UIA, part 3—Graphisoft: 20/20 Vision
Let's see: a plenary keynote by Chairman Gabor Bojar (right before the French Minister of Culture and Communication); the formal announcement and unveiling of ArchiCAD8.0; and a corporate twentieth anniversary celebration that was a highlight of the entire week. Don't these folks have any news?
In conjunction with Graphisoft's twentieth anniversary festivities, company founder Gabor Bojar relinquished the CEO chair to newly hired Ray Small, an American resident in Europe who formerly led a major analysis practice at the Gartner Group (we'll profile Ray in a future issue). Since Graphisoft, along with Autodesk was one of the principal sponsors of the 2002 UIA Congress, Bojar garnered a prime plenary session speaking spot, in which he delivered a thoughtful analysis of the evolving roles of architects and information technology.
Putting a fresh spin on a familiar story, Bojar argued that the definition of information technology as automation technology (ironically by fellow Hungarian Jon von Neumann) has misled us into positioning the computer revolution as a continuation of the Industrial Revolution. Instead, Bojar argues, it is more productive to think of computers as the latest link in a chain of communications revolutions:
> speech, which provided the ability to exchange information
> writing, which externalized the ability to store information
> printing, which enabled exponential proliferation of information, and
> computers, which allow us to filter and order information.
In terms of building, paper (or writing/printing) is limited in its ability to carry information on any page, limited in its support for multi-sheet coordination, and limited in its availability for concurrent use by multiple users. Paper is only 2-D, while design and construction is multi-dimensional. Appropriate computer-based tools solve all the problems of paper and give architects the opportunity to regain the master builder level of control they once had over design and construction processes. This can be achieved if architects shift their focus:
> from paper production to information authoring
> from drawing creation to building simulation, and
> from CAD to building information systems.
Throughout its corporate history, Graphisoft has been a business innovator in its home market of Hungary. Founded in an era of Hungarian history when personal computers were practically contraband, Graphisoft grew and prospered, entering international software markets and eventually going public on the Franfurt-based Neuer Market for high-tech stocks. In 1998, the company moved to self-developed headquarters in the Silicon Valley-styled Graphisoft Park, an eighteen acre (seven hectare) site encompassing some 265,000 square feet (25,000 square meters) of office/R&D space, 80% of which was leased to other high-tech companies.
For its twentieth anniversary, Graphisoft chose to forgo its annual ideas-only Graphisoft Prize design competition in favor of a building design competition for a new architectural conference center in Graphisoft Park, directly on the Danube. Over 200 international competitors vied for the recognition (and cash prizes of US$30,000, $15,000, and $8,000 for first, second, and third place, respectively). Coincidentaly geared to showcasing the design and presentation capabilities of Graphisoft software, the competition also produced some exceptional architectural thinking, on exhibit throughout the UIA Congress and on the competition website. Top prizes went to teams from Austria, Turkey, and Argentina. Congratulations to all involved.
The UIA/PlanCom event also saw the formal unveiling of version 8.0 of Graphisoft's flagship ArchiCAD product, slated to ship during the fourth quarter of 2002. We'll have a detailed run down of what's new in this latest release in IssueTen of the LaiserinLetter.