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.