As part of Architecture Week 2016, Productspec was asked by the ADNZ society to help host a debate at the City Gallery centred around the changing role of the designer in today’s rapidly evolving market. The question posed to the two teams was a tricky one – “Will technological change render the traditional design process obsolete?”

On the “Yes” side of the debate we had Pam Bell (PreFabNZ), Jae Warrander (Makers of Architecture), and myself, going up against Graeme Boucher (ADNZ professional member), Kevin Sweet and Tane Moleta (both Professors at the Victoria University School of Architecture).

Our side, arguing in the affirmative, asserted that technology is ubiquitous, and that the way that we are working is changing all the time and so rapidly that it is impossible to imagine a future where the design process would remain unchanged. Additionally, the design process is already changing, as architects using parametric design and prefabrication find that their processes are constantly evolving as technology enabled them.

I argued that foreseeably, as more and more 3d technology is moving to the web, that digital processes could be involved in architecture from start to finish, leading to a world where a lot of design decisions were being made by computers, through emerging techniques like neural networks, which have yet to be applied to 3d spaces.

On the ‘no’ side, the team made the point that all of these things that we discuss do not reflect the design process – that in the end the architect is all about managing human relationships a sentiment that I agreed with. Additionally, while digital tools and digital tool making is becoming more and more the realm of the architect, it was argued that these are in fact tools, and the architect’s role will always be to design using these tools regardless of what they may be.

In the end, the no’s won the day by a landslide (though I must say that the crowd voted pretty clearly along age lines), and talking afterwards we all agreed that we were generally on the same page – architecture is always evolving, and whatever happens is important for all of us to keep abreast of that change.