Conceptual design tools for architects
The increasing computational support available to architectural practices has been particularly successful in the phases of design development and production of construction documents. Only recently have computers began to formally address the early design phases; they are still far from revealing their full potential to provide architects with tools that genuinely support the creative, exploratory nature of conceptual design.
This study contributes to a better understanding of how architects can use computers during the conceptual design phase to enhance their design ability. Four case studies illustrate in detail how architects do conceptual design, what their needs are, what tools they use and how they use them, and what inefficiencies occur during the conceptual design process. A survey on tools for conceptual design and a series of interviews with architects and others working at design-related software companies complement the case studies.
This study indicates that architects use both analog and digital tools because each tool provides an additional level of vision to the architect. Although computational tools have become extremely powerful and affect the design output, paper & pencil still remain an irreplaceable means of expression and exploration, even among younger architects. This study also identified a unique characteristic of the conceptual design process, the “Critical Points for Change” (CPCs). CPCs work as vital mechanisms for enhancing design; they either trigger alterations that refine the design solution or provoke the architect to reject the idea and pursue a better one. Moreover, through the use of specific examples, this study shows how more advanced tools can contribute to achieving more satisficing—better—design solutions, thus enhancing the architect's design ability.
Finally, this study suggests that there is space for significant improvement in the nature of computational support for conceptual design which would open new horizons to architects.
0389: Interior design
0984: Computer science