Many students wouldn’t be architects today if it wasn’t for the lifebuoy that is- BiblioCAD. Striking the same chord another way- there is a possibility that countless projects wouldn’t be a reality if AutoCAD did not exist. It has now held the title as an office, studio, and college drawing aid for decades together. The question is- Can architects live withoutCAD?

Can we survive without AutoCAD?
The dominance of CAD in today’s world ©

Released first in 1982, AutoCAD acted as an enabler and efficient drawing tool for all designers. Within the spectrum of architecture, it offered various features to make drawings quick, editable, and shareable. 38 years later, it has advanced many of its features to suit designers’ needs and has become streamlined and robust. It is rumored that every office uses some version of CAD, either the product by Autodesk or the various other developers.

Though colleges did not initially permit AutoCAD in academic work, that culture changed through the years, getting the students ready for the practical nature of the field. Now, AutoCAD versions (cracked or student) are regularly used by students for challenging, simple, and other contorted convulsions in plan or section. But does CAD deserve this pedestal?

Juhani Pallasmaa writes in his book, The Eyes of the Skin, “Computer imaging tends to flatten our magnificent, multi-sensory, simultaneous and synchronic capacities of imagination by turning the design process into a visual manipulation, a retinal journey.”(Pallasmaa, 2012) The issue roots from the solution to saving hours in drawing, introducing CAD as an element in the design, restricting the cognitive capacities of immeasurable imagination that a designer has. It cannot be stated that designs have been better or more beautiful since CAD has been introduced, for there are master architects such as Mies and F.L Wright who have made sensitive, time-resonating designs without the use of the software.

I would go further to argue that the introduction of CAD at an earlier stage, or at all has had a massive impact on the extent to which a certain design can flower into. It can even be called as a restraint to the limitless expanse of the mind’s delusions. In many cases, I have seen myself introduce the drawing early, thereby chiseling the features that might have made the design “good”. Not only does CAD sometimes limit ourselves, but it’s mere existence as a necessity for drafting and conceptual design workplaces a glass ceiling over the innumerable possibilities that could have been.

With that being said, I do not oppose the use of CAD software. It makes drafting an easier task, saves a lot of time, and makes collaborations much easier, as well as documentation less of a hassle. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that architects cannot live without CAD. They have lived, and have set examples that are junctures of pure design discussions- examples that age gracefully. The attempt at a multi-sensory experience is a necessity, which can only be done when the designer interacts in a tactical sense with the design and its elements. CAD must take the backseat here as only a tool to present and document.

Perhaps the problem is not CAD in itself, but its use. Initiation of software during presentation stages might propel the zeal much needed in designs seen in academic work, which forge the tracks to design after graduation. The “old-school” methods of intimate design crafting have always eclipsed the visual pizazz of over the top renders, seen more in the present times. One must connect to their design, experience it as an entity within itself- its elements alive with ingenuity and progress to a stage which by choice is a presentation tool, not a design one.

Digressing to various modes of presentation and their issues today, the output of flattened designs will never be a solution to an already changing world, time like wisps of smoke- escaping us. The conclusion is- not only can architects live without CAD, but they might also even be able to thrive, producing designs that make what is inanimate feel alive.


Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2012.The Eyes of the Skin. Finland: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.


Nishant Verma is a designated college nerd and has been writing ever since you could define the term “bullying”, first to vent out feelings and eventually to an amateur writer. Pastimes include productive activities- reading, writing, movies, the history of music and architecture, with whom he enjoys a love-hate relationship.