For four years KooZA/rch has been concerned with the role of the image in architectural practice. Claiming the image as project itself, as the site of experimentation and as a prime architectural tool, we now want to dwell further on the concept of ‘tools and representation’ – expanding to other mediums and methods, of making and crafting architecture at large. If the drawing was the expression of architecture on paper, how can we express physical space in the contemporary realm of the digital?
From the conceptual to the tangible our practice as architects is inherently tied to tools. The tools through which we operate have the power to not only define the product but are a direct reflection of the designer and their society. Entire time periods have been named according to the reliance on their tools, from The Stone Age to the Bronze Age and subsequently the Iron Age.
Many sociologists and anthropologists have theorised on technological process as the primary factor driving the development of human civilisation. Societies advance when their technologies advance. The creation of tools is therefore a testimony of a society’s ability to solve problems and to develop, from the first stone tools used by early humans to cut, pound, crush, and access new foods to the farming tools developed during the iron age, it is through these same tools that archaeologists then distinguish amongst ancient humans.
From the conception of the tool 2.6 million years back in Ethiopia, today the multitude of tools continues to increase, almost exponentially. As such the idea of a common tool has long ceased to exist. Rather, we perform actions through the overlapping and juxtaposition of a variety of devices – where the choices we make are based on what instruments we choose to use. These instruments have turned into the defining elements of our practice.
Rather than being a thing in and of itself, the tool is the ‘extension’ of our body, revealing both our necessities and desires. Just as ellipsographs permitted the precise drawing of elliptical space in the 19th century, so has the computer as both hardware, and with the applicable software, revolutionised the way we conceive , construct and archive nowadays.
Although we continue to be drawn back to the fundamentals of pencil, paper and tracing paper, today we are designing and representing in a revolutionary period of data through an infinite array of sophisticated instruments. From the toolboxes of Rhinoceros, Autocad and BIM software where forms are drafted in a predetermined idea of space, an infinite Cartesian grid, to those of the Adobe Suite where images are forensically analysed and manipulated, to animation software as cinema 4D where we render experiences; architecture as a practice and architecture as output are being continuously challenged and redefined.
In recent times, both virtual & augmented reality have also been brought in as a device which questions the design of architecture as an experiential act. The designer here inhabits the scene he is creating and is instantly exposed to the impact of his decisions, a software which almost as a premonitory act to ones’ intentions. The architect steps into the project before the first brick is even laid. From AR to Artificial intelligence, the latter is next in line as a tool which will be working along and in partnership with us, whilst custom design tools will become more prevalent due to an incoming generation of architects well trained in scripting asking us to potentially question and revaluate the very notion of authorship.
Because of the curiosity of the architect and the nature of architecture itself, architects have commonly ventured beyond their own conceptual and tangible tools appropriating and exploring those from other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and more recently art, gaming (amongst others). In a continuous exchange the tools pioneered by architects have also been appropriated by other disciplines. 100 years after the break from the painting and two-dimensional canvas through the means of the collage, artists are deploying architecture tools to create sight specific immersive installations questioning the very threshold between the two practices. If the papier collé, with its sets of tools revolutionised, the very notion of art symbolising ‘a shift from the economy of craft to one of choice’ the tools available to us today have the potential to drastically challenge the way we perceive, think and design.
A few thoughts:
Abstraction n.01 asks us to reflect on the tools through which we make both conceptually and physically. In an age where the multidisciplinary is praised, through appropriating different methods of making, how far can we push and blur disciplinary boundaries?
What does it mean to draw images not with ink but with pixels, how can we present and archive drawings not on paper but through the i-pad and how can we imagine and represent physical space in the intangible and infinite realm of the digital?
If the man ‘is’ the tool he develops what does this say on contemporary production? What will future archaeologists excavate? And at the intersection of analogue and digital what is the role of an image within a 3 seconds attention span?