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As is the case with many professions, the ever-developing technology is changing the landscape of architecture profession rapidly. The tools available are evolving at a fast pace, rendering some aspects of architectural design irrelevant, outdated and impractical.

The Change Towards the Digital and the Multi-functional

Architecture is only one of the disciplines that bridge the gap between design and reality with the newest tools that technology has to offer. The start of this phenomenon could perhaps be marked by the introduction of CAD (computer-aided design) software to architectural practice.

Programs such as AutoCAD or SketchUp came as a relief for architects that would have to redraw projects at every revision. It was an efficient and fast way to communicate design ideas: a welcome change, after hours of toiling over carefully crafted hand drawings and intricate 3D models built out of expensive materials.

Over time, what started as a design aid (as it was in its name), started to take over the industry and to be preferred over the hand drawing in the fast-paced business world. As it was widely used in the practices, the CAD programs became part of school curricula.

That was only the beginning: the software has vastly evolved since its introduction, and continues to do so, to allow more possibilities for efficient, flexible, and experimental design.

A man sketching on top of a photo on a digital tablet
image © Laurie Chetwood

Hand drawing has now become a romanticized, almost quaint tradition that has less and less significance in today’s fast-paced economy. Now, the design process in architecture is moving towards the BIM method: Building Information Modeling.

A Quick Introduction: What is BIM?

BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process of buildings or infrastructure, modeling and altering the physical and functional characteristics of projects.

BIM oriented programs, such as Revit or ArchiCAD, allow architects, engineers and construction professionals to plan, design, collaborate and manage structures efficiently, on the same platform and in real time. The visuals, costs, building information, site plan and many other types of information can be accessed via an array of compatible software.

A screenshot of a Revit project
A screenshot of Revit at work. – image © Civilax

Why Choose BIM?

The reason for the shift to the digital is rather simple: the advanced capabilities of the new technology and its economic advantages.

The computerized design tools can do more, work with more flexibility, and lend themselves more effortlessly to multi-disciplinary coordination.

These technologies are also an additional advantage to the architects, who feel the need to meet an increasing amount of expectations in this competitive market: BIM programs are a way to provide more services and more economic solutions in a shorter period of time. It is no longer enough to just design a concept any more. Architects need to implement and involve all aspects of construction to facilitate the process of building.

However, transitioning an architectural practice to operate on a BIM system is not easy. It is costly to make the switch for the hardware upgrades required on a technical level, as well as the need to train the staff on the software and the new method of working.

The Next Step

Architecture skills taught in schools only 5-10 years earlier are starting to become irrelevant in the face of rapidly developing technologies. The times are moving fast, and the fear of being left behind unless you don’t keep up, looms ominously above the horizon.

We are presented with new techniques and tools everyday that promise to improve our perception and experience of design.

Parametric design, which is used widely for the last decade, was the first step to a fully digitized design process. With parametric design tools, architects can play with the relationships between various criteria to create and change their designs, altering values almost like altering a spreadsheet. This method facilitates the economic manufacture of numerous complex and often unique components.

The newest of technologic trends in architecture, along with BIM designs, are the real-time rendering possibilities. This means an even faster design process, where we can interact with the product in its final form with immersive experiences such as with VR headsets.

A hyper-realistically rendered image of a dining area
A hyper-realistically rendered image. – image ©

It might be safe to assume that the future is fully digital.

“As the world tries to cope with the vast implications of a change that far outdistances these precedents, and was largely unknown only five years ago, the realization is dawning that this is just the beginning; discussion about the Internet is miniscule compared to the pace of the change that is taking place.” – James Steele, Architecture and Computers: Action and Reaction in the Digital Design Revolution


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