Computer aided design is a worldwide phenomenon. Designers around the world have adopted standardized tools, programs and methods to increase productivity, reduce costs, visualize projects, market images and experiment with alternative form-producing techniques. These dynamic technologies represent exciting potentials for design professionals, students and teachers. However, universally standardized methods and over-reliance on technology potentially inhibit the expression of specific cultural identities. Computer-aided design methods focus on technical functions and formal appearances rather than its social and cultural dimensions. Architecture must not be reduced to construction and building, two activities that focus on function, form and structure. Instead, our understanding of complete architecture must include the following dimensions:
- the dimension of cultural identity;
- and the dimension of the historical context within which the work is realized.
Thus, what risks does computer-aided design pose to cultural expressions? How can architects secure the above dimensions in light of current technologies and computer-aided design methods?
Several risks arise with regards to computer-aided design, most notably the following three:
- The computer as a design decision-maker:
Often, designs are driven more by computer aided techniques and program restraints then architectural concepts. The moment of architectural creativity is no longer protected. The computer lacks the flexibility to participate in design processes without interference. Projects methodologies often lack a reciprocal relationship between project conceptualization and technical realization. There is no mechanism for the “Auto-regulation” of computer interference.
- Misleading images, the manipulation of virtual reality:
Computer-aided design has revolutionized architect-client and student-teacher relationships. Project visualization techniques provide an easily accessible medium for the expression of architectural ideas prior to their construction. Nonetheless, over reliance on virtual reality reduces architectural design to the manipulation of virtual geometries, virtual perspectives, virtual lighting, etc. As a result, many students do not properly understand the realities of spatial elements. Furthermore, image manipulation can create false expectations for end products. Thus, computer-aided design can be a tool for false marketing.
- Standard details and their threat to innovation:
Pressures to increase productivity result in the use of “cut and paste” design methods. Over-utilization of program libraries, databases and standard forms hamper innovative design strategies. Standard solutions are applied to a variety of problems.
This paper advocates the protection of specific cultural identities in light of an increasingly homogenizing world. Influences such as standardized technological practices, i.e. computer-aided design, threaten creativity and site-appropriate decision making. Computer aided techniques interfere with execution of architectural concepts. In order to mitigate these risks, we must consider five elements:
- Conception of reality
- Questioning cultural contexts
- Presenting a strategy for reforming professional practice
- Establishing social projects that reinvent the future
- Assign a suitable position for methodological research
To assign a suitable position for methodological research, we propose five levels active in this domain:
- revived prophecy
Images from The Revitalizing Urban Space Studio at the National School of Architecture in
Overall, it is clear that computer-aided design is simply a medium for visualization. Over reliance on computer aided design limits our ability to produce a complete architecture that is sensitive to specific cultural identities.