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RE: Structural Engineering as Art

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Michael, I don't think I missed his point. The computer is my conceptual
tool - one that I use more effectively that a pencil and paper. Although my
background is mixed (architecture and engineering) I have never been blessed
with the ability to free-hand my thoughts very well. The problem is the
mental block where I start to question the "unseen" elements like the
ability to physically fit the mental components into physical space. Why
spend the time to work out a solution that is 1/2" too large for the space
and find that you may need to be thinking in a different path? Fingers only
move the pencil along the paper. The same fingers can move a mouse or
digitizer. The really creative tool is anything which the mind can move.
Therefore, why not use the tool that can best convey your abstract thought
into concrete reality?
I appreciate Mr. Ketchum's philosophy as it was relevant for the times. I
think that if electronic drafting were available to Ketchum, he might
recognize it only as an instrument or tool and develop its use to most
aesthetic means possible. However, I think he would recognize how electronic
accuracy can make short work of difficult problems when properly understood
and creatively used. How we use the tool is the trick.


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Valley [mailto:mtv(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, January 04, 1999 9:29 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Structural Engineering as Art


You missed Milo's point.  He was not referring to production
drafting.  Milo was emphasizing the value of 'thinking with your
fingers'.  He suggested that engineers learn "freehand drawing" and
"art" to strengthen their conceptual powers.

Although I've been using CAD for production since 1985, I couldn't
agree more with Milo.  It is essential that we take time to conceive
ideas before we produce contract documents.  When you consider the
work of Calatrava, Roebling, Ketchum, and other structural "artists"
you quickly find that conceptual musings are more important than
document production.  Don't waste time on every minute detail until
you have a concept that works!  You can begin production drafting
once you have a concept.

The fact is that nearly all art is still executed manually because
this affords the artist the ability to interact directly with the
medium.  Production drafting is best done with computers and (like
you) I prefer to "write" using a keyboard, but hand methods will
always be the fastest way to sketch ideas.  [American Heritage
Dictionary, sketch: a hasty or undetailed drawing or painting made as
a preliminary study.]

You wrote:
I believe that this concept is rapidly becoming archaic and properly
so. As we strive to achieve the most economical design AND accept work
that presents far more complex architectural problems we need to use
our minds to derive more creative structural solutions and spend less
time representing those solutions on paper.
When I said that the concept of manual drafting is becoming archaic, I
should have said that the need to represent our creative thought
remains constant but the instrument to carry this through has changed.
I can appreciate that the majority of engineers still rely upon manual
drafting as a way to sketch a solution. I'm one of those few who can
not really do this well by manual methods.
With cad, we can workout these minute details at the same time and
produce a more viable solution OR see where the flaws of our ideas

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Michael Valley                                   E-mail: mtv(--nospam--at)
Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire Inc.                  Tel:(206)292-1200
1301 Fifth Ave, #3200,  Seattle  WA 98101-2699          Fax:        -1201