Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Socially constructed materiality

As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.

Digital architecture is about materiality because materiality is changing.
Materiality is culturally constructed, but the problem is the definition of materiality, materiality is not nature. It is the image we have of nature. The notion of nature is also socially constructed through what we can produce, and nature can be different. Today it is basically informational. It is about movement and the definition of nature over time changes.
Materials are socially constructed: before a bone was a material, now we construct material as much as we construct nature. There is this idea that materiality is the relation we have to what seem tangible in the world. The way we perceive materials and objects when we are not sure if we touch or if it in our brain, it is a problem. With the computer, we don't know what we touch. There is an extension to us: it goes into us.

Materiality is then constructed through:
1- a sensory education To live in a culture is to learn how to perceive things in a certain way, e.g. colors differ in culture, so there is a construction of the senses.
2- tools a society with tools, e.g. lenses, microscope, sees things differently.
So people who thinks there is a problem with computers think there was a problem before. Digital architectural representation is a virtuality because it can represent everything. It occupies an impossible point of view.

Then what's new with the computer screen? Has it been close to materiality? Thre is the thickness of the computer screen; there is a layer of software much more than in the traditional pencil that transfers in the paper. Redefining pertaining objects: natural versus cultural. The semantic of words is interesting, for instance, 'poutre' in French means two different things, so it makes us see things differently depending on our culture.

There is an analogy with the car: before people thought that we had lost something essential in walking with the car. The car has forced us to redefine the world. Before the car, to experience acceleration you had to jump from the window, now it is totally inbuilt in our body, this is totally structured. The car has redefined pertaining objects and also the sensation. With the acceleration you feel in power and also the vulnerability of the body in this moment, e.g. the Starwars race computer game. This goes to an existential thing. We also use computer metaphors and our perception of our body is changing through the machine we build. The computer is something we drive like a car. The perception of landscape is changing via having experienced the car.

The computer has redefined certain things:
- deformation we can twist things
- geometry focus that explains why we have so many frozen flows project
- surface, light and texture it has drastically changed what is around us. Grain conduction, there is a return to ornament which is very different from traditional ornament and now it becomes texture. Digital architecture is one syndrome: fascination for light and texture. The computer makes a global syndrome more visible

Redefinition of materiality new pertaining objects, new sensations; however when you gain something, you loose something. There is also the problem of scale, hence the fascination for the fractale, there is a dissociation with the material where you can view infinitely. Before architecture represented bones, now architecture is boneless. This is the end of structure and information kills structure. The machine is a combination of software and hardware layers. It has influenced the way we interface the layers in architecture. We went from the gothic cathedral, e.g the Switz clock, to the layered architecture, e.g. hamburgers in Mc Donald.

Technology is about interfacing different realities, linguistic and economic use of heterogeneity. Architecture is now about deconstruction of techtonic. The classical language of techtonic is deconstructed and even worse the dissolution of the system. It is not a dematerialization of architecture, it is a shift. There is today an affinity with the baroque.
Tool: an externalization of the body function. The computer is an externalization of the mental function. We internalize while we externalize and then we become our tool. When we use for instance a hammer, we think ourselves using the hammer. Lots of people use the computer as a metaphor: my hard drive is broken. I am a 386. The machine can create even pain. The computer is not just an extension of the mind but also an extension of the body. There are plenty of experiment on senses: vision, smell, and the perception of space changes. 'Zooming' has now become a totally normal activity. Everything is zoomable now. The crisis of scale: we perceive things very accurately more from far than from close. This is the crisis of intermediary scale. The way we perceive nature today: stable and unstable. Things are constantly changing, as we live in a world of mutation; this is a qualitative transformation, a magic condition due to metamorphosis, e.g. zoom, that can apply to painting or architecture. The very very concrete becomes abstract and the very very abstract becomes concrete, e.g. if I zoom in a face it becomes skin and then the skin itself becomes landscape. Materiality was the reversed from the abstract, and the computer is not a machine in the traditional sense, but it is an environment. There are new ways of inhabiting this strange world, world with decorativeness, playing with surfaces, ornaments. Traditional ornament had a scale because it was linked to the body and the human scale. Today it is not linked to the human scale anymore. We are passing from human-body technology to technologies that can only be thought in term of landscape and is not the world around us.

In traditional architecture, space was a given. Today, space is not a given: it is very small or very huge. We have a human responsibility but not in the megalo-utopia. We are responsible in this redefinition of materiality.

In architecture theory
Notes taken during the Architecture Science and Technology class taught by Antoine Picon 12th Dec 2005

New materials and technologies

As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.

Materials and a new way to define materiality

What is the situation in the field of technology?
There are a few reflections and the idea is that we are in the middle of a revolution regarding materials. This is somewhat true, for instance 'the microcapsule' and material research for architecture. We now design materials at the molecular level and then designing structures will be less important than designing material, e.g. the evolution of concrete. It became a material and is decomposed into properties such as: needs less water, less cracks, etc... For instance, la grande arche de la Defense would have been impossible without compact concrete. Concrete is now mixed and has mechanical properties, e.g. curve, etc... then it can be used for chairs. There is a redevelopment in furniture in concrete. It is not without danger because it can produce monsters :D and cannot be destroyed.

Ben Barrell beautiful bench

There is also 'glass' and the reflection on the glass using piezzo electric technology and the smart materials bluring between materials and structure, the development of composite and of smart materials which create a blur between materials and structures. There is a material revoluion, the first one was done at MASA then there is a contamination, however it has not reached architecture yet. At what level do we design today? Farbric can now be designed and there is a notion of new modernity which is not much about structure but more about material. There is then a current important question which is: how traditional design will position itself toward the material revolution?

Computer simulation
The computer simulation made possible a whole range of things: more computation, more domains. For instance, fireproofing. Before there was a big structure, an envelop to protect against fire. Now protection against fire is done dynamically. We then think of fire in a dynamic way, for instance what burns first and what burns last. This is a totally different design that takes in consideration the logic of collapse. For example, the 11th of September, the catastrophic tower collapse happened dynamically, so a protection against such catastrophes cannot be conceived as static anymore.
Computer simulation enables a lot but is not exactly the real world, so atomic tests are still needed, because no computer simulation can tell us how things edge and so on. Simulation raises a lot of questions imposed by the program and even color codes tell us how things are to be designed. The collapse of Roissy airport terminal was a good example of the limitations of computer simulation. There was a problem in the construction process that could be due to the computer simulation. The tradition simulation mode is still in use, e.g. the heat propagation in a building using a saline solution.

Structure and scale factor
If we look at suspension bridges for instance the Washington bridge of 1 km and the Golden Gate of 1km300 and that now we reach 2km bridges, the scale of structure creates problems. The gigantism does not prevent diversity, e.g. deck can be thick, or aerodynamic deck. However the gigantism has created a specific European type of answer and now that bridges can be 2km long, we need to take in consideration the curvation of the earth, because from the start to the end of the bridge the curvation is different. The cables of such bridges are huge as well and there is no limitation for suspension bridges. The cable state bridge is an obscession from European to
Japanese because of aesthetics and engineering issues. These bridge cables are wrapped in an aerodynamic shape to resist the wind.

Examples of cable bridges

Then towers will become higher and lighter themselves and the problem is not to pile up elements but more physiological elements, for instance, ear problems. Piano's genius to to consider that gigantism works if we pay attention on other problems than just structural problems, e.g. air condition mixing gradually with hot air using the curve of the building. Performance and large scale is a major problem on what happens today.
The relation between architecture and infrastructure: The architect provides the meaning to the node of the network. The architecture itself can become the infrastructure, for instance at an airport, system of place and infrastructure. There was two movements in the 20th century: gigantism and lightness (solution like their shell that are in plywood, etc.) This movement lead to membering. The most efficient surface; wooden structure, beautiful structure. There has been research on surfaces, plastic parts, wired network. Some are pretty thick but pretend lightness and lightness can go with gigantic things, a new poetry is then emerging. We are very far from this lightness idea at an international level, for instance China does not appropriate light structures. We are not ready to live in a world of membering, lightness, however if we use tension, we can do things much lighter and stable and it can function at any scale. This is the field of 'tensegrity', e.g. arch vault in tensegrity which is a pretty sophisticated geometry compared to other type of structures.

We can now do everything we want. Is everything what we want?
For instance, there are ethical problems even in engineering and architecture, and if we link a continent to an island, we change the way people live on the island. There is a moral responsibility of the architect, so how to build?
We thought we knew what to build, but now it involves discovering new materials, developing material and computation. Architects used to be asked to produce a form only and education in architecture is not adapted to this movement.

By Cati in architecture

Saturday, December 10, 2005

cities: 10 lines. approaches to cities and open territory design

From Sept 2005 until now I have created the graphic design for the exhibition: cities: 10 lines. approaches to cities and open territoty design currated by joan busquets and felipe correa at harvard graduate school of design.

By Cati in 'on the side' work

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The ambient peacock explorer

The Ambient Peacock Explorer
I developed the Ambient Peacock Explorer as a framework for mobile units to document on their environment and report back to a central hub

I believe that new work in this area can physically substantiate the documentation through tagging, the incorporation of physical communities or other conceptual redefinitions of the environment one seeks to capture.

structure mobiles units + headquarter

mobile units independent from the headquarter
One shell per context of exploration. Shell inflated on top of the structure to indicate where the mobile unit is going.
Context based shells per unit
Water: Jelly Fish Organic Shell
Countryside: Wooden structure
City: Inflatable Concrete
Air: Blimp

Is composed of four gathering areas: the air, the countryside, the city and the water area, a studio and an editing room. Each wall receives life feed from the mobile units based on each unit context. Environmental data from sensing mobile units are also projected on the walls as meta information. The headquarter itself retro-project on its roof the life feed of its environment and on the external walls displays the video from mobiles units. The production center also invites to discuss the documentaries and environmental issues and by that is also a showcase building.

technology specs
Live feed video camera from mobile units to headquarter. Each mobile unit is composed of one video camera connected via satellite to the headquarter. The life feed video camera is sent to the headquarter and projected onto the contextual area outside wall and inside wall (as part of the cafeteria gathering) area.

Video recording and metadata from mobile units to headquarter. Each mobile unit documents by recording visual environmental elements and use sensing technologies to combine video recorded and environmental data for later post production video retrieval. For instance GPS technology for location data retrieval, temperature, wind information and so forth. The production companies will retrieve video recordings of the mobile units and metadata associated to them.

Live feed video camera from mobile units onto mobile units. Each mobile unit would retro project their life feed footage onto their semi-transparent fabric structure to melt within its environment.

Headquarter data exchange with mobile units. Information and request coming from headquarter to define what to explore by real time exchange video footage. Scenario: if the mobile unit is in the air and crosses a bird migration, the headquarter could visualize it and request more detailed footage or more sensing environmental data coming from the bird migration.

communication system diagram

visual scenario of the ambient peacock explorer

the blimp
the air mobile unit.
The shell inflated on top of the structure indicates the mobile unit is going to document from above and in the air.

the mobile unit
common to all contexts is controlled by two people. It has real time contact with the headquarter via satellite. One person controls the mobile unit and one gathers data, exchanges information, and prepare the unit to its environmental use. The unit consists of the inflatable blimp on top, the floatation device including the organic shell at the bottom, a projector to display environmental data inside each shell.

the mobile unit going into water.

The compressor is used for the floatation device and an organic semi transparent shell is added around the structure. The environmental life feed video is projected on the shell. The mobile unit is waterproof.

external view of the headquarter as a showcase.

Four walls: the air, the countryside, the city and the water. Each wall receives life feed from the mobile units based on each unit context.

The Ambient peacock explorer is a project I made with Philip Vriend for the Kinetic Architecture class, Assignment 2, November 2005.

By Cati in kinetic architecture

The Ambient peacock explorer poster

By Cati for Kinetic Architecture, Assignment 2, November 2005