Contributing Design Editor, Wall Street Journal + Creative Director, Maclaren Nursery by David Netto
Do you think the effect of CAD is discernable yet in the built environment of the last ten years? Hand drawing is now barely part of an architect's education, and totally absent from practice. For all its advantages of convenience this technology will change the end result of form in architecture in ways that are hard to predict.
Can we see the effect of CAD yet in contemporary buildings? Other than the obvious and largely well-received example of Frank Gehry, what architecture can we point to as evidence of the positives? What are the hidden costs of designing by keyboard rather than drafting? Since there's no going back, why should we care?
Architecture Graduate Student
Josh gave the final word
I think that one of the greatest and most disturbing impacts of digital design delivery and CAD-centric design offices is not immediately visible when viewing architecture, at least not in the way one can observe the change in architectural styles over the decades. The impact is more indirect, yet extremely widespread. The concept that I’m alluding to is the significant increase of the speed and rate at which our society designs and builds new buildings. An architectural project during antiquity was an enormous undertaking, involving a design heavily guided by historical precedent, and necessitating a period of construction that might span multiple generations. Similarly, these projects were designed to last for hundreds of years. They were seen as irreversible additions to the grid of the city. Architects practicing in 2011, typically with building information systems software as their primary tools, can facilitate the realization of a built project from the schematic design phase startlingly fast. Not only has this evolution affected the speed of fabrication and the quality of the final product, but it has begun to sponsor a shift in attitude about the permanence of architecture. Our market economy’s obsession with discounting future uses and materials in favor of instant gratification has created a cheapened architectural result. When buildings aren’t built to last more than 50 years, the users naturally treat them less as permanent, deliberate artifacts, but rather as a product to be consumed, and later discarded in favor of something even newer (and even more fleeting).
It bears noting that “CAD” and associated digital production techniques do not bear sole responsibility for this phenomenon. Their widespread use, however, has clearly encouraged this attitude of buildings and building material as ways to satisfy a trend, rather than a consequential construction. So is the effect of CAD visible in today’s buildings? If any of them are still around in 2061, you may have your answer.
Friday, January 14 at 5:11pm
Selected list of words appearing in this and other conversations.