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The computer by architect Mike Davies

The greatest single advance has been the computer. It has strengthened, stretched, and transformed the language of engineering and architecture

We now take for granted the power of computers; yet their impact on our day-to-day activities as professionals has been dramatic over the past 30 years.

Almost all architectural drawings are now done using CAD-based systems while 3D modelling and fully-rendered visualisation have created a virtual – and previously inaccessible – world for designers to operate within.

The computer has allowed us to move into uncharted territory: from conceptual exploration and design development through to the materials we use, the components we can manufacture and the high levels of tolerances that can be achieved through techniques such as computer-guided laser cutting and shaping.

Computers now allow us to simulate and test design and engineering solutions more rigorously at the desk, independent of physical prototyping.

In addition to stretching our imagination and design possibilities, computers have also allowed architects to produce more complex designs and constructions.

This has partly being possible by the creation of 3D CAD models, which integrate all the design and construction disciplines throughout the design and building process.

It would have been impossible for us to design the new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow without a completely integrated 3D modelling approach, coupled to highly complex production and construction processes.

As computers continue to grow in power and complexity, they will stretch and reshape the vocabulary of architectural and engineering design and construction delivery, taking it into new territories.

Mike Davies CBE, Senior Director, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

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