Part provocation, part manifesto-by-committee, part historical benchmark, Architecture in Formation is designed as the digital architecture manual for the second digital revolution. Anticipating a merger between theory and practice, the book combines formerly unpublished essays and interviews with architecture professionals, musing on how information processing creates, and is changed by, architecture.
Architecture in Formation gathers a wide variety of writings and speculative projects from theorists, historians and practitioners, emphasizing the multiplicity of approaches to how information systems and digital design influence architecture. Pieces touch on responsive architecture, interface design, information architecture, and how the pervasive accessibility of information is shifting how we understand its systems, cerebrally and physically. The book sees a post-net society as the premise for a revolution in architectural form.
Rather than diving straight into the deep-end, we’ve excerpted introductions from the book’s editors, Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa and Aaron Sprecher, to feature for Screen/Print. Lorenzo-Eiroa is the design principal at Eiroa Architects and teaches architecture at the Cooper Union, also serving as the director of the Digital Representation and Fabrication Program. Sprecher teaches architecture at McGill University, is the co-founder and partner of Open Source Architecture, and is the Director of McGill's Laboratory for Integrated Prototyping.
ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DIGITAL SIGNIFIERS AND FORMAL AUTONOMY
by Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa
Architecture In Formation aims to consolidate, reorganize, and critique what has constituted a revolution in the discipline. This revolution is based on a growing recognition to acknowledge deeper structures in architecture.
Information technologies presented a new paradigm to architectural representation. Architecture form, and as a consequence architectural space, is standardized, homogenized and parameterized through information processing. Any language mediates reality, and determines the way that we think. Jacques Derrida's critique of Saussure's equation is that structuralism disseminates categorical thought, since for Derrida a sign is understood as the if architects do not break or displace the given source codes in order to create their own, then their work is trappedcreation of signifiers, an artificial construction independent from what it is being named (Derrida J. 1982). Since there is no information without representation, the reduction into codes results in a structuralism that replaces architecture.
The implementation of structuralism expands a technological-mathematical paradigm diminishing artistic philosophy and aesthetic theory. One of the fundamental innovations in art was the abandonment of abstracted representation in favor of concrete art. In this form of art, content is not seen as extrinsic but rather as generated by coordinating the set of conditions that index its formal logic, thereby opening up cultural problems and inducing relationships once it is constituted.
Architecture has motivated a self-referential modern consciousness since the Renaissance problematizing representation. Software interfaces and codes constitute implicit frames where artistic expression begins. If the mediums of representation have such a power to regulate the work, then interfaces are spaces of differentiation. As such, interfaces can activate a performative aspect in the work, triggering a formal generative capacity. Part of this problem is how a project starts, as the first sign in a project may already be structured by systems of representation.
It is quite clear that if architects do not break or displace the given source codes in order to create their own, then their work is trapped by the predetermination of a set of ideas contained within those interfaces.
The predetermination of interfaces can also be related to the predetermination of typological organizational structures that prescribe space. Typological organizational structures such as bifurcations, networks, grids and other common organizations need to be displaced and transcended for new models to emerge, avoiding the totalitarism of categorical types that if not acknowledged remain implicitly untouched.
Architecture has relegated its cultural project to technology. The implicit condition is that computation has induced an ahistoric architecture.
ON THE AFFLUENCE, INFLUENCE, AND CONFLUENCE OF INFORMATION
by Aaron Sprecher
With the advent of modern science and the perception of natural phenomena in terms of uncertainties, the discipline of architecture has undergone a shift – from a stable, idealistic expression of the real world, to the unleashing of performative systems that reflect its instabilities (Blackmore J. 1995). This perennial interest to transform the fixity of the architectural model into a system of potentialities has generated many theoretical assumptions that often referred to the nature of living organisms as a source of information processing (Wiener 1954). Just to name a few, Patrick Geddes’s “Life-Now that the digital savvy milieu of architects has lived on the ecstasy of the first days, it is time to look again on the nature of informationconserving Principles” (1915); Frederick Kiesler’s “Correalism and Biotechniques” (1939); Richard Neutra’s “Survival Through Design” (1954); Superstudio’s “Microevent/Microenvironment” (1972) and Markos Novak’s “Transarchitecture” (1995).
As the French philosopher Michel Serres asserts, the living organism acts similarly to an open system that can only be assessed rather than defined because of its recombinant qualities (Serres M. 1982). It renders a reactive system in quasi-equilibrium where the intense affluence of information, influence of systemic parameters and confluence of knowledge incessantly erode, reform and transform its existence. This consideration of the living organism as an information system provided a breeding ground, almost literally, for visionary researchers who did not hesitate to assess the architectural object as a responsive, reactive and mutative organism. In the past 30 years, architects such as Greg Lynn, Karl Chu and more recently Francois Roche provided the research community with remarkable results on the potential to embed evolutionary principles at the core of the object. At the same time, critical theorists such as Georges Teyssot, Antoine Picon and Alessandra Ponte engaged with defining the consequences of the increasing influence of information technologies on the discipline of architecture. The visionary work of these practitioners and theorists prefigured the digital euphoria of the XXI’s Century.
Now that the digital savvy milieu of architects has lived on the ecstasy of the first days, it is time to look again on the nature of information that propels today’s informed architecture. Here, the term “informed” suggests that architecture is more than ever sensitive to the affluence, influence and confluence of information as defined by Michel Serres. These three conditions are indeed prevailing in the mutation of the architectural object into something that increasingly resembles to a techno-engineered organism. An organism profoundly influenced by the inherent intensity, instability and transdisciplinarity of technology.
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Screen/Print is an experiment in translation across media, featuring a close-up digital look at printed architectural writing. Divorcing content from the physical page, the series lends a new perspective to nuanced architectural thought.
For this issue, we featured Architecture in Formation.
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Managing Editor and Podcast Co-Producer for Archinect. I write, go to the movies, walk around and listen to the radio. My interests revolve around cognitive urban theory, psycholinguistics and food.Got a pitch, or want to write for us? Contact me!