Is BIM making you a better designer?
BIM and design
I once read a great quote from the head of the architecture program at the University of Minnesota. I’d share it, but I long ago forgot where I read it. The the quote was about “the incompatibility of BIM and design in school”. It didn’t surprise me. Actually the reverse would surprise me more. Not because BIM can’t aid design. Quite the contrary. I’ve spent years now untangling that fundamental truth. The reason I’m not surprised is this: our professors are unqualified to teach the links between BIM and design. How can you teach something if you not only can’t do it yourself, but don’t believe in it? This is an unacceptable status quo. As buildings and building programs increase in complexity, we need more robust tools and design processes to cope with them. Is anyone ready to hand sketch an energy model as the basis for the design of a new building? Didn’t think so.
I do believe BIM makes better projects. Using good tools (whether ARCHICAD, Revit, or some other good tool/program) will make your work better. If you’re a poor designer, the best software in the world won’t turn you into Le Corbusier; but it will make you better than if you didn’t use that tool.
Here’s an apt analogy. Back in Minnesota, I played softball for about five years. First with my old coworkers on an architecture league, and then with friends in various city leagues. On days when we had good bats, we were a better team. We hit more often, and farther. We got more runs, were energized, and overall played better. Even when we were in the field, the energy boost of those higher quality bats was felt. Those awesome bats didn’t turn us into the Red Sox or the Yankees, but we had access to more of our potential as players. I’m a very fast runner. A better bat means I hit a little farther. Instead of my typical singles and doubles, a better bat coupled with my usual speed gave me doubles and triples. The bat let me use other skills and talents I already had.
The Art of BIM & The Aesthetics of Production
I find myself returning to my first blog post: Aesthetics of Production. However good a tool is, if it gets in the way, then it’s not helping. There are a lot that programs like ARCHICAD and REVIT can do, and we can argue about the true goals of BIM. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we also didn’t want to use BIM to make beautiful drawings and better designs. Is there a separation between design and production; between inspiration and perspiration? No. The great thing about pencil and paper for most people is that it is invisible. Unfortunately BIM programs aren’t invisible for most people. Yet. So they aren’t helping everyone as much as they could or should. But for those who are proficient, or heading down the path to mastery, those programs and processes should be making us better designers. Otherwise, what’s the point? If I’m wrong (which I’m not), then we need to re-evaluate how we’re using the various software packages to make it true. If all this technology isn’t giving us access to more of our innate creative power, then something is wrong. The tools we use should both enhance how we design and simultaneously become invisible. A great artist isn’t distracted by his paint brush. The ideas flow seamlessly from that dark space in the artist’s mind to the canvas. And so it needs to be in the Computer Age of Architecture. Great architecture cannot be stymied by what key command is needed for free-form rotate or what size paper the plotter has. The nuts and bolts of the programs need to be understood, internalized, and vanish.
For more on how BIM can be harnessed for design, read this post that I wrote after this one, but published before it. Follow Shoegnome on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube for more…