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Architecture, as a profession, is a study of representation. As Architects, we like to think of ourselves as builders of grandiose palaces, intimate homes, bustling workplaces and thriving cities. In reality, we face a common struggle in how to most efficiently convey our ideas of these great places to others, and until that point, our ideas can only exist to ourselves. This leads us to not only design the architecture we wish to see, but to carefully select the method in which we will convey the ideas behind the architecture.

A recent project at KMA brought this reality front and center to our design process. Over the past several years, we had become extremely proficient at using three-dimensional modeling software applications. However, the danger in this is that while 3D software represents certain ideas well, it falls short in others. For this project, we needed to find alternative methods of representation to most effectively convey the design ideas we had developed, which in this case reverted back to traditional model building.

Our core struggle was the limitations of what one tool allowed us to generate. To overcome this challenge, we turned to the inspiring words of Architect Andrew Kudless at the Monterey Design Conference in 2010, who described his work as one in which the tool cannot dictate the design; the design must determine the appropriate tool. At KMA, we knew that we needed to break the mold of trying to force the tool, 3D computer modeling software, to represent our intended design ideas in the manner we wanted.

The amazing part of this process was how easy it was to convey our ideas with the appropriate tool. Physical models of wood and cardboard had the magical ability to grab our audience’s attention at a level with which our 3D computer model could not compete. By holding the model and putting their heads into it, our client could understand exactly the experience we wanted to create with our architectural design. By the end of the process, we had arrived at a mutual understanding of the intended design.

As the design process moves forward on any one project, there is a vast array of tools at our disposal from traditional hand sketches and physical model building to computer-generated graphics. Our greatest skill as Architects is utilizing all the tools available to us so that we can effectively convey our design ideas to others. In doing so, we can bring others to understand our ideas and move toward developing actual buildings.

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