Guest Post: Unfrozen Caveman Architect Takes Issue with Our “Modern” Drawing Techniques

I’m thrilled to bring this provocative guest post from a fellow architect with strong opinions on how we draw and the importance of traditional methods and tools. Also, if anyone out there with mad cinematographer skills would like to help me make this into a piece for the next AIA Film Challenge, hit me up! We would definitely win.


Greetings! My name is Glorp. It’s quite a culture shock, to say the least, when one is unfrozen and reanimated by a mad scientist some 10,000 years or so after getting iced over during a particularly frosty winter next to a herd of mastodons. As I’m sure you, my fellow architects, are well aware we never truly retire. I wanted to get right back into the swing of things, pick up some new clients, design them a cave of their own, and maybe string together enough projects to get a firm going with some other unfrozen cave people.

I was thankful to quickly find a group of architects who helped me get up to speed with what architecture practice means in the 21st century. You don’t have to worry about me being out of touch or irrelevant — these architects explained that the proper, indeed the dominant, style of today is called “classical” and is based upon design concepts first developed in Europe a couple thousand years ago (boy, am I glad that today’s pace of progress isn’t much faster than it was back at the dawn of the Holocene). They helped me learn the modern, high-tech drawing and drafting techniques of today as well; so I know all about t-squares, vellum, and pencils, all good there.

At this point, I’ve given these pencils and vellum a shot, but they are vastly inferior to the techniques of my time. In fact, this new pencil-on-paper technology really interferes with a caveman architect’s ability to properly design, which is the last thing an architect wants from their tools. Perhaps the nutty clans who designed and built those ugly, new-fangled stick-and-leaf huts may like the precision of these modern tools, but they’re not for us real architects.

With the pencil and vellum, There’s no longer a need to carefully consider one’s next move of the hand because these tools take all of the thought out of that act and you can simply erase if you make a mistake. None of this elevates the architect to the respected position of finest artist in the cave. Since we cave architects didn’t do much else thousands of years ago, where does that leave us!?

Your pencils, with their synthesized graphite encased in precise, machine-honed wood and tipped with rubber to conveniently undo what was just laid down are cold and completely disconnected from my traditional tools. Do you think this stupid graphite is going to stand the test of time like my generation’s work? Hell no! What are you going to do if you erase something only to later realize that you needed it? You can’t get it back now, it’s gone forever! FAIL!

I’ll be continuing to use my clay and stones on cave walls because, unlike today’s high-tech architects, I understand that being an architect is all about design concepts freely flowing through one’s entire body to convey ideas in beautiful cave-drawn form in unison with nature. The clay ochre tipped flint stone comes from Mother Earth, just like me, and is an extension of my body in the creative process. You have no such unity with these damn machine-made pencils so you do not have real architecture, it’s that simple.

I hate to cut this short, but I have someone coming to the cave shortly to help me get all these words on the cave wall into something called the Internet for you to see. Thanks, and please join me in a return to traditional drawing techniques.

The Month in Buildings: May, 2020

Who likes looking at pictures!?! In this semi-regularly (and sometimes late) occurring series, I bring you the best of architecture pics and drawings from the wonderful world of tumblr.


An access panel to the past…

Lots of intricate facades captured my attention last month, like these superblocks in eastern Europe…

Bedroom telephone booth…

Fenestration as clean, geometric expression…

Bundled tubes…

Brute…

Chaotic massing…

Half-timbered heaven…

A monument to MEP…

The Month in Buildings: April, 2020

Who likes looking at pictures!?! In this semi-regularly (and sometimes late) occurring series, I bring you the best of architecture pics and drawings from the wonderful world of tumblr.


This tower from Japan was my favorite of the month…

Borg-like cubism here…

I don’t understand one bit of the description, but I like what I see in the pics…

Carpet in the bathroom is the least interesting thing in this space…

Look at this thing!

World Expo pics are always gold…

I need to know more about this one…

Euphoric massing…

That’s all for April! We’ll be back next month for a look back at May’s best building pics and drawings.

The A to Z of Architecture

This is the ALL CAPS edition of the A to Z. Enjoy!

A = Autodesk

The evil empire. The good news is that there are plenty of resistance cells you can join if you have a virtuous heart.

B = BIM

The Information in Building Information Modeling will set you free.

C = CAD

This is an unnecessary and outdated technology thanks to B.

D = Disto

Hey, if you don’t have the budget to laser scan, then you have to laser distancemeter. You need M too.

E = Excel

Excel, and spreadsheets in general (I’m big on Smartsheet now), have massive potential for helping architects parse out the Information in their BIMs.

F = F**k!

The most uttered word in the studio during crunch time.

G = GC

The good ones are truly invaluable members of the project team. 🙌🏻

H = HSWs

The grind for these never ends, does it?

I = Internet

Because of the internet, we don’t need S anymore.

J = Jargon

Jargon, archispeak, call it whatever. Don’t be that architect.

K = Koh-I-Noor mechanical pencils

My go-to writing device these days is an Apple Pencil, but come on, Koh-I-Noors were the best back in the day.

L = Lineweights

Embracing BIM will cause you to view these differently than you ever have before.

M = Mite-R-Gage

Used in conjunction with D when your project is too poor for laser scanning.

N = NIMBY

They’re fun to laugh at until they show up to a planning/zoning hearing for your project.

O = Omissions

Why do so many of us avoid putting workflows in place to stop these?

P = Pocket Ref

Technically, made obsolete by I, but I still love using this little book as a design resource.

Q = qc

As in heat loss calculations. Both qc = U(A)∆T and qc = U(A)24DD are seriously underrated tools for architects to inform early stage envelope design decisions.

R = RFI

If G is bad, you spend the entire CA budget shuffling these damn things across your desk and responding like, “actually this isn’t an RFI as defined under General Conditions” and saying F as you hit the send button.

S = Sweets Catalogs

You don’t need this 300-pound collection of hardcover books anymore because of I.

T = Technology

If you leverage it wisely and with great discipline it will reward you with another T, time.

U = Undo

The most important BIM command when trying out design options.

V = Value Engineering

The kind of “engineering” that makes architects hate engineering. Precision Development Scheduling can help avoid this kind of thing.

W = Water

No matter what form it’s in water will destroy your building, so you better detail things properly!

X = XREF

Whether it’s CAD or BIM, make sure you bind these damn things before sharing them with someone else — and only send the ones they really need.

Y = Yesterday

This is when the clients need those drawings.

Z = Z-Axis

Designing in this axis from the beginning of your project changes everything for the way the client understands your design and helps avoid so many headaches later on in the project.

The Mike Brady Architect Compensation Index

On “The Brady Bunch” Mike Brady was an architect that worked for some unnamed firm where Mr. Phillips was his boss. In the show, we saw that the firm’s office had wood paneling typically reserved for basement rec rooms and Mr. Philips was doing pretty good, because he made enough dough to afford a boat big enough to accommodate at least 9 guests, or maybe less a boat and more like a yacht.

Here’s the other thing, though. Mike was bringing home the bacon too. He was the sole earner in a house with a wife, a live-in housekeeper, 6 kids, a dog, a sedan, and a station wagon. On top of all that, he could afford to take the whole group on vacation to tropical destinations like Hawaii. Mike was about 38 at the time, and probably had around 15 years of experience, a common milestone for transitioning into middle management at a firm (but still not using your boss’s first name apparently).

It’s a noble goal indeed for all architects to be making that kind of cheddar and that led me to think about Mike’s earnings in today’s dollars. I think of this exercise as a new way to quantify what architects should be paid if Hollywood were in charge of the payrolls at design firms, and a fun spreadsheet to dork out on as well. 🤓 We’ll confer upon Mike the title of Senior Project Manager and use that tile as a point of reference for the ALL CAPS Mike Brady Architect Compensation Index™️.

I enjoy data analysis, and what I did for this one was quick and dirty, but that’s probably alright since if you were to precisely calculate for each variable in Mike’s enormous family enterprise it would take forever and be super boring number crunching (at least for me). So, with that in mind, here’s a summary of my approach. Let me know if you think there should be changes.

ExpenseMethodology
Raising children,
2 each: 8-yrs., 11-yrs., 15-yrs.
USDA’s 2015 analysis modified slightly, as
they didn’t extrapolate to 6 children,
but did find economies of scale when
multiple children were in a family.
Full time live-in housekeeperUsed an average from Home Advisor’s cost range
MortgageAssumed 2,500 SF in LA County and used
average price/SF in that area, then 80%
LTV, 30-yr. term, 3.92% APR, 0.59% taxes,
$2.2K insurance
UtilitiesUsed federal statisics on water electricity
usage combined with LA County rates,
added in typical costs for family phone
plan, streaming services, and internet
VehiclesUsed full-size sedan and station wagon
base model MSRPs, 80% LTV, 8% tax,
2.5% APR, 48-mo. term, $150/mo. ea. insurance
AdultsUsed Numbeo’s numbers for LA County
DogUsed average of multiple sources
SavingsAdded 5% onto total of expenses above
Taxes & Healthcare CoverageAdded 43% onto expenses and savings

…And Now, the Inaugural Index!

I’m no Kermit Baker, but look out AIA Compensation Report and Salary Calculator! Here’s what Mike would be making in today’s world:

DAMN, SON! 🤑

I suppose we could continue this exercise with other TV architects: On “Family Ties” Elyse Keaton’s earnings may reinforce our findings, but on “How I Met Your Mother” Ted Mosby would almost certainly throw off TV architect earnings as it seems like he didn’t make as much, though it was still probably way more than a sole proprietor architect/college professor would earn in their twenties. Maybe those can be future updates to this article. Should we look at annual updates to adjust for inflation too?

Does your Compensation fall short on this new index? Might be time for a heart to heart with your Mr. Phillips. Bring him a nautical gift when you meet to help butter him up for a tough talk, I hear he likes boating.