Future in architecture...


Hello everyone,

I'm currently studying at an ivy league university that focuses on parametric/generative design. Personally, this type of work does not interest me, especially when it tends to resemble sci-fi, robotic, or amorphous forms. You might be wondering why did I choose a school that does not emphasize my interests. Reason being that I received a full scholarship and the school has a great reputation. However, I find myself in this dilemma of creating work that goes against the pedagogical interests of my institution. I am personally drawn towards phenomenological studies and ideas that converge with functionality and simplicity. Some of my favorite architects are Steven Holl and Louis Kahn. My question, will not focusing on grasshopper, python, on Maya, prevent me from being a successful innovative architect? Will it prevent from getting a job at a creative firm? Does my attitude towards these architectural approaches set me in a backwards track? My intention is not to design based on the past but I do believe that a critical part of the human experience and it's relationship to context is lost by focusing solely on algorithmic solutions. Do you guys think that I should be more open minded about parametric design? It is also difficult for me because I do not design by deriving formulas and algorithms. Instead I am more inspired by sketching, using fine art/nature as inspiration then exploring through drawing/painting. I want to clarify that I enjoy using rhino, revit, CAD, but I fear that my brain is not wired to think in code which is required to work in a lot of parametric programs like grasshopper or python. Would approaching architecture in a more artistic way set me back in field? Should I have chosen another school that actually fit my interests instead of going for the full ride?

Any comments/suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks so much. 

Aug 9, 14 11:34 pm

how in the world did you get a full scholarship? Surely the admission panel must've seen some of your work and thought you'd fit in well at the school?

Aug 10, 14 12:29 am  · 

Break the rules.

speak your mind about architecture.

fallow what the teacher has to tell your or just tell him/her she sucks and do your own design.

school teaches you how to think like an architect, room for creativity / interpretation .

do your own project for your thesis with a teacher that supports your view.

realize that free education is fu+ing better than 150k loan debt.

enjoy school before you hit the real world. 

if you want a job after school, learn Revit.

Aug 10, 14 1:26 am  · 

Why don't you use Rhino, Grasshopper and Maya to design the kind of work you are interested in? They are just tools - I frequently use grasshopper and processing for programmatic planning (adjacencies using  attractors in kangaroo), climate design (daylight, wind, shadow simulations, automating production workflow like model-building and preparing files for digital fabrication, and a whole slew of other things that have little to do with the aesthetics of a project.


You are in school. You should be exploring different types of architecture, different processes for creating projects, and different production and representation tools.

Use grasshopper or kangaroo to design an awesome structure to hold up some weird partial dome with triangles cut out of it? I love Kahn and Holl's work as much as the next indoctrinated architect, but surely there has to be an aspect of their phenomological approach to architecture that can be translated/ synergized with modern ideas about structure, facades, and production that this school is teaching? 

Have you looked closely at Kahn's work? Catenary arches, domes, amazingly complex layers of facade and structure, and it is all underpinned by the materials and methods he was working with at the time.

Aug 10, 14 1:36 am  · 


Why not use Rhino or Maya is because it doesn't have the facilities necessary for preparation of construction documents. It has the 3d modeling but not the tools to show dimensions and other information necessary for actual construction documents.

If you want to do 3d modeling and rendering for movies and video games then by all means use these tools. If you want to do presentation rendering... by all means... sure... go for it.

Why not use the right tools for the job?

Aug 10, 14 2:39 am  · 

Are you suggesting Revit is the correct tool for him to design his school projects in? What a rediculous argument. Learn it so you have a job, but don't try to conceptualize projects in it. Don't restrict yourself to a single software platform.

School is about pushing the limits of design. Revit, by its very definition, is dependent on preconceived details, materials, and notions of construction, all things that a quality school will encourage students to both understand and challenge. You don't come to understand details by working in Revit, that's for damn sure. At least in a precision surface-modeling program such as Rhino it is possible to precisely detail connections without resorting to the kinds of workarounds or felicitous 2d representations that Revit encourages.

It may surprise you to learn that there is a level of BIM design that makes Revit look positively antiquated. Do a project in Catia or collaborate in Tekla with an engineering team and then talk to me about using the right tools. Rhino is an essential tool for students and professionals which can lead to understanding and working with programs and processes that go far beyond simple 2d drawings.

You have obviously never mastered Rhinoceros or Grasshopper or realized the power of computation in design, or you would realize how categorically wrong you are.

Aug 10, 14 3:20 am  · 

Did I specify the software tool to use for there to be a "suggesting" as you imply?

Have you not heard of modifying and editing your components? You can create profiles and other components using a 3d CAD modeler. 

A building is made of defined components. Especially modern commercial buildings made of premanufactured components like steel beams, bolts, nuts, brackets, etc.

My point is the tools don't come ready for an architect to use. Buildings are built in terms of components because it takes machinery to move and install the components and there is a maximum size the components can be otherwise, it can't be delivered to site because it can't be on the roads used for transporting.

Revit for example already possesses the facilities for preparation of architectural drawings.

What exactly are you getting at with the "power of computation in design" ?

Aug 10, 14 3:56 am  · 

You say "Revit... already possesses the facilities for preparation of architectural drawings." but you also say, "the tools don't come ready for an architect to use." 

Could you clarify which one it is? Last I checked, people, not software programs had to be the ones generating and checking architectural drawing sets. 


and you are correct, buildings are built in terms of pre-defined components... if you want your product to look like everything else... edging towards a lowest common denominator of design. Architecture is about innovation, invention, new processes, techniques, building materials, and how all these items are assembled. Revit is great for production, but severely limiting when trying to innovate in this field. 

Aug 10, 14 6:27 pm  · 


Okay, I see the line of confusion not communicated. I'll clarify, although I should have been more clear already.

When I wrote: "the toold don't come ready for an architect to use", I was referring to Rhino and those tools not Revit. I should have been more clear but it was the line of thought that was going on in my head at the time that I wrote the sentence.

While editing before posting, there were additional paragraphs that I deleted, I deleted a few too many sentence and forgot to put the connection transition in the frame of context. I was kind of going back to the context of Rhino/Grasshopper.

So take mental note and replace the sentence: "My point is the tools don't come ready for an architect to use." with the following:

"In regards to Rhino & Grasshopper, my point is the tools don't come ready for an architect to use for preparation of construction documents".

Aug 10, 14 7:21 pm  · 

Architecture school is about that but people don't pay design professionals to experiment thee design professional's wet dreams on their investment.

If you want to explore ideas, do it in your sketch book. Don't experiment your wet dreams on someone else's dime. 

As for innovating, why? Really? Who is going to pay me $1,000,000 to do so on their $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 project.

You need to justify your decision to the client. It is their money and you have a duty of accountability and disclosure to your client. That is the difference between being a professional and being just a artist and dreamer.

Having said that, exploring ideas to evoke the vision from which the client is aiming for. There are clients willing to explore to a point. I don't get the freedom of carte blanche design. Every decision I make, I have to come look at the whole picture to its completion and every decision, every line, every dot, every component of the building has to take into account its construction. When it comes to my client's projects, it has to buildable with the tools and equipment and means & methods that builders have to achieve reach the end result. It has to be buildable. Therefore, I have to think about the construction side of things as well. After all..... CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS is for the BUILDER not the CLIENT.

In general, clients don't care about drawings. They care about the end result.... the building/project to be built. They want the brick and mortar not a stack of over sized paper that doesn't fit on a coffee table.

Aug 10, 14 7:38 pm  · 

The fact that you think Rhino and Grasshopper, or for that matter Catia, Gehry Digital Project, Tekla, SketchUp, Maya, etc... can only be used to produce "paper" architecture shows just how much time you have been spending with your head buried in a set of Revit coordination files. Wake up and look around.

Aug 10, 14 11:48 pm  · 


I don't use Revit that often. For me, Revit's UI is a little bit cumbersome. On most projects that I do, I use Nanocad, SketchUp, and old fashion paper & pen/pencil (with cyanotype prints made). On projects where I don't need to involve a lot on engineers, I do the drawings by hand.

For renderings, I do pencil, inked, watercolor/aquarelle, etc. or I use SketchUp.

There really no reason for photorealistic rendering because first off, the idea is NOT to claim what is built will exactly look like the rendering and the more photorealistic the rendering is, the more explicit your claim to the colors will be versus leaving room for working with real house paint palette tests and variability in real construction.

I might have some colors in mind but I want to avoid over claiming the rendering to which I would have to ethically try to adhere which is problematic.

Aug 11, 14 1:12 am  · 

Remember, all construction document HAS to use CAD drafting hatches, fills, symbols, lettering standards, lineweights, dimensions, etc. 

Essentially, that 3d model in BIM or other tools has to be prepared to submittal/construction document standards and at a scaled size. 

It is also required on the construction field because most construction contractors can't use BIM or most other digital formats out on the job site except big commercial contractors doing a big project. They need sets of constuction documents in prints.

I use cyanotype because it can't just be xeroxed. In addition, cyanotype uses chemical coating of the paper which makes detecting fakes very quickly.

That's another story altogether.

Aug 11, 14 1:21 am  · 

Thanks to everyone for replying back. Please be aware that I typed the previous message after pulling a couple of all-nighters from my summer prep studio. I value everyone's input and am grateful for this tool.

@Quan Nyen Tran

Thank you so much for your suggestions. I will make sure to take into account all of your advice.


Thanks for your advice as well. Seeing these programs as tools more so than the styles they tend to produce is a great suggestion. Since I am new to architecture I am not familiar with the structural details behind Kahn's work but I'll be sure to study them closely. Honestly, I feel a bit intimidated by software such as grasshopper because I am not very proficient in mathematics and will need to work very hard to understand the logic behind the program. However, I've been staying up late after my studio courses watching tutorials and I can definitely see the benefit in using them to speed up your work process.

Aug 11, 14 2:26 am  · 

Ivy league university? Check.

Parametric design? Check

Not following your interests? Check.

Excellent. You are well prepared for a lifetime of suffering and misery.

Aug 11, 14 9:03 am  · 

+++Miles!  Priceless.  

Aug 11, 14 11:54 am  · 

^^ Aren't you being a little harsh with the Beaver, Ward?

Aug 11, 14 2:15 pm  · 

But Miles, aren't you often posting here about the need for avoiding debt? If this guy has a full ride, I can't fault him for staying there. Actually, that's what I would recommend - considering the fact that the only expected alternative would be massive amounts of debt.

There is nothing stopping you from gearing the studio towards your interests. I think there is huge leeway for exploring digital techniques that are not only viable in the real world, but actually improve workflows in physical production. Considering you are at an ivy university, with all the shops that it provides you, I think its entirely within your power to start moving towards those methods and/or incorporating them into your own work.

Aug 11, 14 2:54 pm  · 

Does the OP have a full ride?

Aug 11, 14 3:41 pm  · 

According to the original post, yes. Regardless of what one might think of pedagogical focuses, I'd say its pretty hard to turn down a free degree.

Just for arguments sake, what if we flipped it and the OP was asking for advice because he had a free ride to a decent, but 'regular/non-ivy' school, where he didn't necessarily agree with their pedagogy and instead decided that one of the ivy schools was the focus that he wanted to pursue. What if he asked for opinions on leaving that for the ivy application? People on here would be crucifying him, ranting about the cost of tuition for 3 years at GSD/YSOA/GSAPP/whatever and how the hell could you give up a free ride at X school to pursue a degree at Y school instead at full price.

Aug 11, 14 4:48 pm  · 

I'd say you're lucky , you'll finish your time at your school, have a degree with a recognizable name that more than likely has a lot of connections that you can use to gain employment, AND it's free!  It is regrettable you can't sit in class after class studying the writings of Heidegger, and Pallasmaa, but there's nothing you can't learn by reading their works that you couldn't from being fed by a professor.  I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Luebkeman of ARUP earlier this year and asked him a similar question but from the other side of the spectrum.  Coming from a school steeped in phenomenology, we weren't instructed in a very techno-centric curriculum.  Chris, being a futurist told me, just to make friends with people who know the technology.  It's important to be familiar, and to be able to work with those that know other aspects of the profession, but it is a fool's errand to try to be an expert in everything.  So just make friends with peers that know what you want to know.  They'll probably want some help in the techno aspects, it's a collaborative profession so use your knowledge from school, and you'll be able to navigate your professional life the way you want in due time.

Aug 11, 14 6:03 pm  · 

Just do the work you want and make up some bullshit parametric argument for it.  That's what everyone does.  

Aug 11, 14 7:19 pm  · 

Just use lots of big words and quote Patrick shmuckfucker often.  It's easy.  If they don't buy it take a few pictures of a turd and tell them its a biomorphic living nano molecular parametricism with fungal super structures that cleans air and saves the world and shit. 

Aug 11, 14 7:24 pm  · 

Curious_90, I’m the 40 year career owner you are going to face when you get out. My firm was modernist/preservation and won literally hundreds upon hundreds of design awards, on the face of it you’re not going to work for us. You didn’t say what year you where in but you’d better get busy supplementing off-hours on things that matter. Ivy League? You’re in no doubt; Full-boat? You must be talented and super lucky. For God sake don’t leave, supplement. Maybe Peter Eisenman has an opening? Maybe you can get in there and do a reach-around as he fucks you in the ass over this stuff, but I don’t think so. You said you sense something is wrong, and it is. Look at Jasmine Al Momar's portfolio on this site. I’d hire her in a New-York-Minute, just look at her stuff! But not before she can prove that she can feed-the-tiger. She needs to take just one of her projects and develop a page or two on converting it to CD’s, and then she’s in and will soar. Do the same and you may soar too…keep playing the game and supplement.

Aug 11, 14 9:29 pm  · 

very important* make sure the school you are getting a free ride from is NAAB accredited!! I am sure it is since its ivy, no?

Aug 11, 14 9:33 pm  · 

Eisenman haha. Didn't expect that.  

Aug 11, 14 10:01 pm  · 

My firm was modernist/preservation and won literally hundreds upon hundreds of design awards

When you are anonymous you can have as many design awards as you want.

Aug 11, 14 11:06 pm  · 

"modernist/preservation"? They specialize in repairing recently completed (as in last week) Gehry buildings? They deserve a golf clap.

Aug 12, 14 8:01 am  · 

jla-x, Patrick Shumacher is more full of shit than any professor the OP could possibly have (unless he actually has him or zaha as professors). 

Eventually, you will learn that parametric does not have to predispose a project to a certain "style" or limit it to organic geometry. Let me re-iterate again, these are TOOLS that can be implemented according to the designers desire.

Aug 12, 14 9:17 am  · 

Miles, sorry for the exaggeration…. the number was actually 150, including 4 National AIA Design Awards. Anonymous? Not completely, but I do work hard at it. Had firm name changes over the years and businesses outside architecture and never once put my name on any of them. Unless you are working alone architecture is a collaborative thing undeserving of personal recognition. I regret and retract the awards statement; in fact I retract the whole thing, just trying to help a guy apparently lost-in-space which apparently got lost-in-space too.

Volunteer, thanks for the clap, but actually we were short listed on Eisenman’s Wexner Center restoration/preservation just 14 years into its life. Preservation plays a role in the preservation of art regardless of age. The RFP included an inch and a half thick study workbook of problems including leaks everywhere & material issues. The scaffolding, though it created transparency, let in too much direct sunlight, causing damage to artwork in galleries and temperature fluctuations of up to 40 degrees indoors. The museum was closed for 3 years and it cost $15.8 million to fix the difficencies which is 36% of the total origonal cost! It was essensally a Do-Over and what is most astounding is that to my knowledge Eisenman was never sued or paid a dime toward rectification. Eisenman said that he was pleased with how everything turned out and was quoted saying “The thing that I've learned is, you give a building over to a client," he said. "It's theirs." Something to be said for the gift of The-Silver-Tongue and Talk-A-Tecture.

Aug 12, 14 12:13 pm  · 

Archanonymous, you are correct!

parametrics can be used like any tool to achieve a certain outcome.  These people like Schumacher treat it as a an architectural atheist and everything will be fine. 

Aug 12, 14 12:29 pm  · 

I completely agree! 

His, "The Autopoiesis of Architecture: A New Framework for Architecture" is the most full-of shit document I have ever had the misfortune of beginning to read.  

By definition, there can be no autopoiesis of a craft like architecture that exists for, and because of, human beings and human culture. 

Aug 12, 14 1:17 pm  · 
boy in a well

so, uh, what are the definitions again?

Aug 14, 14 12:55 am  · 
x intern

Carrera I'm glad I wasn't drinking coffee when I read your post. Totally didn't see that coming. 

Aug 14, 14 10:23 am  · 

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