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Tag "digital"

Computers have changed the architectural process fundamentally. In most areas the practice has embraced the possibilities of the software tool and has alongside the technology transformed not just the way architecture is produced but foremost the way architecture is thought.

Whilst CAD offers flexibility and speed, 3D software visualises models and simulation tools are employed to help with strategic design decisions, its the algorithm used in parametric design where the computer code actually becomes part of the process of designing.

A new The MIT Press publication by Luciana Parisi. Parisi is senior lecturer at the centre for cultural studies at Goldsmith, University of London. She publishes a comprehensive and thought provoking discussion of the practice and the thinking of parametric design in the field of architecture. However in this text Parisi does not just simply present the software logic and practice. Instead, as she states right at the beginning:

“Algorithms do not simply govern the procedural logic of computers: more generally, they have become the objects of a new programming culture. The imperative of information processing has turned culture into a lab of generative forms that are driven by open-ended rules.”

A definition of Algorithms is provided in the notes of the book referring to David Berlinski, ” an algorithm is a finite procedure, written in a fixed symbolic vocabulary, governed by precise instructions, moving in discrete steps, 1, 2, 3, whose execution requires no insight, cleverness, intuition, intelligence, or perspicuity, and that sooner or later comes to an end.” (Berlinsky, D. (2000). The Advent of the Algorithm: The Ideas that Rule the World. New York: Harcourt.)

Whilst the book is heavy on theory a few examples are provided. All examples are carefully chosen and do not at all make up a showcase. They illustrate specific points of discussion in the text and at the same time serve are points of reference to push the thinking forward.

Image taken from archdaily.com / Kokkugia, Taipei Performing Arts Centre, 2008. Roland Snooks + Robert Stuart-Smith. The competition was won by OMA.

Image taken from corpora.hu / DoubleNegatives Architecture (dNA) Yamaguchi Centre for the Arts and Media, 2007. Sota Ichikawa.

Image taken from new-territories.com / R(&)Sie(n), Une Architecture des humeurs, 2010-2011.

What is most interesting about the concepts of algorithmic architecture discussed in this book is the fact that from the very beginning time and space are folded into one and remain present aspects of the process at any time. Whilst the use of digital tools in architecture has transformed the practice in many ways, the continuous presence of time and space as one in architectural theory is probably the most fundamental. This transforms the way architecture is thought of from a physical object to a transformative process.

This is a very specialist book and runs deep on the theory of parametric architecture and algorithm based design. It is however not just for architects and experts who work with algorithms themselves, but is definitely interesting experts from a range of fields including theoretical works. The way Parisi pushed the thinking ahead creates successfully a niche in timespace for parametric design to develop an identity.

Image taken from the MIT Press / Book cover.

Parisi, L., 2013. Contagious architecture: computation, aesthetics, and space, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

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The famous book ‘Animate Form’ on digital architecture by Greg Lynn is out as a reprint. Its twelve years and a lot of development, both technically as part of the software, application, platform and architecture has happende since.

The publication was originally published in 1999 as one of the very first comprehensive books on digital architecture and has no been reprinted as a 2011 version by Princeton Architectural Press, the original publisher. The new print has no changes and runs as the same book.

Etienne Jules Morey Motion Capture
Image taken from facstaff / Motion Studies produced by Etienne Jules Marey (late 1800s).

Interesting enough, even though it is twelve years old the content of the book is still relevant, hence the republication. A lot has changed on the technical side with software, but the heart of the publication which is on the nature of digital architecture is very relevant today. The fundamentals Lynn points out in his text ‘Animate Form‘ still has not sunken in with everyday practice today. As he writes: “There are three fundamental properties of organization in a computer that are very different from the characteristics of inert mediums such as paper and pencil: topology, time, and parameters.”

The temporal aspect is the one that still is underused and only peripheral implemented. The main focus is still on the end product but not on the process. However as for example Kas Oosterhuis also points out in his recent book ‘Towards a New Kind of Building‘ the process is beginning to play a more important role.

To understand Lynn’s work however this temporal aspect is essential. Somehow it could be put as the source as the biomorphic character of most of the shapes. As Lynn points out in the text, one of the original insirations and references is the work by Étienne-Jules Marey in the late 1800s. Marey was interested in motion photography just like Eadweard Muybridge, however Marey used tags to direct the focus of the image as well as trigger the camera. The tags, usually attached to the joints of the subject, paint the motion line, by Marey termed ‘phase portraits’.

Lynn is also focusing on this aspect with his work implementing a range of states for each design element.

Etienne Jules Morey Pigeon Harness
Image taken from University of Houston / Etienne-Jules Marey used pneumatic triggers, attached to the joints of animals, to trigger camera exposures in rhythmic sequences. In this way, the rhythm of photographic instances were sequenced to the movements of the animal. “Device for harnessing the pigeon to the revolving frame,” from Marey, “Le Vol des oiseaux,” as appears in Frangois Dagognet, Etienne Jules Morey: A Passion for the Trace (New York: Zone Books, I 992), 85

The second part of the book is dedicated to seven Form projects playing with the digitalisation of architecture from design, development to fabrication. One of the projects is for example Lynn’s contribution to the competition for the Cardiff Opera House, which was won by Zaha Hadid but was never built.

Cardiff Opera House Greg Lynn Form
Image taken from basilik / Redering of the proposed Cardiff Opera House by Greg Lynn Form.

Another project is a Greg Lynn Form contribution to the Yokohama Terminal competition, eventually won and built by FOA. The two projects FOA and Greg Lynn Form have formal similarities probably because there are similarities in the process structure. The main ide is a merge of function and dynamic programming of usage.

The book is definitely laying out the fundamental of digital architecture and has set the standard pretty high. In the mean time a number of publications have followed from professionals across disciplines and interests, extending and confirming what Greg Lynn has proposed in the 1999 original publication.

Animate Form
Image taken from fapyd / Book cover.

Lynn, G., 2011. Animate Form, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

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Buildings are generally thought of being static structures playing a dual role in hosting and defining spatial context. The different types of buildings are adjusted to different activities and usages serving as platforms for interaction and communication.

A building live span is usually beyond the human live span and types are developed over generations of buildings adapting to chaining conditions such as context usage or activity, but also material and performance. The context has a very strong influence. Historically even more so as the direct surrounding and conditions shaped the resulting building directly via ground conditions, available materials near by and climate conditions.

The saltwaterpavilion
Image taken from DotCalendArt / ONL Saltwater Pavilion, Neeltje Jans, 1997. “The saltwaterpavilion has evolved from the very beginning of the design process as a three-dimensional computer model. We kneaded, stretched, bent, rescaled, morphed, styled and polished. He delineation of the form is laid down in the digital genes of the design that hold the germ of life. The first idea is the genetic starting point for all subsequent steps in the development. We no longer accept the domination of platonic volumes, the simplistic geometry of cube, sphere, cylinder and cone as the basic elements of architecture. That resolution is much too low. Our computers allow us to command millions of coordinates describing far more complex geometries.”

Along these parameters local and very specific building cultures have developed. And all of them are tightly entangled with everyday culture and practice and form a very important part there of.

Todays conditions have changed, with possibilites to source materials from around the globe and buildings being developed for less specific usages but the connections and context relevance are still very similar. Even if architects planners and especially developers are trying to denying any of this with some of the building they put up, building are still placed in context with adjoining developments.

In his new book ‘Towards a New Kind of Building – A Designer’s Guide for Nonstandard Architecture’,published by NAi Publishers in 2011, the Dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis discusses the paradigm shift in architecture thorough the aspects of shifting design, production and manufacturing processes, highlighting the changes. He uses his own architectural work both with his office ONL and with the Hyperbody research group at the University of Delft as a reference and discusses these shifts in a wider social context.

Car showroom and workshop for BMW
Image taken from ONL / Car showroom and workshop for BMW dealer EKRIS. “Architects must learn from the evolution of car bodies. IN the thirties cars were still traditional coaches on top of a chassis, much like buildings are a loose set of components on top of a foundation structure. Car evolved in the forties and fifties into monocoque structures, self-sufficient structural monocoque shell, preciously folded and perforated as to integrate a variety of organs, wiring and cladding materials. Now it is the architects turn to design and build monocoque structures, coherent enough to actually pick them up and displace them without losing its structural integrity.”

The book is structured along the process Oosterhuis is proposing with ‘Tag – all components will be tagged as to process information’, ‘Shape – the point cloud is organized by power lines to shape the body’, ‘Move – building components are actors in a complex adaptive system’, Evolve – the building body is a personal universe living inside evolution’.

The talking is of parametric design. Using the digital design tools the design process has shifted from individual blocks and pieces to mesh surfaces, continuous and flexibel materials strapped over point clouds and adaptive algorithms. Oosterhuis is also putting lot of emphasis on the changes and shifts leading from a top down to a bottom up planning process. He proposes this as a result of the shifting processes. What he puts forward he summarises with “From mass production to mass customisation”.

The book is not the first one to do so but probably is the most direct and open about making the claim for a new architecture style that is radically different from anything been here before. However, Oosterhuis gives it another 50 years to be fully established and common practice world wide.

Towards a New Kind of Building: Book Spread
Image taken from Modern Journal / Book Spread showing the Al Nasser Head Quarter Project by ONL.

Leading architecture school all haven been for a number of years participating in this field of parametric design with dedicated units and courses to the topic. The AA, the Bartlett, TU Delft (Oosterhuis’ lab), or at Yale to have only a few examples. Digital computing in architecture, especially in schools is common practice and firms like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gerry are other companies heavily using and developing such technologies.

Oosterhuis brings together in his book a well structured and comprehensive presentation of the changes brought along by the new technologies and methods and also outlines the process he has developed over the years as a ‘workflow’ or better probably a methodology. The presentation, as it starts in the introduction and spans right to he conclusion (which is actually already featuring in the introduction), is dominated by a very personal presentation of facts and points. This is on one hand irritating, probably because one would expect such proposal to take an objective position. On the other hand this provides space for a wealth of examples and experience presentations otherwise not possible.

Spaceport for Spaceship II
Image taken from ONL / 2012 Space Xperience Curacao [SXC], Curacao, Spaceport for Spaceship II. “The ambition of the initiators Harry van Hulten and Ben Droste *) of the Space Xperience Curacao© BV [SXC], supported by the Curacao authorities and their entrepreneurs, is to create a major touristic attractor for the Caribbean, hosting the future operator for Galactic Travels, and offering a venue for international scientific space research. The SXC landmark building, designed by the internationally renowned Dutch design studio ONL **), will be built as a spaceship, applying maritime and aviation techniques on the building body of the SXC. The SXC will be an inspiring venue both for the international scientific community, the future astronauts and for the tourists who will bring home a memorable Experience from the Space Xperience Curacao.”

To some extend it also stands opposed to the process and the method being generally understood as objective, algorithmic, in the sense of digital evolution with little conventional design elements, and therefor rather absolut. The presented personal standpoint in this sense helps to brake this up and develop a rather subjective understanding of the method.

There is a lot of presentation and a clear structured text with a wealth of practical examples supporting the case. The proposition of a change a paradigma shift in architecture, or parts of the architecture world, is on one hand overdue and on the other already superseded by itself. The field is moving very fast, but is still in development and this makes it extremely difficult to comprehensively bring the fundamentals and extend of a new kind to the point. Nevertheless, this book brings together a experience and development background of about 30 years in the field and at least bring this to the point. A very good start for a new kind of building.

Towards a New Kind of Building: Book Cover
Image taken from Modern Journal / Book Cover.

Oosterhuis, K., 2011. Towards a New Kind of Building: A Designerʼs Guide for Non-standard Architecture, Rotterdam: NAI Publishers.

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The digital 3rd dimension is a long standing topic in many disciplines and together with augmented reality technologies has had a tremendous boost. Most smart phone platforms these days offer tools and applications to integrate and use AR style packages. However in most cases it is still quite quirky and lagging which probably has got a lot to do with the physics of the device, especially the small screen.

Image by Greg Tran / The transformation of the existing with an overlaid digital vision. The beauty of emptiness and the secret lives of spaces after everybody else has left.

A number of visions have been produced besides the large scale cinema adaptations like ‘Minority Report’, where AR and real time 3d rendering play their magic. Three examples from architecture students were ‘Domestic Robocop‘, ‘Augmented City 3D‘ and ‘ArchiMaton‘.

Another more comprehensive examination of the topic now comes from a Master student Greg Tran at Harvard Graduate School of Design. The clip is basically his Master Thesis and examines as well as at the same time experiments the augmented 3D digital scapes potentially of interest for spatial manipulation and design.

Image by Greg Tran / Partly social networking partly 3D model development, physicality in its digital form.

In the clip Tran presents the current state of the art as well as the main problems with the confusions between 2D, 2,5D and 3D and beyond. He also focuses on the augmented reality aspects as well as materiality. In amazing scenes he shows how the building itself is transformed, extended or disolved.

Further more he also integrates social aspects and the social networking into the possibilities and with this links it back to his current practice as an architecture student. This makes it a very grounded and realistic vision for what a very ‘cool’ and visionary future of architecture could be.

The aspects of design and prettiness of course are a full feature of the technology. AR is not only a new tool with useful capabilities it is also dam well pretty. To some extend this prettiness is currently blurring the view on most applications of AR tom actually make them useful, but with such grounded and pragmatic visions such as Tan offers the field could make a move forward.

Find the full text script of the storyboard on scribd HERE.

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A rather disturbing clip of a possible near future. Might be unlikely, but talking about it is going on rather for a while now. It has become possible to actually do exactly what is visualised in this imaginary representation. By using available free digital tools such as layar everyone with access to the internet and consumer hardware in the form of a smart phone and a computer could put this together. probably not as visually impressive as Keiichi Matsuda manages in this clip produced for is master of architecture. This is a truly astonishing visual with a lot of love for good graphics and good design. I love it.

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In the context of the Small World time Lapse series I was obviously interested in what else is going on in this field of panoramic photography. Just by chance I also came across new smart camera cars in the neighborhood. I approached them and we had a chat about their work.
They were expecting me to ask about Google Street View. They responded by apologizing for not working for Google and it turned out they work for the London based company 360viewmax (it was printed in rather big letter all over the small car) and they are doing a job for Islington council. It appears that the council has discovered the value of Street View for their purpose. They want to use it for maintenance survey. What that is I haven’t really figured out.
How it works is quit complicated at it involves two people in the car. There is a secondary quite big writing on the back of the small car: “Caution this vehicle stops frequently“. Meaning what it says, the car stops every 20 meters or so to take a picture. It is kind of done manually. Beside the driver the second person in the car has a laptop with GIS information on a map. The location of the image is, I believe manually input into the GIS system. GPS as they have told me is only used for rough navigation as they say it is not accurate enough. Compared to this the Google cars just drive along the road and take photographs on the go. The argument of 360viewmax is that they want to deliver high quality images with a lot of detail. The installation on the roof of the car is three Nikon p6000 cameras. Funny enough the cameras have a built in GPS module but it is not use.
However, there is a cool demonstration of it on the 360viewmax webpage (I had some issues with Firefox this morning when I tried it, but it worked on Safari). You can click into an Islington neighborhood and down to street level to jump into bubbles of 360 panoramas. The interface is rather crude and located somewhere in a GIS technical engineer kind of world. Maybe they develop at some point a neat designed consumer interface.

Images by 360viewmax – screenshot – plan overview, panorama, zoomed in on a car

There has been this huge debate about privacy around Google Street View and they where forced to blur faces and number plates. In this council version of Street View however these elements are not blurred and number plates can be read for example.
In terms of Google Street View, it has sparked a lot of controversy, especially around the launch of it in a new area. I remember the fuzz about it in London for a week, when it first launched earlier this year. And just a month ago the launch in Switzerland sparked the same discussion. Now in London there is hardly any comment on it in the news, apart from the odd use of the service to visualize a location. Also in everyday conversation the fear for losing privacy has been replaced by curiosity and acknowledgment. People speak about it as a useful tool, mainly saying: it is great to see a location that you are not at. Then they bring the excuse of planning for a journey and it would help to orientate in unfamiliar surrounding. We’ll it might do but come on it does not really replace being there. It is related to the phenomenon of the photograph and the discussion of truth. In general photographs are believed to be a true image of reality and therefore Google Street View is in this view a digital replication of the actual scenery at this location. So it urges the question whether it is live and people can be seen, because people identify with it so intensively that it becomes a virtual reality.
However if you are interested to know where the real Google Street View cars drive a t the moment Google has finally disclosed this information. Not in detail, but you get an idea what areas are getting mapped at the moment and the chances are that you come across a Google camera car. You can click here.

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Digital Architecture is definitely gona be a very exciting conference. It takes place in London on September the 21st. It is part of the Digital Hinterlands exhibition showing from September 08th to October 02nd. The exhibition features the best student projects from Architectural Association, the Bartlett, Royal College of Art, and University of Westminster.

Image by Nick Szczepaniak

The conference on the other hand features the teachers and professionals to talk about their experience and work. The venue is at the Building Centre in Bloomsbury, London. It includes a lot of famous, here is a list of all the speakers:

Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG), Murray Fraser (Westminster), Neil Spiller (the Bartlett), Tony Dunne, Marcos Cruz (the Bartlett, Westminster), Rachel Wingfield, Matt Webb, Tobi Schneidler, Stephen Gage (the Bartlett), Patrik Schumacher (Zaha Hadid), Marjan Colletti, Alvin Huang, Daniel Bosia, Hanif Kara, Charles Walker, Michael Stacey

The conference is organized in four sessions entitled: Digital Architecture & Space, Digital Architecture & Bio-Technology, Digital Architecture & Interaction, Digital Architecture & Form, Digital Architecture & Fabrication
Starting from 08h30 and ending around 19h00 it is gona be a long day, but have a look at the program.

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