Ten (or 20 or 32) years gone now for BIM – so now what?: a re-evaluation of DRAWING

Last week I wrote that I’d found again an old BIM demo video I’d made in 2008 after I’d already been making BIM models and creating construction drawing sets from BIMs since 1998.

So it’s more than Ten Years Gone; it’s 20 years for me using this kind of tool/app and workflow, back to ’98. But I was late to the game. It’s 32 years gone now, since ArchiCAD first commercialized this kind of toolset in 1987. So BIM’s well into it’s 4th decade now. I wonder, will it go 50 years essentially unchanged, technologically stagnant?

Some of this video I laugh at now. It’s a time capsule and shows the state of things in one particular software in 2008. I’d just begun as an employee of the software company whose BIM tools I talk about in that video after 12 years as their customer. Today I have no connection with that company. But this video shows a kind of baseline (I mean it’s a necessary foundation) that influenced what I’m interested in since then:

  • drawings-IN-models fusion: software innovation I was involved in starting in 2010, and helped commercialize, and most recently,
  • the book I wrote that gives away for free my ideas about Generation-2 of drawing-model fusion, which includes not only fusion of drawings IN models, but the evolution of the form of drawing, an evolution in form that that becomes not only possible today, but imperative, once drawings arrive in-situ within models. It’s potential energy about to go kinetic, a damn is about to burst, with a flood of new innovation when it does. I’m doing everything I can to make the levee break. The ideas I give away in Tangerine Media Innovation Spec 2018, for free, are waiting for any interested software companies to just do it: a flood of new innovation.

Here’s that 10 year old video from 2008. Maybe you’ll see something useful there, or it’ll make you laugh.

That’s me  (a BIM true-believer) narrating. All the BIM and drawings are my work. I built the models. All the drawing graphics (except text) are driven entirely from the model. I worked that way for 10 years, 1998-2008. The video tours models and drawings, and what graphics can look like: clipped models, and clipped models on sheets (aka: drawings).

Old school!


What now? More Fusion, and an evolution of the form of drawing itself, imperative now that drawings are IN models.

And they are in models. The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.

Tekla is now the 7th software company to develop drawing-in-models FUSION. The others are Bentley, Graphisoft (in BIMx Docs, mobile), Dalux, Revizto, and working together: Morpholio and Shapr3D. Now Tekla too:

Which company will be the 8th to recognize:

  • that drawing is the act of articulating a closer look,
  • that this act (drawing) is always in fusion with models, IN THE MIND,
  • that now it is obvious that the same fusion can and should be expressed: IN DIGITAL MODELS.

Doing this is precisely analagous to sound and silent film, two very different media, neither of which can replace the other, and both of which are better in fusion. Drawing is not to be kicked down the back stair into the dustbin of history, nor is it to be left in stasis forever locked only in its conventional form (on sheets). Taking a closer look (“drawing”) is fundamental to understanding anything. So it evolves. The first step in drawing’s evolution is its expression in-situ within digital models of any/every kind.

Now that it’s there, in 7 different softwares, it’s going to evolve MORE, again. My spec for software developers describes gen-two of the fusion, Tangerine Media Innovation Spec 2018:


It’s free. Anyone can use it. So just do it!


The Field of Play (V) posted originally here

You’ll want to click on this article “Unavoidable Nuisances”: August Komendant, Louis I. Kahn, and the Difficult Relationship between Building Design and Engineering and scroll to the bottom of the page where you see these two images:

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 2.00.03 PM

Louis I. Kahn and August Komendant (two Estonians, I just learned from the article) designed this building, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth Texas, completed in 1972. A pure delight I’ve walked through many times.

The photo brings back memory of it. Recall walking through the museum if you’ve been there. Notice that if you could walk through a virtual reality model of the same building, the VR experience would be similar to walking around the museum in real life. Of course there are very important differences between real life and VR, really major differences. And I’m tempted to discuss many of those differences at length, but I won’t. The differences are less important than the similarities. And you’re familiar with the differences anyway. The primary similarity is that in both VR and real world, the Kimbell Museum is experienced spatially; you walk around in it. Or you move through it in some manner; you could fly lotus-style on a magic carpet through it if you like. The point is that it’s spatial, and therefore you can move through it. So, though a model and the real thing are different things, in the most primary way, those two things are alike.

The drawing on the other hand (the image to the left of the photo above) is another thing altogether, a completely different kind of thing, lacking any kind of primary similarity with either the real world or a virtual simulation of the real world.

What alien thing is this then?

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 12.26.45 AM

Kahn and Komendant are communicating something, to themselves and each other, and to others, in drawings like this one, something that they cannot well communicate in models, not in any kind of model:

  • a physical model, of which they built many
  • a digital model
  • the real thing in the real world

What they are communicating, in drawing, specifically, the kinds of things that drawings are used to communicate, I’ll discuss. This is something that can be discussed. There is a basic nature to the kinds of things that are communicated through drawing. And these basic things can be generalized, named, categorized. But I’m going to talk about that tomorrow in part VI of this article. Tonight I just add a couple more examples and leave the question open.

But one last remark before the fun examples; notice this:

This drawing above and all drawings like it cannot be understood, and indeed make no sense whatsoever, unless both the person drawing it and the person viewing it imagine the drawing in-situ within a mental model of the spatial whole of the building (or other kind of thing if not a building). There is, when drawing, always a mental leap from the drawing into the spatial whole.

If you think about this, it’s difficult to imagine a case where this is not so. And though some minor exceptions could be presented, the truth of it carries: there is an interplay, a back and forth, a mental ping-ponging between drawing (whether you’re the one drawing, or the one reading the drawing), and modeling (whether the model is mental, physical, digital, or real).

There is a great set on this page of really excellent photos of the Kimbell museum, and of drawings and physical models of the same produced by Louis Kahn and August Komandant. Do click the link and enjoy! Included on the page is this drawing:

Kahn-Komandante drawing of Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1972

This is an outstanding example that makes the point. There is a great deal of very essential communication made here by this drawing, very concisely. And this is the problem. For anyone familiar with producing drawings of this type, and who also is familiar with the production of digital 3D models of projects like this, this drawing makes you laugh out loud while crying tears of suffering and pain, with the memory of what it takes, if you model these things today for a living, to model the whole of a project in such a way that the whole of a model contains the same quantity of information that is conveyed here very clearly, and concisely, unambiguously, and without doubt. Without, that is, and this is fundamentally important: without doubt that anywhere in this drawing, that what should be shown, is shown, and that someone qualified to determine this fitness, has done so, determined it.

The scope of work required to even attempt to approach this level of clarity, and to do so unfailingly throughout the whole of the space of an entire 3D digital model, well that is another kind of undertaking altogether. And it is unachievable. The lack of time and manpower resources is only part of the problem. If you have the skill and the time to model at that level, not just in some parts of a model, but throughout all of it (I mean, you don’t have the time; no one ever does), but even if you did, there is still the vexing unsolvable problem that you don’t have any means or method within the model of telling someone where in the model you’ve achieved the required completeness, and where, maybe, you haven’t. But it’s not only that you have no means of communicating that to others; it’s also that you really have no way of tracking the status of it yourself. The problem is fundamentally one of scope and the cognitive limits of the human mind. There’s simply too much, too much information, too much stuff.

And there are too many distractions. We have to go to the bathroom. We have to get coffee. We have to eat lunch. We have to answer the phone. We have to answer emails. We have to take breaks. We have to go home at night. We have to think all day. We have to ask ourselves 6 times a minute: Am I even doing the right thing? Is this design a train wreck or are we going in the right direction? What is the client going to think? Is my family going to be disappointed because I’m working on this again all hours of the day and night? When is the last time I saw my child for more than 15 minutes? Can I wait another month for new tires on my car? Should I get a second dog? Am I getting fat? How many more months until this project is done? What about the owner’s budget? Is the roof going to leak? Am I detailing this right? Will it fall down? Will maintenance cost a fortune? Is my professional reputation going to be ruined by this project? Am I taking too long to get the model done? Are we going to miss the deadline for the client meeting next week? Is our office going to go out of business? Will we find another client?

That’s just a fraction of it. How is someone supposed to keep in mind not only a complete mental picture of the entirety of a project model, assisted by a digital model of the same, but also keep track of the quality/completeness status of the entire digital model, everywhere, throughout the entire space of the model, without using some kind of device like a set of drawings, or not like a set of drawings, but actually a set of drawings? (which accomplish precisely this tracking function)

More on the functions well served by drawing in section VI. Having been the self-inflicted victim of this myself for many years working as a professional modeler and drafter, this is the stuff that makes you laugh and cry (mostly cry), and that mostly you keep to yourself. After all, you’re the guru of 3D modeling; how could you admit a problem with the whole premise? We’ll come back to that. For now I need a break. Enjoy these beauties, and notice while looking at these that your mind jumps, back and forth, ping-ponging between drawing and modeling. Let yourself ping-pong. It’s there in the ping-ponging that thinking happens and understanding grows.

From the blog, Arquitecta d’Armonía:


Legal Implications of Models and Drawings posted originally here

…In domains where public health and safety are at stake, the exercise of professional services — by architects and engineers, who are registered and certified by the state to practice — is reliant on clearly controllable communication, and therefore on media capable of clearly controlled expression. I’ve blogged about this before, for example here: Drawings Support Thought and Understanding, and here: 3D is not ‘2D 2.0’ .

There are extremely important different and definitive characteristics of two primary kinds of media in the AEC profession respectively: drawings and models. In the rest of this post I will:

  1. describe the differences, defining two distinct and unique media, each with their own distinctive purpose, by describing the scope and limits, as media, of drawings and models respectively.
  2. discuss two different fundamental problems innate to all kinds of models, generally, (including generative models) and finally I’ll…
Scope of “Models”

Let’s keep to basics. How can we describe the scope of the meaning of the word “model”?

Models occupy space. They are spatial. No matter the type — mental, physical, digital vector, digital point cloud, digital mesh, digital image array, digital hybrid environment models, like the real world, are environmental. In a sense, they’re wide, expansive, whole environments. I think that’s an effective definition, essentially.

Limits of “Models”

Like yin and yang, scope always goes hand in hand with limits. The major limitation of  models arises from the fact that models have better-explored regions and lesser-explored regions. Better developed regions and lesser developed regions. Clearer and fuzzier regions. Areas of higher confidence and lower confidence.

The trick is to know where are the high confidence, clearer, more articulate, better-elaborated regions and conversely where, elsewhere, things are fuzzier. This is a fundamental limitation of models. A model, by itself, gives no indication whatsoever of where we should have higher or lower confidence. It should be obvious, then, that this characteristic of models is a fundamental limitation, a limit with real and substantial practical (and legal) impact.

Let’s move to drawings now, which, as all things in this universe, have both scope and limits.

Scope of “Drawings”

In this post I’m building the argument that drawings are the ideal accompaniment to models (like sound infused into silent film), and not because I want to make that argument, but for a better reason: it’s true.

Models are wide, expansive, environmental, wholethings. Drawings are nothing like this at all. On the contrary, and as polar opposite, drawings are narrowand focused; they embody the act of taking a closer look.

Fundamentally, drawings and models, as media, have essentially nothing in common with each other, but rather, instead, they are a true pair, not a pair of convenience or accidental proximity, but a pair born of absolute necessity. You can demonstrate this to yourself in a few seconds. Observe the environment in which you currently stand, or sit, or whatever you’re doing. Try to understand the environment effectively, in order to do something, like take a seat, or walk through a doorway, or pick up a glass of water.

The environment is all around you. How do you understand it and act within it? Well, you begin by taking a closer look… here, and here, and here, and there. This is fundamental. Thinking doesn’t happen without it. Understanding will not develop, without it. I discuss this more, below in the section on problems.

This act, of “taking a closer look” sufficiently describes the scope of drawing as a medium, although additional important notice may be taken of the role that “taking a closer look” plays in articulating the clearly controlled communication on which the architecture and engineering professions rely.

Also note that the scope of drawing is innately tied to its corresponding limits.

Limits of “Drawings”

Fundamentally, the act of taking a closer look is meaningless, unless there is a wider environment within which the closer look occurs. This is uncontroversial. If there is no forest, then there is no “taking a closer look in a forest”. If there is no mental model — or ‘mental and digital’ model — of a building, then there is no “taking a closer look within a building model”. This well and truly does mean exactly what it sounds like it means: without a model (at least an imaginary one, a mental model), drawing is not possible. Sure, there may be found some exceptions to this, in some kinds of experimental abstract art, but in the AEC industry this holds.

I believe it suffices to say that no person, author or viewer, has ever understood a drawing, not in a meaningful way, without engaging in the mental activity of instantiating that drawing in-situ within a mental model of the wider whole of the environment within which the drawing gains its meaning. It’s interesting that conversely, there is bi-directionality. A drawing gains its meaning, when it is put into a model, and likewise, a nascent drawing, one being authored, comes into being from, out of, a model.

Both while authoring a drawing, and, after authoring, as others are viewing a completed drawing, meaning comes from a mutual interdependency and interplay, in the mind, between drawing and model; each derives its meaning in interplay with the other. To make sense of a drawing, viewers imagine the drawing in its place within the wider whole of an environment, within a model, or portion of a model. And the reverse: to make sense of a spatial environment, modeled or real, people engage in the act of taking a closer look, within it, the act embodied traditionally in the medium of drawing.

Let’s elaborate more on a discussion of significant problems of each of these media. The major problem with drawing is that drawing requires a model for meaning to be developed. The reverse is true for models. This of course suggests the possible value of drawing-model fusion. More on that later, after a more detailed look at the problem of model media. There are two primary types of problems with models. The first type of problem is a hard problem, a major practical problem. The second type of problem is worse, a more fundamental problem that goes right to the core of the nature of human cognition.

Two problems innate to models:

There are two types of problems with any kind of model — mental, physical, digital vector, digital point cloud, digital mesh, digital image array, digital hybrid environment.All of these, whether they are produced by generative design or not produced by generative design, share certain basic definitive characteristics, the scope and limits that are characteristic of their media type: model. And so they all exhibit the same problems.

Models: Problem #1

The first problem innate to models, that is, innate to models standing alone unassisted by any other media, is that they’re fuzzy, of uncertain quality in many regions, while at the same time they are in fact “good enough” in other regions. The problem is knowing the difference.

Models, by themselves, reveal nothing about this. They enable/allow no certainty whatsoever and make no affirmation, of being “good enough”, anywhere, no matter that in some areas, in some regions, they in fact are “good enough”. That is, in some regions, they’re satisfactory of the relevant professional standard of care.

It takes only a second to recognize that this kind of fundamental opaqueness, doubt, confusion, fuzziness, lack of essential clarity is untenable, full stop, in professions reliant on clearly controlled communication. There is no negotiation on this point and there never will be. Models simply provide no legal ground to stand on whatsoever (except in a few specialized exceptional cases). Not by themselves.

Let’s talk about what clearly controlled communication, about spatial assets like buildings and such things, actually looks like in the AEC professions. Clearly controlled communication exhibits precisely the following kind of clarity and affirmation, or assertion:

Here, I’ve taken a closer look; at this location, here, I’ve made clear my communication of something that matters; I want you to look here, at what I’ve shown, and I want you to look here, for two reasons. 1: what I’ve shown here matters, and 2: I’ve shown what matters here in a way that’s understandable, that makes clear what matters. And, following from this, or integral to it, I affirm, or rather, I assert, that everything that should be shown here, is in fact shown here. And I further affirm that nothing that matters, here, is missing.

Professions reliant on clearly controlled communication are reliant precisely on this. It cannot be otherwise, no matter the inscrutable pronouncements one hears commonly in what has become a strangely incoherent discourse surrounding AEC software technology these days, and for many years gone already.

The necessary clarity comes very simply from knowing the difference between everywhere and somewhere. An architect or engineer may in the course of a project make controlled communications describing thousands of specific somewhere’s…, here’s. And still, these thousands of drawings, though many, are finite in number, much much much less than everywhere, and therefore their clarity and affirmation is manageable. The author of these communications, because they are finite in number, has the required time to review each of them carefully, to study, develop, improve and complete them, and to issue them with a signature asserting that each of them meets her/his professional standard of care.

So what happens to professions reliant on clearly controlled communication when their scope of communication expands from a finite number of somewhere’s, to everywhere within the entire spatial environment of a proposed project? Let’s take a look at what happens to clearly controlled communication when that happens. How is one going to be able to assert that:

“…everything that should be shown everywhere, in the entire space of the project, is in fact shown everywhere. And nothing that matters, anywhere, is missing.”

This is a fundamentally different task and achieving it is an absolute absurdity. And remember this is the minor problem among the two problems of models. Entertainment of such absurd ideas as this must be brought finally to an end, after decades already of incoherent rubbish common in the standard discourse. Note the rest of it:

“Everywhere, I’ve made clear my communication of what matters, which is everything everywhere; I want you to look everywhere, at what I’ve shown everywhere, for two reasons. 1: Everything everywhere matters, equally, and 2: I’ve shown everything everywhere (even though that’s impossible) in a way that’s understandable, that makes clear what matters, which is everything everywhere

(This is in John Cleese territory of the absurd)

Does it make any sense at all to say that now that we have modeled digital environments, that therefore we can discard and dispense with the act of taking a closer look (at those environments)? No. It is an homogeneously absurd notion, with not a single valuable nugget of truth or meaning in it.

In terms of legal repercussions, on professions, the difference between drawings and models, in terms of facility for providing clearly controlled communication, is as profound as the difference between the words “somewhere” (or “here”) and “everywhere”. To equate these, and/or, to suggest that it’s desirable to replace “here” with “everywhere”, is really to indicate that you’ve slipped far away from understanding what’s going on, that your thought process has slid off the rails.

Models: Problem #2

The second problem with models is a harder problem, more fundamental. It goes right to the nature of human cognition itself. Legal problems by comparison are simpler. The first problem, lack of clarity, obfuscation of what matters, inability to affirm or assert where a model is “good enough” and where, conversely, it isn’t, is, compared to the second problem, minor. The second problem is (even) more basic.

Understanding comes of course from thinking. And where the basic dynamic of thinking is undermined, understanding fails.

What is thinking? That’s a question for scientists and philosophers, a question that has yet never been satisfactorily answered, and probably never will be. But we can answer a much simpler question:

What is, in our everyday experience, the basic observable dynamic of thinking?

I’ll assert that the answer looks something like this:

  1. Whole things whole, we can’t understand
  2. We must narrow to simplified essence to understand things
  3. And, (2) makes no sense without (1), and (1) makes no sense without (2).

With this simple recognition we’ve hit on something essential about the nature of thinking itself.

Thinking (and understanding), not only involves, but essentially is, a bouncing back and forth between (1) and (2), a ping-ponging between things as they are, and simplified essential representations, between wide environmental whole, and the narrowing act of articulate focus, the act of taking a closer look.

Between these is where thinking happens and understanding grows.

I have some stories to tell about this, from daily observation and from my own professional work producing drawings and models. Perhaps you’ll find these stories useful:

The Field of Play (IV)

The Field of Play (V)

The Field of Play (VI)

These two problems suggest an inevitable fusion, of drawings IN models. They also suggests the possibility of evolution yet to come, in the expression and form of “drawing”, a re-envisioning of what “drawing” can be.

All kinds of models, including generative models and all other types of models, produced by any means, share basic definitive characteristics:

  • They’re expansive, environmental. (scope)
  • They occupy space. (scope)
  • Their quality and validity varies throughout that space. (limits)
  • They present, by themselves, no clarity regarding where their quality is high; they offer no confidence in knowing where they’ve been determined, and affirmed, to be “good enough”, and where therefore they may not be. (limits)
The Right Pair, in Fusion

In an elegant demonstration that models and drawings are a right and inevitable pair, the limits of drawing are mitigated by the scope of models, and vis versa, the limits of models are mitigated by the scope of drawing. It’s such a fine pair in fact that fusion is not only suggested, it is, like the fusion of sound into film, imperative, certainly so in cultures seeking effective, practical, powerful and inspiring development and evolution of both computing equipment (hardware and software), and media itself.

Drawing-model fusion is going to be a significant driver of innovation that matters.

Kindly have a look at Tangerine’s website for our past work on drawing-model fusion: Earlier Media Innovations (2012), and our proposal and specification for new work, Tangerine Media Innovation Specification 2018, that obviates and surpasses that earlier work, and its patents.

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