Alumna Jane Morgan (BPharm 1973, PhD 1978) writes about a new exhibition based on the work of her late husband Ian Thompson (BSc Architecture 1972, BArch 1975), who she met at the University of Bath.

Jane and Ian in 1978 in Nigeria
Jane and Ian in 1978 in Nigeria, while Ian was working on World Bank School Projects.

Tools of the Trade tracks the significant changes in architectural drafting and documentation techniques via a retrospective of Ian G. Thompson AIA, RIBA.

Ian was of the last generation of architects whose professional career started in a computer-free world. While he maintained the use of sketching on tracing paper for schematic design, and his proficiency with digital design were minimal, the practice of architecture grew to rely on Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modelling. Tools of the Trade guides the viewer through Ian’s architectural practice as it evolved from hand-drawn sketches and documentation to digital design files and three-dimensional building modelling.

Ian died of pancreatic cancer five years ago. Our daughter, Eliana, and I set up the Ian G. Thompson Foundation in his name and, for four years, we raised money for pancreatic cancer research via a 'purple pants party'.

In New Orleans we have an organization called the New Orleans Architectural Foundation (NOAF) which is the non-profit arm of the American Institute of Architects New Orleans. Eliana, who was on the NOAF board, suggested that we could celebrate Ian's career and  proposed to NOAF that the Foundation would sponsor a retrospective of her father’s work. Rather than just being a bunch of pictures of his work, the hook was his inability to master CAD and how that impacted his design teams. Since he didn’t use CAD and all of his designs since 1990 were produced in CAD, his design teams were essential - he simply couldn't do it alone.

Ian Thompson
Ian at work

I contacted as many people as possible who had worked with him over the years and asked for their descriptions of designing with Ian. I was gratified to learn that he was well-respected as a designer and leader, and admired as a person. Throughout his life he communicated via sketches, doodles and notes on ‘trace’ or lined yellow paper and accepted feedback and incorporated ideas of the team. The team was then responsible for CAD. So we have presented the buildings together with statements from his team and a description of the CAD hard and soft that was used.

Tools of the Trade opens in New Orleans on Saturday 10 March, 6pm - 9pm.

Posted in: Architecture, Bath, International


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