I hear this all the time and I have to be honest…if you asked me couple of years ago what I think about this subject, I would tell you that architects do have to learn how to code and that in the future they will do it more and more. I would say this is the case with most professions, because our world is becoming completely automated.
Well, I would have been wrong….and here is why, shortly and simply:
Real programming is too complicated. Amateur programming in architecture and design (visual programming like Grasshopper, basic macro and script knowledge, etc…) will only get you so far.
Here is a brief elaboration…
Don`t get me wrong. There are people that have two or more degrees…mathematics and medicine, law and biology, etc…and you can also be an architect and a programmer. But now we are not talking about exceptions, we are talking about the majority of architects and their day-to-day job.
If you use parametric tools that I mentioned before (Grasshopper, simple scripts, etc…) for your design, you will notice soon enough that you are very limited. Yes, you can do much more than what was possible only 10 years ago, but that is not how efficiency is measured. It is measured by what is possible today, and a programmer will be able to do much more than you can. Not to mention that their methods will be faster and more efficient. Does this mean you shouldn`t learn how to code? Of course not, but architects will not have to learn how to code – because it will be left to professionals.
And I am not just blabbering…expressing my opinion that may or may not be valid. I am talking from experience. As a programmer I can help you develop and optimize your structure or your facade. I can automate the whole process, generate complete FE models, files for CNC production, blueprints, etc… And this is possible by building serious and complex software that can (most importantly) grow easily when it is structured properly. The problem is that people cannot be easily persuaded. They have employees that know Grasshopper! (When they you tell you that, they usually pause for couple of seconds for your silent (or loud) admiration.) So I say, ”OK, good luck and let me know if I can help you”.
And I wait…and I wait…and I wait…usually for 2 or 3 months for them to do something I could have programmed in two weeks…and then I get some parametric geometry, usually full of errors and holes. And then they ask me if I can optimize it, or prepare it for static analysis, or generate 3D elements automatically… And I say, “Yes”. But…now I need senseless programming that takes their geometry as an input and works from there…extremely inefficient and a huge waste of time…and if they came to me in the first place, a software, that would give them everything at once, could have been developed in couple of weeks. No errors, no holes, 0.00001 mm precise models, blueprints and an automatically generated FE model for static analysis.
An experienced programmer is much more efficient then someone who does it as a hobby…but there is a catch…you have to include them in the project from the start…and no one does that…yet! Everybody thinks they can do it on their own, and after months of struggle they come to you 2 weeks before the deadline to do everything from scratch.
And that is why architects don`t have to learn how to code. Programming (in) architecture is a profession on its own. It requires a lot of experience to know all the tricks of the trade (any programmer will tell you this). Every architect should know the basics of construction and static analysis, but you don`t expect them to do complete structural calculations. Basic knowledge can help them estimate the sizes of columns and beams, but the sooner they include a structural engineer in the process, the faster, more efficient and more precise everything will be. It is the same with programming.
The only difference is that you need static analysis for every building, and today you don`t need programming that often. But that is about to change…coding is not limited to crazy, free form, Hadid/Gehry structures. I can give you a list of things you can program for a building that has a shape of a simple cube…in one of the next posts…