It was fascinating while visiting an architect yesterday to see the model shop. This is a practice that is fully committed to BIM (Building Information Modelling) and uses parametrics to explore numbers of different options. Yet, when it wants to decide which to go with, it makes physical models and interchanges alternative elements to see how they look as you walk round them. However good an architect is at envisaging design in three dimensions, nothing beats actually looking at the relationship between elements on a model – especially if there is curvature involved.
This reminded me of the history of Twentieth Century design where almost all technologies have been additive, rather than superseding each other. We still have telephones, and radio, and film – only the telex has gone. When architects started using CAD there was a fear that drawing would disappear but there has been a growing understanding of its importance and the pleasure it can offer by young architects. Physical models are also likely to remain important, and it is also exciting to see people actually making things. The smell of sawdust and glue can’t be beaten, and reminds us that architecture is not a purely theoretical discipline.