Design Software (part II): Application of Digital Modeling and Fabrication

According to Iwamoto (2009), computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) has been a mainstay of industrial design and engineering and of manufacturing industries for more than half a century, and with its help, there is the potential for the architectural design process to move more fluidly between design and construction.

Use of softwares such as AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop and 3D Max are examples of real world applications of digital rendering and modeling in this industry, where users are able to draw, render, and even model in two-dimension as well as a virtual three-dimensional space. This allows for better, cleaner and clearer presentation and visual explanation for the client, although architects and interior designers have begun experimenting with digital media that reaches beyond the mere purpose of presentation, including conceptualization, design synthesis, design presentation of 2D drawing and 3D modeling and rendering, desktop publishing of brochures and reports, animation, web-page authoring, multimedia and hypermedia authoring (slide shows, interactive presentations, QuickTime VR movies) (Uddin, 1999). On a lighter note, there exists softwares besides those meant for professionals with “similar” uses per se, living “simulations” such as the Sims can also run the same task of creating a virtual three-dimensional space yet function as a game rather than for occupational use, which could be beneficial in sparking interest in architecture and interior design among gamers.

House built in The Sims

House built in The Sims

But exploration into three-dimensional technology doesn’t stop there.

Physical models can also be made to scale with digital fabrication, whether by laser cutting or 3D printing, using various manufacturing tools with three-dimensional electronic data and further studied or developed with a clearer, more primal approach of observing a physical object, with the ability of touching and feeling it in a way previously impossible. With the virtual dimension architects and designers are able to create greater, more abstract yet detailed concepts, visualised in three-dimension. “Consequently, the two design methods (virtual and physical) complement and inform each other throughout the design process” (Uddin, 1999). Patrik Schumacher, director of Zaha Hadid Architects once said in an interview with Platt (2014) from Arcspace, “This is a form of architectural research; if you really want to innovate radically, you have to develop new geometry and new fabrication techniques. You need exhibitions and abstract installations to fund and focus on these aspects of research.


digital fabrication by 3d printer

Although the benefits seem to overshadow possible disadvantages, the technique of visualisation through digital rendering and fabrication remains imperfect in its own way. Nonetheless, according to the examples provided above, it’s safe to say that design softwares, as well as digital modeling and fabrication play an important role in the architectural design process, whether it is the preferred practice of individual architects and designers, and will surely develop further to assist in even more architectural innovations in the future.


Iwamoto, L. (2009), Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p. 4-7.

Platt, K.H. (2014), ‘Interview: Patrik Schumacher’, Arcspace, [online], available at: [accessed 25 June 2017].

Uddin, M.S. (1999), Digital Architecture, USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies, inc., p.2-4.


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