Escape From the Future: Architecture, Language, and the Computational Turn

October 27th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | No Comments »

“Many people would argue that natural languages are much more broadly based than programming languages, a stance that relegates code to the relatively small niche of artificial languages intended for intelligent machines. Recently, however, strong claims have been made for digital algorithms as the language of nature itself. If, as Stephen Wolfram, Edward Fredkin, and Harold Morowitz maintain, the universe is fundamentally computational, code is elevated to the lingua franca not only of computers but of all physical reality.”1

N. Katherine Hayles

“…computational irreducibility occurs whenever a physical system can act as a computer. The behavior of the system can be found only by direct simulation or observation: no general predictive procedure is possible.”2

Stephen Wolfram

The creators of this online journal and forum controversially argue that computation will engender the final stage of development in the relationship between architecture and computers by completely eliminating the concept of form from the architectural equation3. The use of language (in this case, the language of computer code) to evade the trappings of form has precedent in the postmodern use of semiotics to free architecture from the formal dogma of Modernism and the Classical tradition. In contrast to the semiotic critique, however, whose analytical methods were defined by the very logo centric system it was attempting to undermine, the computational turn represents a far more substantial historical break, with the potential to create a completely autonomous architecture freed from Classical notions of past and future. This essay explores the evolution from the semiotic to the computational model in architecture as a way of better understanding the circumstances that made these radical leaps into language both possible, and necessary. more »


Process/Drawing

August 14th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 2 Comments »

ReasThumb.jpgWriting software is at the core of Casey Reas’s artistic practice. The digital is his medium of choice rather than a means of manipulation. He reflects on the evolution of his work in software and why the history of using computers to produce visual images is largely an unrecorded one in the history of art, but why this might all be set to change as scripting takes on a new primacy in contemporary art.

I started playing with computers as a child. Our family’s Apple IIe machine was a toy for playing video games and writing simple programs in BASIC and Logo.1 I spent years exploring and testing it, but I preferred drawing and my interest in computers slowly dissipated. In 1997 I was introduced to John Maeda and the work of his students in the Aesthetics and Computation Group at MIT.

[pdf download]


Metaphysics of Genetic Architecture and Computation

August 12th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | No Comments »

Thumb copy.jpgWith the dissolution of the last utopian project of Man in the name of Communism, the great spectre that once haunted Europe and the rest of the world has all but vanished, leaving in its wake an ideological vacuum that is now being filled by the tentacles of globalisation with its ecumenical ambition. As humanity has become mesmerised by the triumphant spell of capitalism, what remains less apparent in the aftermath of this dissolution is that the world is moving incipiently towards a threshold that is far more radical and fantastic than any utopic vision since the dawn of the Enlightenment. Once again, the world is witnessing the rumblings of a Promethean fire that is destined to irrupt into the universe of humanity, calling into question the nature and function of life–world relations as they so far have existed. These rumblings, stemming in large measure from the convergence of computation and biogenetics in the latter part of the 20th century, have already begun to invoke gravid visions of the unthinkable: the unmasking of the primordial veil of reality. [pdf download]


Dazzle Topologies

August 10th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 1 Comment »

EVAN copy.jpgOne of the great lessons of the 20th Century that our particular generation of architects has inherited is our appreciation of the infra-thin scale: the primal math containing the profound secrets to all animate matter. Whether it is the splitting of the atom, or the isolation of the DNA strand in the first half of the century, or more recently discoveries surrounding the genome project, collectively they represent within their own respective disciplines the smallest increment of information necessary to recreate all possible expressions in the game of life. The significant value for architecture lies in our capacity to speculate upon biological mimesis as a new paradigm for both material and programmatic behavior. In other words, world history has entered into a radical phase where the very destiny of life as we know it can now be altered by reconfiguring the “computational logics” of natural selection. Beyond the profound ethical consequences of these considerations — which clearly need to be addressed — the significance of these advances for contemporary material practices resides in the infinite performative scenarios available in the creation of sentient matter. more »


Tectonics, Economics and the Reconfiguration of Practice: The Case for Process Change by Digital Means

August 8th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | No Comments »

sheldon-thumb.jpgThe current programming culture in architecture could all too easily be written off as a youthful, geeky obsession with the algorithmic and the parametric among nascent practitioners, who have had little if any opportunity to build. The activities of Gehry Technologies run counter to this stereotype. Building on 15 years of experience at Gehry and Partners, Gehry Technologies was founded in 2002 as an independent organisation dedicated to the business of technological innovation and the development of architectural software tools. Dennis R Shelden, chief technology officer, discusses the wider implications
of a concentrated focus on technological tools and organisational processes for designers and the business of building. [pdf download]


Bodies Unfolding

August 7th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 2 Comments »

Bill and Lila Thumb copy.jpg

After seeing Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion World Map, a map projected on a flattened isohedron, we began working on the idea of using computer technology to transfer our physical bodies into two-dimensional images. The profundity of simple sculptural gestures translated through the mechanics of a map projection intrigued us. The representation of three-dimensional objects on two-dimension surfaces has been a perennial concern for artists through the centuries. The idea of simultaneity, where an object is experienced all at once -was a major theme of the Cubists and Futurists. “Selfportrait.map” explores this idea in a contemporary way using new digital imaging tools. more »


Cultural Concerns in Computational Architecture

August 6th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 1 Comment »

Perkins

G. Holmes Perkins, 1904-2004

In September of 2004 I attended two events that reflect on each other. One was the Non-Standard Praxis conference held at MIT. The other was a memorial at the University of Pennsylvania for G. Holmes Perkins, my dean when I was an architecture student at Penn from 1959 to 1966. He had died just a couple of weeks short of his 100th birthday.

The “Non-Standard” in Non-Standard Praxis refers ambiguously to Nonstandard Analysis in mathematics and to emerging computational approaches in architecture. Some of the phrases in titles of presentations at the conference include: performativity, topologies, virtual standardization, amorphous space, hyperbody research, immaterial limits, affective space, algorithmic flares, the digital surrational, the boundaries of an event-space interation, bi-directional design process, and voxel space. more »


Genetic Architecture

August 6th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 2 Comments »

“All is algorithm!”

Gregory Chaitini

Genetic Architecture

With the dissolution of the last utopian project of Man in the name of Communism, thegreat specter that once haunted Europe and the rest of the world has all but vanished, leaving in its wake an ideological vacuum that is now being filled by the tentacles of globalization withits ecumenical ambition. As humanity has become mesmerized by the triumphant spell of capitalism, what remains less apparent in the aftermath of this dissolution is that the world ismoving incipiently toward a threshold that is far more radical and fantastic than any utopic vision since the dawn of the Enlightenment. Once again, the world is witnessing the rumblingsof a Promethean fire that is destined to irrupt into the universe of humanity, calling into question the nature and function of life world relations as they so far have existed. Theserumblings, stemming in large measure from the convergence of computation and biogenetics in the latter part of the twentieth century, have already begun to invoke gravid visions of theunthinkable: the unmasking of the primordial veil of reality. more »


Automason Version 1.0

August 6th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 1 Comment »

“Now that the use of commercial geometric modelers has become normative…the discipline of architecture appears ready to resume its longer-term engagement with structured knowledge representation. This often involves the development of small-scale, ad-hoc software…”

Malcolm McCullough, from “GROCS Letter”1

“…computational irreducibility occurs whenever a physical system can act as a computer. The behavior of the system can be found only by direct simulation or observation: no general predictive procedure is possible. Computational reducibility may well be the exception rather than the rule…”

Stephen Wolfram, from “Undecidability and Intractability in Theoretical Physics”2

“…the form arising out of work performance leads to every object receiving and retaining its own…shape.”

Hugo Haring from “The House as an Organic Structure”3

SJSU Museum of Art

Contemporary architects are judged as much by their buildings as they are by the sophistication of the techniques used in design and construction. A certain fascination with technology is natural to any discipline that thrives on innovation and change. While new digital tools have had an especially profound impact on the representation of architectural space, only a few buildings today are actually put together with components fabricated on a CNC mill. This situation will perhaps change in time but for the present construction in America (and around the world) can best be described as an impure mixture of techniques supplemented by hand using traditional materials like brick and mortar. While portable masonry robots designed for both factory and on site applications are now in the early stages of development there are serious reasons to doubt that their employment will render human workers obsolete. In fact as we look back on the history of information technology, especially in the last thirty years the opposite seems to be the case. Instead of eliminating work automation has forced many to adopt new skills and become technically specialized as both products and production processes become increasingly more sophisticated. The narrow definition of Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing CAD/CAM must be expanded to include a much larger set of tools and procedures. In addition to robotic pipe layers, concrete pouring drones, and wall painting automatons we need to include new human machine-interfaces that operate on site as embedded technologies that can change the way buildings are made in the present. (augmented craft) This should be done with an eye on the body’s connection to, rather than its displacement by, technological innovations. What’s more we need to honor this relationship by developing new and powerfully expressive building forms. more »


Genomic Architecture

August 6th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 1 Comment »

genomic1.gif

Genomic architecture is based on the manipulation of the architectural genome. Like its biological counterpart, this genome is universal and encompasses all architecture — past, present and future. At its root, this genome is defined by a unified morphological genome, a universal code for all morphologies — natural, human-made and artificial. Morphogenomics, a possible new science, deals with morphological informatics. It includes mapping the morphological genome as a basis for generative morphologies that underlie the shaping of architectural space and structure. Once mapped, the morphological genome will need to be layered with other genomes (also requiring mapping) to cover different aspects of architecture: physical (e.g. materials, construction technologies), sensorial, cognitive and behavioral. Genomic architecture, based on the layered genome, encompasses an integrated world of “artificial architecture” (used in the same sense as “artificial intelligence” and “artificial life”), a world of complexity evolving in parallel with the natural world. It is a morphologically structured network of information that determines architectural taxonomies and phylogenies, permits digital manipulation of form in the design process, and enables mass-customization in digital manufacturing. more »