I was reflecting on the tools that were in use when I entered the workforce in 1970. A parallel edge, triangles, french curve, electric eraser, calculator and some odds and ends cost about $300 ($100 for the TR-100 calculator!). These tools could be mastered completely in a month or less.
I am by no means advocating going back. But by contrast, today an architect's tools cost about $6,000 - computer/monitor, CAD/BIM software, operating system, miscellaneous other software. And elsewhere there is a shared server, network, plotter and printer. Despite the hours spent continually on learning how to use these tools, no one ever completely masters them.
These changes in technology are not embracing the individual, but rather the team. The capabilities of one individual and the time constraints of getting a building designed make the idea of the sole proprietor already untenable for the 50,000+ SF project. There may always be a niche for the sole proprietor. Nothing ever becomes completely obsolete. After all somebody still makes buggy whips.
I suspect that technology will someday make the architect's tools as manageable (master-able) as they once were, but the trend of increasing complexity in projects is probably not going to reverse. In the next few years we will probably be including life-cycle costing, psychology of color, of materials and of space to the complexity that accessibility and sustainability have already added to design of buildings.
The team approach is here to stay. Working on team-building will replace working on learning CAD/BIM. Every ten years or so a new crop of designers will need to be indoctrinated into how teams work best. Alternatively the capabilities of technology, which are embedded in the product, will get easier and easier to master.
orig post date Mar 2013