Should design architects learn programing and coding? If so, how will it benefit our profession?

I'm interested in working in rhino grasshopper, but it seem like in order to take it to the next Level I would have to learn more about coding. any suggestion?

Aug 18, 15 11:43 pm

personally, I wouldn't waste your time with anything beyond grasshopper or dynamo, unless you plan on pursing a computational designer/BIM manager route. the latter two plugins can certainly aid your workflow and digital design prowess, but in order to actually code to a level of usefulness, you need much more time than the typical architect probably can dedicate. maybe consider learning processing if you find yourself in a graphics/branding role occasionally.

also, if i see another god damn procedural/gradient perforation pattern i'm going to barf

Aug 18, 15 11:55 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

its a very specific task and skill within the overall profession and finds its usefulness in extraordinary design situations, if you find yourself in one of those situations then yes learn coding.

Aug 19, 15 6:36 am

^yep.  I saw a morphosis job post for a coder - facade designer specifically.  i.e. algorthrimic pattern maker, hundreds of folded metal panels each slightly different.

Aug 19, 15 9:51 am

^ Why?

A) Because we can.

B) To drive up construction cost and architectural fees.

C) To show up those other "starchitects".

D) All of the above.

Answer:  ___

Aug 19, 15 10:32 am

Miles, I know you are anti computer practice, but the reality is, people use it because it is a methodology of our time.  I would answer A.  B is a stretch when you are working at that level and C is just a political comment with no real basis for comparison.    

Imagine if architects shunned the advent of the wide flange steel section...i.e. new technology.  Silly argument.  

Algorithmic practices are cool, they are pushing architecture forward into areas not possible previously/by hand.  Sorry if you find that irrelevant, but it makes you look like a Luddite to shit on technologies moving the practice forward.  

Aug 19, 15 11:19 am

how does an algorithmic practice benefit architecture (the building itself) or the profession of architecture?  there could be an argument made to say it looks cool, but that's a pretty dumb way to look at what architects do.

do you get a more efficient structural system, like less material?  faster to construct?  more energy efficient design to lower utility costs and environmental impact?

from what i've seen, a lot of the building designs influenced by that kind of thing end up more inefficient, but i haven't seen everything, so if something beneficial is happening with this whole thing l keep an open mind.

Aug 19, 15 12:00 pm


That's all you need to keep in mind. Follow that advice and you'll be fine.

I wouldn't bother getting into coding unless there's some specific thing you're trying to do that is much easier or only possible with a bunch of custom scripting. In my personal experience, the circumstances under which that's the case are pretty rare unless you are heavily into using environmental analysis for optimized algorithmic form-finding (e.g. natural light, solar gain, ventilation, orientation, etc.). Beyond that, it's just a gimmick and sometimes a crutch.

In my own design practice, I move fluidly and concurrently between hand sketching, sketchup, rhino/grasshopper, CAD, photoshop, and other stuff. Those tools get the job done and I haven't ever had to do any custom coding beyond occasionally putting custom mathematical expressions in grasshopper components.

The goal is not the tool or the method. The goal is a well-designed built product. There are lots of different ways to make that happen, depending on what you're trying to accomplish.

Aug 19, 15 12:15 pm

One benefit of parametric design is simply better coordinated and more construable building.  

Say architect wanted to design a building in which some formal component made out of steel with the intent that it was to be optimized structurally, if the structural engineer is using iterative parametric analysis software which plugs right back into a BIM environment, that could be taken all the way through steel shops to erection, with dead nuts accuracy on any form regardless of complexity - this form could also lend itself to passive design strategies - energy efficiency.  So yes, less material, ease of construction are definitely benefits.  

Imagine trying to do that whole process by hand with some bozo that didn't graduate from middle school generating shops.  Impossible.   

If these tools can give us the means to do things that were previously impossible.  I think that is worth exploring.  

Aug 19, 15 12:33 pm

Yes and no. It allows us to design things that haven't been done before and also high-quality mass-customized fabrication of parts, but we still have to contend with construction tolerances in the field. If you're designing stuff with variability down to 1/32" tolerances, you've lost sight of the forest for the trees and need to spend some quality time kicking dirt and pounding nails on job sites.

And optimizing for efficiency has a serious downside too. A fully optimized system has no resiliency or redundancy to allow it to perform outside its design envelope. That makes highly optimized systems extremely fragile (ref. Taleb).

More broadly, the emphasis on novelty in design and architecture is a major contributing factor to why the profession is so off track these days. Innovation can be a good thing, but pursuing it for novelty's sake is just masturbation.

Aug 19, 15 1:07 pm

Don't.  Very early in my career I was quite good at creating lisp routines, and customizing the software.  What I found is that sort of gives people the perception that you are 'the computer guy'.... and farther and farther away from being an architect.  Develop skills that take you in the direction you want your career to go so you become "that guy".  So if you want to be 'that guy' who can code the software; you probably want to be 'that guy' who takes his idea to the coder to make that happen.

Aug 19, 15 3:02 pm

When all you have is a hammer...

Aug 19, 15 9:20 pm

SneakyPete for the win!

Aug 19, 15 11:16 pm

nah, that's not it at all.  as gwharton said, it is all about using the right tool for the of many.  

Aug 20, 15 12:01 am

Look, as much as I see it, the question is quiet generalistic and I don't expect that you will get the answer you're looking for, or at least the one which will satisfy your curiosity.

Generally speaking (& in our field) coding is a valuable asset that can help us make work easier and faster, to put as an example architects who can create Macros in Spreadsheets that aids them in their work.

Now let's get to your case (you don't have to answer me):

Why do you want to code?

Is there're available tools in the market that you can buy/hire? Or can you hire a professional service to do that type of work for you?

In case you want to code, what type of tasks you want coding do for you (in the short, and log term period)?

What are the tools that you're using on a frequent base ?

What programming languages do they offer for coding?

What is the cost of investment (not in money, in time) that will cost you to learn the basics of programming so that you will be able to start coding by yourself?

These are the type of questions that you should ask yourself.

PS: Most of the people are under the spell of coding can make miracles, but behind every program there is a base that make the output of these program of value.

Oct 16, 18 7:20 am
With the rate people are learning coding I wonder if we just go back into a practice model where coders are just like the old fashion drafters... the exact opposite of what is the assumed hierarchy of roles by op... same with renderers
Oct 16, 18 9:56 pm

my office the "coders" have more junior roles on projects.  There are some mid-level managers who know how to code, but they're too busy with project management to do a lot of this grunt work anymore.

How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb? 

None – It’s a hardware problem.

Oct 16, 18 10:08 pm

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