that form the new College – Communication Sciences and Disorders, Family and Consumer Sciences and Health, Human Performance and Recreation – share a common purpose: improving health and the quality of life. The College is working to create curricula that promote a team-based approach to patient care and establish interdisciplinary research collaborations to advance solutions for improving the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. For more information visit www.baylor.edu/chhs.

 

ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE

With more than 10 percent of Baylor University’s freshman class pursuing major courses of study in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the focus remains on preparing graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian world view. ECS majors include bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. Among ECS graduate programs are Master of Science degrees in all disciplines, a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering and several dual-degree programs. The Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science, in which students and faculty live, fosters the pursuit of wisdom, academic excellence, and meaningful relationships for the development of diverse, innovative leaders.

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