Doric column on ArchiCAD

Screen shot of ArchiCAD creating a Doric column. (Softgraphic)

Screen shot of ArchiCAD creating a Doric column. (Graphisoft)

I suppose that while everyone is discussing Le Corbusier, it may not be inappropriate to discuss in this corner another arguably deplorable machine, computer-aided design (CAD). John Margolis, the recently resigned president of the ICAA’s New England chapter who moved to Los Angeles to work with TradArch list member Erik Evens’s firm, has sent me a devil of a delightful video of a Doric column being created on ArchiCAD.

Frame from ArchiCAD video.

Frame from ArchiCAD video.

The accompanying essay, “ArchiCAD meets Roman Doric column, falls in love,” is by Jared Banks on a blog called Graphisoft. It was originally written (and the video perhaps created by what Banks calls an “unnamed master at ArchiCAD”) about two years ago.

On the TradArch list there are, I know, some who will condemn the video as, in spite of its subject, straight out of the modernist camp. Instead of the human hand drawing a humane reference to the human body in all its classical proportions – we have CAD, arguably a cad – a machine for undermining all that is sweetness and light in the mother of the arts.

Still, perhaps especially for those of us who are not architects and not intimately familiar with CAD, the video represents the allure of Darth Vader. CAD, and in this case ArchiCAD (which is, I imagine, one of any number of CAD brands), shows that with the right mind behind the controls, beauty can be created. Still, is it a beauty all too pure, all too perfect, all to shorn of the human imperfections that summon character in building?

I wonder, it took just a few minutes to draw a Doric column on this video, and it is clearly a truncation of the true time it must have taken. It reminds me of the wonderful stop-motion video of Francis Terry, George Saumarez Smith and Ben Pentreath drawing a classical colonnade in an art gallery in London. (Terry recently did another on a stretch in London’s Banksy Tunnel.) How long did it really take to CAD that column?

Any thoughts out there on how well CAD and other modern architecture instruments and materials serve to promote and to fit into a revived classicism? I’m sure many readers have been over this again and again, but this question is directed mostly at readers who are not also on TradArch.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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11 Responses to Doric column on ArchiCAD

  1. Jared Banks says:

    David, interesting post. It’s always wonderful to see something I wrote resurface! To add to this conversation, here are some other links:

    Ionic Column in ArchiCAD: blog.graphisoftus.com/archicad-16/challenge-accepted-ionic-column
    Renaissance Revit: Creating Classical Architecture with Modern Software: http://paulaubin.com/books/renaissance-revit/

    The first post is a follow up to doing classical orders in ArchiCAD. And the second link is to Paul Aubin’s book on doing classical architecture in Revit. I learned about Paul’s work while doing those blog posts and we’ve talked a bit about this subject.

    In short, here’s my views: BIM (whether Revit or ArchiCAD or any other powerful program) can help a designer get to the essence of architectural style logic. The level of precision and calculation that often goes into work adhering to a codified aesthetic (whether the style is Greek, Roman, Baroque, or something newer like Gothic Revival, Craftsman…or even early modernism or whatever) can be done easily with these programs. And in fact that logic can be managed better, adhered to more closely, and for some of us digital natives, or near natives, it is in fact easier to digest, understand and innovate within those systems.

    I often think back to the people who originated these aesthetics. If they had the option to freehand a curve and draft the right series of circles by hand, or type in the rules they wanted, which would they prefer? I don’t know the answer. I’m sure just like now they’d be divided. But it’s an interesting thought exercise and a good reminder that any tool can be used to enhance or detract from the end product.

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    • This opens whole new worlds, Jared. Thanks for sending the links, and I think at bottom you are right that if Palladio had access to CAD, his shop would be at loggerheads over what to do with it – crown it or drown it!

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      • Jared Banks says:

        Yes I have a feeling our arguments about the merits and evils of technology are as old as time. I’m sure there were the same concerns about the transition from oral to written culture.

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  2. David Sassano says:

    The column’s the thing. The column is King. What it is is more important than how it came to be.

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  3. Lewis Dana says:

    Wait a minute, David!
    To get your thoughts out to us for YOUR column, you use a computer at some point in the process.
    So why shouldn’t architects use Cad for THEIR columns?
    Ha!

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  4. Have we not discussed our in-house technology VimTrek? Look for Mims Park on YouTube and you will see what we are doing. It also helped in the Eisenhower Memorial. We virtualized the Gehry and sent it to Congress….working with Justin, it resulted in both of us testifying before Congress. Boy, is he shaking up the AIA. They are having a large gathering in Atlanta soon and some of the events are to be at the Millennium Gate….HMMMMMM. Don’t look up.

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  5. Erik Bootsma says:

    I prefer to draw by hand, but this is nice too. Really as long as the necessary information is communicated to those who create the finished product then the job is done. If made by machine, it’s clearly advantageous to do a 3D model. If by hand, then it’s not necessary to go to this level of detail, simply dimensioning should do the trick.

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  6. SteveMouzon says:

    David, it’s simply another way to draw. Drawn accurately, the line does not go in a different place when laid down by graphite or by photons. And no architect I’ve ever known ever even thought of insisting that the final built work follow the squiggles of an inaccurately-drawn line. You’re falling prey to some of the “craft theology” being misapplied on TradArch, I’m afraid.

    With that having been said, I insist on doing the initial sketches by hand. One of the great secrets of architecture is translating the magic of the sketch to hardline drawings. Most architects are master sketchers, but few can translate it to hardline, which is how buildings are built.

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  7. David,

    Only science and technology, correctly applied to recreate life in the built environment, can save us now. Certainly, science was misused by the Modernists (and still is by their successors) to promote their inhuman projects. They loudly proclaim that their work is “scientific”, when it is monstrous and unhealthy. That has left psychological wounds with my friends the classicists, and I understand that. But please, let’s not blame science itself for its misappropriation by fanatics.

    The ISIS commanders use laptops, cellphones, and sophisticated weaponry purchased from willing merchants. Yet their ultimate aim is to destroy learning and science.

    Best wishes,
    Nikos

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    • I agree, Nikos. I am not blaming science, but I am trying to bridge the divide between those who see technology as the key to a revived classicism and those who see technology as undermining the quality of that revival. Both side have good arguments to make, and I do not want to come down on one side or the other, at least not yet. So in this case, this post, I have probably leaned a bit too heavily on the stereotypes that demonize the likes of CAD. I hope readers will forgive me!

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