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authors Barrow, Larry
year 2002
title Elitism, IT and the Modern Architect Opportunity or Dilemma
source Thresholds - Design, Research, Education and Practice, in the Space Between the Physical and the Virtual [Proceedings of the 2002 Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design In Architecture / ISBN 1-880250-11-X] Pomona (California) 24-27 October 2002, pp. 97-109
summary Information Technology (IT) is impacting architecture dramatically in process and form. Often thecurrent transformation of architecture is difficult to analyze and frequently we see confusion and anxietyregarding uncertainties for the future of the architect as designer and project leader. The currentpotentiality for new exotic form (i.e. product) is mesmerizing; however, in the current context, lessobvious issues and pertinent questions are emerging for the profession. What is the mission of theprofession? What will keep us relevant in the mist of the new global society?In this paper, we will take an evolutionary perspective of technology in architecture and draw parallelsbetween the Renaissance, which is the genesis of the modern architect, and the contemporary state ofarchitecture. The modern architect was birthed during the Renaissance where we see the retraction ofthe architect from the building site and separation from direct involvement in the building process.Communications technology (i.e. representation in the form of free-hand drawings, mechanical 2Dorthographic drawings and 3D perspectives) enabled the decomposition of the master builder into threecomponents (i.e. artist-designer, practicing_architect, and builder). Thus, we see technology enable thedenigration and ultimate dissolution of the centuries old craftsman guilds and the master builder. Thetechnology evolution of “drawings” enabled monumental change in the process of architecture over thepast five hundred years. The fission of the master builder, enabled by “drawings”, resulted in disparatefactions which are the forerunners of the modern day litigious design-bid-build project delivery. We nowincreasingly see a return to the fusion of design and building where often the architect is not the projectmanager or leader. Thus, the question looms, will the 21st century architect lead or be led, and whatare the ramifications for the profession?The historical Master Builder is re-emerging as a dynamically networked team of design andconstruction knowledge specialists. Bi-lateral knowledge exchange, enhanced with emerging IT, isoccurring between owners, managers, architects, design specialists, engineers, builders and machines.Technology is disrupting architecture, resulting in increasing specialization and compressed timeframes, and may require reevaluation of the role of the architect as project-leader "integrativegeneralist"or "design-specialist".Conclusively, the concept of ‘cybernetic architecture’ is proposed as an IT reference framework. Failureto appropriately respond to societal evolution, driven by technology, could result in the loss ofprofessional status for the modern architect. Herein lies our dilemma, or opportunity, depending on therole choice of the modern architect.
series ACADIA
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