I had a guest lecturer at a recent class who spent an hour showing project after project featuring fantastic custom tools their office had generated, from BIM models connected to a proforma through Excel, to LEED client websites, to urban-design Revit templates and family libraries. When I asked the presenter his stance on intellectual property issues, he said something like “well, naturally we’re all about open source, but we haven’t really thought about how we might share this content.”
Architects need to not only support the idea of open source practice, but be actively involved in its promotion and dissemination. Here, I’ll bullet point it for you:
1. Digital practice is becoming ubiquitous.
2. Architects are increasingly required to navigate between multiple software packages / modes of working in order to complete a project.
3. To get this done, architects are increasingly required to generate their own digital content in the form of scripts, templates, plugins, spreadsheets, tutorials, etc.
4. Few practices give critical attention to either their workflow or their methodologies to design with new digital tools. As a result, they are not only losing on efficiency but they are allowing the tools themselves to have a much greater impact on design than needs to be the case (i.e. the maximum flexibility of each tool is not being realized.
5. In order to promote tool and method sharing, and to promote a more critical evaluation of design tools, open source practices need to not only be accepted in the architectural community, but actively promoted and managed.
6. Centralized models to disseminate theoretical or practical information already exist (archinect, design reform, evolutionzine, Rhino plugin websites, etc.) What is necessary more than ever is the sharing of methodologies and ideas on how the siphoning of information between various programs can lead to meaningful, beautiful, solid design.
Instead of ignoring the power of digital processes to unwittingly influence our work, it is better to embrace the fact that design is now immersed in this virtual medium, and collectively experiment ways on improving, leveraging, and transcending the spatiodigital morass that is contemporary practice.