Selling the dream?

Has finally released their new urban environment procedural modeling software. From what I understand the software will allow the used to define a vocabulary of construction elements (windows, doors, streets, buildings, cities, materials, etc.) and “build” designs by way of a computer automated process, according to a given set of instructions.

When I first float this concept with most architects, their immediate response is “Nobody wants buildings designed by a computer”. True, the most obvious application for this technology is not real architecture, but that in movie making (like the 1930’s Manhattan in King Kong – it would have taken 3D artists an impossible amount of time to construct each individual building) an for that, this software is perfect. But what about our built environment, does procedural modeling have a place? On a very basic level, I would argue that architects had better be the first to embrace this technology, otherwise it will be the developers and the builders who take hold and see it as a way to help marginalize the role of our profession.

That’s a practical reason, but in reality, the software is more a reflection of what we do than an antithesis of it. With projects, we take a given design vocabulary (either dictated by the location, the client or the architect), and process that through a set of instructions (the program, the model codes, accessibility, etc.) to achieve a given design. I don’t see procedural modeling as a means to an end, but I do see it as a valuable tool in our arsenal, a way to cut through the tedium and expedite the analysis of complex scenarios. To that end, this software as promise, but at a price tag of nearly $7,000 I think it is going to be out of the range for most architecture firms to embrace, because this aspect of the design process is neither a core essential (like needing CAD) or a sufficient crowd pleaser (as in how 3D rendering software are used to “sell the dream”).