The application of computers in the field of architecture has brought a huge paradigm shift on the workflow and resulted in huge advancement in the quality of spaces and the use of technology in architecture. The application of computers in architecture can be divided into the 2D Drafting era, 3D Modelling era, Building Information Modelling era, Algorithm based designing, and Machine Learning era.

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Hedrich-Blessing Photographic Studio, view of the drafting room, 1942, Albert Kahn Associates, Ford Motor Bomber Factory, Willow Run, Michigan, Gift of Federico Bucci ©Chicago History Museum. | source- ©

The development of 2D drafting software used for architecture was Sketchpad which was developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1963. It took another 20 years to create much more developed software like AutoCAD which came to practice in 1982. The development of CAD helped the engineers to draft, scale, and print technical drawings in a more efficient way.

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Ivan Sutherland using sketchpad | source- ©

The use of 3D modeling started in the 1990s, with the emergence of architects like Frank Gehry, Greg Lynn, etc. The development of 3D modeling gave the architect the scopes to explore different designs and possibilities and also to give clients a better representation of the ideas. 3D Studio Max, Rhinoceros, Maya, and Blender are some of the software that came to practice in the early 2000s.

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3D model by Greg Lynn | source- ©

After the development of 3D modeling and the advancement in the use of computer technology gave architects to explore more possibilities in computation and led to the development of BIM. The main pioneer of BIM is Charles M. Eastman who developed AEC CAD, solid, and parametric modeling systems from the middle of the 1970s. He is now a professor in Colleges of Design and Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology and also the Georgia Tech Digital Building Lab (DBL). He has won several prestigious awards which include Lifetime Research Achievement Award at Bentley Systems International Conference, and the 2006 Open Data Award from BuildingSMART. Professor Tom Maver is known for his contribution to the development of CAAD, Multimedia, Virtual Reality, Urban Models, and Energy Efficient Building Design. He has also received The IHVE Bronze Medal and the Royal Society Gold Medal. Donald P. Greenberg contributed to creating the earliest computer-generated architectural movie in 1971 using General Electric Visual Simulation Laboratory known as Cornell in Perspective. He is presently the professor of Computer Graphics at Cornell University and received the Steven Anson Coons Award in 1987 which is the most prestigious award in the field of computer graphics.

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 Charles M. Eastman | source- ©
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Professor Tom Maver | source- ©
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Donald P. Greenberg | source- ©

The algorithm is used in architecture from as early as the development of 2D Drafting software. The algorithm-based designing started when architects realized that the computer can generate models based on the constraints and instructions set by the user, which led to the development of more efficient buildings than using traditional methodology. The works of Antonio Gaudi (Sagrada Familia), Frank Gehry (Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Fish of the Olympic Village of Barcelona), Nicholas Grimshaw (Waterloo Station in London), and Zaha Hadid (MAXXI Museum in Rome, Guangzhou Opera House, BMW Central Building in Leipzig, London Aquatic Centre in Denmark, Ordrupgaard Museum in the north of Copenhagen) are examples of parametric buildings. David Rutten made a significant contribution to the development of Grasshopper, a plugin of Rhinoceros 3D, and making it user-friendly by creating visual programming-based software.

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 Eden Project by Nicholas Grimshaw | source- ©
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Grasshopper Interface| source- ©

The machine learning era is the era in which we are living and it is combined with a range of algorithms, pattern recognition, neural networks, generative design, and artificial intelligence. Ian Goodfellow made a significant contribution to redefining AI and its application in architecture. He is also known for the development of a system that enables the Google Map to transcribe addresses from photos taken by Street View cars and invented generative adversarial networks. Besides machine learning, the development of the computer has led to the development of several other fields like Digital morphogenesis, Visual and Spatial Modelling, Computational Analogy, etc. Reyner Banham contributed to the development of building performance simulation software which is now used with a combination of AI.

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Ian Goodfellow | source- ©

The field of computational design is evolving day by day and its application to full potential is not yet achieved. Researchers and architects like Achim Menges, Michael Pryor, Sushant Verma, Arturo Tedeschi, Robert Woodbury, and many universities with special laboratory such as Smart Labs by RAT[LAB], Institute of Computational Design and Construction of the University of Stuttgart, Department of Architecture of Harvard University, etc are developing software and improving architecture and the present generation day by day. The development of technology and the use of it in architecture complement each other and it will generate more possibilities and reveal blind spots.

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Achim Menges | source- ©
Souktik Bhattacherjee

Souktik is a creative architecture student with a passion for architectural designs. He loves to research extensively on every field and shares his thoughts through visual illustrations. He is also an honest, kind-hearted person and an all-rounder.

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