Since the first personal computers were introduced in the late 1980s, generations of architects have experimented with the potential to design with the digital medium. Architects today use a variety of programs not only to draw, but also to model, calculate, and even program their buildings. By connecting what they design to computer assisted modeling and manufacturing, they can make anything they can imagine.
Digital technology enables architects to test daylight, create interactive models and examine how a design will perform in different environments; everything from wind speed to zoning ordinances can be brought back to the binary codes of zeroes and ones. The most sophisticated programs can be combined with “inherent knowledge” of materials and forms to produce designs for efficient, fluent buildings, but also to let architects experiment with forms and images we have never seen before. To some, that means creating undulating, freeform buildings in what by now has become the style we associate most with the influence of computers on architecture and design.
The public first became aware of the new freedom architects have to create forms that defy the imagination when Frank Gehry used software developed to design jet planes to help him realize the Bilbao Guggenheim in 1997. Since then, architects have built increasingly sophisticated free-form structures. From iPhones to teacups to cars, the fluid lines computers make possible are everywhere, and we will see more and more buildings that go with that flow.