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Responsive Architecture, Performing Instruments

Situated Technologies Pamphlets 4: Responsive Architecture, Performing InstrumentsAuthors: Philip Beesley, Omar Khan. From the Editors:

This volume of the Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series discusses key qualities of “responsive” architecture, a framing that understands it to be a performing instrument. A new generation of architecture that responds to building occupants and environmental factors has embraced distributed technical systems as a means and end for developing more mutually enriching relationships between people, the space they inhabit, and the environment. In contrast to wide optimism about this new kinetic, interactive technology, this conversation examines responsiveness as mutable and contestable.

Recent publications such as Branko Kolarevic and Ali Malkawi’s Performative Architecture: Beyond Instrumentality, Michelle Addington and Daniel Schodek’s Smart Materials and Technologies in Architecture: for the architecture and design professions, Michael Hensel and Achim Menges’ Morpho-ecologies, and Neil Spiller’s Digital Architecture Now offer building performance as a key principle for design, adopting new paradigms for the design of buildings, landscapes and urban infrastructures. This way of thinking about architecture places “performance” above form making, and uses digital simulations and fabrication strategies in pursuit of comprehensive approaches to the built environment.

The works they document employ distributed communication and control systems, lightweight actuators, and sensors integrated within component-based envelope systems. These are supported by new design methods including dynamic visualization and prototyping of complex systems. As a whole, this work is marked by a striking optimism about the expanded powers of performance-based architecture that aspire to be dynamic and open.

Yet while new generative and parametric design practices have increased the scope of architecture’s capacity to manipulate the environment, critical caution appears slight. It might be argued that such confidence in performance continues a preceding “modern” generation’s misplaced optimism in technology. In contrast, this pamphlet pursues an expanded view of architectural “performance” that attempts to move beyond instrumental systems oriented towards efficient service. It explores the conceptual landscape of humans’ fraught relationship with responsive technologies and proposes a renewed engagement with instruments that establish complex organic relationships between environment and occupant. With a focus on the potential of contemporary environments to “care,” the theoretical possibility of realizing spatial systems that are based on precise patterns of spatial cognition and occupation invites renewed consideration. — Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz and Mark Shepard

The Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series extends a discourse initiated in the summer of 2006 by a three-month-long discussion on the Institute for Distributed Creativity (idc) mailing list that culminated in the Architecture and Situated Technologies symposium at the Urban Center and Eyebeam in New York, co-produced by the Center for Virtual Architecture (cva), the Architectural League of New York and the idc. The series explores the implications of ubiquitous computing for architecture and urbanism: how our experience of space and the choices we make within it are affected by a range of mobile, pervasive, embedded, or otherwise “situated” technologies. Published three times a year over three years, the series is structured as a succession of nine “conversations” between researchers, writers, and other practitioners from architecture, art, philosophy of technology, comparative media studies, performance studies, and engineering.


Jul 17, 19:16
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