old (-ish) dogs, new tricks

My first internship was, by all accounts, a dream job. Not only was it with the oldest firm in Florida (their corporate license # is A000001), but they were one of the first firms to make the switch to Autocad in the 80s and were even published in an early edition of Arch Record for a 3D model done of the Jacksonville Airport. They continued, and continue, to stay on the cutting edge of technology. While I was with them we always had the latest version of Autocad and once I moved up a little, I was allowed to get in on Beta testing for Autodesk, which means we got the latest versions before they were commercially available.

BOOOYAH! Yeah Baby.

It was, to say the least, an amazing learning experience to work with other architects and designers that had such a wealth of knowledge about the technology available to us and it’s practical use in the profession. Unfortunately this has not been my experience since leaving that firm.

In the first few years after leaving this firm it was easy to stay on top of new developments because I was actively in IDP and a bit of a pain in the ass when it came to getting experience. So, I was always looking for new ways to make my life easier in the world of cad production.

In my current position….let’s just say I feel as though my ears are continually leaking valuable information out of my brain that I will perhaps never get back as I drum through the day on one redline task after another on a 4 year old platform of Autocad Architecture. Suffice it to say I’m behind the curve at this point when I used to be ahead of it.

So there’s the question – is it ever too late for a architect/designer to learn new tricks?

I ask because, knowing that I am woefully behind the AEC technology curve, I’m endeavoring to teach myself BIM and IPD, starting with Archicad. Being a teacher at a local state college has it’s perks. I have a fully licensed copy of the educational version and access to a ton of tutorials and videos and other teaching aids. It’s awesome, but slow going. Other than SketchUp I haven’t had to teach myself anything new in more years than I care to admit.

Does anyone else have any experience with this kind of professional shift – moving from one way of doing things to a completely new way and changing technologies all at the same time? Have you had successes, failures, or was it a seamless process? What do we think are some keys to success when dealing with new technology, new techniques and new tools? Is it simply a matter of attitude or is there some other trait that keeps us moving forward, striving to stay at least near the top of the curve? I hope everyone will share their own thoughts, experiences and opinions.

4 thoughts on “old (-ish) dogs, new tricks

  1. I think a lot of designers feel your pain. I’ve always been one to embrace new technology (mostly I just think it’s fun) but when it comes to architecture there is a mental block. I know I have to learn RevIt but I’m sad to see AutoCAD go. It’s become an extension of my arm. I could do AutoCAD in my sleep. It seems a shame to put it aside for the next thing and I worry a little that I’ll never get the ins-and-outs of RevIt like I did AutoCAD.

    • Thanks for your comments, Christie and thanks for visiting my blog! I myself have always enjoyed learning new skills and new tools. The problem for me is that Revit and Archicad are such a paradigm shift from the way things are done currently that it makes the learning curve that much steeper. Autocad at least was/is just a digital drafting table, in essence. The way you think on paper is the same way you think in Autocad. Revit and Archicad however require a completely different thought and design process. And that difference creates a lot of the “apprehension” that we see in the industry. I know I certainly do. But I’m hopeful at the same time. I think this is the way things are moving, have to move, and it will be seen as a real asset to the profession very soon.
      Thanks again. I hope you’ll come back and comment often! Cheers.

  2. Jeremiah, I wrote my post “the bummer of BIM” with a similar thought in mind. I know I have to learn it, I will get there, but I don’t like when my “water dish” is moved. I know how to do what I am doing now and it seems fine. I use Vectorworks and I’ve seemed to master the 2d aspects of it as well as general 3d modeling. However, we get good at what we do the most. So I am forcing myself to learn new things on each new project. Trying to learn them in a classroom and not a specific project is difficult for me. It’s like investing time now and wondering when the investment will reap benefits later. Lastly, my problem with BIM is it is not just a new way to document, but a new way of thinking a creating architecture. One that is at odds often with how I think about architecture and how I design. Again, maybe I’m somewhat of an old dog. Those who know nothing but the digital world, always new Revit, can’t empathize with this issue.

    • I’m of the same mind. Autocad, as I said in a previous comment, has always been just an extension of the hand/pencil/t-square/triangle tool set. Revit and Archicad on the other hand provide a new challenge – a new way of thinking about how buildings are designed. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Archicad for example allows you to design in plan and 3D simultaneously, which, for me, is an interesting shift in design thinking. Currently, my process is to start with a plan “idea”, a sketch that has scale and dimension but is really just a space planning exercise. I try to think, from a God point of view, looking down, “how will someone use this space? how will they entertain or bathe or sleep or go to the bathroom?” From there I typically move on to a massing model and work out the elevations and roof profiles. This almost ALWAYS leads to changes in the floor plan because you notice that the main living spaces gets too much direct sunlight, or not enough of a view or whatever. BIM, as I’m learning, puts these two processes together in a way that, with more practice, will be quite nice.
      While I still don’t think it is right for many smaller firms like ours since the front end production is so high, I do think that as technology continues to increase and improve, this is our inevitable future and at the very least it’s our responsibility as professionals and as artists to push forward with whatever technology is available to us.

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