pencils process…point 2

14 August 2013

pencils 01

As a response to a newspaper article (where I was quoted), yesterday’s post focused on my need to delve more into the process of architecture. If you read the article I referred to, it could be easy to misunderstand how architects design and use certain tools to develop their work. I will also preface my next comments by saying I am creating some degree of a digital model for more and more of my projects. However, I must bring up a point frequently disregarded in the discussion of digital tools. Take a deep breath,

…all projects are not worth modeling (with digital/BIM tools).

BIM image 01

I can’t speak for large firms or large projects (so feel free to chime in), but for small firms and/or for small projects, a full-blown BIM model (or even a SketchUp model) is sometimes like driving a finish nail with a sledge-hammer. Architects don’t just work on new construction and sometimes the parameters of the project (for many reasons) stipulate a quick, simple set of drawings. Sure, the large new building ought to be modeled and the fee and timeframe probably warrants or permits it. However, some projects can still be completed most efficiently with 2D CAD methods. In a few rare cases, a free hand sketch or hand-drafted drawing can be the quickest way to satisfy the need for that drawing (**gasp**). Simply put, there is no one-size-fits-all method.

CAD image 04

The last point I’ll make (that could be a post all to itself) is to acknowledge the common misunderstanding by the public to how digital tools are used. You don’t just push a button and it draws for you. Without going into detail, a digital model is a wonderful tool to extract data from and it can be rather efficient to make editing changes. The visualization opportunities are quite phenomenal. However, to get to that point takes time and skill. Invest in it and it could pay off. Notice I said, invest in it.

I always invite a conversation, but I’m not looking for consensus but I’m not intentionally stirring up debate. My primary concern when quoted in a public journal is to accurately portray the profession and clearly demonstrate value for investment.

CAD image 02

If you’re looking to hire an architect, choose one based on many criteria one of which is compatibility. If you’re an architect and you want to use a mouse and never pick up a pencil, that’s fine with me. On the other hand, you may be so adept with Sharpies and pencils but still miss the mark. However, as long as we are human striving to make great architecture, I believe the process cannot be solely digital and you don’t pay 30% less for an architect simply because they use these tools.

If you don’t know what that means, you didn’t read the article.

pencils 02

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5 Responses to “pencils process…point 2”

  1. Jeremiah Says:

    As always, incredible post, Lee. The last paragraph puts a beautiful bow on these two posts, especially the part about paying less for services just because an architect employs the latest digital tools. A tool is simply that. It is not a magic wand that somehow makes the practice of architecture better or faster or cheaper.

    Since moving to a full BIM practice more than 6 months ago, we’ve continued to use every means at our disposal from hand sketching to 2D to 3D to BIM and back to hand sketching. Some of our projects, like you describe, have been small and require very little, if any, 3D capability. Some need to be sent out the door so fast that even thinking of modeling takes unnecessary time out of the project.

    While BIM has ceased to be our future and is now firmly rooted in the present practice of Architecture, there will never not be a need for those of us to communicate simply and effectively in more conventional 2D methods.


  2. Lee, you hit the nail on the head – squarely I might add. Unfortunately as you infer, the laymen (be it contractors or clients) share a warped sense of how long it takes to draw a good set of documents.


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