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Newly Graduated Architect Calls for More BIM at the Schools of Architecture

Julie Johansen is a newly graduated architect from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts' School of Architecture in Copenhagen. After attending an Archicad course, which, incidentally, was decisive for her first permanent position at a design studio, she wonders why students aren’t taught more BIM.

This summer, Julie Johansen graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Architecture, Design and Conservation with a project that re-imagens the traditional Danish inn as a new building typology. The graduation project is situated in the Danish city of Bjerringbro and reinterprets an old typology with a long tradition that is almost lost today. Something that was otherwise very inclusive have become high-end gourmet places for connoisseurs, Julie believes, and her ambition was to design a new type of inn that better fits our current times – without letting go of its popular and spatial qualities.

From an architectural point of view, the process surrounding the graduation project was very traditional, since Julie Johansen combined analog and digital tools to get the best result. “I started by drawing hand sketches – completely diagrammatic with black ink. Then I switched to more classic pencil drawings, after which I made a physical sketch model, and started digital 2D drawings in Rhino. Then I returned to analog models and pencil drawings, after which I again took the project back to Rhino, where I created my 1:33 model digitally as a basis for laser cutting,” says Julie Johansen.

Archicad could have optimized the process

The above is not necessarily the ideal process but is largely a result of the working methods that the students at The Royal Academy are introduced to. After completing a private course in Archicad, Julie Johansen eyes were opened to a more positive and different workflow.

"If I had the knowledge I have today, I would have replaced Rhino with Archicad. That way, I would have created more generations of drawings,” she explains. “I work a lot with iterations for example of roof surfaces and floor plans, which I drew over and over. This fits really well with the work process that is in Archicad, so then I would save a lot of time, as I could have skipped finishing the drawings in Illustrator."

Easier to produce drawings

It’s strange that architectural students first become introduced to the relevant digital tools after graduation, and by taking private extra courses. Julie also wonders why students are not introduced to digital tools such as Archicad at The Royal Academy. “It is an old school with a great tradition, and a school that rests heavily on its heritage. When you’ve passed your bachelor level, you are educated in a very specific way of thinking. I think it would make good sense if you integrated this approach to software as part of the new knowledge you get at master's level,” Julie reflects.

“At the graduation exhibition the students' delicate line drawings, which are the result of a careful processing through several programs, are of a very high quality. I was very impressed that you are able to decide on graphic line in Archicad that is then applied to all your drawings in a high graphic quality,” says Julie enthusiastically.

Software choice doesn’t reflect the needs of design studios

Julie Johansen’s stories testify that the schools of architecture have made important software choices on behalf of the students. “The school taught us to use Rhino and AutoCAD. These are the programs the school suggests we should use, and we have not been offered any alternatives. It is a little difficult to understand that the programs we learn at school are not necessarily the same ones that we are supposed to use, when we are hired to work in design studios after our education,” Julie wonders. Perhaps the reason for teaching AutoCAD is that it – for better or worse – is reminiscent of the analogue process you use when you draw by hand.

Julie Johansen believes that it makes good sense that the students learn a traditional process in the first part of their education. Later, you learn to work in 3D by combining Rhino with physical models. Photoshop and rendering programs like v-ray and 3dsMax are widely used for visualization, and Illustrator is mainly used to elevate the graphic quality of Rhino or AutoCAD files. This process is easy to understand – but involves a combination of many different programs that cannot communicate with each other. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why many architectural studios have switched to BIM since it automates several workflows and eliminates a lot of unnecessary double work.

Julie recognizes this problem: “The idea of gradually introducing students to a number of different programs is fine, but I would have loved to have learned a program like Archicad as part of my master degree. With Archicad, you can quickly see and discuss the details in the early stages of a given project, and integrate them into the project, rather than adapting the details later on,” she believes.

New programs, new opportunities

After Julie graduated from the School of Architecture, she continued to work on her graduation project, and then she read about an Archicad course. “When I had the opportunity to take an Archicad course for newly qualified architects, I really wanted to get an advantage towards the design studios I wanted to hire me. I could see that several of the architectural offices I had in mind were already using Archicad, and – by the way – I love learning something new. New programs are new opportunities.” Julie finished the course a month ago, and already the following week she was invited to an interview at a design studio that specifically looked for architects with Archicad experience. Julie is wildly excited to have landed her first real architect job. "The fact that I knew Archicad has definitely been decisive for getting the job."

A suggestion for the educational institutions

When the whole industry embraces BIM, it is remarkable that BIM takes up so little space in the education of new architects. “I think it could be really great if the schools introduced Archicad as part of the master degree. At the bachelor, you are introduced to all sorts of other things. It would be a huge advantage for future graduating students to be able to showcase a greater digital ability that is more coherent with the requirements of the design studios,” Julie explains, while she retrospectively tries to make sense of the school's choices. "For an architectural office it makes more sense to use fewer program for you to focus on preparing good projects rather than using time shuffling between different applications."

Julie is looking forward to start working – not just as a graduate architect, but also with a new and better method and digital workflow. She is focused on making beautiful and functional buildings. Making architecture.

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About Pawel Antoni Lange

Pawel Antoni Lange has worked with communication within the AEC industry for more than a decade. Pawel has a MA in Modern Culture and Dissemination of Culture from The University of Copenhagen as well as a B.Sc. from Copenhagen Business School.
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