Volume 42, Issue 6 - June 2007

Issue at Hand
Hearts and Minds
by Deb Levy

It might have been hard to find, but amid all the displays of building materials, kitchen appliances and outdoor landscaping items, there was a real battle going on at the AIA Show last month: a battle for the hearts and minds of young architects.

No, I’m not talking about a showdown among primary manufacturers or top-tier fabricators, I am talking about about an all-out war to control how information is presented—a battle among architectural design software providers. It’s a story that pits an old, established company against a brash new upstart and I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting against either.

There, in the Software and Technology Pavilion, the three companies displayed their products within an arm’s reach of each other—and all the architects in attendance.

California-based Autodesk’s AUTOCad® is being challenged by SketchUp Pro, a product of Google™, the company of search engine fame. Whereas AUTOCad gives the appearance of being an engineering program with graphic interface, SketchUp appears to be a drawing program with engineering components. These are subtle, but very important distinctions. And those who feel AUTOCad’s dominance in the market cannot be conquered should be forewarned. Google has adopted an AOL (give-it-to-everyone) approach to SketchUp and says it has succeeded in luring young architects into using it. “Google says that 100 percent of architects under 26 use SketchUp,” said one primary glass manufacturer. 

Contract glaziers may have to be conversant with both to communicate in the future. SketchUp is generally perceived as better in providing models and scale drawings of how a building will look to a customer; for blueprints, drawings or other engineering items, AUTOCad is necessary. But give it a few years of releases and young architect feedback and it will be interesting to see what develops.

Google has already integrated SketchUp into its Google Earth software. If you haven’t yet looked at Google Earth, please do. In most cases, you’ll be able to view 3D views of cities, then zoom right in on your own home. 

As if this wasn’t enough, add to this mix a third company, right next to the other two: AutoDesSys Inc. It sells form.Z, an architectural modeling and design tool that can be extended to complete detailed structures and can be viewed with photo-realism or animation.

The AIA show reminded me where the future is going ... and it’s going to start on the screen.


USG
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