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Is CAD just a tool?

Jul 6 '05 60 Last Comment
yalo
Jul 6, 05 1:19 pm

I'm trying to help a group of sociologists at MIT understand whether or not computer-aided design changes what it means to be an architect. What do you think? Is CAD just a tool or is it something more significant? What does it mean for something to be just a tool anyway?

 

Tectonic
Jul 6, 05 1:31 pm

I believe it's just a very efficient tool. If you'd like to hand draft you could but it would not be efficient. For example a standard hammer vs. a neumatic nail gun. Same job just faster.....all professions have these comparison in regards to the tools that are available.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 1:40 pm

You can be constrained by the digital paramenters of the tool. This depends on many things including your familliarity with any given program.

The same job may or may not be faster. I beleive the user interphase of CAD products is a bit determining factor. I don't beleive it heps make a crap Architect a good Architect.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 1:41 pm

....big determining factor.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 1:43 pm

... helps.

Shit where's that spell checker. Now here I expose an anomoly in my argument, computers can make a crap speller apear as a good speller.

norm
Jul 6, 05 1:59 pm

plus it's safer...yesterday i accidently jabbed myself in the hand with the pointy end of a triangle. hard to do that with CAD.

architecturegeek
Jul 6, 05 2:00 pm

definently, tools (digital or otherwise) create their own culture.

has the rise of nurbs modeling lead to more 'blob' buildings?
The ticks and bugs of a tool create both marks and new innovations.

I think 'leet' speak would be a good example of the tool of video game control influencing culture. (hand placement led to spelling quickly with numbers.)



There's an old essay about how CAD was undermining architects in that we were understanding less about what it was we were designing. i.e. click wall and you get wall, without having to understand all the layers of the wall because the computer already drew it. I don't know how much of that is true but it seems to be more of an issue today than 20 years ago.

architecturegeek
Jul 6, 05 2:01 pm

norm - that and CAD doesn't smudge or need eraser dust. plus I really hate those black smears all over my hand.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 2:01 pm

Architect reduced to the roll of a computer geek?

j
Jul 6, 05 2:08 pm

norm - but sometimes working with cad might make you want to jab that pointy end of the triangle right into your eye.

Jr.
Jul 6, 05 2:11 pm

Yeah, CAD is a tool, but you're probably not using the word the same way I am at the moment....

yalo
Jul 6, 05 2:12 pm

Haha. What's worse: black smears or repetative strain injury?

Here is another way to think about it: Does CAD change how you draw or what you draw? It would be really helpful to hear about your personal experiences.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 2:21 pm

When my pencil breaks I get out the pencil sharpener, when my computer breaks I get out the vallium.

Tectonic
Jul 6, 05 2:22 pm

It does change what I draw because I have more time to mess around with spline and curves that otherwise I'd probably not even venture into by hand drawing them.

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 2:35 pm

Give me a french curve over a CAD spline any day.

ericMontross
Jul 6, 05 2:42 pm

cad is so much more than a tool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

BOTS
Jul 6, 05 3:00 pm
e
Jul 6, 05 3:01 pm

cad is a tool in the same way a paint brush is.

form64
Jul 6, 05 3:07 pm

BOTS-
"When my pencil breaks I get out the pencil sharpener, when my computer breaks I get out the vellum." better?


CAD is just a means to an end. to be a tool means it's not the end-all or be-all. so to me it's just a tool, albeit a bitchin' one. is a hand held hammer more or less of a tool than an air powered nail gun? the results can or should be the same.

thousands of great buildings were designed before CAD and will continue to be, maybe just not as fast or blob like.

Jrocc
Jul 6, 05 3:33 pm

Its just a tool, not even the best one at our disposal.

yalo
Jul 6, 05 4:11 pm

Do some CAD applications feel more or less like tools or are they all the same?

Bula
Jul 6, 05 8:08 pm
I'm trying to help a group of sociologists at MIT understand whether or not computer-aided design changes what it means to be an architect

Just a tool…but it has produced a significant impact to an architect’s overall computer literacy. Also, I believe CAD has permitted the boundaries of design to be stretched a little farther.

benisball
Jul 6, 05 8:14 pm

No, it is a tool with a powerful ideology built into it. If you understand the ideology then it might be just a tool.

More on this later when I have time.

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Jul 6, 05 8:25 pm

just a tool, and anyone who only knows cad (not how to design, etc.), is just a tool as well.

duchampian
Jul 6, 05 9:55 pm

CAD definitely affects the profession and pushes boundaries, etc. We like to say "just a tool," but tools have a profound impact on the product. Especially if you spend 11 hours every day with one tool.

The problem is this: We are designers, we like to think we have control over our work, but the control in CAD belongs to those who design the software. The easier/more intuitive a software seems, the more control a programmer is exercising over your process. Kind of like effects and filters in Photoshop. Really easy, really cheesy. NURBS stuff has the potential to rival the cheesyness of any Photoshop filter.

architecturegeek
Jul 7, 05 1:43 am

duchampian - The easier/more intuitive a software seems, the more control a programmer is exercising over your process. Kind of like effects and filters in Photoshop. Really easy, really cheesy. NURBS stuff has the potential to rival the cheesyness of any Photoshop filter.

damn straight, but how do we combat this as architects, do we shun all tools entirely and design simply by directing others to make those thoughts reality? Or do we need a CAD that is so intuitive that pure thought is translated into form, where ease and control have shifted so far that the programmer becomes transparent?

ichweiB
Jul 7, 05 1:46 am

I think it is definitely a tool, but I think it has changed what it means to be an architect in some ways. For example, it has allowed Gehry to actually be able to build his complex models which has expanded the his ability to transform a concept to a space. Yes, CAD is a tool, but it created a paradigm shift, in my opinion, in the architecture profession, thus changing or defnining what architecture is/can be. Maybe others do not agree...??

MysteryMan
Jul 7, 05 7:39 pm

It's a tool, but don't get distracted by it if'n you want to be an Architect.
If you get more into CAD than Architecture, then you're splitting your loyalties & probably gonna become more of a CAD-Guy/Gal than an Architect.

Currently, CAD, as a tool is most useful for 2D drafting. It, and the profession, have a long way to go before we use computers to our best advantage. The way Frank Gehry & co use CATIA (not CAD) is a step in the right direction. Maybe the rest of us mortals can do similar things w/ stuff like Revit, but until enough of us design that way, there will only be islands of 3D model-based design.

MysteryMan
Jul 7, 05 7:43 pm

"Give me a french curve over a CAD spline any day."

AMEN, Bruddah! How many of you can draw a (good) Piano Curve quickly in AutoCAD?

yalo
Jul 7, 05 7:46 pm

MM- what is the difference between CATIA and CAD? Are there other information technologies which aid design but cannot be included in the category of CAD?

strlt_typ
Jul 7, 05 8:30 pm

just a tool..it has no brain

ichweiB
Jul 10, 05 5:43 pm

CATIA, I believe, is able to scan the complex volumes of Gehry's models so that they can be built.

duchampian
Jul 10, 05 11:00 pm

I don't buy the CAD operator vs. architect argument. It's what we draw with, and therefore has a profound impact on what we do. It's just a tool, but ideas in architecture are linked to tools in a very particular way. There is some interesting stuff being done with programming - specifically artists and designers learning something about programming as a creative endeavor unto itself. Check out this link (I don't know how to post a link on archinect.)

http://proce55ing.net/

architecturegeek
Jul 11, 05 12:03 am

mjh00c - most modeling software can accept that type of input if you have a digitizing arm.

processing is a good one. coding among architects seems like it is becoming more popular in certain circles.

yalo - the growing understanding among architects of CNC technologies and how to work with them is having a large impact on form and pre-fab in some areas. That's CAM not CAD so I guess you could include it in it's own catagory.

Per Corell
Jul 11, 05 7:47 am

Hi
CAD are nothing without CAM.
Unless the only catch is to replace the 2D pen with the 2D screen displaying the exact same floorplans and just makeing it easyer to plot a scaled paper drawing ------ but that was not the promises with CAD.

It was not just the the idea to rewrite the old methods into smarter faster computer code, only offering the exact same projecting in 2D, but also , it was not just to be able to make exiting 3D walkthru's just to sell the project , no CAD was from the start intended to work close together with CAM, ------- problem is that very little of the tradisional manufactoring acturly profit the way production could.

What is realy the difference between the architect throwing a sketch hand drawn and a sketch that came from a paint program ? Do it realy effect anything that the "tool" , the pen are replaced with a 2D paint program, isn't it still the same old attitude just with more colorfull clotches , do that atitude profit architecture or is it just how things anyway was done 80 yeras ago even before the computers and CAD programs.

Im'e sorry to say so, but I been with it since the late 80' , and the whole attitude about CAD seem to be still the same. The deep knowleage and ability to master these fantastic new tools, are very rare and most often cutting edge projects are 90 pct. the old methods,-------- when the projhect are sold the 3D drawings are not used anymore, ontop what this attitude do is to make even more boring architecture as creativity and feel are replaced with Lego block building. ------- This was not what was promised with CAD-CAM , with that the thing you draw would go strait from the 3D drawing into production, with that your creativity would profit fantastic new tools that could create wonders ; now is that what today's 2D projecting tool produce, or do they just make an on-screen account with small graphic symbols ?
Can you realy use your 3D drawing better than your hand drawn plans, if no then why do you think that is, if it is not our own lack of ability to realise the fact new options that keep -------- maby I shuld put it this way ,why is it I still hear the same misunderstood claims, as I heard in the start of the 90' , that CAD is just a smarter pen but the pen are more handy ; is it becaurse the need for a real revolution and a real new perception about the "tool" are more needed than ever, that CAM are aswell just copying the old way's rather than develobing the fact direct-link projecting and production, that what others in this tread think is advanced 3D routering is realy just the new technology in chains, just to serve outdated production technikes.

sharpie.
Jul 11, 05 8:01 am

its just a DRAFTING tool

sharpie.
Jul 11, 05 8:16 am

no actually its more than a drafting tool, but its just a tool. yeah!

yalo
Jul 11, 05 8:49 am

Thanks for all your responses. It seems like there is a concensus that CAD is just a tool! However, I am also hearing that CAD is significantly different from the previous generation of tools:

a. it does the "same job just faster"
b. it can be combinded with other technologies like CAM
c. it has the potential to by cheesy
d. it might lead you to becoming "more of a CAD-Guy/Gal than an Architect"
e. it has stretched the boundaries of what architects can build

I have another follow up question: Do you feel like something has been lost in the transition from hand made models and drawings to computer generated images?

sharpie.
Jul 11, 05 9:37 am

yes defenitely. i`ve been taught in the old school methodology where hand drafting was encouraged especially in the beginnning years.
during my final year though i started using CAD for presentation drawings, the same amount of mental satisfaction got during free hand sketching sketching sketching was totally lost.

but for analysing spatial concepts done free hand and presentations the usage of a TOOL is better.

bucksleeper
Jul 27, 05 7:52 pm

yes, but with CAD one loses the important physical connection between the hand, the pen and the paper. A good drawing is formed almost like good sculpture; built up slowly with an intuitive understanding of line weight and pressure, direction and force.

The action of creating a drawing can be simulated through drawing tablets, but never truly replicated. The computer will always be an intermediary.

Finally, CAD is a TOOL for one very specific reason: if one cannot conceive of a building without CAD, any effort using it will be superficial and misunderstood.

architecturegeek
Jul 27, 05 8:05 pm

bucksleeper - but with CAD one loses the important physical connection between the hand, the pen and the paper. A good drawing is formed almost like good sculpture; built up slowly with an intuitive understanding of line weight and pressure, direction and force.

I disagree, if anything your metaphysical and physical connection between hand, input and software is just as valid as the hand/pen/paper connection, perhaps even more so being that the software can react to your connection rather than being solely an input device like a piece of paper. That intuitive sense with a pencil comes from practice, if you practice with a CAD software you gain an intutive sense of what you are doing. I think you're missing the point with CAD/CAM if your seeing it as a way of replicating the pen/pencil.

Finally, CAD is a TOOL for one very specific reason: if one cannot conceive of a building without CAD, any effort using it will be superficial and misunderstood.
Agreed the software isn't the architect, you are. Which only strengthens my point that its just a valid as the pencil or any other method of idea-translation such as modeling, etc.

not per--corell
Jul 27, 05 8:13 pm

but architecturegeek, CAD isn't just an extension of yourself like your hand on paper. it's a language that must be translated from thought to command to screen. practice ain't the issue; it will never flow the same way.

drawing a thought requires the same mental focus and hand/eye coordination that any physical activity requires. CADding adds another layer: the forcing of thoughts into an intermediary that may or may not result in the same product that you envision.

'course i still can't review a set of drawings without printing hardcopies, anyway...

architecturegeek
Jul 27, 05 8:22 pm

not per - it's a language that must be translated from thought to command to screen. practice ain't the issue; it will never flow the same way.

But, I think it can, the problem lies more in what were used to doing and getting over the mental hump that is styming that flow. We have to train ourselves to intuitively understand the computer as an extension of ourselves. There's precedent for the human brain to do this already, think of driving a car, with enough practice you no longer think of yourself siting in a car moving lever A and turning Wheel B you see youself, AS the car. The interface drops away and you are one with the system of traffic. Does this happen to everyone? No. But with enough training and experience I believe interfaces disappear and essentially are just intuitive prosthetics. You're correct that this isn't common with CAD but I think that has more to do with the framework we view it in rather than what it is or could be.

not sure if I'm making sense but that my two bits.

bucksleeper
Jul 27, 05 11:44 pm

" think of driving a car, with enough practice you no longer think of yourself siting in a car moving lever A and turning Wheel B you see youself, AS the car. The interface drops away and you are one with the system of traffic."

yes of course, but now compare driving that car down the highway to playing 'Need for Speed' on your PC.

'Need for Speed' can be mastered without ever having driven a real car in the same way that CAD can be mastered by those who do not actually draw well. My point is, however, that by mastering manual drawing you will find greater understanding when using CAD.

also, i'd like to point out that I agree that the CAD-CAM implications involved in using a computer are by definition superior to the pencil and paper. try as i may, my vellum will simply not carve a model out of plastesine for me.

architecturegeek
Jul 28, 05 12:03 am
'Need for Speed' can be mastered without ever having driven a real car in the same way that CAD can be mastered by those who do not actually draw well. My point is, however, that by mastering manual drawing you will find greater understanding when using CAD.

I think, I didn't make my point clear, your comparing specifics, when your mastering 'need for speed' your intuitively controlling a software element regardless of it's relation to a car. In fact there is no relation between the software graphical representation of the car and an actual car their two completely divergent objects. Because there is no relation other than a purely representational one little is carried between the two. The same goes for the CAD/handdrawn dilemma, while there are similarities between the two(i.e. some skills can be transferred back and forth), handdrawn design and CAD design are completely seperate cultures if they are used by the designer within the framework of those cultures.

Sure you can draw a box on paper and you can draw the same box on the computer, and I agree that you mental understanding of that box is greater on the hand-drawn then the virtual....BUT this is only because you shouldn't be using the virtual to try and recreate the experience of the actual. The CAD environment is a environment with its own rules and physics, just as gravity, pen type etc. control the design of a hand-drawn, file-size, software limitations and connectivity control that of a virtual (CAD) design.

I guess what I'm saying is that yes, if we attempt to use CAD software as a juiced up version of the old thing then we've limited ourselves. (which is what we've done as a profession for the most part) So we've been doing it wrong so far.... But if we think about design within the framework of the CAD software we shouldn't look at it in the same way as we look at design within the hand-drawn framework. I think you could take two equally talented designers and have them design within the actual restrictions of their environments (one hand and one CAD) and have two equally good designs but they should be completely different because they were created by and for completely different ecologies.

/I'm getting long winded and possibly even more incoherent. I think we're just looking at it in two different ways, possibly I'm taking too much of a step back in trying to look at the whole thing?

alien
Jul 28, 05 12:27 am

A tool is defined as an instrument used in the performance of an operation. The connotative notion of a “tool” implies control, power, dominance, skill, and artistry. A pen, for instance, is a device that allows one to perform or facilitate the manual or mechanical work of writing or drawing. The capabilities, potency, as well as, limitations of a tool are known or estimated in advanced. This is not the case with CAD. Neither their capacity or potency is understood, nor their limitations can be pre-estimated. Indeed, designers are frequently amazed by processes performed by CAD procedures, which they have no control or, often, knowledge of.

architecturegeek
Jul 28, 05 1:14 am
This is not the case with CAD. Neither their capacity or potency is understood, nor their limitations can be pre-estimated. Indeed, designers are frequently amazed by processes performed by CAD procedures, which they have no control or, often, knowledge of.

But that's my point, we need to use CAD more, we haven't trained our intuition to understand it enough. We're monkeys with typewriters at this point. At some point we'll have a Da Vinci with a CAD program to counter the Da Vinci with the lead, someone will train themselves to eloquently use the software in a manner that demonstrates artistry, skill, dominance. Perhaps someone has already...3D graphic artists are quickly reaching the point where you can recognize those that have true mastery and artistry and those that are just using filters with little understanding of what they're doing.

bucksleeper
Jul 28, 05 10:28 am

architecturegeek-

you make a good point about CAD being a totally seperate environment that is often used incorrectly, i.e. paper replacement rather than an entirely new tool.

I'm having trouble defending it, but I still see manual drafting and the physical contact between artist and medium to be of utmost importance. as powerful as computers are, that act is impossible to experience with CAD.

alien
Jul 28, 05 11:08 am

The dominant mode for using computers in architecture today is a combination of manually driven design decisions and formally responsive computer applications. The problem with this combination is that neither the designer is aware of the possibilities that computational schemes can produce nor the software packages are able to predict the moves, idiosyncrasies, or personality of every designer. Therefore, the result is a distancing between the potential design explorations and the capacity built into computational tools. Designers often miss the opportunity is open up to them through digital tools, merely because of lack of understanding that computation can be part of the design process. While some digital designers are claiming to be great fans, users, or explorers of digital design, a lack of knowledge on what really constitutes digital design contributes towards a general misunderstanding. The use of computer applications is not per se an act of digital design. Digital, in the true sense of the meaning, is about the reduction of a process into discrete patterns and the articulation of these patterns into new entities through the use of a computer. Digital is an achievement of the collective organizational properties of computers not the intrinsic nature of the appearance of their products. In other words, digital is a process not a product. If it is seen as a process, then the emphasis is placed on understanding, distinguishing, and discerning the means by which design can enter the world of computation, and not the other way around. The world of computational design is quite different from the manual world of design. Terms, concepts, and processes that are seen as inconceivable, unpredictable, or simply impossible by a human designer can be explored, implemented, and developed into entirely new design strategies within the digital world. Instead what is happening is the use of computers as marketing tools of strange forms whose origin, process, or rationale of generation is entirely unknown and so is judged on the basis of its appearance using mystic, cryptic, or obfuscating texts of explanation.

architecturegeek
Jul 28, 05 7:17 pm

bucksleeper - I still see manual drafting and the physical contact between artist and medium to be of utmost importance. as powerful as computers are, that act is impossible to experience with CAD.

I didn't mean in any way to diminish manual drafting, sketching or any other hand art. I spent most of younger years doing all things manually, and I still feel a deep attachment to those skills.

alien - WOW.. well put, your words? Though, I don't quite agree with this part
Instead what is happening is the use of computers as marketing tools of strange forms whose origin, process, or rationale of generation is entirely unknown
I think if you've used the software long enough you begin to understand the rationale of generation, and I think the comment that that it's judged on it's appearance using mystic..etc.etc. Is misguided and really beside the point as all architecture judged on appearance falls into that catagory to the jaded viewer.

bRink
Jul 29, 05 1:19 pm

CAD is a tool... Like a Mayline Ruler, only more advanced.... Anybody can understand how to use a Mayline, but not everyone can do a good drawing... A Mayline in the hands of an artist can produce something very nice, saves time, increases productivity, and it may actually increase the quality of drawing because quality of drawing is often a function of time and money.

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