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Thread: Impact of CAD on design creativity in architecture and planning

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    Impact of CAD on design creativity in architecture and planning

    In a construction progress meeting this week, all parties were in agreement with my desire for vertical elements to be actually vertical in a railing system we have to install. Unfortunately, the plans by the engineer didn't indicate that the verticals would be climbing a hill, but rather showed them on a flat horizontal surface. (I want them to go like spindles in a stair handrail, like this: IIIII, not like this: /////.) One of the contractors said that he would have to check with the fabricator, since the plans weren't specific. This being a USACE project, the delay could be significant and costly.

    In this day of CAD, I was annoyed that the slope wasn't shown in the plans so that all parties would know the design intent. How difficult might it be to apply a 4.95% slope to the horizontal surface in CAD?

    Thus, I found this interesting article from Witold Rybczynski in slate about the impact of CAD in architectural design. He notes that the ink-stained wretches of the past likely spent much more time thinking about design as opposed to today's keyboard jockeys. Given the recent issue above, I tend to agree.

    Has CAD had the same effect in planning?
    Last edited by Gedunker; 13 Apr 2011 at 10:55 AM.
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
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    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    In this day of CAD, I was annoyed that the slope wasn't shown in the plans so that all parties would know the design intent. How difficult might it be to apply a 4.95% slope to the horizontal surface in CAD?

    Has CAD had the same effect in planning?
    Should be about as difficult as it is to type 4.95%.

    I think this is a great article and can say as a former architecture student this was a constant topic of debate. My program put a great deal of emphasis on sketching and hand drafting the old fashioned way at the beginning of the program and then began to allow the use of CAD and Revit more and more as the program progressed.

    I don't think the danger necessarily lies in allowing architects and design professionals to use software to design buildings. The problem is that the software is so easy to learn that anybody can use it. And hey, once you design a house or retail building in CAD, all you need is an appropriate site for the design and you're good to go, barely even a need for an architect right? It's always a sad scenario when quantity takes precedence over quality, and CAD is probably seen as a great tool for developers to maximize profits rather than worry about any sort of quality design.

    I don't think it should impact planners quite as drastically as architects (I think CAD can almost put architects out of a job). I'm on the public side of planning though so there's really no use of CAD in my department. I imagine it's very useful when drafting form based codes and applying design standards, there's really no need IMO to have to hand draft the type of design work I imagine planners do, something that is more regulatory in nature. As a student I was always most fond of the idea of sketching first as a preliminary way of hashing out ideas and coming up with the personality behind the project, then using the software for more technical aspects.

    As a side note, almost every student in my architecture program hated Frank Gehry buildings. The guy just scribbles on a page and then puts it into CAD!!
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    Cyburbian
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    I still use AutoCAD as a planner and I partly agree with the Slate Article. True, some things can still be done faster the old-fashioned way (sketches, renderings, etc.). I just did a site design for Better Blocks Houston this past week. I did all of the design work in AutoCAD and rendered the 30x42 board in Autodesk Impression, which I have never used before. Well, I spent 3 full days adjusting the colors, strokes, widths, shadows, etc. Well, the final plot looked great but it didn't resemble anything what I envisioned. I might as well plotted the whole thing in black and white and hand-rendered everything with markers, pencils, and pastels. The lesson of the day: Autodesk Impression is a piece of c*r#!

    As a younger planner who has worked closely with architects, landscape architects, and engineers, I will say that there is so much pressure on our shoulders to market and network the firm, even at the entry-level. Technology exponentially changes for the better, but eventually accounting catches up. I shaved off 5 minutes on a task here, 10 minutes on a task there. Those minutes add up to hundreds of hours at the end of the year, all else being equal. Some financial officers/accountants at some design firms quickly spot this, leading to get MORE work to fill in that saved time. A successful firm (in the eyes of the owners) is one with work cranking out hour by hour, leaving less time for billable "creative hours."

    But...

    I disagree with a lack of creativity and thought process with CAD on three major points.

    #1. The internet. We can look up any building style pretty quickly (or with careful "digging" find the more obscure sites off the google path). We can make more contacts much faster through social media, blogging, than the traditional routes of communication (the client off the street, the conference, or the ad in the paper). This allows for more exchanges of ideas. It also means projects are in the spotlight more and often held up to more scrutiny. The project that Architect A has too many problems according to Plan Commission minutes (or the local newspaper). Well now, Architect B who operates 100 miles away can now dig up that local article and find a better way of setting up with bids and arguments for future work in that community.

    #2. There has not been any new defining architectural movement in the past 20-30 years. We had modernism, then post-modernism, now what? Many our projects are either borrowed from earlier styles or movements or are a fusion/blend of different styles to meet the needs of the client. Last century it was easier for architectural critics to observe side by side the development of new architectural styles. It's not the absence of creativity. It's just there is so much creativity we can't bottle it and sell it.

    30-40 years ago there were far more self-practicing architects, many of whom catered to wealthy clients. You had to have a passion and a joie de vivre to really excel in the old-boy network. Today, there are far more architects catering to many different tastes AND they are making their presence known: healthcare, warehouses, campus planning, retirement communities, theatres, etc.

    #4. We have far more regulations (thanks to us planners) that designers did not have to deal with. ADA, affordable housing, zoning ordinances, overlay districts, annexation agreements.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    He notes that the ink-stained wretches of the past likely spent much more time thinking about design as opposed to today's keyboard jockeys. Given the recent issue above, I tend to agree.
    Has CAD had the same effect in planning?
    Sloppy work has been around forever. CAD can be another place to be sloppy. (Word processing can also be a mechanism for sloppiness.) I pity those who are not allowed time to get it right, who are under too much pressure to be 'creative'. Or would those same persons be sloppy for a longer time?

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