T4T LAB 2017
Casey Rehm. Distinguished Invited Professor.
Coordinated locally by Gabriel Esquivel working remotely with feedback from the designers’ technical challenges and intellectual charge.
Teaching Assistant: Jayson Kim.
“The sin of Prometheanism then consists in destroying the equilibrium between the made and the given - between what human beings generate through their own resources, both cognitive and practical, and the way the world is, whether characterised cosmologically, biologically, or historically. The Promethean trespass resides in making the given.”
Ray Brassier, Prometheanism and its Critics
An increasingly significant issue facing the contemporary designer is how to utilize and engage with a context described by ever growing levels of resolution and inevitably corresponding levels of noise. The studio appropriated techniques and strategies which have become ubiquitous within fields tasked with interfacing humans with increasingly complex sets of information. Whether its app and social media platform design, surveillance, medical diagnostics, market speculation, or ecological research, fuzzy logic systems, machine learning algorithms, and intelligent agents have become a shared resource for rethinking how we as a species can respond to and reshape our context. This studio asked students to explore how these trends can reshape the discipline of architecture and open up new possibilities for architectures’ positive contribution to the given world.
At the fundamental level, these systems are forced to design structures and relationships in unordered discrete elements. This could be an array of pixels in the case of a machine vision algorithm tasked with identifying elements in a video stream or an array of characters in the case of a neural network tasked with generating column ideas at major newspapers from sorting through endless stream of social media.
When stripping the givens down into discreet units, the architect is forced to design, restructure and identify value in a meaningless field of data. How do you discuss contextuality without relying on typology and historical significance? Are there new ways to consider a project's impact on a site, and more importantly new resolutions? When the manner of understanding givens and organizing making are conflated are we able to more precisely relate to and transform the world we live in?
Specifically the studio looked at how we can create tectonic design and image analysis through similar organizational structures. We utilized open source machine vision libraries like OpenCV in parallel with custom agent based tectonic software to reexamine architectures relationship to the image as generative device and the context as a cultural entity. Students designed a residential project in two sites. One is local and can be surveyed through traditional and primary techniques. The other was massively remote, forcing students to rely on a context defined only through sources available to them through networked platforms. This dual context will allow the students to test if these machines allow for true heterogeny or do these methods tend towards a global homogenization of design solutions. It also forced them to identify what they view as valuable in both the context being analyzed and in the methods of architectural production. Traditionally hierarchies and value structures may become mutable in the face of alternative methods of intervention.
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