Summer work

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Anyone visiting campus this summer will have encountered a lot of construction work that appears to be suspiciously close to the site of the eventual Center for Science and Innovation.

This, like last summer’s work, involves utility relocation and upgrading that both helps our existing campus and also sets the stage for the eventual construction of the new center.

Another summer, another set of prep work. Thanks to Kristy Vivas-Clemmens for this image.

The work this summer, largely centered between the Harney Science Center and the Gleeson library, primarily addresses electrical lines. As you can see from the floorplans on the new CSI website, (see the “Garden Level”,) the floor that features an atrium in its main section, also has a lot of electrical utilities in its western most section. (For those of you who live and love the Harney Science Center, this is a segment that will attach to the 1st floor, which is mostly underground, and yes, that’s where physicists and astronomers live.)

The western most segment of CSI. This segment will rest under the new above ground lab building. Note the heavy electrical function of this segment, which will connect directly to Harney's 1st floor, under the grassy segment shown in the photo above.


Okay, it’s not exactly Apocalypse Now (worth seeing young Harrison Ford at 0:48 in that trailer,) but there was a lot of effort that went into the simple 90 seconds you’ve now seen premiered here. Personally, I had very little input apart from coordination, but I’m hoping it’s fun for you all to see what goes into the process. Before we go into the blow by blow, please note both the guiding hand of our director of E-Communications, Thomas Listerman, as an influence at every single stage, and and also Brian Woo, an animator at AJSNY in New York, as the prime mover of the final product.

Flight Plan: This started in January, as we (USF, our architects at NBBJ, and Brian Woo at the animation studio) tried to determine the ideal flight plan. We nixed the idea of flying through walls and into the laboratories — this was disconcerting and required guesses as to the exact final lab finishings, furnishings and equipment. Studios also don’t typically have “students doing lab activities” in their stock of animated characters. We all decided to stick to the exterior for most of this animation to emphasize the campus impact.

Nearly final "flight plan" for the animation. We moved the starting point at the last minute so that viewers can have an elevated perspective of the new plaza. Handwriting is that of NBBJ's Lilian Asperin-Clyman.

Major contributors to the finalized path include our architects at NBBJ, USF’s Jim Muyo, Director of Publications, and many other pairs of eyes.

Rough Drafts: AJSNY’s Brian Woo would then make rough drafts of the animation so we could assess exactly what is seen, the speed of progression, and the exact angle of the “camera,” and so forth. It was at this stage when we elevated the starting point and, in the upper plaza portion (i.e. the middle of the video), we decided to have the camera pan towards University Center, to look out across the new lower atrium, or commons, in the plaza. We also decided on the speed of the moving camera and the overall length of the animation here. There’s the factor of cost to consider (it simply goes per animated second,) but we also wanted to make sure it didn’t feel boring, even on repeat viewings.

Rough draft with wire-frame graphics and a mostly gray pallet. This suits Harney nicely, as it turns out.

Realism: To move to a completed movie, the animators needed realistic campus photographs of each major viewpoint. Many thanks to JJ Thorpe, a project manager in our Facilities division, for taking a ton of high quality photographs, from the roof of Cowell, to new photos of Kalmanovitz Hall and photos of UC that include the newly upgraded Phoenix (thanks to our intrepid, no-fear-of-heights art students.) These photos then make the animation that much more realistic.

Lighting details: What time of day should be featured? How reflective should the windows in the garden level be? Our publications folks had the guiding advice here. We opted for mid-morning to light up Harney, the eastern face of the new project, and St. Ignatius Church.

Labcoats: Fr. Tom Lucas, University Professor of Art and Architecture said “make sure there are people in lab coats,” which was the perfect advice for more realism (especially in the learning lobby at the end of the video.) As it turns out, the standard animation toolkits don’t include people in labcoats; it’s more of a briefcase crowd, and in fact you’ll notice this in the animation, with more khakis than you typically see on campus. It was actually my wife who suggested “why don’t you just turn some business blazers white?” Voila! See this in the closing sequence within the “learning lounge.” It is either science or disco, or both, at work.

Lobby Art: The two images on the interactive displays of the learning lounge were selected by USF scientists. The molecule is actually taken from a research paper by our Professors Claire Castro (Chemistry) and William Karney (Environmental Science.) And the galaxy was selected from NASA images by Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and our interim Dean, Marcelo Camperi.

Music: We wanted something somewhat modern, even electronic or “techy,” and I thought I’d found the perfect track from the band Prefuse 73. Major raspberries to them and their management for never returning my emails or calls. Thomas Listerman suggested going to Creative Commons, which highlights a number of “free” music sites, where artists offer their work as long as you don’t use it in a for-profit enterprise. From the opsound.org site, we found the winning track, Holding Twilight, from Orchestral Movements of 1932, and many thanks again to them for letting us use this gorgeous track.

Intro and credits: USF’s Thomas Listerman then set up the intro, using JJ Thorpe’s present day plaza photograph, and he also set up the closing credits. He also got the animation ready in a million formats, from DVD quality to you-tube-ready versions. This is a lot more complex than you would think, and if you play too detailed a version on a normal computer, the animation “hacks” — literally, it looks like it’s about to spit up a hairball. Not pretty.

Okay, that’s a long post, but for people like me, who had never seen such a process, it’s a rare window into CGI.

Consider yourself on the red carpet, since you’re now attending the premier of our project animation, first promised to you in April. Here, thanks to a collaboration between ourselves, our architects at NBBJ, and the animation studio AJSNY, we have about one minute and 30 seconds of a flight around the exterior of the project. You will start by facing north, as if on the roof of Cowell Hall (home to our School of Nursing.) Then, through the magic of computer graphics, you will witness the transformation of campus, leap into the air, and fly down into the new campus hub. After a winding path that leads you back to facing south, you will finish this short journey in the western most part of the project, a learning lounge that overlooks the Geschke Center at the Gleeson Library, and St. Ignatius Church. Enough with the preamble!

In the next post, I’ll go through “the making of” this animation. For now, replay and forward this link to those who might be interested.

The University of San Francisco is pleased to announce that on Thursday, June 24, 2010, it entered into an agreement with the University Terrace Association, a neighborhood group representing the adjacent University Terrace neighborhood, which addresses their mutual concerns. The agreement provides a foundation for productive communications in the future, and the University looks forward to continuing work with its neighbors to build on this foundation.

Also on June 24, the University received Planning Commission approval to proceed with development of the Center for Science and Innovation. Specifically, the Commission unanimously upheld the mitigated negative declaration and approved conditional use authorization for the project. Afterwards, members of the Commission praised the University and the Association for their work during the process.

Although work remains to be done to complete the design and final permitting for the project, this is a critical milestone toward revitalizing the center of campus, and creating a state of the art science laboratory facility for teaching, learning and collaboration.


And for more detailed information, you can find the official city transcript via this sfgov link.
(I suggest searching for item 20; the Center’s hearing is late in that document. I am particularly tickled by the quotation where our contingent is asked to exit more quietly.)

I’m also honored to share the prepared comments offered to the Commission and the assembled by our Provost, Jenny Turpin, those of interim Dean, Marcelo Camperi, and those of Chemistry student Amelia Ray. This type of beautiful simplicity does not always happen when you ask us academic folks to speak in three-minute intervals, so I hope you’ll take a look.


Please stay tuned for more summer updates. It’s hard to upstage the news presented here today, but next week will be pretty fun.

City Hall's fourth floor will hear about the Center today.

Okay friends, this is a big day (and possibly evening) for the Center for Science and Innovation. Late today the project will be discussed and considered by the City of San Francisco’s Planning Commission, as we pursue the path toward a construction permit.

Our project will be roughly the tenth item on the commission’s agenda, so it won’t start too early. My understanding is that these are open to the public (at City Hall), and you can also watch the goings on via this link. I believe today’s session starts around 1:30 p.m. and our project wouldn’t be considered until 4 or so, but the exact timing really depends on the first many topics.

Expect another post soon about the outcomes. We’ll probably learn a lot about the timing of the project today; the best possible outcome for us, as I understand it, would be receiving a “conditional use” permit by the end of the session. There are reasons to be cautiously hopeful, and I personally have overwhelmingly positive associations with City Hall, (having married my wife there five years ago), but you never know. We have a great team presenting, and I hope to share some of their material with you later.

The new USF Weather Station, reporting for duty and feeding a new web page, every hour.

We’re happy to send along a new scientific feature for fans of USF everywhere: detailed weather data, updated hourly, from the USF campus. If you are like so many nerds, like myself, you simply cannot ingest enough weather data. Now you’ll be able to check up-to-date windspeed, temperature, sunlight intensity, and of course evapotranspiration, via:

Kudos to Professor Deneb Karentz, a Professor of Environmental Science and Biology, of Antarctic research fame, for spearheading the installation and set-up of the new weather station. And many thanks to NASA for the grant funds underwriting this project.

Students will now use this data in various courses, and thanks to recent Computer Science alumnus Colin Bean, we’ve been able to make this available to everyone via the web. Please send the link along to others who either miss the hilltop or desperately need practice converting centigrade to fahrenheit.

And I’m sorry: no traffic report at this point. That’s more a social science topic anyway.

As soon as I hung up the academic regalia after graduation, I took off for Texas to visit a series of alumni and parents of students. This quick trip led myself and travel partner Burnie Atterbury (AVP, Advancement, and Assistant Dean in the Law School) first to the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, and then to El Paso. Burnie rightly called this a “five pound” trip as we enjoyed too much (edit: oxymoron) excellent barbeque and mexican food.

Texas is my planet of origin, and though I think I know the terrain there, I learned a ton about El Paso, a town originally known as El Paso del Norte (the pass of the north) artificially separated in halves (El Paso & Ciudad Juarez) by the national border. Overall, El Paso has the population of San Francisco, and Juarez has about twice again that population, giving the entire area about 2.4 million souls and growing.

NASA image of the El Paso del Norte region by night, where Ciudad Juarez has a much greater preponderance of streetlights. The Rio Grande forms the border here.

Many thanks to Sam and Sue Angulo and Jorge Salom (alumni all) for their time and story-telling about this fascinating and vibrant area. I hope to be back in western Texas sooner than later.

And speaking of travel, your humble narrator will be off for the next week or so on vacation, but we’ll pick right back up with the busy CSI summer in mid-June.