Thankyou to all the posters in previous threads for giving me so much of your generous time, and helping me to see things differently from an Architects point of view. Apologises for having raised a few tempers perhaps, but hopefully it will make for an attractive debating focus here. So I leave this thread entirely open to whatever young students, practicing architects, urbanists, specialists and generalist would care to comment.
To maintain a critical balance imagine Architecture as the pivot point, and artificial world of information technology tools/software on one side with the real world around on the other side. Like the Ying and Yang symbol for instance.
People studying 3DS MAX/VIZ, even though dealing with something very artificial such as a computer programme, actually become quite observant of the real world around them. Since the first rule in developing a skill at visualisation is to work from reality to begin with.
3DS MAX/VIZ on the one hand empowers the designer to VIZualise the problem/solution in a very comprehensive way indeed. But it demands of the user of the software, to look at the real world around them more deeply than ever before.
For instance, if i model a whole town in 3DS VIZ, it requires me to think about that environment from a point of view of people walking, cycling, busing, using light-rail, cars and so on. It requires me to understand urban density, street level activity and a whole lot of other things, perhaps even outside the traditional skill-set of the architect.
If I wanted to design a building or a house even, using a computer generated 3-dimensional model - I should perhaps also define the experience of moving through space and time, from the point of view of a participant in the architecture. Francis D.K. Ching has an excellent chapter about Circulation in his famous book.
While studying computer generated 3D modelling, I managed to stumble across a new facit of architecture and space - that of natural light. I began to look particularly at Architects who used the element of natural light in their spaces. This includes a vast array of architects from Louis Kahn, to Richard Meier to Tadao Ando.
Indeed, by using a completely artificial software, i suddenly became more aware of an element that was entirely natural. But was something I had never before considered such an important element of architectural design. I also began to notice the views through the openings made by architects, and how each architect has their own very characteristic approach to openings.
When I began to try to design using something as artificial as a computer programme like 3DS VIZ. Almost one of the first lessons it taught me, was to pay exact attention to the width of a doorway, the height of a table, the size of a window - and how much small variations can often transform a design.
How far is 60 metres, how long does it take to walk that distance. Because in 3DS VIZ, 60 metres often can look exactly the same distance as 10 metres, if you are not careful. In other words, there despite the inherent artificiality of computer software, as some people are suspicious of - it always requires you to start from someplace in the real world.
I noticed how small people are really - they really become dwarfed by spaces, even internal spaces. Yet how dynamic in nature people are, how much distance they can cover in shere miles during an average weeks work/living/play. I began to notice how certain dimensions of people are measured in miles, while other in millimeters, others in metres.
Depending upon how 'dynamic' the activity was - sitting down at home, driving to work, going for a walk in the evening. I could continue on about how much more 'reality' I am aware of, as a result of using an artificial piece of technology, but I think you all have gotten the idea by now!
I suppose, when one decides to use technology, one has to counter-balance this endeavour with something equally as strong on the 'real' end of the equation. If artificial software based technology is not 'counter-balanced' properly - then there are problems.
The funny thing is, drawing is supposed to 'make' architects look at reality too, and to study it in exactly the same way. Any particular skill, means or tool out there that empowers the designer to VIZualise, demands you to carefully observe the world around you. The behaviour of people is indeed interesting to watch - but as architects, we need something initially 'to make us see' as it were.
The A1 sheet of drawings is the mainstay, there is no doubt about that. Over the centuries Architects have become experts at dealing with A1 drawings. And I predict, will also become experts at using computer 3D models. I only hope that the same routine of using drawing to make one see the world around us, is applied to the use of the 3D computer model.
In my first job is was fired before I even started, because I couldn't use a computer. When I was in my second job I had to build a 3D computer model of a town, or else be fired. I managed to stay alot longer in my third job, because I was better at making 3D computer models. However, in all of that time 1998-2003. I did struggle to make computer 3D modelling as much a 'looking and seeing' behaviour as mouse-clicking/windows interface using.
Initially, I was very much the IT technician, simply punching in the numbers correctly, taking greater care than an Architect would bother to - and therefore getting this kind of work. However, in time, it became less passive, and more a way to actively learn/see. Something similar to what Ching describes in his book about Drawing for Architects. However, it did take 5 years roughly spending time with computers, and getting used to the notion of digital 'files' etc - for me to feel comfortable with these highly artificial systems/tools.
To be able to jump from reality/artificiality in a short space of time. I learned to draw in fact, when I was very, very young indeed - by the age of 13 I was drawing much like an adult would -seeing the world in perspective, rather than flat etc. I had trained my brain to see geometric form and volumes in space. Supposedly useful skills to become an Architect - dambed if I know! :-)
Obviously, the sketchbook will never be entirely replaced by 3D computer modelling, because one is designed to be portable, while the other isn't! 2D drawings and A1 sheets are going to remain the staple diet of Architects for the future - but I believe the 3D computer model to be a nice addition too - and just like sketching is best used for 'learning to see'.
So as I have tried to explain, that a 'specialist activity' such as using a computer programme - one often completely shoved down the throats of young people nowadays, simply because they are 'good at computers' - that very same 'specialist activity' of 3D computer modelling viewed in such a negative way by the profession, can in fact become a very positive way to grow as an Architect.
I like to remind myself now, though, since i am using computers since 1998/99 roughly - that some files i have now are 1999 date on them!!!! Even though that file date is like 10 systems back, not even counting all the different systems i have used in colleges, workplaces, web cafes i frequented on hols/living away from home etc, etc.
That the data contained in a 1999 file, is still just a useful to me today - and sometimes moreso than it was in 1999. Somehow 1999 data is much more memorable than 1999 hardware! And i assume that is the way it will always be. So computer file formats, as a means of storage, and archiving is much more attractive/fascinating to me, rather than the systems which generated that file - somehow the systems have returned to being invisible to me - just like it was in the beginning.
Somehow, that feels strangely right....
Not my area of expertise but this article here, describes how young students can use Revit computer software to learn to see the economic aspects of a building project more... Students Learn with Integrated Building Modeling
by Ronald Filson, FAIA with Ron Nyren
I hope this long speech provides at least some hope for AI and artificiality of computers.
The trick with anything is to be active rather than passive. And my own experience in many jobs etc, is that people are becoming treated like 'sleeping droids' in the whole greater scheme of things - architects, who are supposedly the greater thinkers, included.
Brian O'Hanlon, 29th Aug 2003.