Κυριακή, 17 Μαΐου 2015

Architecture of Interaction

Architecture of Interaction model of an interactive work process.
The black circle represents the initiating author of the interactive
work. The white circle is the moment of publication of the work.The elongated
grey bubble is the interactive work conceived by the initiating author
during its execution. The light grey sphere is the zone in which the
work leaves traces to Others who were not present during the actualisation
of the work by initiating author, Participants and Onlookers.
Model to map the intentions of the Initiating Author against
those of the Participants.

(1+2) In this model, the intentions of the initiating author and the
work’s Participants are mapped perpendicular to each other. Note
that the white circles do not represent individual people, but
represent individual interactions.
Models of Timeframes in an interactive work process.
Slice 1 shows the period of time before the moment of
publication by the initiating author. Slice 2 shows the
period in which Onlookers become acquainted with the work and some
of them turn into Participants. Slice 3 shows the
period in which the Participants reach their own moment of publication,
after which the interactive process stops and the significant Others who continue
to experience any traces of the work are Witnesses of Traces.
Applied model: Black Ball
Here the basic model is applied
to show the interactive working
process of Yvonne Dröge Wendel’s
Black Ball

Παρασκευή, 1 Μαΐου 2015

Constructing Adaptive Ecologies: Notes on a Computational Urbanism Theodore Spyropoulos


‘Living systems are units of interaction; they exist in ambience.’
Humberto Maturana1

‘I shall consider the physical environment as an evolving organism as
opposed to a designed artefact. In particular, I shall consider an
evolution aided by a specific class of machines. 
Warren McCulloch

calls them ethical robots; in the context of architecture I shall call them
architecture machines.’
Nicholas Negroponte2

György Kepes once proclaimed, ‘In our new conceptual models of nature, the stable, solid world of substance, which in the past was considered permanent and preordained, is understood as widely dispersed fields of dynamic energies. Matter – the tangible, visible, stable substance in the old image of the physical world – is recast today as an invisible web of nuclear events with orbiting electrons jumping from orbit to orbit.3 The fixed and finite tendencies that once served to categorise the natural and the man-made worlds have been rendered obsolete. Today the intersections of information, life and matter display complexities that suggest the possibility of a much deeper synthesis. Within this context, however, architecture is being forced to radically refactor its response to new social and cultural challenges and an accelerated process of urbanisation. All over the world, cities are emerging in the kind of timeframe that buildings are usually developed in, and outdated practices dictate that these cities are generic,
unable to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the built environment.
To counter this, architecture today must participate and engage with the information-rich environments that are shaping our lives by constructing computational frameworks that will allow for change, embracing a demand for adaptive models for living. Our approach to addressing these challenges explores a systemic form of interaction that engages behavioural features that are polyscalar, allowing biodiverse networks
to operate between urban contexts, buildings and materials. An intimate
correlation of material and computational interaction allows for the emergence of a generative time-based behavioural model of living,
where the interplay of local agency and environmental stimulus constructs collective orders. 

Environmental stimulus gives rise to structures of elaborate complexity, as these systems are able to continuously adapt to local and global signalling. Unlike most man-made structures,
the architectures of these structures are not embedded in a blueprint, but rather are correlated operations governed through emerging collective interaction.

‘Technology is the answer – but what was the question?’
Cedric Price4

A Cybernetic Approach
In September 1969 a landmark issue of Architectural Design, guest-edited by Roy Landau, brought issues of interaction and digital computation into mainstream architectural media for the first time. Alongside articles by Nicholas Negroponte, Cedric Price and Warren Brodey, the issue featured an essay by the cybernetician Gordon Pask, who introduced the idea that ‘architects are first and foremost system designers who have been forced to take an increasing interest in the organisational system properties of development, communication and control’.
5 Architecture
Pask argued, had no theory to cope with the pressing complexities of the time, and it was only through a cybernetic understanding of systemic processes that the discipline would evolve. Central to Pask’s argument was an understanding of the world through the pursuit of ‘communication and control’ and the elucidation of what he termed ‘aesthetically potent environments’ – external spaces designed to foster pleasurable interactions. These interactions were to be framed through a commitment to novelty. ‘Man’, he wrote, ‘is prone to seek novelty in his environment and, having found a novel situation, to learn how to control it’.

In his foreword to John Frazer’s seminal book An Evolutionary Architecture (1980), Pask presents a fundamental cybernetic thesis that ‘architecture is a living, evolving thing. In a way this is evident. Our culture’s striving towards civilisation is manifested in the places, houses and cities that it creates. As well as providing a protective carapace, these structures also carry symbolic value, and can be seen as being continuous with and emerging from the life of those who inhabit the built environment. It is appropriate to stress an important cybernetic feature of the work; namely that unity is not uniformity, but is coherence and diversity admixed in collusion.7 In the work of Gordon Pask and other artists and scientists, the use of cybernetic methods resulted in new experiential forms of practice.8

As telematic artist Roy Ascott notes, cybernetics has transformed our world by ‘presenting us with qualities of experience and modes of perception which radically alter our conception of it’.9 In addition, second order cybernetician Ranulph Glanville has argued that cybernetics constructs a new way of thinking about the material world: ‘the knowledge we previously had from science was all about trying to remove the observer so we could talk about an artefactual world full of things, but it is very difficult to argue about a world that exists without our sensing it’.10 Glanville emphasises the role of the active observer and the distinctions to be made between science and design. In design he sees a cybernetic process at work – a form of conversational interaction. For Glanville designers ‘are not observers of the world, but observers in the world’.11 Therefore, design as an activity should not limit itself solely to descriptive forms but rather use casual and circular relationships to identify generative qualities that will continuously redefine and evolve the design system itself. This is a process of continual formation rather than a state of fixed form.

Behavioural Machines: Singular vs Collective Agency
The dynamic and adaptive approach advocated by this publication is not one of form but of correlated formations – a model of collective living that addresses the spatial complexities of the city. A synthesis of material and computational interaction constructs a generative organisation of space and structure that explores a behaviour-based model of living through patterns found in nature.

‘Many of the most striking (pattern) examples that we encounter
around us are evidently the products of human hands and minds –
they are patterns shaped with intelligence and purpose, constructed
by design.’
Phillip Ball12

System-to-system interactions identified through simple rule-based protocols can collectively exhibit complex non-linear behaviour. The magnitude of these interactions is explored across varied scales to test the potential of self-structuring orders constructed through the interplay of local agency and environmental stimulus. Early analogue cybernetic experiments – such as Gordon Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles – address the significance of parameters dealing with the observer in order to understand our tendency to attribute life-like properties through simple, relational agent interaction.

As a result, embodied patterns emerge through goal-oriented systems that exhibit life-like characteristics. These social orders allow a synthetic interplay to construct a new breed of proto-animalistic architectures that evolve through negotiated interactions, creating a fusion of digital and analogue computation that draws on the pioneering work of the renowned neurophysiologist W Grey Walter. An interest in cognitive operations and biological systems led Walter to develop his machinae speculatrices (machines that watch) – autonomous robots that could demonstrate how simple organisms exhibit non-linear interactions. The first of these were named Elsie and Elmer, and they took the form of phototropic tortoises inspired by a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Designed with a primitive nervous system, the tortoises constructed social action and self-organisational patterns that were characteristic of animal behaviour and ritual. Walter’s genius lay in his ability to recognise complex adaptive behaviours in simple interconnected systems that focused on goal orientation and adaptation through learning. This allowed the robots to be free-ranging autodidacts that built up intelligence through interaction.

After completing his experiments with the tortoises, Walter wrote in The Living Brain (1953) that there was a ‘well-defined difference between the magical and the scientific imitation of life. The former copies external appearances; the latter is concerned with performance and behaviour. Until the scientific era, what seemed most alive to people was what most looked like a living being. The vitality accorded to an object was a function primarily of its form.’ Through a fusion of synthetic and natural systems, architecture can construct machines that are generative, evolving relationships that couple new forms of spatial organisation with fabrication. The ability to shift preoccupations from object to system allows our built environment to play an active and participatory role in the construction of adaptive forms through feedback.

From Object to System
György Kepes states in his introduction to The Nature and Art of Motion (1965) that ‘to structure our chaotic physical and social environment as well as our knowledge and values, we have to accept the conditions of the new scale and learn to use the tools that have grown from it’.13 New sensibilities have evolved in relation to communication through mediated and remote interaction, which are now critical to a research that explores the role of space and in particular the ways that the physical and public environment can communicate as an active agent. As Kepes’s Bauhaus mentor and colleague László Moholy-Nagy once observed, ‘design is not a profession but an attitude … thinking in complex relationships’.14 Today, the role of science and technology offers architecture some of the most radical and thought-provoking scenarios if approached in a manner that enables participatory and collective emergence.

In a 1964 article titled ‘The Construction of Change’, Roy Ascott attempted to outline the terms for engaging art as a system based on the interrelations between artist, audience and environment.15 His proposal stemmed from his belief that ‘cybernetics was the science of behaviour and art was essentially behaviourist’. Through the interaction of these constituents, one could construct an environment in which new models of practice foreground participation, allowing aspects of play to evolve and thus creating new forms of knowledge. Ascott elaborated this idea further in his 1967 manifesto, Behaviourables and Futuribles, noting ‘when art is a form of behaviour, software predominates over hardware in the creative sphere. Process replaces product in importance, just as system supersedes structure.’

He went on to reinforce this sentiment by emphasising the importance of the societal and cultural: ‘for a culture to survive it needs internal acrimony (irritation), reciprocity (feedbacks) and variety (change)’. In this way, the coupling of design and technology could bring about a discourse that was social and optimistic, buoyed by the shared belief that, through innovation, new channels of communication would emerge that would interconnect previously self-contained and isolated fields. Art and design was therefore seen as a tool enabling active collaboration with cultural and scientific disciplines.

The Architecture Machine Group led by Nicholas Negroponte produced Seek, a computer-controlled environment inhabited by gerbils as part of Jack Burnham’s 1970 ‘Software’ show in New York.

‘We can communicate – that is, combine and reinforce our knowledge with that of other men – by stimulating the circulation of ideas and feelings, finding channels of communication that can interconnect our disciplines and enable us to see our world as a connective whole.’ György Kepes16

Architecture must Participate
György Kepes once wrote that ‘The dynamic unity of constancy and change has a fundamental role in our intellectual growth. Our clearest understanding of the nature of these complementary opposites has been reached through a grasp of the principle of self-regulating systems.’ Similarly, our own systemic approach seeks to evolve research into new forms of living and the structuring of human environments. Experimenting through explicit models of interactions, observable patterns and proto-animalistic agency, the work within this book explores the capacity for design systems to evolve architectural elements with the capacity to self-structure, respond and evolve. In the process, and beyond deterministic methods of structuring space, issues of duration and populations evolve into a new language of assemblies as collective structures.

Today, with greater opportunities and easier access to information, comes the challenge to re-evaluate the conception and production of architecture. These enabled communication networks have fostered the possibilities for a shared and collective project – one that is not only available to all, but affords a deeper understanding of the world and our participation in it. In engaging with this shared project, it is important to recognise early experiments within this domain, such as those explored by Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machine Group at MIT, which dealt with the intimate association of man and machine within architecture, and of Cedric Price, who in collaboration with Joan Littlewood and Gordon Pask designed a Fun Palace that would operate as a time-based architectural machine adapting and evolving through its everyday use. These projects provided a model for the coupling of design and technology while calling for a discourse that is both social and optimistic. Taken together, architecture and design can be seen as a tool that enables an active collaboration within cultural and scientific disciplines. Though not a new pursuit in architecture, it should be recognised that we have greater access to a collective understanding than ever before.

Design should be progressive and challenge people. We should be enabling a diverse set of questions about how we live and the role that architecture can play in our everyday lives. As John Frazer has reminded us, ‘perhaps computing without computers is the most important lesson to be learned by designing these tools. The real benefits are found in having to rethink explicitly and clearly the way in which we habitually do things.’ Architecture today can serve as an emergent framework that displays a new nature, combining the biological, social and computational in an adaptive and evolving organism, reasserting Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s belief that ‘architecture is the continuation of nature in her constructive activity’.

1 Humberto R Maturana, Biology of Cognition, Biological Computer Laboratory Research Report BCL 9.0 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1970).
2 Nicholas Negroponte, The Architecture Machine: Toward a More Human Environment (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970).
3 György Kepes, The Nature and Art of Motion (New York: George Braziller, 1965), 2.
4 Quoted in Paul Brown et al, eds, White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960–1980 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 37–51.
5 Gordon Pask, ‘The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics’, Architectural Design,
September 1969, 494.
6 Gordon Pask, ‘A Comment, a Case History and a Plan’ (1970) reprinted in J Reichardt, ed, Cybernetic Art and Ideas (London: Studio Vista, 1971), 77.
7 John Frazer, An Evolutionary Architecture (London: Architectural Association
Publications, 1995).
8 Ascott and Pask worked together as part of the Cybernetics Sub-Committee, a consultancy of interdisciplinary minds organised by Pask to assist in the development of Cedric Price’s
Fun Palace.
9 Ascott, op cit note 1.
10 Stephanie Bunbury, ‘It’s time to learn to love your Dalek’, 10 May 2005, retrieved 10 September 2007 from http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/05/09/1115584883777.html
11 Ranulph Glanville, ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better: The Cybernetics in Design and the Design in Cybernetics’, Kybernetes 36: 9/10 (2007), 1199.
12 Philip Ball, Shapes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
13 Kepes, The Nature and Art of Motion, 6.
14 László Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion (Chicago, P Theobald, 1947), 42.
15 Reprinted in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds, The New Media Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 128–32.
16 Kepes, The Nature and Art of Motion, 6.
adaptive_041530_v8.indd 21 4/25/13 9:38 AM
Osaka Expo 70, The Grand Roof and the
Festival Plaza Photo: Shinkenchiku-sha
adaptive_041530_v8.indd 22 4/25/13 9:38 AM
adaptive_041530_v8.indd 23 4/25/13 9:38 AM

One of the critical features of what we call ‘Adaptive Ecologies’ is the attempt to explore generative and behavioural forms of systemic interaction. Arising as a response to accelerated forms of urbanism, this agenda sought to ask if computation could help us to evolve a means to engage with the complex polyscalar relationships within architecture and urbanism today. Beyond issues of masterplanning, we wanted to use computation to examine principles that had the capacity to build relationships on three distinct scales: the masterplan (collective), the block/building (cluster), and the unit. Historically these scales have been treated with a degree of autonomy, but we set out to explore processes that considered them as part of an evolving system or ecology able to respond to uncertainty and latency. At the heart of this work were issues of adaptation and a search for systemic methodologies that would enable us to move toward a time-based and scenario-driven form of urbanism.

the Manhattan Transcripts

The Manhattan Transcripts
The dominant theme of The Transcripts is a set of disjunctions among use, form, and social values; the non-coincidence between meaning and being, movement and space, man and object was the starting condition of the work. Yet the inevitable confrontation of these terms produced effects of far-ranging consequence. The Transcripts aimed to offer a different reading of architecture in which space, movement and events are independent, yet stand in a new relation to one another, so that the conventional components of architecture are broken down and rebuilt along different axes.

While the programs used for The Manhattan Transcripts are of the most extreme nature, they also parallel the most common formula plot: the archetype of murder. Other phantasms were occasionally used to underline the fact that perhaps all architecture, rather than being about functional standards, is about love and death. By going beyond the conventional definition of use andprogram, The Transcripts used their tentative format to explore unlikely confrontations.

Τετάρτη, 29 Απριλίου 2015

Michel Gondry and Bjork's Paint Piano

the Anarchitecture Group

The group Anarchitecture came together in 1973, formed by Gordon Matta-Clark and fellow artists. Cynically, one could say that the term was derived because it sounded good, and elevated the group’s pretensions to work under such a name. Yet the first exhibition of the Anarchitecture group occurred in the same year as the work Splitting (1974), and this association of Matta-Clark’s pieces within the realm of architecture was to foresee the direction his work was to take for the next five years, until his death in August 1978.
So what exactly was this ‘cultural reality’ that Matta-Clark and his fellow artists wished to confront, to ‘push against’? In the words of Matta-Clark:
The group’s architectural aim was more elusive than doing pieces that would demonstrate an alternative attitude to buildings.
Gordon Matta-Clark in an interview with Liza Bear, Avalanche, December 1974, p.34
Matta-Clark’s architectural gestures had the potential to be statements against certain social conditions. While many architects felt that they could make a contribution to society through the structures they built, Matta-Clark felt that he himself could not alter the environment or make any significant change. His idea of Anarchitecture called for an anarchistic approach to architecture, marked physically by a process of destructuring, rather than by the creation of structure. It was thus his choice to focus on existing structures in neglected areas, to use the city’s abandoned buildings within which to execute his work.
These buildings were empty, and for Matta-Clark, they were free for him to use. The neglect of these physical structures allowed Matta- Clark a philosophical approach that sought to reveal societal problems through art.
Matta-Clark’s cuttings were simultaneously an addition to existing structures, since they afforded new passageways and views, and a subtraction, by being a void. In this way, the cuttings stand as metaphors for the layers of past references in the individual building, as well as for the disjunctures in the functioning of the individual within society. The breaking down of walls symbolized a breaking down, a rupturing, of interpersonal and class barriers. The building types were archetypal, each inferring a certain status about the inhabitants. The ghetto tenement blocks he used marked the imprisonment of the poor. The common suburban houses of Splitting and Bingo marked the self-containment of the higher socioeconomic classes. The breakdown of these building types sought an open, more liberal society.
Matta-Clark’s most notorious work, and his most powerful statement, was Window Blow Out (1976). This sought to undermine the foundations of the architectural establishment by which he had gained his architectural education. Borrowing a gun from artist Dennis Oppenheim, Matta-Clark:
… came in at 3 am while we were setting up the show [“Idea As Model” at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, New York] and he was incredibly wrecked. He said that he was going to knock out only those windows that were already cracked; at that point I said okay, only those. But in fact he shot them all out. When the Institute Fellows came in (Peter Eisenman was the director at the time), they were furious.
interview with Andrew MacNair, in Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 1985, p.96
The second part of the piece was to place in each bay of the broken windows, mounted photographs taken of buildings in the South Bronx area of New York, themselves with smashed windows. The work was subsequently eliminated, the windows being replaced, with very few people seeing it. But what his actions had offered Matta-Clark was the opportunity to criticize what he felt to be a lack of attention paid by architects to the problem of decaying buildings. He knew that Meier, Gwathmey and Graves were to be exhibiting at the show, and at the time commented:
These are the guys I studied with at Cornell, these were my teachers. I hate what they stand for.
Matta-Clark was disturbed by the attitude he felt existed on the part of many architects who saw decaying buildings only as structures to be removed in the interest of renewal and urban planning, and who constructed replacements that themselves soon became objects of decay. He felt that modern architecture was not meeting the needs of people, but rather was creating dehumanized situations.


Κυριακή, 26 Απριλίου 2015

Using Flickr Geotags to Map the World's Cities

source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/sets/72157624209158632/detail/

We've seen maps of photographic activity around the world, and maps of traffic activity in a city, which reveal how heavily roads are used. And now, photographer Eric Fischer has combined both ideas, creating maps of 50 different cities around the world, using only the geotags of photos uploaded to Flickr and Picasa. What emerges are basically maps of human interest--that is, all the places fascinating enough that someone decided to take a picture. Above, the map for New York, with Manhattan in the center. You'll also notice a bit of color coding on the maps. Apparently, Fischer was able to guess that the picture taker's mode of transportation--presumably using the time stamps and distance traveled between a user's pictures. He then created a color code: Black is walking (less than 7mph), Red is bicycling or equivalent speed (less than 19mph), Blue is motor vehicles on normal roads (less than 43mph); Green is freeways or rapid transit. 

Cool as these maps are, you've gotta wonder at all the possible ways they could be expanded. What if the pictures were color-coded by time of day? Or simply dropped into an animation? Then you could see waves of local interest, as the daytime tourist hordes give way to drunk people snapping party pictures.
To see the entire series, check out Fischer's Flickr. The cities are ordered according to how densely clustered the photographs are (and hence, how detailed the maps are).

Using a bit of ingenious reasoning, Fischer has managed to create maps showing which pictures were taken by tourists, and which were taken by locals.
Fischer's thought process: If a user took pictures in a specific city for only less than a month, she's probably a tourist. If she took pictures over a period longer than a month, she's probably a local. 


Blue pictures are by locals. Red pictures are by tourists. Yellow pictures might be by either. Base map © OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA