Sonata (building design software)

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Sonata was a 3D building design software application developed in the early 1980s and now regarded as the forerunner of today's building information modelling applications.[1][2]

Sonata was commercially released in 1986,[3] having been developed by Jonathan Ingram independently and was sold to T2 Solutions (renamed from GMW Computers in 1987[4] - which was eventually bought by Alias|Wavefront),[5] and was sold as a successor to GMW's RUCAPS. It ran on workstation computer hardware (by contrast, other 2D CAD systems could run on personal computers). The system was not expensive, according to Michael Phiri.[6] Reiach Hall purchased "three Sonata workstations on Silicon Graphics machines, at a total cost of approximately £2000 each" [1990 prices]. Approximately 1000 seats were sold between 1985 and 1992. However, as a BIM application, in addition to geometric modelling, it could model complete buildings, including complex parametrics, costs and staging of the construction process.[7]

A large number of projects were designed and built using Sonata including Peddle Thorp Architect's Rod Laver Arena in 1987, and Gatwick Airport North Terminal Domestic Facility by Taylor Woodrow.[8] The US-based architect HKS used the software in 1992 to design a horse racing facility (Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas) and subsequently purchased the successor product, Reflex.[9]

The Sonata business was founded in 1984 and, by one account it "disappeared in a mysterious, corporate black hole, somewhere in eastern Canada in 1992,"[10] after new owner Alias Research discontinued marketing of the product.[11] Ingram then went on to develop Reflex, bought out by Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) in 1996.[10]

As of 2016, Sonata continues to run on an occasional basis at BAM Construct (UK) in St Albans, making it the oldest running BIM system in the world.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Eastman, Chuck; Tiecholz, Paul; Sacks, Rafael; Liston, Kathleen (2008). BIM Handbook: a Guide to Building Information Modeling for owners, managers, designers, engineers, and contractors (1st ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley. pp. xi–xii. ISBN 9780470185285.
  2. ^ Eastman, Chuck; Tiecholz, Paul; Sacks, Rafael; Liston, Kathleen (2011). BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers and Contractors (2nd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley. pp. 36–37.
  3. ^ See, Richard (2007). "Building Information Models and Model Views" (PDF). Journal of Building Information Modelling (Fall). BuildingSmart Alliance. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  4. ^ Port, Stanley (1989). The Management of CAD for Construction. New York: Springer. ISBN 9781468466058.
  5. ^ Day, Martyn (September 2002). "Intelligent Architectural Modeling". AEC Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  6. ^ Phiri, Michael (1999). Information Technology in construction design. London: Thomas Telford Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 0 7277 2673 0.
  7. ^ Morgan, L; Zampi, G (1999). Virtual Architecture. London: Batsford. p. 74. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  8. ^ Fisher, Norman; Barlow, Richard (1997). Project Modelling in Construction: Seeing is believing. London: Thomas Telford Services Ltd. p. 74. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. ^ McFarlane, Brian (31 March 2008). "How a major design firm adapted to a paradigm shift". Healthcare Design. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  10. ^ a b Crotty, Ray (2012). The Impact of Building Information Modelling: Transforming Construction. London: SPON/Routledge. p. 71. ISBN 9781136860560.
  11. ^ Weisberg, David (2008), The Engineering Design Revolution: The People, Companies and Computer Systems That Changed Forever the Practice of Engineering. Chapter 16. Available online. Retrieved: 17 October 2015