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Graphisoft 1998 International Education Symposium

Panel Assesses Current and Future Role of CAD in Architecture Schools Worldwide

Budapest, September 29, 1998

In an afternoon of revealing debate, an international panel of CAD educators gathered at Graphisoft Technology Park to present the current state of CAD use in schools and offer their views on the future role of CAD in the education of architects.

The first International Education Symposium, hosted by Graphisoft R&D Rt, was held on September 18 as part of the celebration to formally open the company's new corporate headquarters in Budapest, Hungary.

The distinguished panel was composed of Jonas Klercker, Architect SAR and associate professor in CAAD at Lund University and Institute of Technology, Sweden; Darlene Brady, author and visiting professor of architecture at University of Illinois/Champagne; Olivier Celnick, principal of Studio M, architect and professor of CAD technology at l'Ecole d'Architecture de Paris, France; Bradley Skaggs, Technical Director of STUDIOS Architecture, an international architecture firm; and panel moderator Dr. Mihály Szoboszlai, professor of architecture at the Technical University of Budapest.

In assessing the current state of CAD use in education, panel members discussed the CAD curricula they teach and used specific projects to illustrate the key benefits gained by students learning and using CAD tools in the classroom. In a compelling example, Olivier Celnick presented a series of construction documents and renderings completed by an average student who discovered that CAD tools gave her the ability to convey thoughts and ideas about her work that she could not otherwise express. Celnick stated "Imagination can be taught by using CAD".

Darlene Brady, who presented a large collection of CAD work by her students, believes that an understanding of the architectural implications of design constructs (i.e. drawings and models) and how to build is essential before teaching CAD and 2D drafting. She elaborates "2D drafted drawings are artificial constructs that architects "learn" to make and decipher based on an understanding of the building process. This can be very difficult for students, especially at the beginning of their education."

Her choice of CAD programs favors integration for several reasons. She introduces ARCHICAD's incorporation of animation capabilities in the CADD application to encourage students to use animations during the design process to make refinements which results in better designs, unlike some programs in which the CADD and animation components are separate isolated packages which emphasize computer animations as a presentation tool, not a design medium.

"The ease with which computer animations can be made in ARCHICAD encourages students to work on the design of the buildings and make better projects. I see students struggle with thinking in three dimensions and CAD helps them. Shooting and cutting computer animations gets students excited about their design projects and gives them a much better idea of what it would be like to inhabit the building than do 2D drawings and physical models."

Bradley Skaggs, whose firm hires and trains hundreds of entry-level architects, observed "students can take a traditional drawing and use the computer's ability to look deeper for solutions. Using CAD to solve problems is an important real-world skill".

At Lund University in Sweden, Jonas Klercker's students are experimenting with a virtual CAD environment comprised of three screens called the "cave". Klercker's virtual environment is much more experiential than a single screen and allows students to experience their work through the interactive nature of three dimensions. He and his colleges are also developing a reference database for students that contains a collection of CAD exercises that can be used for problem solving.

The economics of education was viewed by the panel as playing a major role in determining the CAD tools available to many architecture students. With corporations planting software or, in some cases, paying schools to accept their products, educators who are often bound by limited resources are faced with a dilemma. The panel proposed educators address this bias with students by telling them what has been donated and why certain tools are not being offered.

In summarizing the current state of CAD, consensus was drawn in several key areas. Panel educators generally sought to present a variety of CAD tools and teach students how to use those tools on a need to know basis. Most require students to present computer-generated images but they encourage students to let their designs drive the software choices they ultimately make. They advocate introducing the appropriate CAD tools for architecture and providing students with the pros and cons of those tools. Most importantly, they advocate checks and balances in the curriculum that prevent CAD education from becoming vocational training. Whether CAD is taught on site or provided outside the classroom by tutors, as is the case in one top German institution, consensus among panels members reached critical mass around the lack of trained educators as the primary reason CAD is being confined to drafting and segregated from use in the design studio.

The future of CAD use was viewed pragmatically by both panel members and the audience.

Klercker stated "New generations will have new ways of expressing themselves, I believe that it's dangerous to assume that current methods will hold true." The increasing use of multi media and virtual environments, like his "cave," to explore architecture seems certain but how quickly these tools will become widely available is unknown.

As more and more educators use CAD, panelists acknowledge that it is easier for students to follow suit though they have in no way abandoned the belief that traditional methods of drawing and photography are effective tools for revealing ideas and exploring concepts. Integration and balance are their common mantras; seeing 3D used properly in the design studio is their immediate collective goal. Many have students that are not convinced CAD is essential to design, a mind set that is reinforced by educators who only teach 2D CAD for drafting purposes.

In many schools, the availability and use of CAD tools is constrained both by economics and politics. Panelists concede that tenure and limited funds are largely responsible for keeping CAD in the drafting room in many schools. They predict that one or two decades may be required to fully integrate CAD in all design studios and reach a point where schools can return to their roots and simply teach architecture, of which, CAD is a naturally-occurring component.

Please refer to for the video extracts of the symposium. Video tapes of the symposium are available for institutions and the press by contacting .

Graphisoft is a leading provider of computer-aided design (CAD) software solutions for the architectural profession and the building industry. Founded in 1982, Graphisoft is ranked today among the largest AEC CAD software developers in the world, with 12 offices all over the world in addition to its headquarters. Graphisoft's flagship product, ARCHICAD, is used by more than 75,000 architects worldwide and distributed in 25 languages and 80 countries. Shares of Graphisoft are traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange Neuer Markt under the symbol GPH. More information about Graphisoft is available at