Computational Justification

Posted on Oct 7, 2009 | No Comments
  • Computational Justification

We are on the verge of the year 2010 and I find myself on a daily basis having explain why it is better to have used a computer rather than the “traditional” design process. By this time in our evolution as a species we use computers to accomplish so many things and yet they are shunned by a majority of the architectural design community. And I have no idea why.

I would like to stack it up to a lack of understanding of the computational design process. However, I find architects asking me questions like, “I still don’t know why you need a computer to design when there are already traditional design processes in place to achieve the same result.” With that question/statement the person looking for justification is saying they know how computers can aid in the design process, but they see no value in those computational processes.

While I can understand the confusion when it comes to computational design, I finally understood it at the end of my fourth year in school; I don’t have any tolerance for those who judge it without any sort of true investigation into these new processes.

Those who sit on the side-line and feel it appropriate to claim they understand the process and then demand some sort of justification for these processes, are the individuals who seem to perpetuate the computation stigma. When the truth is that they have no understanding of computational design process. They give themselves away with these questions, because if they understood the benefits of these processes they wouldn’t need any justification for their existance.

So here it is my last quantification for computational design.

The computer is just a fancy drafting bar. That is it. It is a piece of technology that only puts out what you put into it. Nothing more and nothing less. If anything, it is up to those who see no value in computational design to prove to me their own beliefs. After all they are the ones who think “computers make stupid architecture.” I want those people to prove that the computer and not the designer was the culprit behind this supposedly “stupid” architecture. Regardless, stupid is such a “dumb” critique of anything, there is no substance, how am I supposed to respond to that statment?

“Nuh huh it isnt stupid, you are stupid…” Now they have brought me to their level.

In fact, many architects use computers incorrectly. Those who just use the computer as a means of representation are not taking advantage of all the potential contained within those little black boxes. They are better off hand drawing all their images. There really is no justification under their own definitions of “appropriate design methods” for them to even get close to a computer. They are the ones who need to justify their use of computers to us. They need to explain it to us, those who are pushing for computational integration of architectural design processes, why they are slowing architectural innovation down.

If you are curious to understand the computational design processes then say that. Don’t approach that which you don’t understand with a closed mind. I will be the first to admit that computational design has a very steep learning curve, but that is not a reason to avoid it. In fact there is a whole community out there to support the effort of those who are looking to learn about these new design methods.

If you haven’t noticed yet, you are in just one of those communities.

contributed by William Burks co-founder of

photo credit: ©2008 Adam Little via google image search

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