While studying architecture, many of us are taught to focus on the people who completely changed the game. However, that framework often results in us spending too much time looking at the past and not enough time considering the future of the discipline. With that in mind, we wanted to take a moment to discuss what architecture might look like as we continue developing the technological tools we’ve been working with for the past few decades.
Of course, even though the future of architecture software is our primary focus, we can’t look ahead without providing some context. So, to begin with, let’s talk about the history of architectural software.
The history of architecture software
As you can imagine, Antoni Gaudí, Philip Johnson, and most of the other giants of architecture we look up to didn’t use architecture software. Instead, these masters of the craft relied on their sketches and complicated mathematical equations to bring their ideas to life. Many of the resulting drawings were preserved as works of art.
Naturally, modern architects must learn the traditional techniques too. We all have to know how to take a project from the design stage to the finish line with our own two hands. Still, the industrial revolutions have certainly made designing buildings more complicated. In addition to the introduction of new materials, the last few centuries also brought us more complicated building codes.
Between those shifting working conditions and various technological advancements, architecture went through a lot of changes in the past century alone. Only a hundred years after the first skyscraper in Chicago, we had the first modeling software for architecture.
Throughout the 1970s, many design industries started using the first computer-aided design and drafting — or CAD — software. Those programs were the predecessors of the AutoCAD suite and similar applications. Even so, they were nowhere near as useful.
For one, they required so much computing power, you couldn’t have them on your personal computer — not that many people had one in the 70s. By the 80s, the technology had improved a bit, allowing architects to produce 3D representations of product parts.
A modern architect’s toolkit: software you need on your resume
Modern architects must know how to draw by hand and also turn those images into 2D renders and virtual 3D models. Those skills will help them communicate their ideas to the many other people who will bring them to life later on.
Of course, different kinds of programs can help us achieve different results. While some are excellent at communicating construction details, they may not be able to provide a render of the idea. So it’s not enough to familiarize ourselves with only one software suite. In addition to a BIM program such as Revit, architects should also master 2D software like the one Autodesk offers.
The company’s chief goal is to enable collaboration between different workers in the construction industry. To see how it does that, consider the differences between AutoCAD Architecture vs. AutoCAD’s base program. On its own, AutoCAD offers a fantastic foundation for people in many different professions. However, Autodesk has also published toolkits that elevate the basic features of its main software.
In fact, the company’s architecture, engineering, and construction collection contains the BIM software Revit, as well as specialty programs like MEP and Map 3D. While not perfect, this suite is constantly being updated with new tools that are bringing us closer to the future of architectural software.
On top of BIM programs and 2D software, modern architects also need to have a firm grip on 3D modeling. While many BIM programs can export designs in 2D and 3D, they rarely achieve the level of detail we’re looking for. That’s where 3D software like Sketchup, Rhino, and 3Ds Max comes in. Once you have that, you’ll just need a decent rendering program like V-Ray to bring it all together!
The future of architecture software
Having listed some of the programs architects need to master to stay relevant right now, it’s time to consider the future of architecture software. Where will the current trends take us next?
Well, no matter what the future of architectural technologies might look like, one thing is certain. The next generations of the programs we’re going to work with will surely be compatible across all platforms. We’ll be able to use them on our mobile devices, personal computers, even on the Cloud.
On top of that, we’ll also be able to see our designs in virtual space as well. One day soon, VR technology will allow us to step into our projects before they are realized.
Just imagine taking a stroll around the building you’ve designed along with the other teams who are working on it. You’d be able to notice flaws and correct them on the spot! While you’re doing that, the electrical engineers in charge of the project will be adding their input, and so on.
When it’s time to take the design into the real world, the immersive software will help the construction engineers too! So the emphasis on shareable and collaborative software is here to stay.
At this point, we should address the concerns some people might have about the role of AI in architectural software. After all, the thought of being replaced by artificial intelligence is a source of anxiety that comes with thinking about the future of any industry. But, in this case, that’s next to impossible.
Remember, architecture is an artistic discipline as well as a science. Even if a program knew how to construct a building, human input would transform it into a work of art.