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Construction Paper, Legos, and Architectural Modeling

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I can remember as a kid playing with construction paper and Legos to explore my imagination. Through my exploration I was able to build airplanes, footballs, guns, and more, out of paper. Additionally I could create entire cities, robots, or anything else I could image out of Legos.  These toys, I now realize were in fact tools that gave me an opportunity to explore my ideas in the physical world through the use of modeling.  My imagination was allowed to run wild as I, unknowingly at the time, made design decisions that directly affected the models I was building from the raw materials. To prove my point further, I can remember building a paper airplane that seemed to go nowhere when I tried to throw it. So I decided to attach a paper clip to the plane before I decided to throw it the next time to test my concept that by adding more weight to the plane that it would fly better and for longer distances. The paper airplane allowed me to model my design decision through the use of creating an artifact in that I created a paper airplane that was carrying extra weight through the incorporation of the paper clip in to the design.

Also, I remember using Legos to build all sorts of creations, and these creations became artifacts of my imagination. As I further and further defined my Lego creations through the process of playing I was able to create elaborate artifacts of my imagination. These artifacts represented design decision I had made in the evolution of my creation through my child like design process.

In some form or fashion the artifacts I created as a kid are very similar to the artifacts that I create when I model a software architectural concept or a software design in that the process of making decisions is directly translated in to a tangible model in the form of an architectural model.

Architectural models have been defined as artifacts that depict design decisions of a system’s architecture.  The act of creating architectural models is the act of architectural modeling. Furthermore, architectural modeling is the process of creating a physical model based architectural concepts and documenting these design decisions.

In the process of creating models, the standard notation used is Architectural modeling notation. This notation is the primary method of capturing the essence of design decisions regarding architecture.  Modeling notations can vary based on the need and intent of a project; typically they range from natural language to a diagram based notation.

Currently, Unified Markup Language (UML) is the industry standard in terms of architectural modeling notation  because allows for architectures to be defined through a series of boxes, lines, arrows and other basic symbols that encapsulate design designs in to virtual components, connectors, configurations and interfaces.  Furthermore UML allows for additional break down of models through the use of natural language as to explain each section of the model in plain English.

One of the major factors in architectural modeling is to define what is to be modeled. As a basic rule of thumb, I tend to model architecture based on the complexity of systems or sub sub-systems of architecture. Another key factor is the level of detail that is actually needed for a model. For example if I am modeling a system for a CEO to view then the low level details will be omitted. In comparison, if I was modeling a system for another engineer to actually implement I would include as much detailed information as I could to help the engineer implement my design.

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Published at DZone with permission of Todd Merritt , DZone MVB .

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