patrick harrop

Agents of Risk: Embedding Resistance in Architectural Production

Professor Patrick H Harrop, Department of Architecture, University of Manitoba
Abstract
Proceedings of the 2004 AIA/ACADIA Fabrication Conference, 2004
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In its most common usage, the term fabrication calls to mind industry and production. For architecture, fabrication and industry have been a defining aspect of modern practice. While dependant on the dimensional and temporal standards of industry, modernists were pre-occupied with the limitations imposed by the generic restrictions of mass production.

When we make, instead of predetermining action, we discover a map of engagement. We play by challenging and resisting material. It in turn, reveals an intentional resistance that provokes yet another challenge, and on and on and on. In fact craft excels in the less-than-ideal situations. When challenged by aberrant materials, geometry and craft are forced into innovative discovery: a knot of reaction wood within an otherwise homogeneous surface would force a novel adaptation of geometry generated by the imperfection.

How then, do we integrate the indeterminate cycle of craft and invention into a design process transformed by tools entirely reliant on prediction and the (virtual and real) homogeneity of materials? Is it reasonable to introduce an element of risk into the realm of digital fabrication equivalent to the auto-generative sabotage of Signwave’s Auto Illustrator? This paper reflects on the nature of material craft in realm of digital fabrication. It will look both at the history and the contemporary opportunity of generative art and automata and its subversive (yet essential) relationship to the making of architecture.

1 Resistance and Risk

1.1 Material Craft and New Technology

Today we seem to be at an interesting threshold. Industrial production tools that once restricted building materials to a set of pre-defined generic components, have transformed into powerful CNC tools, allowing the individual designer to manufacture unique “one-offs” without the debilitating overhead posed by the expensive retooling of machinery, molds and dyes. Moreover, this new ability to control and actively participate in what we make has introduced new formal possibilities of rich tectonic complexity not seen since the industrial revolution.
It seems that the formal possibilities enabled by these tools are now endless and point to a new freedom for architectural design. Beyond our imagination, new modeling techniques using software such as Catia, Rhino, Pro-engineer and MasterCAM allow us to overcome the pragmatic hurdle of making “difficult” form. The new CNC technologies seem to offer a better “quality” of workmanship than one would expect from traditional craft. This is achieved by having total control of the outcome by predicting the shaping and assemblage of material in a virtual environment rather than the daunting risk of a construction site. Visualization techniques and software eliminate the disappointing conflict of quality expectations. As part of this, new production paradigms rely entirely on the strategy of homogenizing material. This approach contradicts the original, i.e. premodern, meaning of fabrication, i.e. production as dictated by skilled workmanship, or, craft.

David Pye who has written extensively on traditional artisanry, suggests that difficulty and invention are inextricably linked. Pye explains that there is an important distinction to be made between the workmanship of certainty (as found in modern industrial production) and the workmanship of risk (as found in traditional craft) (Pye, 1968). Risk is an essential part of the evolution of form and ideas. In order for a body of work to evolve, at some point an artisan must risk the collapse of their work by challenging the material limits of their art.
One has to remember that there are periods in architectural history that developed remarkably complex form and space long before the invention of these new tools (whether industrial or digital) for manipulating materials and shapes. Yet if one were to compare the material command of any period other than our own, one would see not just a knowledge of material but one of action within the horizon of logos (language) and dike (fate) – this is the meaning of metis (=trope); i.e. fate can turn at any moment in the process.

Pye’s description of craft suggests that there is an intentionality embedded in the resistance of the material world to action. When we make something, we engage in a playful challenge to the limits of the material. The reality is that the true generator of form was, in fact, the risk and difficulty in a material process. It is this faith in the material evolution through the consequence of craft that we lost with the advent of what we might call modern techniques.

The notion of resistance as essential to making may be taken even further. For Richard Sennett, resistance is a necessity that even the body of the craftsperson cannot do without: “Resistance is a fundamental and necessary experience for the human body: through feeling resistance, the body is roused to take note of the world in which it lives. This is the secular version of the lesson from the garden. The body comes to life when coping with difficulty” (Sennett, 1994).

Sennett points out that the heart of our contemporary, modern ideology, the idea of freedom and resistance, has its roots in the French revolution. In the years that followed this important event, the streets of Paris were widened and cleared of all obstacles, such as trees and buildings to make way for the physical space of freedom (Sennett, 1994). Paris would be driven by this agenda for years to come, as Hausmann would demonstrate. Yet liberty as defined by eliminating resistance is really only a perversion of its experience. Liberty is formed by the experience of struggle. Hence, its very existence depends on impurity, obstruction and difficulty (Sennett, 1994). An artist or artisan would know this liberation as the moment of epiphany when she finally begins to command a difficult medium. (As design educators we patiently apprentice our students to reach that point through drawing and making. )

Liberty once divorced from the experience of resistance becomes nothing but an abstract demand. While the experience of resitance is crucial to our aspirations, a culture of liberation; one bent on eliminating resitance once and for all, has a profound implication on our cultural future. In our modern cities, the body has become a passive organism that simply occupies space in the city. Our bodies are intentionally disconnected from space and in time. Our cultural and civil industries are charged with the duty of providing an environment free of “encumbrance, engagement or even effort.” In other words to emancipate us with the last freedom: “freedom from resistance” (Sennett, 1994).

Even Adorno blames the current cultural crisis on the steady disintegration of materials, in this case, the syntactic materials of language and music. Materials have lost what their a-priori self-evidence (Adorno, 1970). Much like the narcissism of the virtual world, our dwindling familiarity with the limits and embedded resistance of material, such as; harmonic scales and even linguistic structure has signaled the triumph of being for other (Adorno, 1970).
The current trend of “designed” objects presents us the product of this disintegration. Our objects have lost their edge – literally. We are being surrounded by the baby-smoothness of new consumer items, like the imac, that are more reminiscent of a nursery toy than utilitarian function (Kingswell, 2000). Automobiles for instance, are designed to warmly cocoon our bodies as we reach narcotic levels of speed and convenience. It is important that we remain unaware of the automobile’s inherent resistance ie: what pulverized concoction of materials they were made with and what poor souls made them at a barely sustainable wage, (or for that matter, what poor souls – who can no longer wage resistance– were displaces by robots).

2 Craft and Play

There is another, phenomenological, argument that challenges the equivalency of machined products with traditional craft. A skilled craft necessarily implies that body and world are co-dependant in action. That being said, it is only possible to act, and for that matter even think, when we engage the material presence that we depend on. Our being in the world is a fusion of both subject and object. Beyond this fusion, the world pre-destines our actions with an embedded intentionally; “something begins with me before I begin”. Instead of pre determining action, we must discover a map of engagement. We must “play by challenging and resisting.” (Becker, 1999)

Play mediates the resistance of a medium whether it is language or matter. Even though one may begin an engagement with a subjective intention, it will only succeed if it provokes a reciprocal response from an “intentionality” embedded in the material. Craft depends on the extended actions that this relationship entails. When we play, one challenges the material, it in turn reveals an intentional resistance that provokes yet another challenge, and on and on and on. Craft is the state of play embodied between the challenge and the resistance. (Becker, 1999) This state has is own material incarnation in the tool. What profoundly determines the nature of the craft is the intermediate materiality we use such as our instruments, our motor skill or even our voice.

2.1 Historic use of “auto-generative sabotage”

The phenomenolgical cycle of process, play and material mediation although generative, is hardly automatic. Invention emerges from an evolutionary cycle of mutation and resolution. Mediating this process is both tenuous and “risky”. It is perhaps here that skill goes further than just the precision of craft, rather it is dependant on the inspired intuition of the Metis. There is no better figure representing this mutated and chaotic strategy than the figure of Daedalus, the original “technician”.

2.2 The Daidalon

The story of Daedalus tells us a lot on how our culture views craft and invention. Daedalus was indeed an inventor and craftsperson, yet he was evil, scheming, manipulative, vain and obsessively vindictive.

Classical interpretations of the myth of Daedalus clearly identify his work as architectural craft. In the dramas of Aristophanes he is identified with the verb architectonein. (Morris, 1992) By all accounts Deadalus’s craft transcended the mere fashioning of materials into a form of life giving magic. (Perez-Gomez, 1985) Daedalus was born with metis, a talent often associated with metalsmithing, carpentry and weaving, that fused dexterity and magic together.(Frontisi-Ducroux, 1975)) The scope of Daedalus’s work was entirely consistent with the current interpretation of techne — the practice of manipulating materials through ritual and magic, as well as the origin of the words “technology” and “technique”. (Frontisi-Ducroux, 1975) These techniques would transform inanimate matter into something magically alive. Daedalus’ techne would always introduce some form of anima (note that anima means “soul”) into the object created. This was not simple mimesis or imitation of what seemed alive; rather, it is stressed in most classical sources that life itself was being made.

Daedalus was most renowned for his animated statues. (Perex-Gomez, 1985) Although these stone figures were similar in form to any sculpture of the day, they were imbued with the senses and kinetic abilities of humans. Prior to Daedalus, sculptures were condemned to having “closed eyes” or voiceless speech. Among the powers of literate speech, these statues were also gifted with autokinesis, the ability to move using their own means. (Morris, 1992) Aristotle even mentions Daedalus’s automatons in Politics. His interpretation of these creations is that they were, for lack of a better word, robots and were made for completing our daily chores. His description also explains the mechanism of this service; each of these devices were able to accomplish its own task “either in obedience or anticipation” of others. (Morris, 1992)

Curiously, most references to the Daidalian automatons seem to mention their lack of control more often than their utilitarian abilities. Aristophanes frequently mentions that once a statue has been bestowed with animation, it cannot be controlled. In fact, it must be bound in order for it to not run away. (Morris, 1992) The Illiad confirms this warning with a twist, however. Any figure or even image of a figure with the abilities of an automaton is destined to a perpetual cycle of uncontrollable events. The animated images of a fawn and a dog in Penelope’s golden broach, for instance, are locked within a perpetual cycle of conflict outside of any possibility of resolution. Not only does the craft induce life, it holds it in a balanced state of conflict. It is perhaps for this reason that the inevitable conflict of automatons frequently serves as the catalyst for farcical and comic scenarios in a theatrical context.

The sober study of this important figure in Greek mythology could be misleading. The personification of Daedalus, as the comic catalyst, appears quite often in comedies, Satyr plays and even humorous interludes in philosophy. The illusion and deception of his kinetic statues often cause the typical farcical conditions of surprise, deception, mistaken identity and illusion. (Morris, 1992) In one particular scene from Apollodorus, our childhood hero, Herkules is portrayed as a bewildered buffoon, fooled by an animate statue with the likeness of himself. (Morris, 1992)

It must be stressed, that regardless of this comic emphasis, at no point, is Daedalus referred to as other than a craftsman and architect. The comic implications of the Daidalon, offer us an important insight into the idea of play and making. Beyond the belly laughs, the farcical mechanism reveals an unfolding of the design process. It is clear that all the inventions of Daedalus begin by subverting a given natural order. In each case this invention leads to an unforeseen consequence demanding further invention. Take for example the story of the Labyrinth. It begins with the invention of a mechanical seduction costume for Queen Pasiphae to bed a royal bull. The consequence of subverting the genealogy of royalty, as well as the natural order of the species, results in the birth of a monstrosity. To reconcile that particular consequence, a further invention is required. Hence, the labyrinth. (Perez-Gomez, 1985) The point here is that the structure of creativity and invention has to do with disruption of a natural chain of events. The cycle of subversion and reconciliation is the engine of creativity. In the Daidalon, things are made that cross boundaries and somehow have difficulty reconciling themselves. Each of these steps ultimately opens an infinite sequence of subversions and their necessary reconciliation.

These cycles begin with the most innocent of intentions. Yet as catalysts, they unfold layers and layers of reconciliatory machinations. We are all familiar with the comic figures at the center of these scenarios. They range from Daidalos, to Falstaff to Puck and the more tragic Golem. The plot, like autokinesis itself, unfolds with the often mistaken belief that the progenitor can control the outcome of their machinations. One must not mistake this with irony, such as in the work of Marcel Duchamp or Oscar Wilde, where the catalyst is above the crowd and has the benefit of both insight and superior wit. In the Daidalon, the catalyst is pathetic and in trying to take control, evokes chaos.

Experimental processes such as those developed later by the surrealists as art methods are all about generating an unexpected sequence of events. The consequences of which force us to elaborate work beyond the common enemy of preconception. Work cannot evolve through a preconception. It will only progress as and when it comes into being. A creative act of subversion not only liberates the imagination, it forces an artist to mediate the subject with material and hone technique.

3 Erosion of Materiality

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The roots of these demands could help to explain the difference between craft and skill. Traditionally craft was understood as a cultural covenant embodying this liberation in the face of resistance. Craft was the saga of the liberation of form within material. It generated its own parallel community among others, and its own genealogy. This was not merely to form an elite society (i.e. guild); it was a “sedimentation” of the entire history of that very craft manifest in a liberated form. (Sennett, 1994) In liberating the “secrets” of this world, Diderot transformed the knowledge of the guilds into commodities. Skill could be acquired, learnt and even exchanged through the medium of the printed book. The identity so often associated with one’s family of craft, was now interchangeable at will. As inheritors of this cultural shift, we have become accustomed to the idea of choosing our guild, even in several iterations of our lifetimes. “Skill” of course, would translate into the idea of “labor” during the industrial revolution, a measurable commodity similar to bushels of wheat. (Sennett, 1994) One could suggest that as the identity of the laborer associated with craft deteriorates, so does the resistance of the material with modularization.

For philosopher Barbara Becker, the gradual erosion of materiality is at the core of the post-modern condition. (Becker, 1999) The new digital interfaces that we are toying with now in digital “space” are conditional on the complete subjugation of materiality. In other words, the eventual result of a digital materiality would be the absence of intentionality. For Becker, this is precisely the problem with virtuality. Even if we were capable of reducing the material world to a subjective consciousness, that discourse would be grounded within the lexicon of the phenomenal world. (Becker,1999) Ultimately this would create an even worse world than we have now. For if we deny our embedded intentionally we are only existing in the world for ourselves without the “other”: an almost textbook definition of narcissism. (Adorno, 1970)

Although the new “digital” tools are remarkably good at visualizing and planning the logic of assembly, they are only compliant with material realism at a representational level. CNC processes assume, and work best with, only the purest of materials. These machines are not capable of contending with the varying densities, imperfections and aberrations that we would find in natural materials. Both chipping and fusion deposition technologies, such as prototyping and stereolithography, entail the use of homogeneous material. It is difficult to even identify what materials are being used or generated.

Materials manufactured by accretion technologies are homogeneous, as well it is important that they are treated as homogeneous in CNC chipping technology. Indeed the very purpose of digital tools and technologies is to eradicate unpredictability and anomaly (“quality control”) both in the process and the product toward an enterprise of utter predictability. In contrast, Pye defines craftsmanship as a practice whereby, regardless of the apparatus and the technique , the end result is undetermined. Rather than a predetermination, the result depends on a dexterity, knowledge and above all active judgement to determine the outcome. (Pye, 1968) (Similarly, there is a link to the design process as the Daidalon describes it. Daedalus’s work is dependant on risk as a generator of ideas. His ideas are of an extreme risk.)

In exploring the difference between modern automation, and traditional craftsmenship, Pye creates a scenario of oscilation between the “workmanship of risk” and the “workmanship of certainty”. Certainty is the basis for our industrialized culture; if we can predict the exact outcome, then we can produce in large volumes. Risk and certainty have a built-in economy. In any process of design risk and certainty have a balance: what may have begun with a strong investment into the workmanship of risk, may end with a certainty (such as a run from a printing press).Like all evolutions, craft can only follow a course of mutation. Risk provokes change through accident or unintended discovery. The world needs variants (Pye, 1968)

What is particularly relevant about Pye’s thinking is his assertation that it isn’t the hardware –i.e. “the machine” – that distinguishes the workmanship of certainty from the workmanship of risk, but the need for predictability. In truth, the first machines (lathes, levers, gears and jigs) predate the middle ages. Pye assumes that craft is determined by the jig or hand guided by instrument. By this definition then, the moment that a tool enters a material (even a hand-guided material) the initial cut acts as a mechanism. (Pye, 1968) This implies that the craft of risk is recoverable in a digital world of robots and machines as long as predictability is not the first aim.

4 Contemporary Subversives

It is at this point that we may be able to turn to the dilemma that we are currently in. The resistance of the material and its cycle of engagement is what generates craft. (Becker, 1999) If making is dependent on the embedded resistance of the material, how does one make when the material itself is isolated as pure subjectivity? In this case it is not enough to merely resist for the sake of resistance itself – the danger being that somehow we would devalue the work to something ephemeral rather than lasting. In Adorno’s words it would focus only on a “bogus promissory note on the future.” (Adorno, 1970)

We might assume that we simply need to re-introduce any form of material resistance into the configuration of the computer itself. Though the actions of a computer are the pinnacle of subjectivity, it is still for the time being, a barely physical device. To actually design the circuitry of such a device, one must “see” the physicality at the molecular scale. We must bring ourselves to a temporal state where, within a billionth of a second, light will travel one foot. The resistance only appears with an intentional shift, or rather a delay, in scale and time. We are, for the time being, barely within the realm of physical materiality. At this point, this material is evaporating and soon to disappear. It could be that the only material we have to work with is time and scale itself.

We need to seek problems. There is, however, a fine distinction to be made between the tradition of “problem solving” that is used to eliminate resistance, and that of “making problems” to introduce resistance. For most of the world, seeking problems sounds too much like “looking for trouble”. Boat rocker, rabble rouser and mischief maker are contemporary labels that clearly place the creative mind on the wrong side of good social norms. Like resistance, we need to be free of anything that is counter productive. It is with the act of reconciling the subverted that we can form can take shape. For the “maker” subversion and reconciliation are at the heart of any creative strategy. This cycle of activity, as we have seen in the Daedalon are the embedded narratives that are part of a completed work.

image02

It is in this realm of the narrative, or script, that code, such as Signwave Auto Illustrator seems to point the way. In a manner similar to various Surrealist strategies, a kind of digital corps esquisse, Signwave is “a map of engagement” programmed to subvert the intentions of the artist. Described by its authors as a “parody” of professional graphic software, Signwave is costly to purchase (upgrades are free on April 1). Artists intentionally use Signwave to subvert and uncontrollably distort their own work. lines are scripted to go out of control, images to be broken up. As proof of its usefulness to the creative process, Signwave has a cult following. In so doing, Signwave retraces the tragic-comedic script of the ancient Greeks.

It is easy to see how Signwave could be useful to a designer since it operates on a graphical, or representational level. The next question is: is there an equivalent possibility for the processes of fabrication? Is there a digitally inspired strategy or plot that makes use of the aberrations and inherent “intentionality” of materials? The thinking of Johnathan Frazer is interesting here. In his desire to understand complexity as generated in complex biological systems, Frazer suggests that creative morphology and intentionality are a science that merits development on its own.(Frazer, 1995) Frazer contends that cellular automata, a multitude of “tiny” simple machines that comprise a large “machine” (as opposed to a singular monolithic machine) will, according to basic and rudimentary decisions over a complex lineage, generate a unique topography, a complex web of form. These automata form the parameters of the system, but the expression or the variable as an external activator is what propels the gradual complex evolution of the project. Frazer’s belief is that complexity is generated through the most minimal of and innocuous of environmental generators.

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5 Conclusions

Frazer’s description of the environmental conditions as being the affected factor in all evolutionary functions have the possibility of responding to Pye’s understanding of the “design” process. Pye makes a strong distinction between what is designed and not. In order for something to be designed it must be the result of an evolutionary process: One that results from aberration, mutation and adaptability. In this sense, a work is NOT designed if it is necessarily free of all aberration and potential mutation. In order to provide the opportunity of mutation, one MUST not only adapt to risk, but even to encourage it.

Our approach to new technology has been one of adapting ourselves to FABRICATION and manufacturing tools built on promises of prediction and certainty. There is an obvious contradiction here where the tools are at odds with the environmental conditions meant trigger form. In order to re-introduce these elements into our work, we will need to develop tools at a fundamental (mechanical and software) level that are meant to respond to conditions of external environments, material heterogeneity, time, shape and aberration. But most importantly they need to able to respond to their own cosequences.

References

Adorno, Theodore W.: Aesthetic Theory. Trans: Hullot-Kentor, Robert. University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, 1970)
Becker, Barbara: Cyborgs, Robots and Extropians: New Concepts of Body and Identity in the Mirror of New Technologies. Unpublished Manuscript, Schloss Birlinghoven, 1999)
Frazer, John. An Evolutionary Architecture. Architectural Association Publications,
Themes VII, (London 1995)
Frontisi-Ducroux, Françoise. Dédale, mythologie de l’artisan en Grèce ancienne. Maspéro (“Textes à l’appui”), (Paris, 1975)
Gombrich, E.H: The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art. Phaidon Press Limited (London, 1979)
Kingswell, M: “Against Smoothness” in: Harper’s Magazine, July 2000. Chadwyk-Healy (New York, 2000)
Morris, Sarah P: Daidalos and the Origins of Greek Art. Princeton University Press. (Princeton, 1992)
Perez-Gomez, Alberto: “The Architect’s Metier” in: Carleton Folio. Carleton Press. (Ottawa, 1985)
Pye, David: The Nature and Art f Workmanship, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge,1968)
Sennett, R: Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization. W.W.Norton & Company. (New York, London, 1994)

Image01:
Intricate Difficulty: Grinling Gibbons: Lace Cravat carved out of Limewood. London, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Image02:
Example output of Signwave’s “tracing paper” mouse tracking software. 2003.

Image03:
3 states of Jared Tarbnell’s generative art piece: “bubble chamber” written in Processing. 1 minute, 5 minutes and 30 minutes.

Professor Patrick H Harrop is an Assistant Professor in Architecture at the University of Manitoba. As well as having a formation in the History and Theory of Architecture, Professor Harrop’s specialty is in “time based” architecture and CNC manufacturing technologies. Professor Harrop is an active researcher in CAST (Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology), and he runs the Centre for Research in Digital formation, a multidisciplinary research facility for development of new architectural approaches using computer aided manufacturing and CNC technologies.

© 2010 Patrick Harrop

patrick harrop

The Algorithms Of A Material Practice

Patrick H Harrop
Presented at the ACSCA National Conference: Louisvill, Kentucky, 2003
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There can be no doubt that digital technology has profoundly altered what we have assumed were the material limitations to our art. While digital tools have allowed us to effortlessly develop new architectural topologies far removed from the traditional constraints of the Euclidean world, the material art of actually making buildings remains curiously rooted in what would commonly be understood as “traditional” forms of construction. If anything can be said about adoption of “digital technology”, it is that the wholesale adoption of new technology into the mainstream of architecture, risks the widening the problematic gap between the representation of architecture and its true material expression.

Indeed, architecture through the centuries has experienced a gradual but certain crisis of relevance1. At the heart of the problem is the reduction of the making of architecture to a rote task of formal representation. Ironically, it is intention of representation that lurk at the core of digital technology. It is these misrepresentative intentions that have only served to widen the gulf between the idea conceived and its execution into built work.

Craft was the critical bridge between theory and matter. This relationship would be crucial to 
making architecture. Despite our assumptions about the individual architect as lone vanguard, in the traditional practice of architecture, it was the ingenuity and creativity of the artisan that permitted the leap between these extremities. Using the universal principles of geometry and proportion, the artisan mediated between the world of ideas (the drawing) and the world of physical toil (the construction site). 
It is within this mode of practice that the vitruvian principles of geometry, proportion, adjustment and tolerance, guide the exploitation of material into architectural form. Both the architect and craftsman shared this understanding of an underlining geometric order of materials. Process, method, intuition and creativity were indistinguishable components of the true artistry of interpreting the manifestation of lofty ideas by the mutable transformation of materials.

Eventually, the artisan’s intellectual contribution to built work began to give way to rote execution2. But the gradual deterioration of the cultural values that permitted this assumption of roles in architectural production, began to exclude the artisan from a defining role in the building process. Process and method were eventually extricated from the integral whole of artisanship and the entirety of this endeavour was reduced to our current dependence on manufacturing and fabrication3. Architects were increasingly forced to prescribe the precise geometric instructions and methodic material specifications that once were the intuitive domain of the artisan. This was paralleled by the expectation that architects should be able to accurately predict the appearance and experience of buildings by means of perspective and descriptive geometry.

The making of complex form, such as ornament, relied on the transformation of matter using the self-contained and propelled algorithms of geometry, proportion, adjustment and tolerance. If geometry was this scaleless set of idealized spatial instructions then, proportion was its agent of execution in the material world. Proportion was the mechanism by which geometry adjusted itself to the infinity of constraints either found in the natural world or accumulated by the resulting gradual contrivances evolving through the building process project. Within any surface, any space and any opportunity the procedural order of self-contained proportionate algorithms would project themselves, wrap themselves, adhere themselves and even carve themselves into the malleable world. The artisan was the privileged master with the gift of mediating 
these extremities. Through intimate knowledge of his materials and tools, the artisan was compelled to fill the horror vacuii with the intuitive interpretation of the algorithms of geometric proportion4. Amor infiniti, the love of infinite frames and permutations of ornaments would be interpreted into surfaces, woven through structures and projected into broad spaces5.

Geometry also exploited the boundary condition of the human body as an idealized prototype for all orders originating from human endeavor. For example Vitruvian geometry can best described as a proportionate spatial relationship between the human body and the material world: A haptic dance of limits and boundaries. This discreet order at the origins of everything manufactured or produced could only intentionally be revealed through the elaborated work of the artisan6. Geometric order was intrinsically tied to the gestures of the artisan as they spatially negotiated the crafting of material. The mediation of matter with this order had more to do with the dance of strings, steps, marks, cuts and jigs than the pure and rarefied theorem of what we have come to expect from a “Euclidean” mind. The successful appearance of geometry would depend on the practical artistry of the artisan and his/her seemingly mysterious ability to coax and encourage the transmutation of chaotic form into geometric order. Rather than being a rule, proportion helped with the difficult negotiation between idealized geometry and imperfect matter.

The true genius, then, of the artisan was not reflected in the creation of perfected geometric ornament. Quite the contrary, in the less-than-ideal situation, geometry and craft were forced into innovative discovery: a knot of reaction wood within an otherwise homogeneous surface would force a novel adaptation of geometry, totally responsive to and generated by the imperfection. It is precisely this combination of indeterminacy and non-representational skill that led to the discovery of form, authenticity and uniqueness in the building arts.

One could suggest that Craft is an intentionality embedded in the resistance of the material world 
to action. When we make something, we engage in a playful challenge to the limits of the material. 
Play mitigates the resistance of material, whether this material is language or matter. Even though one may begin an engagement with a subjective intention, it will only succeed if it provokes a reciprocal response from an intentionality embedded in the material. 
Craft depends on the extended actions that this relationship entails. “something begins with me before I begin”. Instead of predetermining action, we must discover a map of engagement. We must “play by challenging and resisting”7. When we play, one challenges the material, it in turn reveals an intentional resistance that provokes yet another challenge, and on and on and on. Craft is the state of play embodied between the challenge and the resistance8. This state has is own material incarnation in the tool. 
What profoundly determines the nature of the craft is the intermediate materiality we use such as our instruments, our motor skill or even our voice9. 
The reality is that the true generator of form was, in fact, the material process. It is this faith in the material evolution through the consequence of craft that we seem to have lost.

The notion of resistance as essential to making may be taken even further. For Richard Sennett, resistance is a necessity the body cannot do without: “Resistance is a fundamental and necessary experience for the human body: through feeling resistance, the body is roused to take note of the world in which it lives. This is the secular version of the lesson from the garden. 
The body comes to life when coping with difficulty”.


Sennett points out that the heart of our contemporary ideology, the idea of freedom and resistance, have their roots in the French revolution. In the years that followed this important event, the streets of Paris were widened and cleared of all obstacles, such as trees and buildings to make way for the physical space of freedom11. Paris would be driven by this agenda for years to come, as Hausmann would demonstrate. Yet liberty as defined by eliminating resistance is really only a perversion of its experience. Liberty is formed by the experience of struggle. Hence, it depends on impurity, obstruction and difficulty12 An artist would know this liberation as the moment of epiphany when they finally begin to command a difficult medium. As design educators we patiently apprentice our students to reach that point through drawing 
and making.

Liberty once divorced from the experience of resistance becomes nothing but an abstract demand. While the experience of resitance is crucial to our aspirations, a culture of liberation; one bent on eliminating resitance once and for all, has a profound implication on our cultural future. In our modern cities, the body has become a passive organism that simply occupies space in the city. Our bodies are intentionally disconnected from space and in time. Our cultural and civil industries are charged with the duty of providing an environment free of “encumbrance, engagement or even effort.” In other words to emancipate us with the last freedom “freedom from resistance”13.

Even Adorno’s cultural crisis is blamed on the steady disintegration of materials. In this case, the syntactic materials of language and music. Materials have lost what their a-priori self-evidence14. Much like the narcissism of the virtual world, our dwindling familiarity with the limits and embedded resistance of material, such as; harmonic scales and even linguistic structure has signaled the triumph of being for other15.

Our current trend of “designed” objects presents us the product of this disintegration. Our objects have lost their edge – literally. We are being surrounded by the baby-smoothness of new consumer items, like the imac, that are more reminiscent of a nursery toy than utilitarian function16. Automobiles for instance, are designed to warmly cocoon our bodies as we reach higher and higher levels of speed and convenience. It is important that we remain unaware of their inherent resistance ie: what pulverized concoction of materials they were made with and what poor souls made them at a barely sustainable wage.

For Philosopher Barbara Becker, The gradual erosion of materiality is at the core of the post modern condition17. The new digital interfaces that we are toying with now in digital “space” are conditional on the complete subjugation of materiality18. In other words, the eventual result of a digital materiality would be the absense of intentionality. For Becker, this is precisely the problem with virtuality. Even if we were capable of reducing the material world to a subjective consciousness, that discourse would be grounded within the lexicon of the phenomenal world19. Ultimately this would create an even worse world than we have now. For if we deny our embedded intentionally we are only existing in the world for ourselves without the other: an almost textbook definition of narcissism20.

It is at this point that we may be able to turn to the dilemma that we are currently in. The resistance of the material and its cycle of engagement is what generates craft21 . If making is dependent on the embedded resistance of the material, how does one make when the material itself is isolated as pure subjectivity? In this case it is not enough to merely resist for the sake of resistance itself. The danger being that somehow we would devalue the work to something ephemeral rather than lasting. In Adorno’s words it would focus only on a “bogus promissory note on the future”22.

The representation of digital space is undergoing a fundamental transition: From the highly precise facsimile of traditional Euclidean geometry, that we currently use in most CAD and modelling software to the visual interpretation of dense data arrays, as is emerging in GIS (Global Information Systems). This shift from a Vectorial world to a bitmap world is perhaps the most challenging to our historical and perhaps necessary assumption that Euclidean geometry, such as proportion and projection, is at the heart of making architecture. Does this shift imply an ultimately fatal divorce from the Vitruvian tradition of architecture through geometry or is it re-directing the interaction between computers and architecture into perhaps a more appropriate and creative realm 
of opportunity?

After more than ten years in development, Rapid Prototyping has evolved into an established technology for the translation of digital form into physical reality. This technology is now used in industry, industrial design, and occasionally in architectural visualization. To date, the practical use of the diverse methods used in prototyping have been limited by a small scale and high production cost. Because of these assumed limitations, there has been little research into the potential of larger scale applications for the construction and design industries.

With the practice of the patient and experienced artisan as almost extinct in all disciplines, a re-evaluation of our relationship to emergent technologies found in the hard sciences, engineering and manufacturing are in order. The key to this new opportunity is in how the architect necessarily interfaces the digital realm with the making of 
the work.

However, a technology that could effectively translate what is architecturally designed in the virtual environment into substantial form could have profound implications for both the building industry and the design disciplines. The ability to physically realize the current sophistication of designed form would, in general, elevate the standards of both the building industry and the design professions. More so, the ability to fuse traditional construction methods with computerized visualization systems will have a profound impact on the efficiency and cost of the design-construction relationship.

It could be said that the very craft of the artisan is this relationship between algorithm/interface/world. Proportion and geometric order are idealized mathematical constructs (interface) yet the preoccupation of this “interface” is its application to the surface of the real and tangible world. Although geometry and proportion are idealized mathematical states, we all know that site and context are never such a case. In fact, this is the purpose of the artisan: the art of reconciling the idealized and the real through the interpretation of craft. In other words, the algorithm must meet the real world through the dialectic of geometry and resistance.

A possible avenue for us would be to re-evaluate the very idea of control and predictability in the making of architecture and examine the possibilities of strategy as opposed to prediction. We put ourselves in the company of many science fiction writers who have already dreamed about the possibilities of a robotic architecture; nano scale robots that mix concrete, plaster and polymers and gradually build structures over an extended period of time23 bio-engineered cells that organically cultivate buildings using the genetic map of plant life24; construction automata or “waldos” each with specific algorithmic tasks to carry out a building project25. In all of these literary scenarios, the resulting architecture is complex, rich and dense specifically because of the unpredictability of the end result, especially when the same artisan technology is used by competing interests. In these imaginative schemes the builder is hardly controlled, yet the strategy is clearly one of tolerance, adaptability and reconciliation of the algorithm (the idealized geometry) with persistently “adversarial” contexts (our lived world).

The implications for an alternative and experimental practice could be far reaching. The architect could adopt a role similar to an orchestra conductor, coaxing the ensembles of algorithms to a pre-determined and classical score or better still, strategically setting the field for an improvised work whose outcome is responsive to the immediacy of the environment, interaction of the players and the inspiration of moment itself. Architects could become directly involved with the tools themselves; creating tools that respond to specific technical or environmental tasks, or even the creation of whimsical ornamental detailers that are merely sent into the fray of the construction hive. An entire community of exchange could emerge where algorithmic tools, rather than abstract ideas, become the currency of ideas in the experimental art of building.

Philibert de l’Orme limits his discourse to the machinations of stereotomy for masonry construction26: And finally J.J. Lequeu further limits his inquiry of tools to drawing instruments completely bypassing the issue of construction altogether27. It is perhaps this contemporary absence of any discourse about the instruments of architecture that is telling about our relation to machines in architecture. The truth is that architecture has always been about the art of building: building as a verb as opposed to the noun. The art of building is a civic act, sometimes a dramatic spectacle whose orchestration demands the fluid and tolerant principles of geometry, proportion and adjustment as the foundation for improvising the creation of a building project.

The true viability of these technologies and their implications to the design culture of architecture have been explored in several research initiatives and analogous experiments developed by the author. The potential of such possibilities, given the pace of advancements in computer technologies, robotics and material sciences, seems to be clear, the realization of this idea at the scale of the building arts has been an especially challenging one for a variety of reasons. Yet every indication seems to suggest that the technology is potentially there and waiting to be put together.

© 2010 Patrick Harrop


patrick harrop

Amor Infiniti – Horror Vacuii

Patrick H Harrop
III Iberoamerican Congress of Digital Graphics, 1999
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Resolving Architecture Beyond the Planck Length

If one were to presume that every major shift in the perception and representational modes of architecture has its mirror in what is made, then we should be able to divine and critique the implications of making architecture through information technologies. We are only now beginning to enter speculations of what can possibly be made as a direct result of these systems. Already, the representation of digital space is undergoing a fundamental transition: From the highly precise facsimile of traditional Euclidean geometry, that we currently use in most CAD and modelling software to the visual interpretation of dense data arrays, as is emerging in GIS (Global Information Systems). This shift from a Vectorial world to a bitmap world is perhaps the most challenging to our historical and perhaps necessary assumption that Euclidean geometry , such as proportion and projection, is at the heart of making architecture. Does this shift imply an ultimately fatal divorce from the Vitruvian tradition of architecture through geometry or is it re-directing the interaction between computers and architecture into perhaps a more appropriate and creative realm of opportunity?

This paper hopes to address these questions in the forum of a theoretical and historical discussion focused on the representation of architecture and making.

“ a circle is a plane figure contained by one line such that all the straight lines falling upon it from one point among those lying within the figure are equal to one another”
Euclid 1

Geometry began with what was apparent and tactile. Unlike our own understanding of geometry as an abstract algebraic postulate, Euclid’s “theorem” seemed to owe more to an exercise in experiencing the intentional limits imposed on space by the restriction of movement. It is easy to imagine that the demonstration of this proof was conducted with little more than a length of string and the controlled steps of a willing volunteer.

The tactile beginnings of geometry had implications in the origins of architectural theory and making. Vitruvius describes the same geometric figure as above:

“For if a man lies on his back with hands and feet outspread, and the center of the circle is placed on his navel, his fingers and toes will be touched by the circumference” 2

From this definition, geometry described the boundary condition of the human body as being the idealized prototype for all orders originating from human endeavor. Vitruvian geometry described a proportionate spatial relationship between the human body and the material world. This discreet order at the origins of everything made could only intentionally be revealed through the work of the geometer, or more specifically, the artisan3. Geometric order was intrinsically tied to the gestures of the artisan as they spatially negotiated the crafting of material. The mediation of matter with this order had more to do with the dance of strings, steps, marks, cuts and jigs than the pure and rarefied theorem of what we have come to expect from a “Euclidean” mind. The successful appearance of geometry would depend on the practical artistry of the artisan and his/her seemingly mysterious ability to coax and encourage the transmutation of chaotic form into geometric order. Rather than being a rule, proportion helped with the difficult negotiation between idealized geometry and imperfect matter.

Architecture, it could be said, was a paperless endeavor. It relied more on the careful interaction of artisans in a communal project than on a singular and preconceived plan of a geometric object created by the domineering figure of the architect. The creation of the Gothic cathedral, for example, was an endeavor in revealing geometry through craft without total knowledge of the outcome4. The closest relative to the architect, as we perceive it now, would have been the master builder, whose task was largely involved coordinating the orchestration of building gestures and the interaction of their spatial geometries5. The prospect of the completed work could only be gradually revealed through the course of a project. True providence, that is, the ability to reveal and create the purest of geometry out of shapeless matter, was the exclusive domain of a divine geometer. Any mortal attempt to imitate these gestures could only be shadows of an idea fully resolved.

The inability of mortal craft to presume an ability to reveal idealized geometry through human endeavor lay at the core of mathematical theory of the ancient era6. Architecture was central to this discourse, presumably since its theory relied on the continual dialectical tension between theory and practice. Geometry, after all, was an operational practice whose transformative projective gestures were remarkably similar, if not entirely derived from, the world of architectural craft. The most sought after insights into the mystery of geometry were of an operative but not a theoretical nature as we know it today. Theory was the idea of a seamless geometric operation of a transformative nature such as the fabled operation for “circling the square” popular in the Renaissance7.

Craft, then, stood as the essential bridge between theory and matter. This relationship would be crucial to making architecture, as long the limits to both theory and matter were culturally assumed. Yet, as we know, at some point the artisan’s relevance to built work began to fade8. Given the dominance of operational craft as a key to mathematical theory, it is perhaps the mathematical speculation of matter being described in terms of pure theory that was coincident with the early stages of the long demise in the role of the artisan.

The Baroque invention of the derivative cleverly bridged matter and mathematical theory by allowing for the speculation of matter that was by definition infinitesimal, that is small, to a theoretical extremity9. The extension of that theory was that all matter could be described as a function of that assumption. One could only presume that matter had finally, in the geometer’s mind at least, fused with theory. The fact that geometry was thrown into a realm so invisible that it had to be conceived of under theoretical terms altered the integral position of craft. The implications of this collapse were far-reaching; if matter could ultimately be considered in a theoretical manner, then any form could in fact be a dimension of theory. No longer could the perceptual faith of the lived world be taken for granted. Things found in the world most likely had an infinitely complex geometry as a substructure to its surface. If phenomenal reality was in fact questionable, then things made in the world could potentially take on any form, any iteration, and in fact could imitate anything. The unique plasticity of Baroque ornament could only result from this shift in perception. What a material ultimately beckons as its form is no longer important to the artisan. Material only becomes matter destined for a manipulation from theoretical principles rather than the discourse between geometry and material. Material now becomes transcendent through theory: wood may become stone; metal may become fabric.

It is ironic that, while the embodied truth of the physical world could belay its visual presence, scientific truth began to depend exclusively on the dis-embodied observation of empirical evidence10. It was no longer acceptable to assume the rhetorical structure to an object. To observe the truth, one had to divorce oneself from hearsay and myth. This deliberate distinction from the phenomenal world was conditional to the presence of an intermediary mechanism to ensure one’s impartiality towards the object11. The telescope, the microscope or the rigorous protocol of natural observation were all designed to transfer faith from the inconsistent eye to a neutral mechanism. The once embodied structure was now a hidden geometric order that had to be visually revealed through dispassionate analysis of the surface.

The visual revelation of hidden orders beyond the scope of the naked eye were perhaps a turning point in the disintegration of perceptual faith. For as the careful analysis of the surface of things implied an underlying structure, the form of this hidden structure could only be another imperceptible surface waiting to be uncovered. It is perhaps only at this point in history that we see the emergence of the data map as a legitimate representational mode. Edmund Haley’s visualization of the historical accounts of the trade winds attempted to create a visual compilation to reveal what was once visually hidden among the varied descriptions found in shipping logs, legends and anecdotal recountings12. Perhaps the most ironic variation of this desire to visually reveal the hidden world was the publication of the Diderot Encyclopedia 13: an exhaustive, if not complete attempt to visually display everything known to humanity. Included among these revelations were the secrets of geometric techniques of all forms of craftsmanship and artistry.

In maintaining its dependence on operational geometry, architecture began to fill the void left by the departure of true artisanship. Philbert Delorme’s traits or traces were direct ancestors of the operational geometry that was once the exclusive domain of the stone mason14. Complex geometric operations intended for the real and immediate conditions of the work at hand became the now familiar steps and procedures of technical drawing as a condition to building. Our contemporary obligations, such as working drawings, details or even specifications, are only recent conventions that have supplanted the original geometric craft of 400 years ago.

Our work has been dominated by what could be referred to as a form of vectorial projection. Like Euclidean geometry, our drawings have the intention of craft somehow embodied within the lines. We tend to build our drawings using projection (whether physical or theoretical) as a means of incorporating the narrative of making. Both our professional sensibility and perhaps our unique perception of drawing usually demand a rigorous geometric scripting of every relevant scope of work leading to a successful simulation of a work. We tend to build into our work the complex assumptions that could be interpreted as artisanal practices: Structural bays, dimensional modulars, hierarchical topologies and even precautionary tolerances.

It is entirely consistent with this view that most CAD/CAM packages that have integrated themselves almost seamlessly into the practice of architecture. In principle, these innovations have streamlined the assumptions of technical drawing and predictability to an unprecedented degree. The commands that we commonly use such as extrusions, sweeps, layers etc. are fundamentally techniques of projection that have actually been around for quite a while. For the most part, the building arts have changed little while the standards of production within an architectural office have radically altered. One has to admit that projects such as Ben Van Berkle’s Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam or Ghery’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao have set a good standard for the potential of computer-aided projective geometry within the building arts. Although projects like these are becoming more and more common, they are still unfortunately at the periphery of the architectural mainstream.

One should be aware of the ultimate limitations of vector based geometries within computer systems. The algebraic interpretations of projective geometries conducted within the machine are quite pure; whereas their resolution at the interface with the real world are indeed another matter. No matter how hard software engineers have tried, the pure resolution of a circle at the interface with the user has been an elusive goal. Of course, drawing the image of a circle is perhaps one of the first minor accomplishments of graphic software development. It is rather easy to describe a circle mathematically, and visually. However a true circle can only be alluded to, using raster imaging and a good video card. Any one who has worked within these environments knows that ultimately (including NURBS and PATCH geometries) all surfaces and edges must somehow be triangulated: that is, segmented to a degree in which it appears to be pure and Euclidean.

While the vector based geometry of CAD software has dominated our work with for the last several years, there has been a growing interest in bitmap and data array visualization that may encourage a shift in perception away from our traditional modes of making. A common exploitation of CAD/CAM in recent years has been the photo realistic rendering and the use of image editing tools such as photoshop; these have been mediums used to represent the prediction of architecture rather than play a role in its making. There is a possibility that the dispassionate eye that had emerged in the origins of natural history has perhaps found its way into the revised scope of how we make architecture.

Unlike vectorial , geometry bitmap geometry is exclusively concerned with the empirical surface of things. The underlying structure, the origins or the generation of that surface are inconsequential to the formation of the bitmap itself. This is intended to be a two dimensional and dispassionate recording of a given state where interpretation is intentionally suspended during its creation. An archaeologist, for example, will only concern themselves with the surface of things. The quality or geometric intentions embodied in things would somehow taint the impartiality and hence accuracy of the recording process. We are familiar with the image of a suspended grid over an archaeological site or even the rigorous process of measuring artifacts through triangulation techniques. This technique of drawing is perhaps as far as we want to be from the intentions of building. What should be of interest to us, however, are recent scanning and point sampling techniques that have essentially automated the task of surface reconnaissance. The promise of such techniques is two fold; where surface measurement resulted in a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional form, visualization software has allowed for the interpretation of 3-D data into a virtual spatial construction. The introduction of heat, sound and motion scanning along side the traditional visual techniques are visually revealing once invisible topographies.

A particularly interesting use of this visualization is in GIS or Geographic Information Systems. GIS is a carefully constructed protocol designed to freely exchange data between sensing interfaces, data arrays and visualization systems. This protocol has enabled geographers to visually reveal a hidden topographical dimension outside of what is immediately apparent to the naked eye. The example used here is of recent mapping research of the ocean floor at Louisburg Harbour conducted by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography using a multibeam bathymetric scanner. This visualization is possible through first the creation of the data set, and the rigorous scanning every square meter of sub-ocean surface. As an idea this procedure is rather simple (one could conceivably do the same task using a weight, rope and a pad of graph paper). Secondly manipulation of the data set is necessary; every piece of data is then interpolated to its both its proper beam orientation and its place in the spatial itinerary of the ship as recorded using GPS. Once this data has been spatialized it is then “cleaned”, or filtered to distinguish between geological, biological and thermal data15. This process is dependent on both the creation of algorithms designed as “filters” for this data set and the manipulation of this data in large volumes. The success of such an endeavor is in the volume of information through rapid data collection and the orientation of GPS (Global Positioning Systems).

As one can surmise from this brief description, the principles behind such an endeavor are relatively straightforward. What makes this manner of visualization possible is the processor speed and storage capacity. There is no real “invention” in this system, only a carefully constructed web of interdependent filters, checks and balances at every step that automate an infinitely complex web of tasks into a relatively manageable task. Its success is in the ability to capture every minute piece of data and guide it to its desired place:

“GIS are simultaneously the telescope, the microscope, the computer and the Xerox machine of regional analysis and synthesis of spatial data”16

As described earlier GIS acts as a neutral mechanism, specifically to distance the eye from the subject. What is unique about this protocol is that it has the ability to spatialize things that up until this point were entirely invisible either for reasons of scale or discreteness. Any space has a multitude of topographies hidden and coinciding with the lived and real space. Space can be objectified and sculpted by selecting filters that construct a topography of light, heat, air flow dust accumulation. The implications for architecture are indeed interesting. For inherent within even the most banal of spaces there are possibilities of other forms overlaid with the concrete and immediate. Any data set imaginable has the possibility for form.

Conceivably, the design of form could be generated by manipulating the data array itself. For every possible data set that is acquired, one could just as easily be created. Traditional Euclidean geometry no longer needs to be the principal language behind what is proposed as architecture. By exploring the potential of data sets and bitmap geometry we might discover that the appropriate tools for design would be in the category of Photoshop, not AutoCAD.

The important issue for us is not so much what new topographies we can discover, but what impact these new inventions can have on the lived world. We would be obliged to develop a new craft, a new “sensibility” of making that is derived from the inherent abilities of Information technologies . In order to do so, the narrowing the gap between the idea and making must be accelerated. A good starting point would be of technologies that are currently available to us such as rapid prototyping.

While rapid prototyping (stereo-lithography) falls short of our ultimate goal of building digitally, it does provide clues as to how we can translate digital form into realty. The principle of Rapid prototyping is remarkably similar to building a topographic model of a building site: Using robotic action, an object is formed by the gradual accumulation of sectional layers. The virtual object is essentially sliced into an accumulation of “plans”, each of which is individually added to the growing object. The general rule is that the more desired the precision, the more frequent the sectional layers of a smaller sectional depth. The key to this method is twofold; first, a protocol of translating the sectional geometry in the virtual environment to the robotic movement of the construction mechanism; second, the automated “work” in which time and mechanical work are directly proportional to the desired precision. Like GIS, the “invention” lies in the careful creation of an interface protocol capable of translating the graphic content of the computer environment into the algorithmic movements of the robotic mechanism.

The fact that this is really nothing more than a protocol reveals the possibility of applying this mechanical principal to the large scale of the building arts. Every component of rapid prototyping could be assembled at the building scale using the techniques, tools and forms of construction that we are already familiar with: similarly, we do have experience with accretive materials such as concrete or even masonry: Large scale construction mechanisms have been commonly used on sites for the last 50 years; robotics has adequately evolved to the point where translating the movement of larger scale machinery to the boundaries of a line drawing are common tasks. Even robotics at the small scale of nano-tech could be applicable to the building arts as well, permitting not only structural construction but even detailed construction at the scale of ornament. The challenge for us then would be to develop an interface protocol for the building arts in the same spirit that GIS had been developed. This interface could be as simple as creating a clear sequential procedure for translating virtual geometry into building guides, or even at the complexity of fully automated construction systems. Either way, the essence of this protocol would be about the translation of pure geometry into artisinal movement.

I would like to suggest that our research should focus more on the development of digital artisanry; that is finding ways to make virtual models real. What is needed is an exchange among the architectural community about the creation of the interfaces that make, based on what we know and what we are most familiar with as architects. Like GIS, our protocols should take full advantage of the processing power and potential of automation that is currently available to us. This protocol should be simple and straight forward enough for it to be conducted by hand. In short, we need to get our hands “dirty” by tinkering with how the computer interfaces with the lived world. In this way we may possibly narrow the gap between conceiving and making. In achieving this we may bring the idea of geometry full circle and back to Euclid’s original definitions.

notes

1.Euclid. D.E. The Elements. Joyce edition, translated by Thomas Little Heath. (Book 1, Definition 15) 1996, Clark University.
2.Marcus Pollio (Vitruvius), De Architectura . Granger ed. Harvard University Press (1985) Book III p161
3. Alberto Perez-Gomez: The Architect’s Metier in Section A , Volume 2, no 5/6, January 1985. (Section a. Montreal, Canada) p. 27
4. Alberto Perez-Gomez and Louise Pelletier: Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. (MIT press. Cambridge, 1997) p. 8
5. Otto Von Simson: The Gothic Cathederal . Princeton University Press (Princeton, 1988) p 97
6. Ibid.
7. Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy: Paradise . Trans by Mark Musa. Penguin Books (Middlesex, 1984)
8. Alberto Perez-Gomez: Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. MIT press (Cambridge, 1983) pp 88 – 100
9. Paolo Rossi: The Dark Abyss of Time. Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1984) p 225
10. Michel Foulcault. The Order of Things. Vintage Books (London, 1973) p.57
11. Ibid.
12. Edward R. Tufte. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Graphics Press. (Chesire, 1997) pp 23 – 24
13. Paolo Rossi. Philosophy, Technology and the Arts in the Early Modern Era. Harper Books. (New York, 1970) p. 128
14. Robin Evans. The Projective Cast. MIT press. (Cambridge, 1995) pp 179 – 194
15. Gordon R. Fader: Bedford Institute of Oceanography. (Halifax, 1999) op-cit
16. Ron Abler; GIS Faq . Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network. (Washington, 1985)

© 2009 Patrick Harrop