Interview for EARCH.CZ | THE FUTURE BELONGS TO CREATIVITY
| part 3 |
Today’s software tools enable the design process to a high level of automation. Are there some limitations of this automation?
No, the only limit is creativity. As I eluded before, I believe the ultimate expression of our humanity is creativity, therefore support of users’ creativity should be the aim of such tools and instruments (while taking away repetitive tasks and mundane distractions). This can be achieved by removing the things that burden. Let’s look at a huge amount of effort required to create plans for different European regions. Differences between regional building codes and formats forces drawings of architectural designs to be region specific, which obviously has an impact on architects and engineers themselves. Wouldn’t it be great if you as an architect or an engineer could focus primarily on creating distinctive spaces, then you just applied to the draft local standards should then design and drawing requirements complete the automatically?Imagine how you would “drag & drop” application of Swiss, or French, or Czech standards would change your workload, or even the success your business. When regional knowledge can be “applied” then an architect’s reach can be more international. When such automation comes to pass, your won’t “think” about it – you’ll just reproduce drawings variants with certainty that ongoing changes in the model are successfully updated everywhere. Sounds like a fantasy, but this is precisely what software automation is supposed to do. This will also allows people to concentrate on what we are best: the creative expression of ideas.
In your lecture in Prague, you mentioned the emergence of an Innovative Age. Is this Age going to bring crucial changes in the way designers, architects and planners work, which today is unthinkable without CAD software?
First, I want to emphasize we are already in the Innovation Age. “The Future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed,” explains William Gibson. Apple offers a great examples of products and services of this Innovation Age, but clearly much of the world is not operating at this level. The marker for an “Age” of human evolution is the abundance of its defining resource, and the mass consumption of that resource. The Agrarian Age brought mass food production allowing man to settle down and leave the previous nomadic way of life. The Industrial Age brought mass affordability to mass-produced products. Ford’s great claim was that the workers in his factories could afford the very cars they were producing, which absolutely transformed society (making man ironically “mobile” again). The Information Age has brought the cumulation of man’s knowledge (such as the Library of Congress), to the four corners of the world. Now information is “mobile,” thus functionally everywhere and virtually free. This has led to information overload, and is why the masters of the Information Age (like Google), those who offer access to information easier and faster. This is a significant shift away from the leaders of the Industrial Age, who were manufacturers and distributors of mass-produced products. Each of these “Ages” represented a sea change, shifting access of resources once controlled by privileged few to masses, thus disrupting and rebuilding society from the ground up. The Innovation Age is about the massive expansion of creativity, innovative solutions for the entire marketplace will be be created by and consumed by the masses. This is the game changer of this Age – in this disruption the masses will be both the creators and consumers (Etsy.com, Blogs, KickStarter, iBooks, etc.), making the market potential for innovation explosively huge.
Google is not of Innovation Age, Facebook is. The New York Times is not, WordPress is. Google and The NY Times are offering information we are looking for in unidirectional manner (Information Age). Facebook and WordPress are facilitating not only the creation of but also the consuming of content – turbo-charging a multiplex dialogue that like compounding interest is growing exponentially every day. Both are empowering people to create stories about themselves and inspiring others to make and share their own. We have not seen such a burst of creativity since the creation of the printing press. In the same way the monastic manuscript makers were replaced and the absolute power of the Church was usurped, the NY Times struggles to stay relevant. Thirty billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month, thats one billion chunks a day! When taken as a whole, globally we now create as much data every two days as the entire human output measured from the dawn of mankind until the year 2003. The companies who best enable creativity will be the leaders of this Age. I can imagine how new innovative CAD tools will usher in a new class of designers and engineers. This will be transformational, in the same way WordPress and blogging has forever changed the face of Journalism. I do not claim that the skills and knowledge engineers and architects are not required (just like the skills to write); but I am suggesting that resting on the ‘”knowledge worker” aspects of the architectural profession is dangerous, and eventually such services will be either outsourced or automated out of existence. Think of the position of “typesetter” after the desktop publishing revolution. At their peak there were 4,000 typesetters in America. Now there are over 5 million legal copies of InDesign (the most popular desktop publishing software by Adobe) currently being used. The net change here is dramatically positive, and in a more creative and humanistic direction as well I imagine. As in any professional field, capturing, storing, and communicating the information will no longer be “value” creation, it will be the prerequisite – enabling the creative use of that information will be the key. Competition in the market is not a matter of knowledge of local building codes, rather it is about the ability to provide innovative solutions at competitive price. History is inescapable – if you get stuck in the old paradigm, you risk being irrelevant. History is inevitable – if freezes the old paradigm, you run the risk that you will become unimportant.
What will not change about the Architecture industry is that it will continue to be a capital and resource expensive endeavor. For this reason, innovative CAD tools will have enormous influence on the expression and implementation of new ideas; and the effective use of those capital intensive materials, as well as the creation of energy efficient buildings. There is also the design of what some have called the 8th Continent (the “virtual 3D space” of the Internet). Who will populate this continent with “virtual” architecture? How will it be different from its real estate cousins? One thing is certain, this new virtual continent doesn’t need 2D plans – but does need 3D modeling and easy to use of associated informatics. Moreover, there is a near infinite horizon of new opportunities such as design and production of convincing 4D interactions that are still waiting to be discovered.