Wednesday, December 14, 2005


1. The moving surface.
What does the future hold for architecture when any of its buildings can be animated and
transformed by projections and electronic displays? What is left of architecture if our architectural
‘sign’ language is no longer etched in stone? Facades and walls could be brought
to life by designers and provided with a new, dynamic iconography. When stationary objects
are visually animated they lose their ‘objectness’, their fixity. However sturdy their construction
may be, they appear to be moving. That really is ‘lite’ architecture. In addition to
striving after ever-lighter structures, transparent and translucent walls, and gravity defying
curvilinear forms, architecture can now, via film, become truly immaterial. Contours fade,
forms become fluid. The relationship between human beings and architecture is no longer
polar or dialectical, but ‘immersive’. You can quite literally be swallowed up in it... Who will
be the first architect to win the Oscar for best director?
2. The interactive surface.
How to overcome the passivity of the viewer? If the building is going to become a kind of
terminal anyway, you might as well go ahead and make it an interactive medium. The introduction
of sensor technology heralds a new age in which architecture can be programmed
to respond to highly specific actions. Connected by an efficient interface to the display
possibilities I just described, recording cameras, scanners, electronic eyes, sound and heat
detectors, infrared systems and the like, architecture can generate a dynamism that finally
eclipses the significance of the static object altogether. The architectural design encompasses
not just the object, but also the reaction of that object to the subject. Architecture
becomes intimately involved with experience. The building or urban environment does not
move because it has been turned into an animation but because you, the actor, animate it.
3. Architecture online.
Once the building is interactive, the next step is to connect the architecture to digital networks
and make it ‘online’. What possibilities would be opened up if not only people but
whole environments could be linked together in networks? Architecture online! Now that
digitisation processes are making headway in both the creation and experiencing of environments,
it is possible to link physically separate environments to one another. Once architecture
has been redefined as ‘information’ this can be rendered compatible by means of a
protocol-juggling interface. This in turn can be linked to other environments, analogue as
well as digital. The first variant of this approach is to link up with other physical environments.
A building is crossed with another location. Interestingly, the aesthetic experience
can be collective as well as individual. By adopting a multimedia approach – which involves
linking digital recording equipment such as video cameras, webcams, microphones, scanners
and sensors, to reproduction media such as displays, loudspeakers, or ‘invisible’ integrated
architecture electronics – and designing an interesting interface that makes the
option of exchange worthwhile and selective, it is possible to devise a new type of spatial
extensibility. Places and people in those places communicate with one another. Architecture
becomes a matter of moving situations.
This way, architecture travels, multiplies, becomes a migrant. Rather than creating a
place, designers stage-manage moving situations. The relation between individual and
object becomes the relation between dynamic places and (sometimes manipulated) states
of mind. This architecture belongs to neither the physical nor the virtual domain; it is a
hybrid. Space becomes genuinely fluid; it forms the link by which the digital space can flow
into the real space of daily life. And vice versa...
4. And, finally, full-blown Internetted architecture
This brings us to the second option for online architecture. In addition to virtually connecting
two or more physically remote environments, it is also possible, to link these physical
environments to virtual environments of online networks. This application will only really
become interesting when the design itself utilises the information from the Net as a fundamental
component of form: animation as creation. Should an architect or an artist devise a
special interface between physical environment and the Net, this application could become
an essential element of the architecture. Linked to networks, the meaning of architecture
actually becomes reprogrammable. Reprogrammability means that a building can fulfill an
important cultural role for a much greater part of its life. Updatability is no longer a question
of adaptation to new functions but has become an essential component of the architectonic
character of a static, constructed object.

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