Saturday, February 02, 2013

Better tools allow better products to be produced

The other day, watching a TV interview, I saw the interviewer ask a famous architect if computers were improving architecture. The response was no, that computers were simply tools.

At least for now, the response has face validity. Architectural genius comes from the minds of great architects. Indeed, good architecture comes from the minds of good architects (or perhaps from the minds of great architects under constraints that limit the genius of their work, or perhaps from the minds of good architects adapting and utilizing the ideas of their betters).

On the other hand, better tools in the hands of innovative architects allow them to increase productivity. In some cases better tools allow them to do more with the available resources. In other cases, better tools allow architects to achieve visions that could not have been achieved with earlier, less effective tools.

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Famously, the Duomo in Florence was the result not only of new construction techniques, but also of new tools developed by the architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, (and his associates) used in its construction. Without the innovations it could not have been built.

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Similarly, Frank Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain could not have been realized without the aid of computers. They were critical to transforming the ideas into detailed plans and specifications. Indeed, they almost certainly were critical in the management of construction, allowing the design to be realized in an acceptable amount of time at an acceptable cost.

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