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Tool of the Trade

By Paul Li
December 12, 2002

A couple of decades ago, the architects ?tool of the trade involved the use of T-squares and triangles. When architects began using a ?parallel ruler or a ?drafting machine, he was then considered as a ?high tech architect. In addition, the pencil was the only tool that allowed the architect to communicate his design ideas onto paper for construction.

With the advent of the PC, things began to change in architectural offices across the globe. As the personal computer became more and more affordable, businesses started to use them for daily operations. Typing on typewriters was slowly being replaced with using word processing applications on the computer. Then the first Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) applications came onto the scene. At first, many were clumsy and lacked the ?tools necessary to make drawing on the computer feasible. But these obstacles could not stop the inevitable. Eventually, CADD became a common household term even amongst the Architects.

But the change was not immediate and painless. At first, it came in small and minute steps. Only a few architectural firms dared to make the attempt to begin using the computer as a tool for communicating their design ideas. I worked in one of these firms back in the late 1980s. The president of TAG Architecture, Inc. in Burbank, California made the drastic decision to replace each and every drafting table with a computer. At the same time, other firms like Altoon + Porter Architects LLP also did the same.

Then clients of the architect began to demand the use of the computer as the standard tool of communication. Architectural firms began to hire staff that is trained and proficient in the use of the computer. Accredited Architectural trade schools began to offer programs in their curriculum that incorporate CADD.

Today, the transformation is complete. I use the computer on a daily basis not only for design and drafting but also for email and fax as necessary methods of communication. As we move from this point into this brand new millennium, I wonder when will we be replacing the computer with a new tool of the trade?

Paul Li is an Associate of Altoon + Porter Architects LLP, an international Architecture firm with its headquarters based in Los Angeles. He has been in charge of providing computer and internet support for the staff for almost nine years. He wrote an article that was featured in the November issue of DigitalCAD.com called "Weighing the Benefits of Project Web Collaboration." He also submitted a couple of AutoLISP tutorials that were published in April and May of 2001.

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