E.9 Perspectives from the History of Science in Modern Art and Architectural Historiography

Fri Oct 16 / 14:00 – 15:30
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chairs /

  • Skender Luarasi, Polis University
  • Adil Mansure, OCAD University

In 1946, Le Corbusier met with Albert Einstein in Princeton, NJ, seeking ‘scientific’ validation for his Modulor. His pursuit represents Architecture’s eternal desire to be bound to Science, seen in both its employing science for assembling material realities, as well as in the rhetoric of a scientific design process.

The history of architecture is not void of architecture-science relations: Anaximander’s cartographies, Descartes tri-axial spatial matrix, Newton’s static and relative spaces, the cosmic Baroque geometry of Galileo and Kepler, Giedion’s histories of architectural technology, and Hannes Meyer’s call for the ‘scientization of architecture’ are some cases in point. Nor is the history of architecture void of monuments to scientists, for example, Boullée’s Cenotaph for Newton and Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower. In ‘digital artists’ such as Nicolas Schoffer, Iannis Xenakis, Harold Bloom, Patricia Piccinini among others, both addressing and employing scientific perspectives from quantum physics, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and so on, Modern Art and Architecture and their histories evince multiple liaisons with the History of Science. In this session, we ask for inquiries exploring the various intersections between the Modern History of Art and Architecture with the History of Science.

Skender Luarasi is an architect, educator and writer. His PhD dissertation, received at the Yale School of Architecture focuses on how design processes end and how this question intersects with style, geometry and parametricism in history. He is the editor (with Adil Mansure) of the book Finding San Carlino: Collected Perspectives on the Geometry of the Baroque. Luarasi has presented his research in numerous international conferences and has published in Log, Haecceity, Forum A+P and other journals. Skender Luarasi holds a Master of Architecture from MIT and a Bachelor of Architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology. He is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Research and Development at Polis University in Tirana, Albania. He has previously taught at Yale, RISD, Washington State University and MIT.

Adil Mansure is an architect, writer and educator based in Toronto. He has taught studios and seminars based on his research at the University of Toronto, OCAD University and the University at Buffalo. He has practiced in New York, Toronto and Bombay. He holds degrees from Cambridge University, Yale University and Mumbai University. He is the editor (with Skender Luarasi) of the book Finding San Carlino: Collected Perspectives on the Geometry of the Baroque, and his current projects include a book titled The Architecture of Cliché and an exhibition titled Instrumentality of an Eternal Baroque.

E.9.1 Elements Biennale 2014, Directed by Rem Koolhaas, Was it Research, Was it Scientific?

John Abel, Washington State University

“The spirit of research is always something with which la Biennale concerns itself; but here it is la Biennale itself that is doing the research. And we are convinced of the importance of this development and this extraordinary opportunity Rem has offered us” (Paolo Barata, President of the Venice Biennale Architecttura, 2014)

With the 2014 “Elements” Biennale, Rem Koolhaas established a biennale that was itself a research project from initial research question to the spatial installation of research findings. The question remains, what kind of research was it, and was it scientific or some other kind of research that incorporates ‘scientific methods’ which lend credibility to what usually counts as ‘research’ even in the humanities - even if only ‘systematic’ and so fitting within A general genealogical classification of what has come to count in modernity and post-modernity as ‘scientific’ research? This paper explored the nature of the 2014 Biennale research, both the methodological underpinnings of the journalism-based approach to architectural research Koolhaas has undertaken in much or his architectural output, as well as the spatial instant inaction of the results at the Biennale. The artifacts examined in the paper include graphic documents, written documents, as well as physical artifacts (designed and found) exhibited at the Biennale.

E.9.2 The Post-Digital in Architecture. Notes on the Cultural Implications of a Science-based Approach

Valerio Perna, Polis University

In his book The Digital Turn in Architecture, published in 1992, Italian historian Mario Carpo investigated the different phases of the entanglement between architecture, design, and Information Technology and provided a complete historical timeline of the first twenty years of the enthusiastic pre-eminence of computer-based design and production. Indeed, the first two decades of The IT Revolution In Architecture (Saggio 2007), with its dawn ascribable to the Third Wave theorized in 1980 by Alvin Toffler, was a period welcomed in architecture as a liberation force where the deep relationship with the world of science and data sets could free the latter from its standardized mass production methods.

It is not a case, indeed, that the term non-standard architecture – inherited from the 2000s design experimentation through digital media (Migayrou, 2003) started to appear in magazines and journals to highlight the deep faith in a major shift from mass standardization to mass customization processes in everyday design practice. Besides its theoretical implication, albeit these libertarian processes lead to the opposite phenomenon. The first enthusiasm towards anti-homogeneity was quickly turned into a homogeneity-based (Cramer & Guiney, 2000; Gourdoukis, 2019) approach where the first generations of architects narrowed their focus and discovered themselves more interested in discussing the tools rather than the cultural implications. Considering this starting point, this contribution aims to investigate the emergence of a post-digital sensibility in architecture (Cascone, 2000) where the relationship between science and architecture is intended in terms of its cultural production rather than in terms of technical possibilities (Del Campo, 2018), and to isolate some enzymes through which science has – and will – be contributing, in continuity or discontinuity, to the lineage of architectural production.

Born in Rome (1988), Valerio Perna is an architect and Ph.D. in Architecture - Theories and Design at "Sapienza" - University of Rome. During his PhD, he has been a Visiting Scholar at AUAS Amsterdam. He is currently employed at Universiteti POLIS (Tirana, AL), where he is the INNOVATION_Factory (IF) coordinator and Head of Research Center in Architecture, Engineering and Design. His research agenda explores the role of playfulness and ludic processes in contemporary architectural practice to address complexity and behavioral phenomena in the urban fabric. Valerio has published in several international magazines and has been invited as a speaker in European and Asian venues. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of architectural journals and series such as FORUM A+P, the OMB Series and the Gli Strumenti series.

E.9.3 Architectural Archivism: Preservation, Emulation, and Reinterpretation

Jason Shields, University of Manitoba

Architectural works have been historically documented as two-dimensional hand or CAD (computer-aided design) drawings. As the discipline moves forward into a digital three-dimensional BIM (building information model) era, a lack of standardization in digital architectural content places many ideologies of archivism in contention. Contemporary design methodologies often expect three-dimensional models to include a plethora of construction information, metadata, textures, and general documentation. With this drastic shift in the workflow, how can an inherently unstable form of media, such as BIM, be accurately archived for future generations and historical purposes? Architectural drawings are typically transcoded, transposed, or reinterpreted to function using contemporary hardware and software. Once architectural BIM models are digitally stored, can the work remain as the designer intended, and is contemporary digital archivism in architecture fundamentally inaccurate if the original work requires modifications and upgrades for viewing purposes? While archiving the integrity of the BIM models and data is essential, archiving the crucial processes and instructions of the model creation is equally vital in interpreting historical data in architectural works. This session will discuss solutions to mitigate archival constraints in the architectural field using software-driven empirical studies that examine concepts such as technology preservation, technology emulation, and data reinterpretation. The presentation will also introduce preliminary frameworks to assist in archiving architectural process documents, BIM data, metadata, and linked external works.

Jason Shields is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Interior Design at the University of Manitoba. Jason was selected in 2018 by Interior Design Canada’s PROpel program as one of the 20 top emerging design professionals in Canada. His recent 6-year experience in the professional industry has allowed him to take a multi-faceted approach to research and design. His work explores the relationship between architecture, technology, and the built environment. Current research examines the role of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in Interior Design. Jason also teaches undergraduate and graduate interior design studio courses that require the design of contemporary typologies and architectural installations.