The Future of Technology

“Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.” — Milton Glaser

In the architectural profession, we rely on computers to do our daily work.  Computers offer architects and design professionals more efficiency, speed, and accuracy throughout the design process. The first computer drafting program came out in the 1960’s – a simple 2D drafting tool, better known as AutoCAD, offered professionals an easier way of drawing construction documents.  Since the 1960’s technology has rapidly developed. Today we find ourselves with “smart” computer programs that, I believe, could actually design and produce our projects with just the touch of a button if we let them.  AutoCAD, Revit, Form Z, ArchiCAD, Sketch Up, 3D Studio Max, Maya, and Rino are all computer programs being used by professionals today.

Because our profession is so tightly connected to modern day technology it’s hard not to ask the question – How has technology changed our profession?  I’m sure you could get a dozen different answers if you asked a dozen different people.  Some would say that computers and technology have evolved our profession into something that it could never have been without it.  Others might say that it has limited our abilities as designers by restricting our ideas to only what we are capable of doing on the computer. Personally I believe that today’s technology has enabled us to design new, unique forms that have evolved while drawing them in a 3D form on the computer. I believe we have been able to push the limits of building forms and as a result we’ve begun pushing the envelope of construction too.  Today’s technology allows designers to manipulate form in a way that is changing architecture throughout the world.

I also believe that it’s important to ask another question – Is there anything lost by relying on the computer so much?  Is there anything we are missing by not approaching our profession the old-fashioned way of drafting and designing by hand? Most of us in the emerging professional group have always used computers during our careers.  We do not know what it’s like to draft by hand or correspond with our consultants without email. Some might say that drafting by hand is a lost art, which I would have to agree with.  The idea of designing a detail by hand is foreign to me, if I want a window detail I simply ask Revit to make a callout of the window (and with a couple clicks of the mouse) I instantly have my desired detail. However, others may say that we aren’t losing anything by using advanced technology.  Most students coming out of school have experience using programs like Revit.  Throughout their education, students are learning more about details and how a building is constructed because the computer tools they are using are forcing them to know that level of detail – wall construction types, curtain wall assemblies, roof forms, etc.

As technology continues to develop I believe it is up to us to find a balance in how we let technology influence our profession. The days of hand drafting are behind us and it’s hard to say where we will be in 20 years.  So as we move forward I would encourage all of you, young or seasoned, to embrace the new technology and the challenges that come with it. Fighting these new tools only divides our profession and denying change only delays the inevitable.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Technology

  1. I always cringe when I here this topic debated. The conversation is more often than not presented as black and white. You either embrace the technology or you reject it. This is the point where I like to offer my two sense. So here it is. As a young design professional who was educated in the world of Revit and SketchUp but initially started in the analog world of fine arts, I would say that all mediums and techniques have their usefulness in the proper setting. That setting has to do primarily with the project type, the problem that needs to be solved and the preferred design process of whomever is tasked with solving it.

    The most important aspect is choosing the proper tool for the situation. This begins with identifying strengths and weaknesses of different techniques, not trying to shoehorn a technique (software) into the wrong situation. I see this done most often with Revit. Here’s a tip, there is no single software that will solve all your problems. Revit is a program whose strengths lie in documentation. It is not and never will be a design tool. Rhino & SketchUp are great design tools for investigating ideas but by themselves are only capable for form making. 3d Max with Photoshop rule at visualization. Certain design problems, like the one I am currently struggling with, really just need quick study models. I recently had the privilege of working on a project that was entirely designed using cardboard models. The building is almost finished being constructed and looks great. The specific set of constraints this project had, large site intervention in an extremely rural setting with a series of small structures, was perfectly suited for the approach and perfectly unsuited for the computer.

    The end point I am trying to make is that bad design is a result of bad design process, not a consequence of the limitations of any specific technique.


  2. Pingback: Mobile Me (and other dilemmas…) « AIA Colorado EP Blog

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