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5 Ways Young Designers Are Changing Architecture

The first generation of digital natives are becoming professional architects. Young designers like Nate Holland, a digital practice leader with global architecture firm NBBJ, are changing the profession. Here are 5 ways that Holland, whose firm does striking and cutting-edge corporate headquarters for companies like Google, Amazon, Tencent and Samsung, approaches the job differently.

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1. Digital teamwork

Source NBBJ / Via nbbj.com

For young designers like Holland, working in a collaborative environment where he can contribute directly to project concepts and designs is important. NBBJ puts digital practice leaders directly onto the project teams, where they can contribute to projects from concept to construction. Holland uses digital tools to "augment intuition," providing relevant data to the project team in such a clear and actionable way that it becomes second nature.

2. Visual programming

Source NBBJ / Via nbbj.com

Far from the pencils and T-squares of old, many young designers are turning to visual programming tools like Autodesk's Dynamo and Rhino's Grasshopper for complex design challenges.

Visual programing works much like scripting, but instead of writing lines of code the designer connects a series of components in a flow diagram. Sometimes referred to as parametric design or design computation, computers can help solve vexing, often repetitive problems (like seating configurations in an arena). It can free designers from mind-numbing calculations to focus instead on the project concept and design.

Architects of the future are likely to have a lot more in common with coders than the draftsmen of the past.

3. Software experimentation

Another hallmark of many young designers is their comfort experimenting with new software. Holland quickly switches between a variety of tools for his work, combining mature heavy-duty all-purpose tools with newer light-weight web- or mobile-based tools that are good for more specific tasks.

Perhaps there's no better example of this than Holland taking a slow week between Christmas and New Year’s to teach himself the video game engine Unity 3D as a way to create an immersive walk-through experience of a building design for clients.

4. Digital fabrication

Source Hot Hardware / Via hothardware.com

Where once architects handed their blueprints off to engineers and contractors to bring to life, young designers are makers themselves. Design schools now teach students to use 3D printers, laser-cutters, even CNC machines to support model building and creativity.

When they get to the workplace, young designers are familiar with the sophisticated machines employed by builders and contractors. And they can therefore come up with designs that are readily prefabricated.

5. Social sharing

Source NBBJ / Via nbbj.com

Young designers are eager to engage in online design communities where sharing scripts, working together to solve problems and posting project images starts to break down the traditional lines between project teams. It becomes a mixture of communicating, teaching, learning, work and fun.

To capture this social energy, NBBJ has an internal web page where designers are encouraged to share their process and interact with designers from other offices. Perhaps this open-source ethos will become more mainstream as young designers move up in the profession.

Learn more about NBBJ's architectural services.

Learn more about Autodesk's capabilities for architecture.

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