July 2017

Drawing Pulled In Two Directions

by Don Friedman on July 31, 2017


I found this to be an interesting article on the use of iPads in creating and working with drawings. We use iPads pretty heavily for field survey work – taking notes on PDFs of drawings, taking notes in general, creating annotated photos – but have not got very far into using them as drawing tools. We will shortly be replacing our iPads (most of which are three to four years old) with the next generation of hardware, which includes the electronic “pencil” that is really designed for drawing.

This development is the opposite end of the scale from a question we get asked all the time, which is if we use BIM (Building Information Modeling). We do not, for a very specific reason: BIM is inefficient for existing-building work. In an ordinary 2D draining, you can hint at unknown structure around the area of work, or you can draw it with incomplete information. If we know an existing beam is present but don’t know its size, we can draw it as a dashed line and be done with it. BIM standards want us to provide a size for that beam, leaving us with the options of (a) performing more investigatory work that we may not have the time, budget, or access for, or (b) guessing. Option a is often not available to us but option b is the insidious danger. Drawings in general look authoritative, and we make a point of putting “verify in field” or similar notes to discourage people from assuming that just because we show something it must be true. A BIM model showing a I-beam in three dimensions looks that much more authoritative even though it may be based on the same partial information. The only way to completely avoid this problem is to spend a lot of extra time getting the information that has to be input in BIM so that the model is reasonably accurate.

It may sound like I’m anti-BIM, but I’m not. When used in the field it was developed for – new buildings – it can be a fantastic tool for collaboration between architects, engineers, and builders. I just don’t work in that field.

In any case, BIM models are big files that need a lot of computing power to work with and are meant to be complete pictures of buildings. They are not so much incompatible with iPad sketching as they are unrelated to it. Just because both activities are “drawing” doesn’t mean they are or should be compatible. A napkin sketch was never a measured drawing and field notebooks were never presentation sketches. Drawing, as a design profession’s activity, has always been pulled in two directions and this continues under the new regime of CAD everywhere.

Dress Like An Architect

July 30, 2017

A semi-serious discussion of fashion clichés among architects: here. I’m not going to poke fun, since the stereotypes of engineers’ clothing are far worse. The fellow up top is George Melville, Chief Engineer of the United States Navy Bureau of Engineering, whose magnificent beard and top hat were featured here once before. In the way of […]

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Lower Manhattan 3D

July 29, 2017

For the obsessive, a live 3D map of Manhattan south of Chambers Street, here.

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Too Late

July 28, 2017

The Binghamton, as photographed by Greasywheel: It’s unfortunate that the Binghamton is being demolished. It is said to be the last relic of the steam-powered, double-ended ferries* that were once everywhere in the New York area, crossing the rivers and bays. That era is not coming back and it would have been nice to have […]

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Difficult Choices

July 27, 2017

This is an excellent article in Urban Omnibus on a really knotty problem in East New York. It’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city and doesn’t have a lot of distinguished architecture because it was never richer than working class. The few buildings worthy of note, like Our Lady of Loreto Church in the […]

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Old Mini Neighborhoods

July 26, 2017

A fairly ordinary scene at Ann Street, east of Broadway: People are generally in favor of saving old ads painted on the sides of buildings. They’re simply billboards using old technology, but they seem quaint, I guess. This one inadvertently tells a little story if we zoom in on it (click to enlarge): Partially obliterated […]

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Beautiful Brickwork Marred

July 25, 2017

Friend of OSE – and occasional collaborator – Glenn Boornazian sent me a few vacation photos from Massachusetts. That’s pretty nice masonry for an apparently abandoned building. In a non-aesthetic sense, the interesting stuff is going on near the eaves. That’s a damned big crack and displacement at the corner pier. The crack starts at […]

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Unbuilt Bad Ideas

July 24, 2017

There’s a never-ending supply of “unbuilt New York” fodder if you look for it. New York’s era of explosive growth in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries coincided with all sorts of new building and infrastructure technologies, creating an atmosphere where today’s crazy idea was tomorrow’s ordinary fact of life. Trains in mid-air! Trains below […]

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New And Obsolete Beauty

July 23, 2017

Very few people draft by hand any more, and I haven’t done so in 25 years, but I still want this brand new drafting table.

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Short and Wide

July 22, 2017

Edgar Street in 1939, courtesy of the NYPL. Critical information: the shortest streets in the city. Edgar Street is now an approach to a municipal garage and part of the exit from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, so it may only be 63 feet long but it’s about 50 feet wide. Back when it was just a […]

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