Responses to IDM Readings

Edit: Everything turned out okay, so no more mourning! But really guys, I want to hear what you had to say.

As I mourn my mistake of reading the IDM extra credit deadline as 8pm rather than 8am, I thought it would be nice to hear everyone’s responses to the readings if they did it. Here are mine:

On “Animate Form“:

“Animate Form” is a writing that calls for a new point of reference and a new set of tools for designing in architecture. While the ends are still the same – forms will remain unmoving and static, there is a need for the means to change. For instance, the same line can be defined by Cartesian coordinates or vectors: Cartesian coordinates representing a static way of thinking and vectors representing force, time, and animation. Greg Lynn argues that to create animate architecture, architects need new tools to work with such as U, V, orientation rather than Cartesian, topological surfaces defined by flexible splines rather than baroque spaces defined by multiple radii, and parameters rather than single, independent entities that are only defined internally. It seemed to me that Lynn wanted people to see the organizing and creating principles behind forms as more complex and connected that normally perceived. If architects perceive the way architecture is created differently, they will begin to think with a new vocabulary and tools when designing it. When Lynn writes about “formal and phenomenal time” such as “shearing,” “shifting,” and “rotating” operations or how a spline curve works, it immediately made me think of Rhinoceros and other modeling programs that students use today. I’m curious to know how common parametric design was during 1999 when “Animate Form” was written. It seems like today, we are achieving or at least coming closer to animate design. I also tried to think of buildings that seemed to be “animate” and the Sagrada Familia came to mind. If I remember correctly, the arches were designed using spline techniques written in “Animate Form.” However, I do have a question about an example and statement given by Lynn. He states when describing the example of a ships hull: “Moreover, the primary method of experiencing these vector effects is not optical or through aesthetic contemplation but instead through performance.” My question would be, how do you design using multiple vectors of movement with aesthetics in mind? Is it possible? Also, if design is constantly controlled by external factors and defined by parameters, where is the original design intent? Is there room for both? I would definitely like to come back to this reading later on in my career because I’m not sure if I was able to grasp every nuance and idea that I think Greg Lynn was trying to express.

Hanging model displaying catenary curves of the Sagrada Familia

On “The Virtual Dimension“:

Stan Allen in “The Virtual Dimension” discusses three ways in which computers are used as tools and how they can change the way architects approach design problems: Digital abstractions, digital fields, and logistics of context. If I read correctly, it seems that Allen is concerned about the loss of abstraction which is important in architectural representation. With the advent of computer modeling programs, architects are working directly on a built reality from which an infinite number of two-dimensional projections can then be extracted. The computer can handle an immense amount of information when before, architects worked with a limited number of projections that represented an imagined reality. Next, Allen writes about the ramifications of digital technology on images, figures, and fields. Digital information, as opposed to analog images, have no hierarchy – each piece of information that makes up a whole is “discontinuous, dicontiguous, and absolute.” As a consequence, the traditional concept of figure/field changes to field/field. From two layered fields (or more?), a figure emerges from the layering and mixing of information. Allen applies this concept to architecture when he speaks of parts simply being parts: similar to how digital information is discontinuous and discontiguous. Although I’m not sure how this concept would materialize in an architectural form or structure, I thought it was a very interesting concept. Lastly, Allen writes about the logistics of context and how architects struggle to “address the complexities of urban context.” Computers can be used as a tool for simulating multiple iterations of contextual information. From multiple iterations, just as the example of the flock of bird displays, patterns will begin to emerge. It seemed that Allen wanted architects to allow patterns of contextual information to occur on their own and to give “up some measure of control.” While I think I grasp the idea of accumulating information and allowing a machine to simulate iteration upon iteration to unveil a pattern, I’m curious as to how that would contribute to the design of a form. Once a pattern is recognized, how is that pattern then acknowledged in the design?

On “The Conventions and Rhetoric of Architectural Drawing“:

I think this reading was an interesting choice in the context of a digital media class where drawing is limited to a computer. I found it really interesting to read about how the medium of drawing can affect what is being drawn on it. Ackerman’s comment on the dimension of the drawing board and its orientation reminded me of our Le Corbusier assignment back in the first semester. My teammates and I were given the Villa Sarabhai to redraft, but the floor plans, sections, and elevations of the building were larger than our own maylines and drawing boards. The difficulty in completing the task of redrafting made me never want to have to redraft a building at that scale again. So, with the dimensions and scales of paper conventionally produced, has architecture been unconsciously molded to fit a certain characteristic? I think it is also interesting to note the change in architecture today due to the computer where the drawing board is essentially infinite. This writing also raises the question of what the goal of representation is. Should representations of architecture be an objective and faithful rendering of built reality? Can drawings be skewed and morphed to represent perceptual or conceptual spaces? This question reminds me of a point made in class that students should be wary when selecting the lens length when rendering an image due to a camera’s ability to give a false sense of space. However, is this false sense of space something to be deterred from, or can it be a useful tool for establishing an emotion towards a space. Just as a speaker may use hyperbole to emphasize a point, can distortion in architectural drawing and representation be used in the same way? Another question that this reading raises for me is the possible detrimental effects of drawing. Take for instance, the final project of the second semester. A space was created that arguably could not have been drawn beforehand or could be drawn afterwords. Is there an architectural “style” that is unable to emerge because of the decisive nature of a drawing? However, I think Ackerman’s writing could possibly answer my question in that drawings do not need to be decisive or accurate in order to work. As Stan Allen stated in “The Virtual Dimension,” there is a significance in the level of abstraction that exists in architectural representation. This reading makes me impressed with the power of extent of architectural drawing’s influence.

On “Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing (Chapter 1) (Chapter 3)”:

In the first chapter of Kolarevic’s “Architecture in the Digital Age,” I found it interesting how the shift in tools and materials can have such a large impact that it has effectively created a new era in architecture. I think this is also apparent in a smaller scale in terms of our education. Students saw a shift in their designs when their choice of materials expanded from stiff Strathmore paper and basswood to flexible materials such as plastic, wire-mesh, and plaster. Immediately, students were playing with “blob” forms and complex curves. While I’m not sure that my fellow student’s topological designs transcend spatial distinctions to achieve spatial relations, I think the shift in forms simply due to the materials and tools available to them is very significant. The third chapter of Kolarevic’s writing, “Digital Production,” makes me very excited for my future as an architect. With tools such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, five-axis milling machines, an uncharted world of fabrication and design emerges for our generation. I think it was in our first semester of Digital Media that we spoke about how designers used to look at the future when designing and how designers today are looking at the past: fashion is always inspired by some previous decade, typical mansions are made to look like classical Tuscan villas, etc. With the advent of new technologies, I think we are finally able to design in a way that is “nontypological, discontinuous, amorphous, non-perspectival, [and] ahistoric.” Furthermore, this reading highlights how imperative it is for Carnegie Mellon to update its facilities with this technology because I think this is the direction in which architecture is heading. I hope that in our future years of schooling, more in-depth classes and opportunities for digital fabrication and the science of materials and assembly will become more available to us.




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