Erik William Herrmann Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; University of Michigan
The First-Wave Digital Urbanism of Leonardo and Laura Mosso.
In the mid-1960s, Italian architects Leonardo and Laura Mosso began experimenting with digital frameworks in architecture and urbanism. In 1969, the pair published “Programmierte Architektur”, an extraordinary manifesto on design and computation calling for a new form of “direct architecture” possible through the use of digital computers. Their slim volume concluded with an urban proposal entitled, “Continuity”, that speculated on the role of computation in the design and governance of new forms of urbanism as an explicit reaction to post-War planning efforts in Central Europe. Leonardo and Laura’s radical work sought new urban environments that were “human, logical and programmed”. Thus, these early digital experiments were positioned precisely at the threshold between analog and digital tendencies in architecture and urbanism. This presentation will contextualize and re-consider the early proto-digital proposals of Leonardo and Laura Mosso as precursors presciently inscribed with the promises and challenges of our own contemporary data-based urban environments.
The city Leonardo and Laura envisioned had no fixed form, only unscripted permutations of possible futures. Additionally, planning decisions in their digital city would be managed through procedures rather than fixed rules. The urban environment of “Continuity” was not a static form, but rather a temporal and constantly evolving environment mediated equally through acts of both construction and destruction. Their utopian dream of a responsive, self-regulated city certainly forecasted the ambitions of the contemporary Smart City movement, inviting larger questions about the nature of the algorithms and parameters that control the planning and maintenance of our cities today.
Erik Herrmann is the 2016-2017 Walter B. Sanders Fellow in Architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design and a Master of Architecture from Yale University School of Architecture where he was awarded the Carroll L.V. Meeks Memorial Scholarship in recognition of outstanding performance in History.
Previously, Erik was a visiting researcher at the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) at the University of Stuttgart as a 2014–2015 German Chancellor’s Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Erik’s ongoing design research reconsiders contemporary themes and tendencies in the computational design field through the lens of prescient studies completed by a unique cluster of visionary philosophers, poets and computer technicians in the 1960s. Professionally, Erik has practiced with Gray Organschi Architecture in New Haven, CT and Trahan Architects in Louisiana. He is currently co-director of Outpost Office.
Daniel Lopez-Perez Associate Professor, University of San Diego
R. Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetic – Thinking.
R. Buckminster Fuller’s contribution to modern architecture is often characterized by his designs of geodesic domes. In parallel, and much less explored in his scholarship, Fuller also pursued the writing of many patents, inventions that sought to define the intelligence of these structures universally through words. As a tool to negotiate between the physical and conceptual dimensions of his research, Fuller conceived of the Synergetics Dictionary. Assembled in collaboration with E. J. Applewhite, it was a monumental collection of concepts conceived by Fuller and indexed alphabetically and chronologically from his letters, lectures, articles, manuscripts and books together with notebooks, drawings, blueprints and press-clippings.
Fuller’s Synergetics project aimed to “measure” all human physical experience and “coordinate” it into a conceptual pattern of words. On the one hand, a set of diverging relationships reveals physical “experiencing” – our increase in understanding of the physical world through the gathering of more and more quantifiable data – as “entropic”, chaotic and ever expanding. On the other hand, a set of converging relationships shows metaphysical “conceptioning” – our search for order within the expansive entropy of the physical world – as “syntropic” increasingly more organized and orderly. If Fuller’s incessant investigation of the physical world strove to discover nature’s rules, his conceptual ordering tried to “anticipatorily” contend with that world’s “accelerated disorder”.
As the basis of both the geodesic objects and the patents, this paper will explore Fuller’s Synergetic –Thinking as a conceptual framework from which to reflect upon the physical agency of “objects”, their authorship, and their discursive networks of connections, relationships and patterns.
Daniel López-Pérez holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton, and is an Associate Professor of Architecture and a founding faculty member of the Architecture Program in the Department of Art, Architecture and Art History at the University of San Diego.
Awarded a Graham Foundation Grant for Individuals, López-Pérez is a contributing editor of Fuller in Mexico! The Architectural Initiative (Arquine, CONACULTA, 2015), a study of R. Buckminster Fuller’s “World Design Science Decade”.
In 2014, López-Pérez curated an exhibition and a series of lectures reflecting upon Fuller’s legacy on contemporary models of design research and intellectual property as part of the OfficeUS program in the American Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale.
Made possible in part by a Barr Ferree Foundation Fund, awarded by the Department of Art and Archeology at Princeton University, López-Pérez is a contributing editor to R. Buckminster Fuller – World Man (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013), which was awarded Architecture Magazine’s 2013 Editor’s Pick for Best Design and Architecture Book of the year.
Anna-Maria Meister Princeton University
HfG Ulm circa 1954: Finding the Right Maßstab for the Good Object.
Reconstruction in post-WWII Germany was tackled across several scales from cleaning bricks to reconstructing cities, from institutional initiatives to the education of a new German citizen. At the centre of these endeavours was the shared belief that design and dissemination of “good” objects—be they modular houses or children’s building blocks—could re-normalize society. At the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (founded in 1953), architecture was designed as such an object alongside tea cups and radios. This paper focuses on the techniques of design developed at the school as indebted to the reconstruction era: where the rubble in the postwar cities had pulverized all sense of scale, the objects at the HfG were designed as objects assuming several scales. At the same time, a bureaucratic committee, Verein Spielgut (Good Play), was founded with the involvement of HfG protagonists, selecting “good toys” for children. Advocating for objects with “less detail”, the committee argued for toys to be open to scalar interpretation (as opposed to, for example, meticulous rail models), promising a tentative re-negotiation of subject to object where the scalelessness of rubble loomed in the background. Ulm design modelled tea cups, modular facades and building blocks as monochrome shapes on white backgrounds, photographed “slightly from above”. My paper will scrutinize the design techniques at work across scales from “spoon to city” (as Max Bill called it) as architectural value and tool, and as an operation in a period’s displacement of political critique to the making of normative objects—and, ultimately, subjects.
Anna-Maria Meister is an architect currently pursuing her PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University. Her work focuses on questions of norms and normed objects as technical and social desires, investigating their production and dissemination as institutional values in early twentieth-century Germany. While maintaining the disciplinary specificity of this project about modern Gestaltung as moral construction at its core, she continuous to explore elective affinities to other disciplines as pre-doctoral visiting fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for History of Science, Berlin, as fellow in the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European studies, and as fellow in Princeton’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Doctoral Program (IHUM). She holds degrees in Architecture from Columbia University, New York and the University of Technology, Munich. Anna-Maria Meister is a member of the research team of the “Radical Pedagogies” project at the Princeton School of Architecture and has co-curated its latest installation at the 14th Venice Biennale in the Monditalia section, where the project was awarded a Special Mention by the jury.
Marisabel Marratt Georgia Institute of Technology
Between Crypto-Technics and Phanero-Technics: The Revealing in Simondon’s Techno-Aesthetics.
The launching of the Sputnik I in 1957 was important for French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon (1924–89), because it “provided technical evidence that the true dimension of the human world can no longer be reduced to the incorrect category of instrumentality.” In the shadow of the Cold-War, technology’s potential for destruction and salvation is inescapable, and culture and technology appear to inhabit opposite ends of the spectrum. In 1958, Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence of Technological Objects proposed “to rebalance general culture through the introduction of the technical object to culture”, with the idea that the technological object, more than simply a tool, is “suitable material for philosophical reflection”. Part of Simondon’s reflecting is an engagement with the developing field of cybernetics, which leads him to his own particular formulation of materiality, involving perception, technics, data and communication; in formation.
This paper discusses Simondon’s in formation as a weave of empirical and psychological realities, a participation with the technological object as a conscious materiality, a “techno-aesthetics”. Rethinking technology as a technophany, he lays the ground for an increasing harmonization between cultural prerogatives and technical functionalities, a phenomenon that encompasses the object and is more-than object, that is ontological and evolutionary. “The presence of man-machine is a perpetual invention. What resides in machines is a human reality; human gestures are fixed and crystallized in structures that function.” Simondon’s project: both human and machine become and are made; they are co-modulated. The question then becomes whether they have common ends.
Marisabel Marratt is a doctoral student in History and Theory at the School of Architecture of Georgia Institute of Technology. Advised by Professor Lars Spuybroek, her research examines twentieth-century history and theory, and philosophies of technology and information, with an interest in the potential implications for contemporary architectural theory, aesthetics and the evolving experience and conception of architecture in professional practice. As point of departure, her work is focused on French philosopher of technology Gilbert Simondon (1924–89), his conception of techno-aesthetics and in-formation, and what this may suggest for a distinct conception of materiality.
Marisabel holds a Bachelor and Masters degree in Architecture from Princeton University (AB, MArch), where she developed her design thesis under Professors Anthony Vidler and Alan Colquhoun. In her professional experience, Marisabel has been involved in many award-winning projects, encompassing Architecture, Interior Architecture and Production Design. Throughout, the emphasis has been to explore the content of experience in the built form. The desire to “push the envelope”, has led to inventive approaches to space/form-making, exploring and implementing virtual and material technologies, color, movement and light.
Lefteris Theodosis Architect, Athens
Big Data Modernism: Constantinos Doxiadis’ Program for the Development of Detroit.
In 1965, the Greek architect and planner Constantinos Doxiadis (1913–75) was commissioned by the Detroit Edison Company to prepare a large-scale development plan for the Urban Detroit Area (UDA). In 1966, Doxiadis presented an impressive plan that was meant to respond to the dynamic changes of a growing city, using the latest methods and technologies of urban management and growth prediction. The UDA program sought to analyze 49 million alternatives in pursuit of the ideal solution for the harmonious development of the region, but was eventually abandoned in the midst of the socio-political turmoil that shook the American cities in the late 1960s.
This paper will review the methodological tools and planning models that Doxiadis used for understanding the urban world and in order to plan the future of human settlements. At the time Big Data were introduced in urban and regional planning with the aim to provide a scientific basis to decision making. Doxiadis depicted these phenomena and changes in the theory of Ecumenopolis that illustrated the consolidated status of human settlements interconnected in a “world-city”. Ekistics, the interdisciplinary and systemic approach he coined the science of human settlements, sought to put the basis for further study and action. Altogether, Doxiadis’ research programmes and plans were premised on statistics and comparative analysis with the technical support of one of the most advanced computer centres at the time.
Lefteris Theodosis obtained the Diploma of Architect-Engineer from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and holds a PhD in Theory and History of Architecture from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (BarcelonaTech – UPC). His doctoral thesis “Victory Over Chaos? Constantinos A. Doxiadis and Ekistics 1945-1975”, examines the work of the architect-planner Constantinos Doxiadis and the development of ekistics, what he used to call the science of human settlements. The dissertation focuses on key projects from different phases of his prolific career: the European Reconstruction, the modernization of the Middle East, the suburbanization of the American city and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. The common thread linking these episodes is the opposing but interacting “processes” that characterized the forging of the postwar world, that is, the efforts to internationalism and the schism of the Cold War. Current research interests and projects originate in and address the areas of urbanism, architecture, sound experimentation and music performance.
Nabil Ahmed (PhD) is a researcher, writer and educator working on environmental conflict and forensic architecture. His writings have appeared in academic journals, magazines and various art and architecture publications such as Third Text, Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Sternberg, 2014) and Volume magazine. He has been part of the Anthropocene Project (2013–2014) at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and is currently co-leading the project “Nature, Labour, Land” for the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennial. He is co-founder of Call and Response, a sound art organization based in London. He holds a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a lecturer in history & theory at The Cass School of Architecture at London Metropolitan University.
Christoph Eggersglüß is a researcher at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (International Research Institute for Cultural Techniques and Media Philosophy, IKKM), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, and associate member of the Laborgruppe Kulturtechniken (Laboratory Group Cultural Techniques), Universität Erfurt. He was a doctoral student at the Graduate Research Programme Mediale Historiographien – Media of History/History of Media, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Christoph studied European Studies, Science and Technology Studies as well as Media Culture in Bremen, Gothenburg and Weimar. He took part in the Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies, the IFK Akademie Vienna/Linz and the Anthropocene Curriculum: The Technosphere Issue at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin. His doctoral project, “An/Architecture”, focuses on the politics and aesthetics of material infrastructures, on governing the in-between and managing spatial left-overs at the fringes of the built environment (e.g. the politics of the roadside, bollards, edges and ledges). Christoph’s research interests include the techno-politics of architecture, the theory and figure of the non-human delegate, tinkering, urban anthropotechnics, as well as the history and historiography of street furniture.