If you visit an architecture office today, you may sense a slight change. The days of bulky desktops, ergonomic mouse pads and tower-high stacks of drawing sets are slowly giving way to digital pencils, tablets, and tons of architects’ hand-drawings—both physical and digital. Architects across the globe are clearing their desks, literally, and utilizing emerging touchscreen tools and software for designing, sharing and collaborating. It seems possible that, for the first time in years, the architecture profession could revisit Bernard Tschumi’s “paperless” studio which formed a key part of his tenure as dean of Columbia University’s GSAPP in the mid-1990s. However, this time, “paperless” starts with a pencil, instead of a click. While Columbia University’s “Paperless” studios of the early to mid 90s kicked off the shift toward computer aided designing and drafting, they were initially about questioning how architects think through the tools they are using for representation—ie drawing in all its forms. Students experimented with programs far and wide throughout all phases of the design process and that exploration has not slowed in the decades since, vastly expanding the number and type of programs architects use with fluency every day. However, there was one unexplored holdout in our digital design arsenal, and it just may be one of architecture's most beloved and fundamental tools: canary yellow trace paper. How do you sketch over a computer model? How can you mark up PDFs of construction drawings with both precision and ease; how much do you miss just sketching through a problem, and actually having something to show for it?
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