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Office innovations

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jobspot

With e-mail and colour printing it is easy to forget that until quite recently architects were little affected by innovations in office hardware. In drawing, the transition from graphing pens to Rotrings was painless, and in communications the increased pace of life threatened by fax machines was subverted by the inability of early models to store information when the paper roll ran out.

In Edinburgh, building control applications must be hand-coloured on vellum, which is what one would expect from a city which has never got round to naming its Georgian core anything other than the New Town. Most other local authorities find the notion of paintbrushes and calfskin unpleasantly organic, instead they will demand a fully rendered fly-through of the town centre to support a proposal to hang a sign outside a shop. This is an unprecedented shift. It probably never was useful to a Beaux-Arts trained architect overtaken by Modernism to be able to draw an idealised reconstruction of Paestrum, but these men showed residual marketability. The same cannot be said for the recently technologically redundant, cobbling together a skillset comprising a knowledge of grout, using railway curves and writing spikily in brown ink.

In the old days, letters were supposedly delivered in about the time it took to get a haircut.

Rubbish! You could stall contractors for days with excuses about letters 'just sent for typing' and go off and watch a Test match before even considering a response to an urgent request for information.

Now contractors e-mail hourly about the gauge of scalpings or the whereabouts of deformed bolts accidentally left in the specification. This leaves little time for looking up all the technical terms in the Building Directory, which only adds to the stress of the job.

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