It was a pleasant day, 20°C outside, however inside the air-conditioned, white-walled lecture theatre you wouldn’t have a clue. No windows, no means to connect with the outside, not until the lecture is over. The three tutors are presenting their briefs for the studio ahead, where I should be paying attention to see which one I want to do, but I already know, this is just a formality. The first tutor presents, their brief intrigues me and I am now stuck with what to do, so I figured I should now pay attention to the remaining two. The second tutor introduces himself, and within the first couple sentences he says “Straight into it, I am known as a bit of a hard-ass….” He then clicks on to his next slide STUDIO RULES, you can sense fellow students are confused about the concept, everything is quiet from the students, that is until with a simple click the first rule is displayed, “No CAD (except otherwise instructed)” You can hear the murmurs of students, perhaps fearful at the prospect of not being able to use CAD, then he goes on to explain why….

Where I study it isn’t uncommon to see students working on CAD, Revit or designing within SketchUp as early as second or third week, and I have been guilty of this.

In second trimester last year we had three tutors present different briefs, where we finally got to have a choice in briefs. One tutor when presenting his brief had a couple rules but the very first and most daunting rule for some was;

  • no CAD (except otherwise instructed)

As soon as that first rule went up you could hear students murmur around the lecture theatre, almost like ‘What?! WHAT?!‘ and actually overheard one student call it, well I won’t repeat the exact phrase but it was along the lines of ‘that’s a bulldust rule‘. He did go on to explain the reasoning behind this rule…..

In the early stages of a project, you do not need a computer, he wanted to teach his students a quicker way of moving and doing things. The computer is a tool but students tend to rely on it too much, and the idea was he wanted students to work rapidly, which you can’t do on a computer.

I didn’t choose that particular tutor’s studio, but that didn’t mean my tutor was pro-CAD either, and it was during a studio crit where he said something that I hadn’t heard ever…. “Don’t design on the computer” Which I am heavily guilty off! How often do we sit on Revit, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD, even SketchUp and make changes, try to work out a detail or try different options?

I’m not saying there is no place for Revit, AutoCAD, SketchUp or whatever you may use, in fact the tutor above did mention CAD can be used for final presentation images. A couple great tips and ideas that combines computer and hand sketching, or just sketching I’ve overheard are;

– Make basic massing models out of cardboard, take a photo and either
a | trace over the photo by hand to sketch up options for the design
b | take it into Photoshop and do some work there
– Scanning a sketch, and take it into Photoshop and/or Illustrator to enhance the image

Basically you shouldn’t be frightened that CAD is banned from the design process, if you are someone that finds this concept difficult to understand try it with your next studio project. If you still aren’t convinced about the importance of hand sketching, watch the video below featuring Dan Burr and Lee Bennett from Sheppard Robson….