First Post: On Architecture, Technology, and Liberty

Woven Columns by Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, ETH Zurich, CAAD

Woven Columns by Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, ETH Zurich, CAAD

Architecture. Technology. Liberty. The three concepts that I have chosen to emphasize, in this blog and in my work, have always been passions of mine, though it wasn’t until the summer of 2012, while studying abroad in Switzerland, that I began to synthesize these interests into a coherent theory. In my first series of posts I will attempt to briefly outline my views on the three topics and where they intersect. The first three posts, including this one on architecture and technology, will lead up to the first post of my own work, my first GSAPP studio project, which dealt with the intersection of all three.

Architecture and Technology:

The transition from an industrial to an information technology-based society is marked by a new way of thinking, a new way of operating, and a new understanding of the world. The grounding operational principle that shaped the mechanistic world view of the industrial society – the relics of which are still more or less active – has been displaced by a principle based upon interdependent cycles and networks.

– Ludger Hovestadt, Beyond the Grid: Architecture and Information Technology

In Beyond the Grid, Hovestadt, the chair of Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) at ETH Zurich, makes a convincing argument for the new relationship between architecture and technology. Computation and information technology, he claims, have already begun to effect drastic changes in the way building are designed and built. As opposed to computer aided drafting (CAD), which is simply the use of computers as a drawing tool which replaces the traditional process of hand drafting, CAAD implies a generative design methodology, in which architects relinquish control over the exact appearance of the end result. The architects of the information age must be designers of systems, more akin to programmers than sculptors.

This transition in the mentality of architects will be far from swift, as there is a great deal of concern about what the role of the designer would be in such a future. But the arrival of the digital (or rather the post-digital) age does not imply the end of artistry in the design fields. The infusion of technological advances in the processes of design and manufacturing has opened the industry to new modes of material experimentation and artistic expression. Indeed, the architect will always occupy the space between art and science, often using the one to challenge the other. Ultimately, it is the role of the architect to synthesize, drawing inspiration from the artistic and technological advances of the past, present and future to formulate built forms that embody contemporary society.

Photo: “Woven Column” by Michael Hansmeyer, ETH Zurich, CAAD


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