Social Erosion

installation proposal

REACH Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Award
Southern Illinois University, School of Architecture

(Statement of Project Objectives)
Are there any clues to our innate social desires imbedded in the way we move through public space? If so, can these clues be identified and given a discreet value which can be codified in algorithmic form, and used to reorganize space to a configuration that is optimal for social interaction? We believe so. The object of our research is to determine whether or not this supposed optimization will satisfy the initial parameters established to signify desire, or generate a hyperreal state that will overturn the signifiers first established. Will this confusion of medium and message create a place where, “There is no longer a medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffused and diffracted in the real, and one can no longer even say that the medium is altered by it (Baudrillard, p30).” Or, will this algorithmic method of space making prove itself to be an effective tool in the creation of comfortable and functional public place?

(Background and Context)
The formal systems codified in the pilotis and ramps of Faner Hall represent an absolute, static, and impersonal spatial typology which has become incommensurate with contemporary modes of mental/mechanical information processing. Digital technologies have begun to affect a paradigm shift in architectural theory, displacing the objective ‘absolute nature of the object’, in favor of subjective variability and personalization (Saggio, p23). The bundling of motion, time, and space into stochastic algorithms or parametric models, allows architecture to generate form from convergent and fluctuating systems of information and permits personalized interpretations of the final product. Computerization of the design problem through use of parametric modeling and algorithm represent a revolutionary approach not yet widely embraced by the profession. “Corporate architectural practices…use the computer simply as an efficiency tool while continuing to develop design through traditional manual means (Terzidis, p40).”

(Methods, Procedures, Materials)
Our proposal is an interactive digitally formulated intervention to be installed in the outdoor corridor at Faner Hall. This installation and lounge space will be developed through an intense documentation of current student interactivity within the space. We propose to install an array of low-cost web cameras to survey the current activity and model this usage into an erosion algorithm. The pedestrian pathways and movements are to be mapped throughout the space for a given period of time. These movements and pathways will be given specific erosion values. As the pedestrian moves through the space, their rate of speed, chosen path, and acceleration, will dictate erosion values spatially and numerically. A probabilistic, non-determinate evaluation process will be maintained in order to maximize the potential of digital tools and prevent limitation of possible outcomes. “Algorithms employ randomness, probability or complexity the outcome of which is unknown, unpredictable, and unimaginable (Terzidis, p27).” Through the use of digital modeling techniques the resultant forms will parallel and indirectly map the travel that has taken place throughout, and promote new social interactivities within the space. A direct correlation between subjective movement through space and variability of form will result.
Not only will this installation facilitate the use of new modeling techniques, but also the use of CNC milling and laser cutting technologies in the Digital Fabrication Lab. The final installation piece will make use of this technology in order to minimize cost of production, and create a self-supporting structure that will require no invasive fastening techniques. The installation will employ light-weight, low-cost, and recyclable material which can be installed rapidly and easily disassembled.

(Significance and Impact)
This proposal will explore the potential of algorithms and the use of parametric modeling programs in the creation of architectonic spaces. Potentially the use of emerging computational technologies such as Bentley’s Generative Components, Rhinoceros, and Visual Basic, will promote a local understanding of the impending paradigm shift. The resultant space will also aide in an understanding of social interactions through the use of architectural fabrication techniques and advanced algorithms. Hopefully we will be able to answer the initial question, does the optimization of space actually lead to an optimal state, or are we accreting layers of mitigation onto something spontaneous? But without regard to the philosophical outcome, the scholarship funds for this installation will facilitate new digital fabrication techniques for the use of architectural models, and lead to the creation of a temporary recreational space to be enjoyed by all of the campus.

(Role of Faculty Sponsor)
Professor Yeshayahu is at the forefront of our proposed research technologies and directs the Digital Fabrication Lab. Trained in the use of advanced digital techniques; the Professor will closely monitor team progress and actively participate in advancing modeling methodology and developing appropriate algorithms.


Categories: Architecture, Competitions, Fabrication


studying: architecture design


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