Jason Van Nest

Helping designers graduate from old Representational habits toward Simulation thinking -- in architecture, construction, manufacturing, & art.


Curriculum Vitae



The following statement keeps me very busy: “The Tech Industry has yet to really understand AEC.

For two decades, an obscene amount of VC capital has been available to the AEC industry for creating new tools, processes, workflows, or marketplaces — but we have yet to see the innovation that has rocked the transportation, telecommunications, or space industries.

Why? Because we have a fundamentally different relationship with our data. The Site of Calculation* for most architects, engineers, and builders has always been far too removed. The costs to simply engage project data has always required far too much interpretation and prior knowledge.

Matt Ford and I briefly sketched a path to meaningful AEC innovation in our 2016 paper “Simulating Paradoxes.” Therein lies a base idea — describing how the interpretative tropes of orthography, scale, and perspective have dominated spatial calculations for centuries. The document shows how new computation-based, time-based models are side-stepping these limits, and already bringing important new possibilities into view.

I’m detailing a more complete path to significant change in the AEC industry in an upcoming book: Spatial Knowledge, and Its Production. Therein, the problem of this kind of Representational thinking is elaborated, the limits of Representational technologies are defined, and break-away uses of simulations are case-studied.

Exploring this framework guided my graduate research at Yale, where I began coding digital tools for architects. Those tools were later elaborated with the help of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and NYIT ISRC Grants.

Unraveling this awareness has provided the roadmap for my practice, where I lead the modeling efforts on some of the first BIM-mandated projects for the federal government, and guided many other designers to realize the kinds of projects they never could imagine, before.

Sharing this insight has guided my consulting, where I started by helping tons of architecture firms adopt BIM- and VDC-base workflows, and have since grown to help teams pivot in some of the biggest construction and manufacturing firms in North America.


DFM&A (Manufacturing)

Design for Manufacture & Assembly.

The modernist dream is materializing. Slowly, architecture is meeting manufacturing

Most architects have not yet fully appreciated the radical differences between manufacture, and construction. Why not? Architects’ work products are representations (drawings) of the final product. The few assembly drawings (sections) they may make are still so highly interpretive... they’re worse than inadequate. They take skilled craftsmen time to stop and properly unpack.

Worse: the few 21st C. architectural tools that make a database about the product information (BIM) only track individual elements (toilets, windows, etc.) and pre-assemblies (wall types, floor types, etc.).

These simulations are incomplete until they also track connections  (welded, screwed, nailed, etc.). Once they track connections, architects morph into a designer that can fully appreciate the skilled labor that makes the majority of a building’s budget.

Tracking connection types unfolds a wealth of understanding. Once unlocked, one can watch a designer:

    • divide “construction” into “fabrication” and & “assembly,”
    • understand the nuanced contributions of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers.
    • manage a hierarchy of labor at each stage of fabrication, and,
    • learn to budget only the most critical connections (final assemblies) in the urban, costly, Tier 1 facilities.

Designers who understand the power of this will stop conversation to clarify the difference between “DFM” & “DFA” -- and how both contribute unique skills to DFM&A.

Architects who graduate to this level of designer tend to grow an aversion to drywall. They muse about alternatives to studs and masonry.

Still more inspiring, designers who appreciate this wisdom slowly grow to enjoy the poetic of the seam in whole new ways. They are far more likely to stop to admire the craft of a common joint, and smile at the most commonplace products.

We’re surrounded by very clever solutions, if you just know how to see them.


BIM / VDC (Construction)

Building Information Modeling.

Virtual Design and Construction.

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” Never has this been more true in the AEC industry, than today.

More and more architects, engineers, owners, and constructors are engaging advance technologies to realize amazing designs. I help these firms use Building Information Modeling (BIM) to produce better documents, Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) to manage risk, Virtual Reality technologies (VR) as a visualization aid, or parametric tools to orchestrate complexity.

This consulting work has seen collaborations with SHoP Architects, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, Gluck+, Selldorf Architects, Cook+ Fox, Helpern Architects, HWKN, and the Office of Visual Interaction.

Some of this work is done in association with Alan Polinski at AP3D, or Mike Nolan with the Nullary() Group — both of whom are wonderful business partners.

Other notable clients include Macrae-Gibson Architects, Two One Two Design, Ethelind Coblin Architects, Ricci Greene Associates, several general contractors, developers, and engineering firms.

BIM & VDC consulting for architects is largely winding down. Firms that were going to switch workflows, have switched already. Most of this work is now about extending the value from architect’s design models: architects keep calling me back to train their GC or Owner’s Rep to use their LOD 300 models through Construction Administration and the buildings’ lifecycle.