Architects Don't Draw Blueprints

Oftentimes when I answer my telephone, someone on the other end wants to know if I can draw a set of "blueprints".  When I hear this question I always feel a little downhearted because almost invariably the person asking this question does not have a clear concept of what architects do.

The popular notion that architects draw blueprints is incorrect.

Although the drawings that architects produce are often referred to as "blueprints", technically, these drawings no longer consist of blue paper with white lines on them.  Blueprints were once the cutting edge technology for reproducing hand drawn original drawings that were originally ink on linen, later becoming plastic lead on mylar and eventually being almost completely discontinued in favor of computer aided drawings (CAD).  Drawings that architects produce now are either black line or color.  But buildings are being constructed today where all of the information needed is in digital form.  No images on paper, what is commonly referred to as a "drawing" are used at all.

Aside from the technical issue of what kind of work product is eventually produced, the question of whether or not I can prepare a set of blueprints is really not the right question.  The real question is -  can I produce the information needed to adequately describe a building to the extent that it can be visualized and understood by a client, as well as other interested parties, and that can be used by a builder to successfully construct a building.

But even this question does not adequately cover what a potential client really wants to know.  By asking the question, "Can you draw blueprints for me?" potential clients are assuming that the primary role of an architect is to prepare drawings for a builder's use in constructing a building.  What they don't realize is that architects prepare drawings only as a means of communicating architectural design. Imagining and visualizing a building is what architects really do.  Drawings are merely the means of conveying their ideas to others.

Today's architects are collaborators.  Their role is to lead the process of design.  They lead a group of professionals including engineers, interior designers, consultants and builders.  With the assistance of building information modeling (BIM) they create a virtual building with the capabilty for others to evaluate such parameters as cost, energy consumption, shading, light, and acoustical quality, among others.

Drawings are static, two-dimensional or three-dimensional representations of a building.

Busch S&L South Elev.jpg

Although useful, these types of drawings are limited to considering the design from a single fixed point of reference.  Modeling, on the other hand is a dynamic, four-dimensional representation of a building which takes into account the element of time.  The architect and client can consider the building from any angle or location (moving around in real time).

Modeling can even be used by the architect and client to study time-lapse issues associated with a building design, such as construction phasing.  Time-lapse simulation can also be used to study the effects of light and shadow on a building design at the same time of day over the course of a year, or light and shadow studies on a building design during the course of a day.

So when a potential client calls and wants to know "Can you draw blueprints?", my response is...  "Sure I can, but I can show you a lot of other ways to look at your building that are even better!  Let's talk!"