What’s Next for Autodesk is What’s Next for Architects

Daniel Davis – 19 December 2014

At some stage in the keynote of Autodesk University I started wondering: is there anyone else in the building industry that could get 10,000 people to show up to a lecture in Las Vegas. For the sake of this thought experiment just remember that Vegas is a pretty dire place that most wouldn’t go to voluntarily. I mean, if I gave a lecture in Vegas I reckon that about 10 people would show up; Gehry could probably get 1,000; but to get 10,000 people to show up, you can’t just be famous, you have to be important. Which got me thinking, is Autodesk the most important entity in architecture today? Will Autodesk’s actions have more impact than Koolhaas and Hadid? Is Autodesk more influential than any blog or magazine or architectural theory? As I wrote in Architect Magazine recently, I kinda think it might be:

For those tasks that we think of as being indisputably architectural—drawing details, creating massing studies, producing renders—the majority of architects practicing in the United States are almost entirely dependent on software developed by Autodesk. As a result, the company’s future plans will greatly impact how many U.S. firms practice.

And if that is true, Autodesk holds a very important position in the industry. What they say and do could have a huge impact. But as I explained in my article, for the most part, Autodesk isn’t going to be a major agent of change in the industry:

During the opening keynote, Autodesk’s chief technology officer, Jeff Kowalski, spent a long time hypothesizing about the future of architecture and design. It was an exciting presentation that considered how architects in the near future might be called upon to design living objects and to develop responsive environments. It was difficult, however, to see how this thinking was influencing the company’s product development.

Autodesk has a powerful position in the industry. It is the company that determines how the majority of U.S.-based architects work. To some extent, the fate of these architects is tied to that of Autodesk. For now, Autodesk seems content to hold the industry in much the same place it was the previous year.

You can read the full article here: http://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/whats-next-for-autodesk-is-whats-next-for-architects_o.aspx. Thanks to Hallie Busta for editing the article and thanks to all the people I talked to for this article.

Dynamo dominated the classes this year. It seemed the many firms were on the verge of using it in practice.

Dynamo dominated the classes this year. It seemed the many firms were on the verge of using it in practice.

3d printed ceramics.

3d printed ceramics.

A bio printer that can print cells.

A bio printer that can print cells.

CASE party!

CASE party!





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  • Evgeny Shirinyan 30 December 2014 at 3:35 am

    Hi Daniel, great article!

    What is your take on Kowalski’s passages related to generative design? I think it’s worth to analyze. Is it a some sort of overdue hype or something else?

    Here is my comment I made for Russian engineer community https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fprosapr.blogspot.com%2F2014%2F12%2Fblog-post.html&edit-text=

    With regards to Revit development and Adobe-like subscription model it’s all about vendor-lock-in issues. It’s not about innovation but consumerization.

    • Daniel 1 January 2015 at 7:01 am

      Hi Evgeny, Thank you for sharing your article, I too was thinking of John Frazer when I saw Kowalski present. Call me cynical, but I’m not sure if Autodesk has a genuine interest in generative design. The keynote presentation is more about getting people excited rather than giving an honest depiction of Autodesk’s roadmap. Kowalski presented some exciting stuff — some stuff you, and I, and John Frazer, and countless others have been excited about for years. But Kowalski didn’t present anything that made me think Autodesk had ‘cracked’ generative design. If you look at their product releases, it is basically business as unusual. We’ll see next year if there is any follow through!

  • Ryan 7 December 2015 at 10:51 am

    Nothing was followed up on a year later for AU2015. That being said, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t use design script to at least computationally create iteration’s of a design. Form a concept and set your goals around a handful of parameters and let the algorithms do their thing. Dynamo and GH are good examples of the frontward thinking behind this idea. Its all bleeding edge at this point, but it has potential to be a major game changer should it come to fruition.
    An architectural example would be programming layouts of spaces. Use Dynamo to come up with adjacency diagrams based on client\architect\engineer input. Several versions based on slightly different strategies can be obtained in near real time allowing new insights to be gained that wouldn’t normally be arrived to in 2 or 3 traditional design options. (e.g. I had a dream the building should look like THIS!) This allows the design team to have time to pick the best option given there are always “out of sight” constraints.
    Until then, happy scripting!

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