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Form Follows Tooling

October 26, 2010

I’m fascinated by the impact tooling has on design.  How designing with a t-square and a 30/60/90 triangle results in a different building than one using a drafting machine or much less a computer and Sketchup.    Recently I came across these perfect illustrations of the effect in David Macaulay’s wonderful book “Great Moments in Architecture” published back in 1978.   I was of course familiar with Macaulay’s recent work in “The Way Things Work” and “Underground”, but happening across Great Moments while browsing the stacks in the White Stag Library was just a matter of luck.  It is well worth tracking down.  The two images illustrating the impact of  tooling are below.  Macaulay’s website is here.   Enjoy.

– Brian –


David Macaulay's "The Drawing Board of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini"


Pisano's Drawing Board

David Macaulay's "The Drawing Board of Tommaso Pisano"

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Stubbs permalink
    October 26, 2010 1:22 pm

    While I count myself as a Frank Gehry skeptic, one thing he said really had the ring of truth. I have no doubt I’m butchering the quote but once when he was showing some mainstream reporter or other around the Einstein Tower to demonstrate the influence Erich Mendelsohn had on him Gehry said, “If Mendelsohn had computers there would be nothing left for me to do.”

    (Looking at Gehry’s work I think he owes more to Hans Scharoun, but any of the designers he name checks or was influenced by would likely have produced different buildings had CATIA been around at the time. The question I have is, *how* different would the work have been? Would it have enabled them to do things they wanted to do but couldn’t manage? Or would it be more a driver of design? No way to know, I guess.)

    • October 30, 2010 7:12 am

      It’s really fun to think about a number of architects with particular pre-computer design styles and how they might have been able to take their work further if they’d had. One of my early forays into Rhino/Grasshopper generative modeling took a look at Nervi’s Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome… what would Nervi have done if he’d had Grasshopper scripting available? You can see it at I’ll try to write it up as a post here as well…

      Now off to look up Scharoun…. Thanks, Peter :^)

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