The days of t-squares, leaky pens, strange paper, and giant tilting tables are long past. Today the architect’s work is entirely computerized; however, it has only been in the last decade that a true revolution in computing for architects has taken place.
Most people have heard the term CAD, Computer Aided Drafting, and while this type of software allowed architects to increase productivity through standardization of repetitive tasks, for the most part the architect still labored to produce multiple two dimensional drawings which were only related to each other through the arduous task of measuring and remeasuring and measuring again all the parts of the buildings that had to relate to each other. When the architect or his client wanted to see what the project would look like in three dimensions, many more hours of work, creating hand drawn pictures or miniature models would be required. And if the project changed at all, the models, pictures, and other representations all had to be redone from scratch.
The revolution happened when some crafty programmer introduced BIM, Building Information Modeling. These programs allow the architect to draw his plan, elevation, sections and three dimensional computer models all at the same time. Architectural Record reports that about 75% of American architecture firms now use BIM for some part of their work. Like ATXA, many firms see the advantage of using BIM from start to finish allowing the architect and the client to understand both the big ideas and the very small details from early in a project’s life without ever having to redo work.
A popular way of sharing project concepts and design with the client is to use BIM to create animated “fly-through” videos. You can check out examples of ATXA’s animation work at our YouTube Channel here.
When hiring an architect consider a couple things:
1) There is a spectrum of operating philosophies that architects work within. At one extreme is an inspired genius who delivers to you a design completely independent of your programmatic or budgetary needs. At the other end of the spectrum is the Tom Sawyer architect, the collaborative designer, who shifts the entire design process to the you. They convince you that the work you hired them for is actually much better done by you. These two types of architectural characters represent extremes and you should try to find an architect in the middle of this spectrum. The best relationships will evolve when you find an architect who listens to and understands your goals for the project AND employs their expertise and experience to deliver their best interpretation of your architectural needs.
2) There is a reason people hire particular architects: signature. Their signature is some quality which is identifiable in all the work they’ve done in the past. This doesn’t mean, for example, that all the houses they’ve designed look the same, but it might mean that something, even if you’re not able to decide what that something is, appeals to you.
So how to choose. Start with the signature and then select the character. By starting with a list of architects whose work you find appealing, you can be much more confident that the end product will appeal to you. Once you have a short list, interview them. Ask them directly what your responsibilities will be and what they will deliver to you. Make sure they explain the process from start to finish, from the first time they put pen to paper to the moment they hand you the keys to the front door. If you’re not happy with the answers you get, interview the next architect on your short list. Your goal is to identify the architect whose signature and character you are most comfortable with.