Computers for Architects: Part 1

brain structure_synapses

The idea for this blogpost came from the above image. Unfortunately I can’t reference it because I stored it as a screenshot on my iphone when it first sparked my interest and I can’t see how to tag my image collection with key words (based on what I anticipate the images to be useful for) as I go along. I’ve heard that Google is developing technologies to be able to reference nearly any image to a giant database of the whole world’s images, but apparently the ability to reference found images with own associations hasn’t yet been invented.

The image captures the startling idea that thought processes establish physical structure in the brain. The implications of this explains so much of human psychology and human societies to me that I keep coming back to this image.

In a recent although typical day of frustration with trying to locate some of my own stored information in my own computer, I again thought back to this image to try to understand the mismatch between my own memory and the visual storage format of my computer. I thought about the irony of the promise of computers, devices that should be able to augment organisational tasks in a way that does not cause more frustration (cognitive strain) than the automation services that they provide. This should be true both for tasks that in coding terms are fairly simple (like filing structure for the limited number of items that one has in a personal computer) and for much more complex tasks (like documenting radiowaves from extraterrestrial objects).

Architecture school amongst many other things teaches you how to draw lines that synthesise a massive amount of information and respond very strategically to a context. This produces images that might contain a very small quantity of ink relative to page but that to someone who is naturally suited to the task of designing and has further developed their perceptions through architecture school are very thought provoking pieces of visual information.

The 4 line drawing portraits by Matisse below for example show a very intuitively strategic use of line to capture a flat impression of 4 peoples’ faces. When I look at these portraits, I am amazed at the ability of a pencil in a human hand to simplify a visual impression through synthesis and such nuance of control. I think the portraits with a minimum of pencil capture layers of personality of each person (admittedly both men are showing many layers of grumpy and serious and both women many layers of content and poised which does seem to miss the full spectrum of moods that each gender can feel, but nevertheless).

The 4 portraits illustrate an ability to be visually strategic that architects are exceptionally skilled at. The central point of this blogpost is that I think that the way that most software (including software marketed to designers) is structured presents a visual interface that really misses the opportunity to be very visually efficient and thus to engage fluidly with an architect’s workflow.

The remaining blogposts in this series propose some ideas that would allow the user to have more direct engagement with visual interfaces in such a way as to use these strategically as part of their project development workflow.

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