The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet. – Cyril Connolly
Some design professionals resent the intrusion of technology into their practices.
Things, for them, were fine as they were.
It wasn’t always this way.
At first, when CAD was first introduced, we thought that computers were machines in the garden of architectural Eden.
Our reactions to BIM are all over the map.
Some are enthused and have readily adopted it as the next technology.
They may not be utilizing the information in BIM, but are well on their way to doing so when the opportunity arises.
But for some folks, BIM is seen as an unwanted intruder.
Mary Shelley’s monster was a creature of technology after all.
The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America by Leo Marx examines the difference between the pastoral and progressive ideals which characterized early American culture.
And which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental debates of contemporary society.
Where pastorialism represents the yearning by civilized man to occupy the space in between “art” and “nature.”
The book illustrates how American writers and artists came to grips with the penetration of the machine into the garden.
And talks about the “middle landscape,” where many find themselves between primitivism and progressivism.
A purgatory of sorts where many design professionals find themselves today.
This could easily be describing the introduction of technology into contemporary design practice.
It has been almost 50 years since architects considered their profession a new Eden that would redeem mankind.
For them, as the title implies, technology today is an unwelcomed guest in Eden.
Others would less generously call BIM the proverbial fly in our professional soup.
That BIM, and now IPD, are crashing our party.
We used to have such a nice profession – look what BIM has gone and done to it.
For the most part, design professionals have readily, seamlessly, adopted the new technologies.
With relatively little kicking and screaming.
But for others, BIM represents a line drawn in the topsoil.
Irrespective of the many surveys that indicate well over 50% of the profession – and construction industry – is already making strides with BIM, there continue to be hold-outs.
And I suspect that deep down, below the espoused reasons for not getting on board the machine, are overriding fears that somehow BIM is a foreign intruder in architecture’s garden.
Where their fear of BIM is almost xenophobic.
They’re concerned about the insidious effects of industrialization on the spirit, as it were.
They feel threatened by BIM.
BIM, they believe, commoditizes what they do.
Allowing others to make and then eat their lunch.
And Integrated Design (IPD) all but silences their already weakened voice at the table, lessens their power and ability to negotiate.
Making them even more invisible than they already feel.
Hear this, resellers:
For BIM to truly catch fire, we will need to address our fellow practitioner’s emotions.
For all the perfectly sound reasons we have for moving forward with BIM.
For BIM to truly work for our profession, it’s
more a matter of the amygdala and emotion than of the cortex and thought.
The overarching theme of the book is the search for an explanation of why Connolly, though widely recognized as a leading man of letters and a highly distinguished critic, failed to produce a major work of literature.
The book lists the factors that can stifle a writer’s creativity.
Warning writers to be on the lookout for them.
A representative quote from the book: There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
You can almost hear design professionals today complaining that
There is no more somber enemy of good architecture than BIM on the ball.
That it will stifle your creativity.
Don’t let BIM be your enemy of promise.
It’s All Technology
Is it BIM or is it technology that enters our figural garden?
Consider them one and the same.
In fact, it is probably healthiest to accept the fact that mechanical pencils, pin bars, Mylar and Maylines were technologies well before CAD entered the scene.
Not to mention Fortran IV with Watfour and Watfive and stacks of punch cards that I and my classmates were weened on.
I am looking forward to reading What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, cofounder of Wired magazine, when it comes out in October.
This essay by Kelly presenting a refreshing and inclusive view of technology as a living force in the world ought to tide us over until then.
In the essay, Kelly asks:
So, looking at the evolution of life and the long-term histories of past technologies…What does technology want?
To increase diversity
To maximize freedom/choices
To expand the space of the possible
To increase specialization/uniqueness
To increase power density
To increase density of meaning
To engage all matter and energy
To reach ubiquity and free-ness
To become beautiful
To increase complexity
To increase social co-dependency
To increase self-referential nature
To align with nature
To accelerate evolvability
To play the infinite game
To align with nature.
There you have it.
What does BIM want?
Not to fight.
Not to crash our party.
Not to be a thorn in our side.
Nor an enemy of promise.
Nor a machine in our garden.
But to belong.
To a time when we see no conflict between the machine and the garden.