[ NEWS ]






By Ana A. Lima
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 27, 1997

Architecture Department goesinto high gear to get high-tech


Charles C. Labenz
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Senior Richard Soumakian is one of many architecture students who have taken advantage of the new computer lab added to the department.

The old pen and pencil have been set aside in the UA Architecture Department.

Three years ago, the department created an initiative to make architecture students more familiar with computers, said Warren Hampton, lecturer in the Architecture Department.

Students entering the professional phase, which corresponds to their second year, are required to have a computer.

Cliff Takara, architecture junior, and Kent Miyake, architecture senior, said that they didn't get much exposure to computers at the UA because the department's efforts to combine drafting skills with computers started after they had finished their second year.

"I haven't really gotten the full computer background," Miyake said.

While the more advanced students in the department have spent more time learning the drafting skills, Takara and Miyake said that the students who are starting now use computers in their classes.

However, Takara said ,"the teachers who teach the more advanced classes don't promote computers."

"They (department teachers) don't really know it (computers). Most staff are old school. Only the younger teachers have knowledge in computers," Miyake said.

Kelly Angell, second year architecture student, said that she uses her computer for presentations as a second tool, besides drafting.

"It helps you integrate what you're learning," she said.

Introduction to Architectural Computing, a required course, gives a basic knowledge of AutoCAD and 3-D Studio, and introduces students to the Internet. Other courses, such as desktop publishing and multimedia, are available as electives. Three courses combining architecture and computers are offered throughout the year.

Computer software such as AutoCAD and 3-D Studio are allowing architects to design and visualize a project more efficiently. As technology changes the way architecture is taught in universities, the University of Arizona is trying not to fall behind.

"Basically, drafting has been replaced by computer systems," said Hampton. The need for new technology, however, presents a financial strain for students. In a survey administered to 45 students enrolled in the 1996 spring architectural computing class, Hampton found that 42 percent answered that purchasing a computer was a financial hardship.

However, in the same survey 27 percent strongly disagreed that it is possible to pursue a career in architecture without using a computer; 35 percent disagreed; and 20 percent were uncertain. Additionally, 53 percent strongly agreed that the computer is a useful tool for accomplishing tasks in the design studio class.

Hampton said students can expect to spend $2,500 on a computer and an additional $500 to buy the AutoCAD/3-D Studio package.

"At first, people were a little frustrated (about having to buy a computer). But then they realized the potential computers had for school. It pays for itself. You end up using it for everything," said Angell. Angell said she spent $3,000 on a new computer, and $500 on the AutoCAD/3D Studio package.

AutoCAD and 3-D Studio are the two software titles most used at universities, with AutoCAD dominating 75 percent of the professional market as well.

3-D Studio allows the user to create three-dimensional rooms and models on the screen and then walk through them. AutoCAD enables architects to create two-dimensional designs.

Eric Olson, computer operations coordinator for the Architecture Department, said that the UA Architecture Department is not on the cutting edge of technology.

"We're probably near the upper middle," he said.

The department is trying to introduce Form Z, a more advanced but expensive computer program into the architecture program.

If adopted by the department, Form Z could be leased to students for $75 for the academic year.

Although less drawing is done by hand, "the computer doesn't replace the creative process," Hampton said.

"The ideas come before you sit down. Garbage in, garbage out," he added.

Takara said students like himself, who are about to graduate and enter the job market without having the computer skills, will have to get the necessary skills on their own. But this doesn't seem to bother him. He said he has the drafting skills, and "if you can't draw, you won't get a job," he added.

It would be very difficult to succeed in architecture without any computer proficiency, said William Malcomb of Ware & Malcomb Architects Inc. in Irvine, Calif. Malcomb graduated from the UA in 1966 and said he hires UA architecture graduates every year.

At Ware & Malcomb, computer-oriented work done in the office has increased from 20 percent to 95 percent in the last five years, Malcomb said.

Graduates who have a basic knowledge of computers, an attractive portfolio, some office experience and faculty recommendations are most likely to be hired, Malcomb said.

Takara said he will take computer classes at Pima Community College over the summer before he tries to find a job.