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2017 BIMCON: Five Disruptive Thoughts Shared at GRAPHISOFT’S User Conference

The architecture industry has largely escaped dramatic disruption despite a huge influx of new technologies in the building industry. But the expectation is mounting for it to happen.


Architects as a species are risk-adverse, as one participant noted during a Q&A at Marc Kushner’s keynote. Yet, throughout both keynotes held this last week—by BIG firm partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann and Architizer founder and architect, Marc Kushner—participants at this year’s BIMCON event in Las Vegas, seemed glued to what these two architects had to say.

And for good reason.

Both Bergmann’s and Kushner’s talks co-related across numerous themes that impact the way in which architects see themselves and in the value in the work they provide to society and the planet. Set against this context of larger themes, GRAPHISOFT’s users networked and learned in a wide range of sessions, teaching each other as much as informing the company that makes the product they stand behind.

Below are five of the statements that caught my attention—and they didn’t all belong to the two big stars.

Five Disruptive Thoughts, Queries, Or Curiosities


“We told Audi they are the future of designing cities.” — Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner, BIG, during his keynote.

01 - Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at BIG delivered a compelling keynote presentation on day 1 of 2017 BIMCON, talking about the firm's evolution and unique perspective to the world and architecture and the architect's role in it.

01 – Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA, RIBA, firm partner at BIG, delivered a compelling keynote presentation on day 1 of 2017 BIMCON, talking about the firm’s evolution and unique perspective to the world and architecture and the architect’s role in it.

Stated during Kai’s keynote talk, BIG is already highly involved with Audi in re-constituting how the German automaker thinks of themselves, not as a car company but a “mobility company.” Innovations such as smart streets made up of new types of surfaces index the type of disruptive innovation that is underway in the consulting work between Audi and BIG.


“Google forced two architects to work together; they hired architects before and did not like the ‘single architect’ approach.” — Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner, BIG, during his keynote.

Bergmann explained that Google lives inside an “engineering culture” and in an engineering culture you put 10 engineers into a room and mandate them to solve the problem collectively. “Sure there is ego,” said Bergmann, but it is subservient in engineering culture where getting tough problems solved—period is highly prized. The BIG partner explained that architects can learn much from this type of thinking, implying that the industry needs to award architects for solving truly tough social problems. “There is no XPRIZE for architects,” said Bergmann. 


“GDL is a no-go to most firms and I was surprised that the presentation got accepted at all, but then they asked me to have two sessions—there was so much interest.” — Patrick May, conference participant and session presenter.

Geometric Descriptive Language sounds immediately scary to non-programmer types but one of the biggest sessions seen at this year’s conference were Patrick May’s popular session on the scripting language inside ARCHICAD. This non-programmer young architect, with less than 10 years of BIM experience, instantly became akin to a poet rocker like Bob Dylan after he masterfully demonstrated a simple approach to a powerful technology often said to be overlooked in ARCHICAD. Scripting, automation, and parametrization remain the unrealized future technologies of the profession. But the dissemination and teaching of this technology will require people like Patrick May, who has a knack for explaining the complex, to spread this gospel. 


“Architects have huge power…we are the biggest shoppers by dollar.” — Marc Kushner, co-founder, and CEO of Architizer, during his closing keynote address.

Marc made an amazing point when he noted that architects control $560 billion in spending through their specifying in the $1 trillion US construction market. You would think with that much buying power architects would have the industry coming to them but when it comes to finding, researching, checking costs, and specifying building products architects are doing all the chasing—chasing after manufacturers and their goods. 

Could this be turned around on its head? 

Kushner fully thinks so and is actually doing this through ArchitizerSource. Currently, in late beta and invite-only for architects who want to participate, the service works by having architects describe what types of products they need, how they should function and perform, and then let manufacturers who think they make the product that fits the bill come to them. 

Want to check it out? Look at the video below of SHoP architect’s discussing their use of the beta. 

ArchitizerSource™ is a new model for how architects obtain building products to specify and use in their building designs. Instead of architects spending days searching, finding, and researching for qualified products that meet intended design constraints and performance criteria, they can use ArchitizerSource to have qualified manufacturers come to them…basically saying, “we make that.”


“…I think that whatever mentality that has invaded all of our brains where we want to share everything is affecting architecture as well.” — Marc Kushner, co-founder, and CEO of Architizer, during a private interview. 

During Kushner’s closing keynote presentation, he said, “social media has changed how people consume architecture, and that is a huge opportunity for architects.” These two statements are very much related, but in our private interview conversation, which Architosh will publish in an upcoming feature, he made another interesting set of points when he said this: “We [Architizer] are appealing to architects who want to help each other because there are not many of us.”

This is quite radical because the culture of architecture is quite distant from, say, the culture of software programmers, which some see as epitomizing a collective attitude towards sharing knowledge and solving problems together. There is no “open-source” in the world of architecture. But what could such an openness look like if it did exist? 


More 2017 BIMCON to Come

Architosh has much more to publish from this past week’s event in Las Vegas. So stay tuned and check back often.

[editor’s note: The title of this article was originally published as Five Disruptive Thoughts Heard…. The concept of sharing is thematic to many of the points coming up in articles and the industry and so the title was subtly changed to reflect this. — AFR. 27 Mar 17]


(disclosure: GRAPHISOFT paid for most hotel and meals during the event.)

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