Wednesday, January 11, 2012

poor old soul, pt. 1

'I do not need to draw my designs. A good architectural concept of how something is to be built can be written down. The Parthenon can be written down.' Adolf Loos, 1924

I've, once again, been reading up on Loos, and the above quote had me starting to dwell on a favourite issue of mine: CAD-programs, representation and the way people invest hopes and expectations for the evolution of architecture in the evolution of the programs.

I was born in 1981, my dad bought a Commodore 64 some time in the late eighties and my family got a PC some time around 1992-93. this means I have been using computers practically daily for twenty years and sporadically for years before that. I can see how they have sped up processes and how and why they have changed society profoundly: making sure useful information is there at our disposal at every conceivable time, making sure sharing information goes in an instant, also making sure we can always find something to distract us from the dullness of waiting.

but what I can't see, what I just can't comprehend, is how and what in the use of BIM-programs will revolutionise the building industry. I see these 60-year old men telling me about the fantastic advantages of using BIM, and I just look at them and wonder what exactly it is they think these programs do. and then I take another long look at them and wonder if they have forgotten that what we draw is being built by construction workers rather than robots? because we still need to send off drawings as they're the most useful tool to have on a building site. I guess it would be somehow different if what we were trying to build would be some extreme versions of Loos' Raumplan-concept but generally modern day accessibility guidelines makes that harder than it used to be.*

so mostly we're dealing with rectangular floors and rectangular sections built by humans who can guarantee the placement of a pillar down to an accuracy of +-25mm. and these men think we need to spend time building it all, every little part of the building, in three dimensions on our computer screens before it is actually constructed? obviously it is handy when sorting out where different pipes and such collide, but as a tool to create better buildings? wouldn't it just be simpler and cheaper to make sure construction workers are working more quickly and correctly?

as CAD-programs go I like Revit over Autocad (even for just drawing 2d-lines in), but in its current form it won't revolutionise the built environment, and it won't revolutionise the practice of building or architecture. and that's because the problems with today's buildings aren't really to do with problems of sharing information between consultants and builders - that is a minor issue, at the most - the problems with today's buildings are, as always, a lack of craftsmanship, a lack of money and - most importantly - a lack of ideas. and good ideas don't need 3-dimensional representations in computers, as Loos points out ideas can be written down.

*OMA have tried to update that concept to sometimes striking results as can be seen in their Dutch Embassy in Berlin and Casa da Musica in Porto, but these buildings are quite the exception in a world where stacked floors - offset by the same distance - reign virtually supreme.