Evolve or die

One of the recurrent themes whenever I talk to an architect about BIM, and IT applied to architecture in general, is that “Computers are inadequate tools for architecture”.

Whether trough the “pencil as a brain extension” argument, or others like “computers are too precise”, “creative thinking takes time”, “you can not feel scale on a computer screen” and many more, architects in general offer great resistance on incorporating computers into their design process.

What they often fail to realize is that architects are currently in risk of becoming inadequate for computers.

Worse, architecture itself could become inadequate for computers.

We tend to think of our profession as immutable. After all, architects as we know them have been around for more than five centuries.

But we forget that architects themselves replaced older professions, like the master builder.

With the advent of technological improvements (perspective, plans and section representation) and social evolution (the nobility taking over the process) the design of buildings was transfered from construction site to office.

But the conversion was not linear. Master builders did not recicle into architects. They got extinct.

This is a lesson that should be kept in mind, now that modern architects face a new technological (computers, industrialisation) and sociological (democratization of architecture) revolution.

There are many things in this brave new world that architects just don´t know how to handle:

  • Industrialization. Unlike other areas (cars, furniture, clothings) architecture is still to be truly industrialized. When this happens, we are ill trained to deal with it.

  • Public opinion. Architecture is now a field where everybody has an opinion. We don´t like this. We would like to remain aloft.

  • Information technology. Unlike engineers, architecture descents from the beaus art schools, therefore highly suspicious on technology. We are in big pains on integrating computers into our practice.

  • Decreasing importance of architecture in the whole building context. As buildings incorporate more and more technology, architecture could eventually loose it’s leading role in the building process. We do not like this, because we see ourselves as having the leading role in the design team.

Of course these problems don’t appeal to us. We want to create ART, and not loose our precious time with all this side issues. Things have been working fine for hundreds of years, so why fix them? Right?


Regardless of architects opinion, thing are changing.

The building industry, one of the less industrialised industries (!) is starting to pick up, and there will be a ever growing demand on digital designers. People that are able to deliver properly build virtual buildings, that are able to understand the needs of the market.

If architects don´t do it, somebody else will.

I fear that, as architects are trying hard to ignore the problem, things will certainly overtake us, and render us extinct.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very true and facinating to have a blog dedicated to these ideas. However, they tools that we can use to create with (software) have to be developed by corporations who also tend to hold us back. I think the Graphisoft's and Autodesk's of this world are still working from outdated concepts of 'architectural' software.

In a way we are beholding to a new overlord - the Software Architects. I am hoping that someone will do for BIM what Sketchup did for easy 3d modelling. Come on Google - get a vision! Cataloging the built environment!