Due to the rapidly growing digital possibilities the Computation Age provides Architects with a tremendous number of analog and digital tools for architectural design. Unfortunately in some way it becomes quite limiting for the creative professionals, too. Computers and special architectural software created to help often become drivers of the design process. One doesn’t need any tool to imagine something, but without the perfect one it is hard to make an idea come true.
Obviously, there is no such a perfect software package for architects that will allow one to do everything he needs during the design process. Therefore architects used to work in many different packages at the same time, which is a quiet time-consuming process. Another negative side of using the digital design tools is that communication between different programs is possible through proprietary file formats and it is not a smooth process. And the biggest downside of the architectural design software is that all these programs are 2D based, even those “modern” BIM (1) packages using 2D windows as a base for design process which is terribly inconvenient and feels rudimentary.
The first 2D CAD software “Sketchpad” (2) was designed by Ivan Sutherland in 1963 and we haven’t moved any far from that point, even though architects are the people who think in 3D.
In comparison, the Film and Game industry is rapidly marching ahead and almost every F&G production software uses 3D window as the model making space that allows to explore a model from different views. New technologies provide real-time rendering of reflections, shadows and the global illumination that helps to make a fair judgment of the design. It is a good example of how far the technology moved from 1972 and A Computer Animated Hand (3) made by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke at University of Utah. Rendering an image with “Architectural” software package will take a few seconds* instead of 7 hours*.
Of course, Architecture does not consist of the good visual performance solely but also includes drawings, specifications, details etc. Unfortunately, it is quiet usual that clients want to see the beautiful representation of the design idea that reflects architect’s vision of project regarding the client’s brief and this is where real-time technologies and convenient 3D modeling tools from Film and Game industries will come in handy.
Technology changes rapidly and we might see an ultimate software package for Architects in Computation future, but only creativity, imagination, and the design process itself should dictate what tools to use and not the other way around.
1) This is true (or partially true) at the time when this post was written.
2 and 3) The original location of the images could be found at Wikipedia.
* These are approximate numbers that differ from image to image.