I would like to state here that his argument is BULLSHIT. We should all be up in arms that this is how our profession is being represented to the general public. Michael Graves’ lack of comprehension and ability with computers neither proves nor justifies such a disservice to our community. How do his views help? How do they show architects a path forward? Trace paper and pencil? An anecdote about joint doodles in a meeting? Um… ever heard of… I don’t know any of the programs and apps out there that allow similar collaboration via a myriad of tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc. but don’t require you to be in the same room. To name a few, there is ArchiCAD with Teamwork 2, Revit with Worksets, Google Docs with well Google Docs, Skype, iChat, and similar video and screen sharing programs, and even that freaking social drawing app Draw Something. Collaboration and creativity that makes proximity irrelevant? Hell yeah I want that. Now I can be my best creative self whether my design muse is sitting next to me in a boring meeting or in Houston. It’s not the tool that matters, but how you use it.
Seriously. It’s insulting.
To think our creative value is based on the tool we use is ridiculous. Yes, as I’ve said elsewhere, tools make a difference. But the best tool won’t turn me or Michael Graves into Le Corbusier or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Tools, whether a pencil or BIM, are enhancers. If your worth as a creative thinker is based on your medium then you’ve got problems. Those that worship the pencil and paper over other media are backwards thinking and on the wrong side of history. Michael Graves makes a good point about there being three types of architectural drawings – the “referential sketch,” the “preparatory study” and the “definitive drawing.” That’s a great way to see things and I agree that computers dominate the third type, the “definitive drawing.” And for good reason. The power of BIM is just too great. But come on, the other two are only the purview of hand drawing? This is not a failing of computers, but a failing of architects, a tragedy that needs to be fixed.
For centuries architects were in the Avant-garde. We were the gate keepers of so much creative power and exploration. But just like we’ve lost the role of master builder, we are now marginalizing ourselves in the realm of harnessing the creative future. From a technical standpoint, architects are so far behind other industries dedicated to design and creation. So what’s the solution? Claiming that, because we haven’t adapted our processes and schooling to handle technology, we must be above it. That the creative process loses it’s magic when it gets digitized. BULLSHIT. I wonder if the people behind all the wonderful recent Kickstarter video game projects would agree with the digital destruction of creativity.
Think about this…
Are there 78 year old architects who have been using computers for 75 years? No. Of course not. But there will be. When we try new methods of production and design, the early results can be stiff and far from our best work. But this isn’t a sign of failure. It’s merely a step in a new direction. It’s something to overcome, to work through. Those of us who are slogging through the changing tools of architecture will come out stronger on the other side. Remember, we were all given crayons before we could walk. Today’s infants are now also given access to computers. This is a good thing.
So Mr. Graves let’s try your letter again.
But this time I’m going to write the rallying cry at the end for you:
“Architects have always designed with the equivalent of pencil and paper. From the earliest scribbles on a cave wall through much of the 20th century, our design tools have not fundamentally changed. This is no longer the case and we have past the point of no return. As a profession we have fallen behind in the rush to adopt new technologies. Even things like BIM, which seem so new and awe inspiring to us, have been around for decades in other industries. I am excited to see the upcoming generations embrace the digital realm and show me the soul of the computer. The soul that must be there. Because in truth there is no soul in the computer. Or in the pencil and paper. It’s in us. Our creative spark. The medium is just a means of expression. Let’s embrace and take ownership of the technology around us. To think or do otherwise leads only to obsolescence and marginalization.”