THE ULTIMATE CAD PROGRAM
© Dion Neutra 2001
Dion Neutra, architect June 5, 2011
Ultimate CAD Program Final
2001. It's come and gone. This was the future as visualized a third
century ago in the computer dominated world of 2001-A space Odyssey
by Stanley Kubrick. Have we reached these heights on schedule? [#1]
While the answer to this must still be a conditional 'no', there is
that there is a world of difference in all aspects of our lives
the proliferation and development of the computer as we know it, and
future is evolving more rapidly than ever.
2001 also marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Neutra
40 years since the creation of the Institute for Survival Through
founded by admirers of the Neutra oeuvre and its principles in May,
What has been the significance of the work of this international firm
Institute over this past 3/4 century?
The pioneering book, Survival through Design [STD] was published by
my father, Richard Neutra first in 1954 after several years of gestation.
In 1969 it appeared in paper back. Its second edition sold out some
years later. In 1984 as a part of the first showing of the Institute
exhibition 'The View from Inside' , a 30th anniversary collectors edition
was published by the Institute with a new foreword by me [#2]*.
One of the points I made in that 1984 foreword, was that after 30
situation was that we as a society still seemed to jump into new
action without considering all the aspects of the matter. An example:
embark on a whole new technology like electricity from nuclear power
being clear where the waste products would be stashed. Or mandating
for handicapped to upper floors of high-rises without a clear
evacuating them in case of emergency. Or sharply limiting glass and
ventilation areas thus sealing the exterior of buildings without
the effect of trapped exhalations of toxic fumes from building
Re-circulation of pollutants, molds or toxics via a/c systems.
decades have now again passed. Has this state of affairs really
The concluding lines in that foreword I wrote in 1984 read as
us hope that by the end of this century, we can see more
progress in the fulfillment of its [STD's] aspirations[a more
approach to new technology or innovation]." It Looks like we
have to define
which century we're speaking of!
One of the premises of the book STD, was that it would be desirable
planning professionals, in their design, to be able to take into
consideration the diverse data being created by such agencies as
think-tanks, and others doing cutting edge research into various
seemingly unrelated to planning per se.
During the first half century of the life of this book, this premise
essentially beyond the possibility of practitioners. Up to now, there
just been no way a given person could know everything that is
researched or being invented. But now, could there be the possibility
promise of this book finally coming into its own? How might this look?
With the advent of really super computers, data bases and software,
be conceivable to imagine accumulated information being so
constituted as to
feed into a universal database. From there, the idea would be that
relevant information and suggested action or solution, would appear
automatically on an 'as needed' basis at the desktop of designers
their CAD programs!
My concept is that this would be displayed in the form of an optional
'prompt' that would indicate a direction recommended to be taken by
designer (in this discussion referred to as 'he', but understood to
mean 'she'). The operator could either accept the recommendation, or
wished to trace the origin thereof, he could double-click and be
to source step by step. At any point, he could 'accept' and revert to
screen. A more advanced version of this software might actually MAKE
suggested change by default without the operator having to 'do'
In this interactive way, the accumulated knowledge of the past and
could become available to the design professional without him ever
be aware of its existence. Thus, rather than attempt to research
imaginable, the designer is freed up to DESIGN with the support of
'universal on-board knowledge base' in whatever field he is active.
'Spell-check' for design issues. It could also be called up after the
completion of a phase of work or a detail to check for suitability.
Elements to be considered among others are compliance with code and
regulatory agencies, research, building and planning standards,
life cycle, material suitability, energy conservation, sustainability
Ten Shades' and miscellaneous green issues just to name a few.
To attempt to collect and collate this vast store of information,
possible incentive, resource, protocol and other strategy will need
deployed. The task is formidable. But even modest starts can prove
illuminating. What softwares out there are best suited to create this
integrated input most easily? What is the 'state of the art' in other
disciplines like the medical, automotive, environmental and legal
One possibility might be for members of professional societies and
think-tanks to be required to submit a certain number of case-studies
millions of gross billing. Thus the larger firms would participate at
higher rate. An agency would have to be formed that would undertake
collect and coordinate the information. Software would be designed
could collect and collate information by type and automatically load
data bases in use by the several branches of design professionals.
The greatest challenges would appear to be:
o How to motivate such collection and establish a world-wide standard?
o How to design a methodology to deal with the overwhelming amount of
information out there?
o What could motivate such a project? How could a sponsoring agency
o Identifying ways to collect and categorize relevant information
o How would funding be assembled to cover expenses involved?
o Who would have an interest to fund such a project?
Given more time and space, we could provide some examples of on-going
projects of research or information fragments that would be part of
master data base we envision. For purposes of illustration, here are
Making the wrong choice here would be the occasion for a CAD prompt
o HEAT SINK EFFECT. Research has revealed that the mean temperature
major city such as Los Angeles is about five degrees hotter than
expected were there no city there. The reason? The concentration of
and blacktop has been shown to be primarily responsible. Until
L.A. School district would inform architects working for it that
'standard' was to blacktop all playground areas, and that this was
practice for the entire district.
Aside from being a very hot place in which to put children during
adding to global warming, blacktop acres act as 'sinks' absorbing
retaining it while raising the mean temperature in the area which
adjoining air conditioning loads. Such paved surfaces also add to the
water run-off loads for the surroundings with stresses to the
systems and waste of water to the ocean. [#3]
It occurs to me that some sort of alternate such as concrete blocks
which lawn can be planted, or other permeable pavements would collect
heat, absorb rainwater back to the ground water reservoir, and be a
humane surface on to which to welcome children. [#4]
o LOSS OF FOREST. Destruction of rain forests in Brazil to create
has been going on for a while and continues as we speak. Experience
the resulting cleared field is only capable of supporting one or two
growth for crops; thereafter the field is abandoned and becomes a
Meanwhile the priceless eco-system of the rain forest is further
with damage to the entire planet.[#5]
Proposed clearing of such fields would be alarmed under the proposed
of prompts. [#6]
o ASBESTOS. Use of asbestos for fireproofing of steel members in a
structure. This was a favorite in the middle of the century. Often
members were in the air stream for either supply or return, depending
conditioning design in which we participated. This choice would have
occasion for a prompt under the proposed system. [#7]
Monday morning quarterbacking is easy, you say. How often do we
choices based on insufficient research on side effects? New materials
be subjected to more testing before being launched on the public.
o EMF RADIATION. Impacts from radiation from high voltage
and cell phones to name just two sources. While being assured that
a problem' we still have a queasy feeling in our stomachs thinking
this. At what point will we see the handwriting on the wall, and
have a problem to address here? Again, prompt time. [#8]
How to implement this vision would have to be the subject of a future
article. In the meanwhile, I would be interested in feedback from the
especially on how such a proposal could be justified financially
obvious importance. There are people working on this I'm sure; can we
At stake is the quality of the built environment as we plan and build
rest of the 21st Century. Can we afford to continue stabbing around
really taking into consideration ALL known or ascertainable
seems that we continuously re-invent the wheel, often making the same
mistakes over and over again. Is this inevitable? It is not cost
The challenge posed by my dad's book a half century ago remains: Of
species, Man alone has the capability of extensively and
planning for his destiny. Will this challenge be heeded before it's
finally too late for the planet?
Dion Neutra, architect inspired by a meeting with scientists of the
Propulsion Lab, Pasadena. © Dion Neutra 2001
Possible illustrations: #1 2001 Image from Movie; #2 STD Cove; #3 Big
blacktop playground [maybe check out Canfield School and take a picture
on an outing, showing the building in the background with a sea of blacktop
in the foreground]; #4 turf filled concrete block parking lot; #5 Virgin
Rain Forest; #6 denuded Brazilian rain forest; #7 asbestos as fireproofing
on steel structure within air stream; #8 Nuclear plant w high voltage
lines; houses close by. Most of these would come from book or magazine
illustrations that we could scan.
*This is the only edition now in print; available from the Institute
bookstore at its neutra.org website.
Click here to download this
article in MSWord (.doc) format.