Killing the Art
“Architecture is a thing of art, a phenomenon of the emotions, lying outside questions of construction and beyond them”
- Le Corbusier 1887-1965
(Swiss-born French Architect)
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) - is it truly the enemy of creativity and innovation or is it the creative genius’ best friend? Talk to a few professionals who have been in the business for a while and you might come to believe Computer- Aided Design has more or less stuck a knife to the very heart and soul of our beloved Architecture- ART. Today, just about anyone can certify their self an architect by becoming knowledgeable in the use of one design software or another. The world of architecture is now being overwhelmed with an influx of people who never understood architecture to be an art and never learned the scientific principles bordering functional design and the promotion of efficient work/ living spaces etc. A “designer” doesn’t even need to know how to hold a pencil let alone understand the ‘Elements and Principles of Design’. The result? - An alarming landslide of outrageously hideous structures which are an affront to the tenets of the built environment. Architecture, especially in this part of the world, is gradually being stripped of some of its most vital components- beauty and harmony.
The trained designers are now caught up in the whirlwind of cut-throat competition, struggling to remain relevant in a field that is rightfully theirs- a phenomenon I like to call ‘Professional Paranoia’. In a bid to save money on professional fees, clients would much rather employ people who seem to know a thing or two about building design and construction. In school, we are told how architects used to be in charge of every single part and process involved in construction- sculptures, murals, furniture design, landscaping etc. Encyclopedia Britannica actually states that architects used to be called master builders. Today, however, architects are mostly only consulted during the design stage.
This problem has not just affected architecture in practice, it affects the architect-in-training as well. It is now the theme of the usual 5 to 10 minute tirade in design studio classes. Most lecturers have come to believe the advent of CAD has done more harm than good; “things were not like this in our time”, or “students today are lazy, no one wants to draw perspectives or anything else by hand anymore”, “the studios are empty not just at night, but in the daytime too”, are a few of the remarks commonly made by lecturers.
But as always, there are two sides of the coin. In terms of speed and accuracy, CAD’s contribution cannot be overlooked. It has also offered diverse means through which architects can present their ideas, especially in a way those outside the field can appreciate and relate to. On the other hand, it has fostered a somewhat lackluster attitude, mostly in students, towards individualizing design ideas (that is, coming up with a unique style of presentation). Only a few are exempt from having slipped into the rot of the “get it done and get it done quickly” mentality. It is not strange to hear people say things like, “I can finish my design in a week or less so I don’t have to start right away.” Years ago, a slight alteration to dimensions or space arrangements on a floor plan could mean having to re-draw the entire layout. Today, however, with a few clicks of your mouse you could correct whatever needs changing and even reverse your actions whenever you want to.
One of the dangers of this kind of ease is complacency, the great foe of innovation. Why sit hunched over a drawing board when in less than half the same time, you could achieve far better results with the right blend of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and other accessories used in creating life-like renditions of buildings? No more paper-cut or blade-sliced finger tips – hello to 3D printing! With structures soaring to new heights in the world of engineering, no one has time for the old-fashioned pen and ink drawings or presentation drawings in watercolour or some other medium.
But again, maybe this is the art of the 21st century. Perhaps this in itself is another artistic movement of man and machine working hand-in-hand. Architecture has always been defined as both an art and a science. These days, the emphasis seems to be different; there is a dramatic shift in the way the environment is now perceived, portrayed and participated in. The theme(s) of modern art and architecture must of necessity transcend the traditional forms and construction techniques of the past - not discarding it all together, thus rendering it obsolete or irrelevant. And what better way to portray the “machine age” than designing mind-blowing images and constructing intimidating structures BY machines?