Fresh ideas about design
Did you know the first CAD software was created in the 1960s? It was called “sketchpad” and users actually drew on the computer screen! CAD software has advanced over the last 50 years and barely resembles the process it was initially designed to aid—drafting. Even CAD is now becoming obsolete and being replaced by BIM, a process that not only generates 2D plans, sections, and elevations, but creates a building in 3D and stores data on every element of the project. This giant leap from simple geometry being drawn on a computer monitor to complex 3D databases that show every element of a building (including the kitchen sink), all happening within the span of a career makes me wonder what the architectural industry will look like over the next 50 years.
As a result of advances in technology and computer programing, modern “drafters” are more familiar with a mouse and keyboard than with a pen and pencil. Yet, there is still an innate desire to draw. This was one of the key reasons that I became interested in architecture. I first became interested in drafting (yes, real drafting with paper and pencil) when my oldest sister brought home her school projects from engineering school. There was just something special about those pencil drawings of gears and bolts. There is a certain Zen-quality to drafting—the smooth feeling of a 2B pencil over a sheet of velum; the hypnotic state that comes from drawing brick patterns at 2:30 in the morning.
“Sketchpad” was an attempt to replicate the drafting process in a digital form, however, the technology at the time just wasn’t ready. Today, computers are much more powerful and incorporate touchscreen technology. Tablets also are becoming more popular. There is a common trend that all that was old is now new again, and the more things change the more they stay the same. Animators have already started this transition by using pen tablets, like the Wacom Ciniq, to draw their creations using software like Photoshop and SketchBook.
There is a direct connection between an artist’s mind and the tool he or she uses to express the imagination. Today the tool is the computer and the future will continue to give artists ways to convert their visions to the digital medium. The question is, how will architects continue to adopt these tools to express their designs? Will we return to the past and re-adopt a hand-drawn quality to our work, or will we further embrace the database and stop producing 2D drawings at all, instead delivering 3D replicas of the project? I look forward to seeing the answer to that question reveal itself over the course of my career.
Top photo: Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad console in 1962. (From http://www.mprove.de/diplom/text/3.1.2_sketchpad.html)
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