Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Computer in the Design Studio

The atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty that characterized the early 1990s was not really surprising; one of the stated aims of the theoretical work of the previous decade had been to destabilize the certainties of received knowledge. Once young practitioner-teachers got access to computers and started thinking creatively about the new possibilities of digital design work, advanced design culture coalesced around a specific project. The new design work and associated theory benefited from, and actively incorporated, aspects of the theoretical discourse of the previous decades while at the same time reacting against the linguistic basis and literary metaphors of that same intellectual framework. 

In 1990 computers were largely unknown in the design studio in most architecture schools, relegated instead to basement computer labs. Computer-aided design programs were widely used in offices by this time and there was awareness in the educational community that computer skills needed to be taught. But machines were slow and cumbersome, output was unreliable, and there was little consensus about the computer’s viability as a design tool, as opposed to an aid to efficient production of working drawings in the professional setting. Drawing in schools was still almost exclusively by hand. 

 Young designers followed closely behind, and by the mid '90s a new virtuosity emerged as architects borrowed software and digital techniques from the film and aviation industries. The computer made the generation of complex form easy, and designers were fascinated by the new plasticity enabled by fluid modeling. In these early stages, the effect of digital technology was primarily formal, and characterized by an interest in continuous surfaces and complex biomorphic forms.

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