From June 5th through June 7th, 2014 about 250 ArchiCAD users and Graphisoft employees gathered in Budapest, Hungary for the GRAPHISOFT Key Client Conference. I had the great fortune to be one of the attendees. What follows is only a partial description of all that went on.
The first night of the event included a party at Graphisoft Park, complete with a speech from Graphisoft founder Gábor Bojár and tours of both Graphisoft Park and Graphisoft HQ. The campus, located along the Danube, is just beautiful. The highlight of the evening though was getting a tour of the Graphisoft offices. We saw where the designers, programmers, and quality assurance teams all worked, and got surreptitious looks at white boards covered with notes about the future of ArchiCAD. Throughout the whole event we all got various bits of information about what Graphisoft was thinking in regards to the future. Unfortunately I can’t share the details; don’t worry it’s all very exciting and you’ll learn about it eventually! Many people’s favorite part of the HQ tour was the chance to use the original version of ArchiCAD, which is installed on an ancient Mac in the lobby. If you ever visit the office, make sure to try it out. I attended some meetings (and a rooftop BBQ) the day before the opening party at HQ and managed to crash the original version with one mouse click, so I just watched while others used it during the opening party.
As one would expect with any sort of conference, there were plenty of lectures and seminars. The majority of these talks fell under one of two broad categories: leveraging the data or client case studies. I was very pleased to see a heavy focus on Open BIM, IFC, and the higher value of BIM and ArchiCAD. Of course I wanted more, but it was great to see how committed Graphisoft is to pushing the agenda of interoperability within the industry. In fact if you look closely at the image above, you’ll notice that the slide Graphisoft CEO Viktor Varkonyi is discussing references a talk given by a Graphisoft employee at a surprising location. In multiple presentations and conversations, there were many mentions of how the industry is coming around to IFC—and many good things to be said about other software companies’ current efforts. Of course talk of IFC at the conference was aided by having Rob Jackson in the audience. Rob even gave a few of us some quick COBie lessons between talks. But I can talk more about IFC and Open BIM in future posts, so I’ll be light on that for now.
The client case studies were each unique, as shouldn’t be a surprise. Users from all over the world talked about their firms and their experiences; we had user presentations from North and South America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Their office sizes ranged from tiny (less than six people inclusive of support staff) to unimaginably large (thousands and thousands of employees), and the work covered everything from the architect’s own home and the building on the box of ArchiCAD 18 to tower complexes and infrastructure projects. The common thread was of course ArchiCAD. And in each story it was clear that ArchiCAD was helping these firms focus on what was important to them (although some presenters spent much more time talking about their ArchiCAD usage than others). Many attendees favorite was the presentation by Jakob Andreassan of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), who ended his talk with more details about how and why they chose ArchiCAD over other BIM tools. The best tidbit from his talk was that it only took one or two pilot projects in ArchiCAD for them to know which BIM tool they needed to use! Later in the conference when Jakob and I were talking, it was difficult for me to resist pressing for even more detail about their decision—it’s always fascinating to hear from firms who have done serious investigation and pilot projects with multiple tools.
If I had to pick the most mind blowing presentation, it’d have to be Gábor Kovács-Palkó’s talk about the BIMcloud. Nathan Hildebrandt’s comes a close second (check out Nathan’s new BIM blog; you can also watch a version of his lecture here). Gábor talked about the BIMcloud and how it differs from its competitors and predecessors. It’s a bit hard to condense Gábor’s amazing talk down to a few sentences since I didn’t take notes, and I (currently) don’t have access to his graphs on latency, file size, and the various tests he did comparing the BIMcloud to other solutions. But in short, for large firms that want first in class collaboration tools for large and/or dispersed teams, there is nothing else on the market that competes. I really hope Graphisoft does a webinar based on his talk, or at the very least sends Gábor to a variety of conferences to explain what differentiates the BIMcloud from other solutions. By the time we all left his presentation it was obvious that the BIMcloud will allow firms great flexibility in how they work with partners around the world and within a multiple-office business. It’s one of those features that might be hard to grasp at first, but once you understand the stakes, it’s hard to imagine how any major firm works without this tool. Like I said, you need to see his talk!
During Gábor’s talk, the benefits of the BIMcloud got me thinking about ArchiCAD in general. It struck me just how much ArchiCAD allows me to have the business I want—a business where I collaborate with people from all over. A business unimpeded by distance, team size, partner size (solo operations or large firms), or bandwidth. I get to work from anywhere without a problem, and since in the past two years I’ve had to work from Minnesota, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington State, and Wyoming – this matters. And I know I’m not the only one benefiting from this advantage: another ArchiCAD guru in attendance is relocating his business from New Zealand to a tiny mountain town in the middle of nowhere Idaho. Everything about ArchiCAD makes that life decision easy, making location a non-issue. I have more to say on this topic, but it seems like I should do a “Top 10 reasons ArchiCAD facilitates the business I want” post. I’m sure I could pull those ten reasons from discussions I had at the KCC (and in fact I just jotted down twelve in about thirty seconds).
The best part of the Key Client Conference was the people and the conversations that happened outside the formal speeches. It was great to learn about the BIMcloud, ArchiCAD 18 (though many of us in the room were beta testers), and hear on a grand scale about other ArchiCAD firms, but what trumped all that was the opportunities to chat with other users from around the globe. The sense of community and shared experience at the KCC was thrilling. It reinforced how supportive the ArchiCAD community is and how much the individual Graphisoft employees care. So many of the Graphisoft staff were originally users, or joined the company out of architecture school, and/or had been with the company for years and years. Likewise the group of users in attendance included beta testers, consultants, practitioners who were also resellers or former Graphisoft employees, etc. Just as all the users were there out of a love for the software, so too were the employees there because of their passion for ArchiCAD. It was awesome.
Part of me just wanted to write this post about the adventures of friends old and new. About the guys who stayed up all night after the closing party, going straight from the bar to the airport. About how every direction we gave each other somehow involved “then you’ll walk past/be at/see the ArchiCAD 12 building.” About all the attendees meeting people they’d only known online. Or others reconnecting with people they hadn’t seen in years. It’s wonderful to meet someone for the first time and just talk like old friends. Which in many cases we were; I have known some of the attendees since 2006, albeit always digitally.
What made all those connections and adventures possible was our communal appreciation and interest in ArchiCAD. At any moment during the conference, whether it was a walk to an event, a bus ride, a coffee break, or a meal at an ever increasingly amazing location, you could start talking about how you work, how you run your business, how you love architecture, and how you use ArchiCAD. Everyone there was passionate about ArchiCAD and excited to share their stories with others. If you look at all these photos (and others you might find around the Internet), notice how many conversations are happening. And then realize that we are almost exclusively discussing ArchiCAD, BIM, and improving the way we work. A few days in Budapest is a special opportunity, but a few days where you can geek out to all things ArchiCAD—that’s indescribably energizing, inspirational, and unique.
If you ever get an opportunity to attend a big Graphisoft event, whether in Budapest, North America, or elsewhere, don’t hesitate. If you come across someone who attended, ask for some of their special moments. Whether it’s touring Roman ruins after midnight with a VP, visiting a castle with the head of development, taking a selfie with the CEO, finally meeting the secret genius behind Graphisoft’s social media work, or getting a tour of Budapest from the moderator of the ArchiCAD-Talk forum, we all have some wonderful experiences to share beyond the common moments of amazingly interesting lectures and unreal parties.
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