Hiding Behind a Mouse

Depending on your age, architecture is something you started practicing with a mechanical pencil and paper at a huge inclined desk, or, in front of a computer monitor. I’m in the first camp, and today I intend to invoke the respect-your-elders clause. I am going to get up on my soapbox (which I designed with a mechanical pencil and paper at a huge inclined desk) and talk a little bit about CAD.

Computer Aided Design software is absolutely essential in conveying concepts to clients and contractors, because it allows us to take a lot of the guesswork out of architectural design. Today’s powerful software can represent ideas and options quickly, beautifully, and accurately. The interactive drawings and renderings help clients visualize the destination and therefore enjoy the journey. CAD software has given our presentations and paperwork sizzle, and I love it for this reason.

I think the important thing to keep in mind is the second letter in the CAD acronym. Aided. The software doesn’t do the design for the architect, it merely illustrates the concept of the design. Quality in, quality out; garbage in, garbage out. An architect must have a fundamental understanding of the concept he is trying to convey long before he sits down at a computer.

You’d be surprised how many young architects have never been to a lumber yard. When I talk to young people, I ask them to tell me about something they have built. Not designed on a computer, built with their hands. It matters. I’m not saying you have to be old to be successful in this field, I am saying you have to have an up-close-and-personal understanding of how stuff works. The kind of up-close-and-personal you experience when you do things by hand: with a hammer, saw, and yes, with a mechanical pencil.


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