Architecture Software Tutorials: Which Are The Best Out There?

© Faberr Ink via Shutterstock

In contemporary architecture practice, proficiency in an ever-widening array of architecture software is becoming increasingly important. For almost every job in the field, it is no longer enough to bring a skilled mind and a pencil; different jobs may require different levels of expertise and different types of software, but one thing that seems universally accepted is that some level of involvement with is now a requirement.

While software has opened a huge range of capabilities for architects, it also presents a challenge: universities have taken wildly different approaches to the teaching of software, with some offering classes and access to experts while others prefer to teach design theory and expect students to pick up software skills in their own time. New architecture graduates therefore already face a divide in skills – and that’s not to mention the many, many architects who went to school before AutoCAD was even an industry standard, and have spent the past decades keeping up with new tools.

The internet has therefore been a huge democratizing effect in this regard, offering tutorials, often for free, to anyone with a connection – as long as you know where to look. That’s why ArchDaily wants your help to create a directory of the internet’s best architecture tutorial websites. Find out how to help (and see our own short list to get you started) after the break.

The Computer vs The Hand In Architectural Drawing: ArchDaily Readers Respond

Designs for Truro Cathedral, 1878 Artist: William Burges. Image Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In the architecture world, there are a handful of persistent debates that arise time and time again: the challenges of being a woman in the field of architecture is one of them, for example; the problems of a culture of long hours and hard work is another. But one of the most enduring arguments in architecture - especially in the academic sphere – is the battle between hand drawing and computer aided design. Both schools have their famous proponents: Michael Graves, for example, was known as a huge talent with a pencil and paper, and came to the defense of in articles for the New York Times, among others. Patrik Schumacher, on the other hand, is famous for his commitment to the capabilities of the computer.

To advance this heated conversation, two weeks ago we reached out to our readers to provide their thoughts on this topic in an attempt to get a broad cross-section of opinions from architects from all walks of life. Read some of the best responses after the break.

What Is The Role Of Hand Drawing In Today’s Architecture?

Update: We have now published our follow-up article of readers’ responses – see it here.

ThinkParametric Offers Free Online Classes

Among the courses offered by ThinkParametric is one in which users learn to create “challenging designs” such as MAD Architects’ Absolute Towers. Image © Iwan Baan

Launched in May of 2014, ThinkParametric is an online platform for learning the tools of the digital architecture trade. Gaining access to their video tutorials and the benefit of their online community would usually set you back $29 per month, or $269 for an entire year. However, to celebrate a successful first year, on March 12th they announced an “Open Class Season,” a full month for people to enjoy their courses for free.

The courses offered include:

Those who haven’t already signed up for a ThinkParametric account need to act fast, however – the deadline to be able to access the courses for free is this Thursday, the 26th March. Find out more information here.

AA DLAB 2014: The Natural and Digital Worlds Combine With Root-Like “CALLIPOD” Pavilion

© Alexandros Kallegias

Created for AA DLAB 2014 - the annual summer workshop undertaken by the Architectural Association at their Hooke Park facility – the 4.4 metre wide “CALLIPOD” pavilion blends perfectly into the wooded surroundings, appearing as though the roots of nearby trees have sprung from the ground to create a dome in the depths of the Dorset woodland. However, despite its natural outward appearance, the process of creating CALLIPOD was highly technical, combining a detailed algorithmic exploration of form and structure with both digital and traditional methods of fabrication.

Pratt Institute Students Create Sinuous Screen Wall From Concrete Blocks

© Lawrence Blough via the Architect’s Newsaper

Students from the Pratt Institute have created a wall of concrete blockwork… but not like any you’ve seen before. Challenged by their tutors Lawrence Blough and Ezra Ardolino to produce something highly customized from something highly standardized – the 8-by-8-by-24-inch AAC brick – the students used Rhino software and a CNC miller to create a 96-block screen wall composed of 20 different block profiles. “The earlier stuff I’d done was trying to use as much off-the-shelf material as I could,” said Blough. “Here we decided to really push it, and to take on more of the ideas of mass customization.” Find out more about the project at the Architect’s Newspaper Fabrikator Blog.

VIDEO: Angles on the View with Parametric Design

This two-minute video with NBBJ’s Andrew Heumann highlights a valuable capability of parametric design; whereby the architect can optimize the shape and orientation of a building to appropriate a variety of viewing conditions at the client’s request.

The aptitude for quick, cost-effective variation and the capacity for intuitive visual re-presentation of scripting plug-ins like this one (Grasshopper for Rhino) is a gold star for design.

Is the Price of Software A Barrier of Entry to Architecture?

Courtesy of the Parametricisit Manifesto

From the prevalence of unpaid internships to the power of the C-suite, architecture is, according to writer Ann Lui, an “unlevel playing field.” Of the many obstacles facing young designers, one (that you may not have considered) is the prohibitive costs of design software for architects trying to start their own firms.

As Lui points out in her article for Archinect, the times have changed since Maya Lin won the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial competition “with a blurry, hand-rendered sketch of a thick black line in the haze.” Today, “the winning entries of recent widely-published architectural competitions, like eVolo, are thick with unearthly renderings. Recently issued RFPs and many contract docs, even for small projects, include BIM deliverables. LEED certification — or other more holistic methods of “sustainable design” — require energy modeling; and new advances in thermal calculations and daylighting rely on digital building data. Whether or not we continue analog methods for design and how they are integrated in an architectural process is besides the point: to be competitive, cutting-edge digital design programs are integrally necessary. [...]

Yet when it comes to purchasing software, the costs of programs like and Rhino could be resulting in a self-selecting pool of designers who are able to compete, at least initially, at a higher level.”

Do you think Software is a significant barrier to entry in architecture? Should software be more accessible to all? How could we alter the profession to be more inclusive? Let us know in the comments below.

Read Lui’s article in full at Archinect

PointCrowd: RhinoScripting in Python

PointCrowd is a RhinoScripting workshop using the remarkably easy to learn Python programming language that is available in the upcoming release of Rhino 5. This three week mini-course will start with the basics of programming and move into the mathematics of space and Rhino’s representation of geometry. The workshop is designed specifically for architects and designers with little or no programming experience or those interested in learning a new platform for expressing geometrical ideas algorithmically. Anyone with a good working knowledge of Rhino is welcome.

Workshop Topics:

Automation: Increase your efficiency by programming Rhino to complete tedious and modeling tasks.
Optimization: Create a better design product by testing and improving your models against physical conditions like light and circulation.
Generative Design: Work through complex geometric ideas using simple Python scripts.

The class will also touch on topics such as scripting in and interfacing with other programs. Sessions will be held in DUMBO, Brooklyn on Monday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-10pm to fit into the schedule of working professionals. Register by May 7th to save $100. Please visit www.pointcrowd.com for details.