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2005 | Book

Disappearing Architecture

From Real to Virtual to Quantum

Editors: Georg Flachbart, Peter Weibel

Publisher: Birkhäuser Basel


Table of Contents


Disappearing Architecture

Disappearing Architecture
From Real to Virtual to Quantum
In February 2003 I was in Graz, Austria, to see the exhibition Latent Utopias — Experiments within Contemporary Architecture, curated by the famous architect Zaha Hadid and her studio director Patrik Schumacher. In the preface to the exhibition catalogue the curators made the following ambivalent diagnosis:
“Every time needs its utopia(s). A society that no longer reflects its development is uncanny, a monstrosity. However, utopian speculation is rather dubious today. In recent years the very notion of progress and the ambition to project a future has itself come to be regarded as monstrous. Utopian thinking seems naïve, dangerous hubris” [1].
Georg Flachbart

The Infrastructure


General Approach

After The Revolution
Instruments of Displacement
It took just 20 years for the personal computer to go from glamorous, newly invented avatar of the future to drab, quotidian commodity that anonymous corporations produce and distribute by the millions at the lowest possible price points. IBM’s recent sale of its personal computer division to a Chinese outfit that most Americans and Europeans had never heard of is a sure sign that the digital revolution of the late 20th century is over. Media mania is no more. But as the tumult and the shouting of the journalists and the flacks dies, the captains and the kings of industry depart the hallowed ground of Silicon Valley (retiring to their McMansions to dream of breaking into bio or nano), the legendary labs close their doors one by one, and the Internet bubble of the waning millennium fades into history like the tulip frenzy and the great gold rushes, we can begin to understand the immense, irreversible, multifaceted change that all this has brought to our cities.
William J. Mitchell
The Architecture of the Multiverse
Architects often pride themselves on the uniqueness of a design. Yet it is common for buildings that have been designed independently, nevertheless to resemble each other, visually or structurally. Usually this is because some of the ideas have been intentionally borrowed, or because shared traditions have been followed. But sometimes it is not: sometimes, the similar features have no common origin. A clear example of this is that there are ancient pyramids both in Egypt and in South America, yet, as far as we know, the cultures that built them never communicated and were not even contemporaneous. Some people whose sense of wonder has overwhelmed their critical faculties have taken this congruence of design as evidence that either there was some contact between those distant cultures after all, or there was a common cause: fanciful theories have been proposed about extraterrestrial visitors having brought the knowledge of pyramid-building to Earth.
David Deutsch

Special Reports _The Next-Generation Computing

Autonomic Computing
Building Self-Managing Computing Systems
This quote made by the preeminent mathematician Alfred North Whitehead holds both the lock and the key to the next era of computing. It implies a threshold moment surpassed only after humans have been able to automate increasingly complex tasks in order to achieve forward momentum. IBM believes that we are at just such a threshold right now in computing. The millions of businesses, billions of humans that compose them, and trillions of devices that they will depend upon all require the services of the IT industry to keep them running. And it’s not just a matter of numbers. It’s the complexity of these systems and the way they work together that is creating a shortage of skilled IT workers to manage all of the systems. It’s a problem that’s not going away, but will grow exponentially, just as our dependence on technology has.
Dagan Gilat
Grid Computing
Basis of Multi-Institutional Virtual Organizations
The rapid evolution of science and technology during the last centuries significantly changed not only our everyday life but also our scientific working methods. Observations of nature probably exist since the beginning of mankind. However, inventions of scientific instruments like the microscope or the optical telescope in the 17th century and their further developments led to revolutionary and ever increasing insights into biology, medicine, astronomy, and so on. Today we are able to resolve atomic structures with scanning tunnel microscopes, look into a patient with computer tomographs, or send huge telescopes into outer space to make sky surveys in many different wavelength ranges.
Holger Marten
Ubiquitous Computing
Computation Embedded in the World
Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) is a term first coined by Mark Weiser [1] more than a decade ago. In his vision, computers are no longer isolated objects sitting on the desk, but surround us everywhere: walls could be electronic boards and displays; books could be electronic information stores and cameras act as digital picture libraries. Some of this vision has already come true with wall-sized Smart Boards that support writing, editing and capturing of electronic text, while PDAs can be used for diaries, e-books and note-taking, where some of them are also integrated with digital cameras. While such computers largely follow the PC paradigm, where one computer is dedicated to one user at one point in time, new types of computer systems are arising in Ubicomp that are invisibly embedded into our everyday environment.
Michael Beigl
The Development of Quantum Hardware for Quantum Computing
The development of technology and our understanding of the physical world are necessarily deeply intertwined. New understanding in physics leads to the development of new technology, which in turn provides both new tools for studying the physical world, and new challenges for physicists wishing to improve on this technology. In this sense, the impact over the last century of quantum mechanics — the physics of microscopic particles and systems — has been extreme. In the last two decades alone the explosion of technology based on lasers and semiconductor electronics has been staggering, and these devices are now not only central to our daily lives (in the form of computers, entertainment systems, and medical and industrial equipment), but are also important tools in all branches of physics.
Andrew Daley, Ignacio Cirac, Peter Zoller

The Architecture


General Approach

Constructing an Authentic Architecture of the Digital Era
Perhaps you have wondered why the shapes of buildings seem to be getting more complex. Conceivably, it could be nothing more profound than an arbitrary flicker of architectural fashion. But it is worth asking whether the difference between, say, Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim and the characteristically rectangular slabs and towers of the late 20th century is due to something more fundamental? Does the curved shape of London’s Swiss Re Building, the twisted profile of New York’s proposed Freedom Tower, or the non-repetitive roof structure of the British Museum courtyard represent some significant change in the conditions of production of architecture?
William J. Mitchell
A New Kind of Building
Traditional vernacular building is accomplished by executing the process. There are no intermediate phases like a set of drawings, working drawings, drawings of details. The communication is direct from person to person. In modern computing lingo: through a peer-to-peer wireless sensor network. Peer-to-peer since people connect directly to their own kind, wireless since they are not physically connected and sensor network since they immediately absorb, process and propagate information. People put their minds together, discuss and take action. Exact measurements and other relevant numeric details are decided along the process of building. The end result is unpredictable in detail, but is performed according to a agreed upon set of simple rules.
Kas Oosterhuis

Special Reports _Models of Mixed-Reality Environments

Implosion of Numbers
Performative Mixed Reality
“The traditional concept of space is a concept based on perspective. It was developed half a millennium ago and perceived space from a fixed and absolute viewpoint as being an endless, homogeneous and three-dimensional expansion. The decisive novelty brought about by cubism was the displacement of this absolute perspective by a relative one. Artists experience the space’s unreal comprehensiveness as its essential element ... and that one has to move through space to be able to really experience it as being three-dimensional” [1].
Wolfgang Strauss, Monika Fleischmann
A Mixed-Reality Edutainment Center
Cybernarium is a spin-off enterprise of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics in Darmstadt, Germany. Its mission is to employ mixed-reality technologies for public education and entertainment. After proving the potential and applicability of mixed realities at very successful temporary exhibitions, the Cybernarium has moved into its own building in Darmstadt, presenting a permanent exhibition since the summer of 2004. In 2007, Cybernarium will move into the Science and Convention Center Darmstadt, which has been under construction since the fall of 2004.
Torsten Fröhlich, Rolf Kruse
Towards A Dialogic Concept of Digital Narrative
Currently the dominant position in aesthetics conceptualizes narrative as mono-temporal or linear. The digital, by contrast, is conceptualized as a-temporal or non-linear. This monochronic explanation reduces narrative to a mono-temporal process that fails to account for not only the potential of interactive digital narrative but also the workings of conventional cinematic narrative itself. In contrast the concepts of dialogic and transcriptive provide an understanding of narrative as a multi-temporal process operating beyond the structuralist notions of linearity and non-linearity. The dialogic refers to the interactive multiplicity immanent within the digital, while the transcriptive describes the cinematic capture and reconstruction of multimodal forms of information within virtual environments. Recently the authors explored these concepts as a model for the production of interactive narrative by means of an experimental study entitled T_Visionarium, Cinemas du Futur, Lille Cultural Capital, 2004.
Dennis Del Favero, Neil Brown, Jeffrey Shaw, Peter Weibel
Enhancing Spatiality
From Hardware to Softform
From Hardware to SoftForm is a 3D digital interactive installation of an “armature” exhibited in the Frederieke Taylor Gallery in Chelsea, NYC (Sept. 2002), and the “Art & Idea” Gallery in Mexico City (Sept. 2004). It investigates the transformation of the virtual object into an environment of light, speed and sound. Sensors, or triggers, in the interactive floor, developed by MIT Media Lab, activate the projected construct as a dissection of an organic unit that expands, contracts and envelops. The interaction challenges the relationship of the viewer and the object, constantly re-investigating its “object-ness.” An ambiguous animated environment ensues, enveloping the visitor and the gallery’s confines.
Winka Dubbeldam
The Relationship Between Architecture and Virtual Media
In 2002, one year before Graz became the cultural capital of Europe, we were asked by the director Wolfgang Lorenz to design a way to show all aspects of the cultural impact existing in the city through a mobile exhibition touring in major European capitals. It should be a preview of all cultural events in 2003, covering various topics: architecture, art, literature, music, theater, dance and others. Above all it should visualize the spirit of Graz as a major attractor for visitors. In other words the task was to minimize and pack the whole city in a bag and send it on its journey. In 2004, inSPACEin reached the final round of the competition for the Austrian pavilion for EXPO’ 05 in Japan and was honored as the runner-up entry.
Ivan Redi, Andrea Schröttner
Architecture as a Media Catalyst
Marshall McLuhan’s famous terminology “the medium is the message” and “the global village” accurately anticipated today’s digital culture. One could argue that his observations appear to be more in tune with the Web world and cyberspace hype that we are experiencing today and not limited to talking exclusively about television and its impact on society. Transformed by the rapid spread of electronic media and global communication networks, McLuhan’s argument for understanding new media and its impact on society is in tune with the IT revolution. New information technologies have been successfully integrating art, design and advertising, and are making an impact on our urban environments, forcing architects to adapt their methodologies to embrace the newer forms of communication and tools.
Stuart A. Veech
Architecture as a Habitable Medium
The Blur Building is an exhibition pavilion built for Swiss Expo 2002 on Lake Neuchatel in the town of Yverdon-les-Bains. It is an architecture of atmosphere. Its lightweight tensegrity structure measures 300 ft wide by 200 ft deep by 75 ft high. It streches over a total of 80,000 square feet. The primary building material is indigenous to the site, water. Water is pumped from the lake, filtered, and shot as a fine mist through a dense array of high-pressure mist nozzles. The resulting fog mass produced is a dynamic interplay of natural and man-made forces.
Elizabeth Diller, Richardo Scofidio
Impact of Network Logic on Space and its Making
KOL/MAC’s digital design research has recently focused on two operative models: the chimera and co-citation mapping. A combination of these two models informs KOL/MAC’s computational design methods based on network performance between heterogeneous systems. Currently, KOL/ MAC is employing these methods with the addition of artificial intelligence to its dynamic software. Networks are represented as interrelated crowds of “intelligent agents” while heterogeneity is scripted as decision-making capacity in agents. This nonreductive approach allows the management of complexity in the design process, specifically through the “nature-ing” of agents and the “nurture-ing” of relations. The scalable organizational patterns and performances are then transformed into final designs ranging from building membranes and mass-customized furniture to institutional and high rise projects.
Sulan Kolatan, William J. Mac Donald
Network Practice and the Products of Networking
Professional architectural practice faces increasingly constrained design parameters as a result of deterministic planning policies, building codes, and the overly litigational context of the construction and manufacturing industries. Given these apparent inadequacies in the pervasive model of practice, the discipline of architecture is doomed to ever more impotence as a cultural activity, unless it is imbibed with innovative design, production and manufacturing techniques, as well as with a wholesale reformation of the ways in which architecture is practiced. Clients, architects and other building industry professionals must either open their eyes to the cultural and economic value of experimentation or face extinction, only to be replaced by the mediocre professional managers, technicians, cost control specialists and bureaucrats.
Tom Verebes
Protospace 2.0
The ITC-Driven Collaborative Design Working Space
The spaceship WEB of North-Holland entered the world stage at the Floriade flower show in 2002 (Fig. 1). When the Floriade closed its gates the WEB was disassembled and rested in pieces at the wharf of Meijers Staalbouw. In the meantime the Board of the Delft University of Technology purchased the WEB and has been discussing its future landing at the Mekelweg in front of the Faculty of Architecture. The WEB is destined to become a multifaculty server that will host a truely interactive Group Design Room called Protospace™ for multidisciplinary research and education. The faculties of Civil Engineering (CiTG), Aerospace (L&R), Management (TBM), Electrotechnique (ITS) and Industrial Design (10) have shown genuine interest in joining the WEB_Protospace™ initiative. Also the CUR, TNO-Bouw and the TI (Telematica Institute) have all proved eager to take part in the Protospace™ program.
Kas Oosterhuis
Entering an Age of Fluidity
Today architecture must organize itself into different configurations, simultanously hybrid spatialities nourished by technology and media. Architecture is entering an age of fluidity without the ontological anchor that geometrically defined space previously supplied; it must express and create new modalities, open up possible worlds. What we are in general experiencing is a continually mutating spatiality.
Hani Rashid

Summing up


Compact Extro

From Location to Nonlocation, from Presence to Absence
During the 20th century not only distances and scales have changed under the influence of telematic media and machines, but even more so the relation to the location itself: hic et nunc, here and now, here and there have become variable quantities. Location and space as the basic media of architecture are being questioned (refer to Deconstruction). Nonlocation, dislocation, dematerialisation are new radical architectural categories. Individual decision procedures that position the architect as a building artist in the proximity of a traditional understanding of art, based on sculpture and painting, are also being replaced by new planning methods that are based on the complex system theories of the media and machines. Therefore computer-based algorithms can replace data of individual signatures as proved by deconstructivism and primarily by its successor, the metamorphic or biomorphic school of architecture (blob-architecture).
Peter Weibel
From Box to Intersection
Architecture at the Crossroads
Walk through Times Square, Shibuya or Potsdamer Platz, drive towards any airport anywhere in the world, visit any suburban shopping mall, or live in any multiple-unit dwelling structure and the insignificance of mere building becomes clear just by looking around you. More and more, buildings are nodes in networks, intersections of multiple flows, and unstable accumulations of variegated material. This is not altogether a new phenomenon. One could argue that the common view of buildings as stable objects that are static and durable is only a question of perspective. Seen from the traditions of architecture as a discipline and a profession, buildings can be understood as particular constructions of a certain type and with a character appropriate to their function. They can be analyzed in terms of form, function and beauty.
Aaron Betsky
Building Terminal
For an Architecture Without Objectness
Many people think that the new media are pushing architecture into the role of helpless victim. It can only stand by and watch how millions of people are spending more and more of their valuable time in digital surroundings; they no longer need architecture as the backdrop to the important moments of their lives. On top of this, the role of permanent carrier of cultural meaning has lapsed. The mother of the arts is becoming a marginal phenomenon. Others take a more optimistic view of things. As far as they are concerned, the only interesting architecture is computer-generated architecture. In this essay I will explore the fertile area between these two extremes.
Ole Bouman
Disappearing Architecture
Georg Flachbart
Peter Weibel
Copyright Year
Birkhäuser Basel
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN