Category Archives: Concept Development

Thematic Drawing & Feedback

To begin the project, we created a thematic image that would enable us to start exploring our initial concepts as well as methods of visual representation that would best fit said concepts, and techniques that could be used.

thematic 5.jpg
Thematic Drawing – Full Image

My project will explore how architecture can be responsive or interactive based on the use of algorithms. The algorithms may drive the architecture from the largest scale, ie. the entire structure, to the scale of smaller interactive spaces or responsive facades.

The thematic image imagines a scene of a responsive city in a post-technological singularity world, where each building has modular, reconfigurable components that may rearrange themselves based on the shifting needs of the community. The buildings incorporate facades that display changing images that would appeal to the individual user, creating an experience of the city that is highly personal. In the background we see a visual representation of the flow of information across the city that is collected by the buildings and inhabitants and then fed back into the wider system, enabling it to constantly transform and improve itself.

The base model was created in 3dsMax using the Greeble plugin1, which takes a base form and procedurally generates complexity, controlled by parameters. This seemed an appropriate technique, as in the imagined city an algorithm may work in a very similar way – the creator programs certain parameters, and then the algorithm shifts the building to the best configuration for the time, having free reign within those parameters.

As I was making the image, one question that occurred was how the responsive screens may be used. My immediate reaction was advertisements; as such I placed a combination of classic adverts by well-known corporations amongst the other abstract dynamic images, which my imagined inhabitant would enjoy seeing in his personal version of the city. However, after the tutorial feedback questioning the somewhat sinister nature of this, and whether the screens could not encourage positive behavioural change (such as education), I realised that ultimately the question of what the screens will display will be answered by deciding who controls the algorithm. In the imagined post-singularity timeline, AI will be intelligent enough to know what to display to each user to improve their quality of life, and there is no reason to think that a future society will be similar enough to today to allow the buying of these spaces by corporations (or indeed that consumerism will even be encouraged).

The idea of behavioural conditioning was a key point of discussion in the tutorial feedback. One reference was the work of Edward Bernays, the ‘father of public relations’, who applied propaganda techniques to advertisement to control the opinions and buying habits of the general public. The impact of this was vast; at the worst extreme, his theories were used by Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda for the Third Reich. In an improved world, behavioural conditioning would only be used for the benefit of the individual and overall society, although the idea of manipulation of any kind is still somewhat distasteful – generally the thought that we are entirely free to make our own choices is extremely valued.

However, others believe that our choices are already not free; it is only the narrating self that justifies them as such. In his speculative work ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’, Yuval Harari explores this idea with reference to studies on patients with split-brain syndrome, in which the bond between the two hemispheres of the brain is severed. In such patients, each hemisphere has different perceptions and desires. As the left and right visual fields are processed by different sides of the brain, this can be used to communicate with each side individually. In certain experiments the non-verbal right side of the brain was asked something and responded – for example, one patient was showed something funny – but when asked to explain their response, such as why they laughed, the left side verbal narrator (which acts to interprets the world) did not know the real reason, and would often invent a rational-sounding justification for the behaviour. With these examples (amongst others, such as studies showing brain activity occurring before a person registers desire – ie. if a person moves their arm, their brain begins the necessary activity before the person feels any desire or intention to move, although they feel that they moved simply because their conscious self wanted to do so), Harari argues that our internal narrator/interpreter often creates false justifications for our behaviours, including the justification that we behaved a certain way because of our own free choice. The implication for the project (if it was to deal with this issue) is which part of us the algorithms should be responding to – is it the narrating self and its potentially false idea of our choices, or is it the deeper subconscious level of the brain from which desire and behaviour may actually originate?

In terms of the visual representation, the feedback was that instead of a single-person perspective, it would be more interesting to see how the spaces worked with multiple users and how different elements may be layered in such a situation. It could be that the personal response of the displays would be within an augmented reality rather than physical. There is also the question of how this will look from the external perspective – I will next begin describing the spaces from other views such as the axonometric. I also need to create diagrams and infographics to explain the system as well as techniques used.

Further references to look into:

– Discognition by Steven Shaviro
– The work of Donna Haraway
– Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
– Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Notes

1. Greeble Plugin created by Tom Hudson – found at http://www.max.klanky.com

Advertisements

Fun Palace Research

Fractals

Main uses:

  • File compression
  • Internet networks
  • Describing timing and sizes of earthquakes
  • Describing variation in heartbeat
  • Describing prevalence of diseases
  • Describing financial markets
  • Microwave antenna
  • Study of fluid mechanics – turbulence flows

Fractals in nature include clouds, mountains, coastlines, ferns, lightning.
However, when it comes to technology, some people feel that fractals are ‘a solution waiting for a problem’.

Nano-technology

Another area I am interested in looking into for the project is nano-technology. The fun palace could be a celebration of such technology, with educational and exhibiton centres, or even a research lab.

One area of interest was molecular machines. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa jointly won the Nobel prize in chemistry 2016 for their research into the design and synthesis of such machines.

Molecular machines are ‘molecules with controllable movements which can perform a task when energy is added’. In 1983 Sauvage linked two ring shaped molecules together to make a chain, changing the covalent bonds of the molecules to a mechanical bond. The next breakthrough was in 1991, when Stoddart was able to show that a molecular ring could be threaded onto an axel and moved along it. In 1999 Feringa was able to develop a molecular motor, which could rotate a glass cylinder 10,000 times bigger than itself.

With further development, molecular machines could be used for new materials, sensors or energy storage systems. As noted by the Nobel committee, ‘the development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturisation of technology can lead to a revolution’. The fun palace could be used to educate the public and increase support for further development of such technologies.

Wellcome Collection Exhibition Visit

My intention was to use photogrammetry to create 3D models of actual parts of human anatomy, through visiting anatomy museums. However, it will take several weeks to get the research passes needed. Unfortunately the best anatomy museums are open to medical professionals only, so I may have to rethink my modelling strategy! However, I was able to visit the Wellcome Collection, which did provide some inspiration.

Clockwise from left: ‘Body Slice’ from the Institute of Plastination -a section of the human body preserved by plastination, in which water in the body is replaced with plastic; ‘Sense’ by Annie Cattrell – sculpture created from MRI images of brain activity when one of the five senses is activated; an early prosthetic arm.

One thought-provoking item in the collection was the skull of a human who had undergone trepanation. Although trepanation has mainly been used in medical practice, there also exists an idea, put forward by Dr Bart Hughes in 1962, that a person’s state of consciousness is related to the volume of blood in the brain. He proposed that this could be increased through trepanation, leading to a higher state of consciousness as experienced by young children before their skull is fully sealed. Of course, no evidence that this is actually the case has ever been found.

 

Concept Development: The Human of the Future

Further areas of interest relating to the human body are the evolution and possible future obsolescence of the body.

As technology evolves the human body will evolve with it. We are seeing both natural changes in the body due to the use of technology, and also a kind of ‘manmade’ evolution through the upgrading of the body via new medical technologies. These changes currently occur after we are born and participate in a technological society, however it could be predicted that these changes will eventually affect our genetic make up, so that in future babies will be born with a biology that is adapted for the technological world. A kind of technological ‘nature vs nuture’, where we will move from changes in the body via nuture, or extensive use of technology, to a human race that is biologically inseparable from the impact of technology.

goldfishmemory
Credit: http://www.time.com
technologyevolution
Credit: http://www.marketingweek.com

Many of the key changes are happening in the brain. The constant stream of information affects memory as well as the way the brain processes the information, and even our ability to deep read.

In addition to these changes which are a by-product of technology use, the body is also being purposefully upgraded and enhanced.

exoskeleton2
Credit: http://www.technologyreview.com
exoskeleton
Credit: http://www.sciencemag.org

What once was science fiction has fast become reality, as increasingly extensive technological body enhancement becomes possible. The options are vast: practical transhumanists have already augmented their bodies with antenna allowing them to hear colour, implanted magnets into their fingertips in order to feel electromagnetic currents, and even attempted to develop infrared vision through diet.

What is interesting to me is the ways in which the human body might one day become obsolete. If human augmentation becomes widely available, and is used not only where necessary but simply to become stronger, faster and more powerful, would people renounce their biology to become mechanically evolved? The impact on society would be vast. We would likely see clashes between those for and against extensive enhancement. The image of an augmented military, with abilities not granted to the average citizen, is highly dystopic, with widespread implications.

It is this idea of the human of the future that I would like to explore further in the architectural project, with a focus on linking this to the biological forms previously explored.

Header image credit: Sun Lee via www.wired.co.uk