April 1, 2011
Computers, Eh?/Fishy Business
Metropolis Hits and Misses
Architecture and design are virtually unthinkable today without CAD. (Though the term “computer-aided design” feels strangely quaint now, doesn’t it?) But when Bill Mitchell wrote about CAD in September 1985 (“Complexity and Composition”), it was still a brave new world indeed. Reading like promotional copy from a World’s Fair exhibition, the piece’s subhead proclaimed, “With the ease of a wizard waving his wand, architects can imaginatively concoct a building’s minutest detail before it is built.” Imagine!
This story wasn’t so much wrong as mistimed (which in journalism often means the same thing, but never mind). As we were putting together a piece on the industrial designer Tucker Viemeister and his work with the digital-design firm Razorfish, the great dot-com bubble of the new millennium began to burst. Our writer, the estimable Christopher Hawthorne, began inserting dollops of skepticism, along with parenthetical asides about the falling stock price, but his valiant effort was like pitching a tent in quicksand. A year later Razorfish’s stock price—which had at one point topped $57 a share—plunged to about a buck. The company survived; it was in fact sold and resold by a number of large companies, including Microsoft, but this was long after Tucker and his band of industrial designers had left the scene.