Exploring a Virtual Future
by Pete Evans, AIA
The architecture profession is challenged by digital technologies on many fronts. Some of these technologies expand the way we practice and what we build. Some even reduce society's reliance on built architecture. Yet the pace of change can be overwhelming and may tempt us to take too a narrow view of these issues.
How do we appropriately embrace substantial changes digital technology is bringing to the practice, product, and teaching of architecture? How can we prepare for even larger and more unpredictable challenges in the future?
I believe we need to broaden our understanding of practice to include the tools, methods, and knowledge of other fields. We can get a glimpse of that future by looking at how some architects are already exploring it.
Pioneering Tool Users
Until recently, most software used by architects was adopted for its potential productivity benefits and was limited to those applications specifically designed for construction professionals. This narrow view has limited progress when practice could have been evolving.
In contrast, there have been some "radical" firms that have begun to transform their practice and product as a result of how they work with digital technologies. Two examples of borrowing tools from other fields — aircraft design and filmmaking — are found in the firms of Frank Gehry and Peter Eisenman. >>>
An occupant of a virtual environment next to the real work area of the Virtual Reality Applications Center at Iowa State University.
Photo: Pete Evans, AIA
Iowa State University student drawings with concept models that were manufactured by computer-driven CNC devices.
Image: Mike Stickley, Matt Floden, George Encarnacion, and Chelsea Morrissey; photos: Cameron Campbell
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