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Alex Duro. Del paralex al Grasshopper (From Portable Drawing Board to Grasshopper). Fundación Arquia Blog (July 2017)


Daniel Moyano: Drawing a Design. Fundación Arquia Blog (December 2014)

From Pencil to CAD to BIM to…

Belonging to one of the last generations of architects to use draughtsman’s ink at architecture school and one of the first to use parametric tools, I feel I can address this subject with a degree of perspective.

I’m convinced that there exists a deep disaffection between architectural creation and the tools that are used in creative processes, and that few people ask themselves why this is the case or even consider the convenience of seeking a solution. In other posts in this blog, Alex Duro1 unwaveringly insists that architecture is conceived with the hands, while Daniel Moyano2, throwing caution to the wind, claims that we produce architecture with tools that could now allow us to generate much richer, more comprehensive, more productive data.

Faced with this quandary, it’s taken me donkey’s years of research to come to the vague conclusion that the reason for such confusion is very simple. It hit me when I started thinking about architectural processes as if they were programming processes…

In programming, there are two types of languages: high level (of abstraction) languages, which are the ones humans use because we can understand them and they help to design human programmes, and low level (of abstraction) languages, which are the ones that the machine understands and that contain instructions that will make it work. Low level languages are generally very difficult for humans to understand and contain extremely specific instructions for machines.

Transferring this duality to the world of architecture, we could say that building documentation is the low level (of abstraction) language. It contains very precise instructions that allow the machine (the builder) to construct the building. This language has of course already been digitalised highly effectively in BIM.

But… in that case, what are the high level (of abstraction) systems in architecture? At present, for me and many of my colleagues,  they continue to be pencilled diagrams, scale models and, above all, grey matter.

Why are there no high level (of abstraction) digital tools like there are in programming?

I’ve been working on this issue for years but until recently I hadn’t been able to pose the question in such clear terms. I now have several (provisional) answers…

We continue to use technology from low levels at high levels, and that doesn’t involve abstraction. Many of you are reluctant even to consider using BIM for a preliminary design. Drawing a space and seeing the different layers of a wall appear gives you the shivers, and that’s normal…

Working with space, which I consider the raw material of architecture, is terribly abstract and therefore extremely difficult to do. It’s easier to draw, and encapsulate all our knowledge about the space in question in that drawing, than to try to convert it into data so that computers can do the calculations…

You (we) are frightened of losing control. And here I too am guilty of misinterpretation. The rejection of anything to do with computing in architecture more often than not has to do with the idea of automation, which is in turn associated with surrendering control or authorship to the machine. I understand your fears, because that tends to happen in many lines of work. But the real, as yet relatively unexplored, potential of computing lies in its ability to boost our creative possibilities and, above all, our control over the entire process (understood as a full sequence).

If you are interested in the subject, here you have a short summary (in Spanish) of the current status of my research.

Cover image: SparkFun. Jared Tarbell. cc-by

Text translated by Andrew V.Taylor
Notas de página

Alex Duro. Del paralex al Grasshopper (From Portable Drawing Board to Grasshopper). Fundación Arquia Blog (July 2017)


Daniel Moyano: Drawing a Design. Fundación Arquia Blog (December 2014)

[Miguel Villegas] Soy arquitecto, editor y consultor en arquitextonica, docente en la Escuela de Diseño CEADE-Leonardo y además de desarrollar mi tesis doctoral sobre arquitectura informacional, me dedico a hacer arquitectura al servicio de las personas junto a Lourdes Bueno Garnica en villegasbueno arquitectura. Lourdes Bueno y Miguel Villegas.

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