Drawings being an important part of the creative thought process depicted the synchronized interaction of the mind, hands, and eyes. With the introduction and subsequent popularity of the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) program in the early 1980s, the idea of designing, drawing, documenting architecture, and representation took on a new meaning.

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The Morpholio Trace ©Morpholio

The pen versus pixel or hand versus computer debate in the architecture profession has been and continues to be a topic of heated discussion. For centuries, the ability to draw by hand – both technical drawings and conceptual sketches have been central to the architecture profession. Drawings being an important part of the creative thought process depicted the synchronized interaction of the mind, hands, and eyes. With the introduction and subsequent popularity of the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) program in the early 1980s, the idea of designing, drawing, documenting architecture, and representation took on a new meaning.

Soon after it was introduced, AutoCAD proved to be a revolutionary tool and was quickly adopted worldwide by both architects and engineers. It was a dramatic shift from hand drawings to computer-aided drawings making the entire process more precise, efficient, and faster. The shift in the interface altered the way an architect viewed understood and designed. The debate is not to see it as one tool against the other when it can perfectly coexist. The software is seen more as a tool aiding the process rather than something that will replace and make hand drawings obsolete.

In today’s digital landscape, with more advanced and sophisticated 3D software gaining popularity like Revit, Rhinoceros, SketchUp, BIM to name a few, the whole approach of conceptualizing, designing, documenting, and representing is changing. A quick paper model or a free-hand sketch to represent the initial idea can now be easily modeled digitally. However one argues the distance that the computer creates between the architect and the object or space being designed and the importance of bodily engagement in the design process. We as architects must strike a balance between the two approaches and employ them effectively according to the task at hand.

The proliferation and accessibility of applications, gadgets, and software all illustrate the manifold nature of what it means to practice and documenting architecture in today’s context. There has been a constant effort to develop tools that will aid the design process while combining the best of tradition and digital technology. Undoubtedly, the developments in touchscreen technology have opened up numerous possibilities for architects. With a digital pencil and a touchscreen, architects are now exploring new ways of representing and documenting ideas and drawings. In recent years, Apple iPadPro has created quite a stir amongst architects and designers. Apart from its utility as a portable and lightweight tablet, its integrated ARKit appealed to many architects. Along with this, Apple pencil and the Morpholio Trace software proved to be a game-changer for many users.

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The Morpholio Trace as a digital tracing paper ©Morpholio

Awarded as the ‘Best App’, Morpholio Trace is an application that works as a digital drafting tool for documenting architecture that enables architects to draw on top of images similar to using a tracing paper. A trace allows the user to instantly draft or sketch on top of an imported image with a set of tools that includes a ruler, scale, stencils, a wide range of pens, brushes, and pencils, etc. Trace can mainly be used in two ways – one is communication in which the architect can trace over something to give feedback and the other one is idea exploration where the architect can explore the initial conceptual ideas through quick sketches. The app is of course not seen as something that will replace the tracing paper but more as an extension of the same. 

With other options like Perspective finder, Smart fill, AR Sketchwalk, and Drag ‘n’ Fly 3D viewer, Trace acts as a fully-integrated tool for architects. The Co-Creator of Morpholio, Mark Collins said, “we’re trying to hit that perfect hybrid between the best of what we’ve relied on for centuries versus what’s coming next with these devices. The introduction and subsequent use of Trace address several questions regarding how the proliferation of devices, software, and digital culture is changing the way architects are designing and connecting on a daily basis.

In today’s image-obsessed culture, a large quantity of architecture is consumed through photographs as opposed to physically experiencing it. It has led to architects putting a great deal of emphasis on producing impressive, photo-realistic computer renderings to represent their designs. A lot of time and effort is gone behind in representing the work than actually designing it. However, it is also crucial that the design is carefully and sensibly represented to communicate the idea. 

With the availability of various software and gadgets, it has now become simpler to manipulate the image to create both fantastic and realistic environments. Lately, with the widespread use of BIM (Building Information Modelling) and parametric modeling which has led to automated or data-based results, the entire design process is altered. The software is seen as a means to design and generate outcomes rather than a tool that aids in the design process. Amidst the constantly changing environment, architects will have to equip themselves with the necessary skills and carefully choose the tools that best suit their design process.

Author

Khushboo Patel is an Architect by profession who is now trying to unlearn and reflect on everything she learned in college. She is an avid reader, writer, and traveler who believes that ideas and words can change the world. She says that every place and person has a story that is worth telling and it needs to be told.

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