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id ga9928
authors Goulthorpe
year 1999
title Hyposurface: from Autoplastic to Alloplastic Space
source International Conference on Generative Art
summary By way of immediate qualification to an essay which attempts to orient current technical developments in relation to a series of dECOi projects, I would suggest that the greatest liberation offered by new technology in architecture is not its formal potential as much as the patterns of creativity and practice it engenders. For increasingly in the projects presented here dECOi operates as an extended network of technical expertise: Mark Burry and his research team at Deakin University in Australia as architects and parametric/ programmatic designers; Peter Wood in New Zealand as programmer; Alex Scott in London as mathematician; Chris Glasow in London as systems engineer; and the engineers (structural/services) of David Glover’s team at Ove Arup in London. This reflects how we’re working in a new technical environment - a new form of practice, in a sense - a loose and light network which deploys highly specialist technical skill to suit a particular project. By way of a second disclaimer, I would suggest that the rapid technological development we're witnessing, which we struggle to comprehend given the sheer pace of change that overwhelms us, is somehow of a different order than previous technological revolutions. For the shift from an industrial society to a society of mass communication, which is the essential transformation taking place in the present, seems to be a subliminal and almost inexpressive technological transition - is formless, in a sense - which begs the question of how it may be expressed in form. If one holds that architecture is somehow the crystallization of cultural change in concrete form, one suspects that in the present there is no simple physical equivalent for the burst of communication technologies that colour contemporary life. But I think that one might effectively raise a series of questions apropos technology by briefly looking at 3 or 4 of our current projects, and which suggest a range of possibilities fostered by new technology. By way of a third doubt, we might qualify in advance the apparent optimism of architects for CAD technology by thinking back to Thomas More and his island ‘Utopia’, which marks in some way the advent of Modern rationalism. This was, if not quite a technological utopia, certainly a metaphysical one, More’s vision typically deductive, prognostic, causal. But which by the time of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis is a technological utopia availing itself of all the possibilities put at humanity’s disposal by the known machines of the time. There’s a sort of implicit sanction within these two accounts which lies in their nature as reality optimized by rational DESIGN as if the very ethos of design were sponsored by Modern rationalist thought and its utopian leanings. The faintly euphoric ‘technological’ discourse of architecture at present - a sort of Neue Bauhaus - then seems curiously misplaced historically given the 20th century’s general anti-, dis-, or counter-utopian discourse. But even this seems to have finally run its course, dissolving into the electronic heterotopia of the present with its diverse opportunities of irony and distortion (as it’s been said) as a liberating potential.1 This would seem to mark the dissolution of design ethos into non-causal process(ing), which begs the question of ‘design’ itself: who 'designs' anymore? Or rather, has 'design' not become uncoupled from its rational, deterministic, tradition? The utopianism that attatches to technological discourse in the present seems blind to the counter-finality of technology's own accomplishments - that transparency has, as it were, by its own more and more perfect fulfillment, failed by its own success. For what we seem to have inherited is not the warped utopia depicted in countless visions of a singular and tyrranical technology (such as that in Orwell's 1984), but a rich and diverse heterotopia which has opened the possibility of countless channels of local dialect competing directly with the channels of power. Undoubtedly such multiplicitous and global connectivity has sent creative thought in multiple directions…
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