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RETHINKING THE HUMAN IN TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN ARCHITECTURE

   
   

Over the past 10 years the research record of architectural education institutions in Europe has significantly shifted from research primarily based on the Humanities to research directed and supported by Information Technology on experimentations in architectural design, materials and construction. This shift, now a dominant trend in architectural research, has a direct impact on the entire construct of architectural knowledge and design skills, as well as the creation of the profile of the architect and the priorities for pedagogical strategies in architectural education. The more IT becomes ubiquitous being integrated into almost everything people get their hands on, the more architecture tends to absorb this technological impulse, becoming adaptive, responsive, transformable, intelligent and customized.

These new conceptions of architecture are accompanied with new terms like liquid, hybrid, virtual, trans, animated, seamless, interactive, parametric, machinic and self generating, thus producing a new architectural culture. That is a culture in which the terms and conceptions that have nourished architecture for centuries are replaced by their opposites: stability and solidity replaced by change, simplicity and clarity replaced by complexity and (real) time dominates upon space. In the design domain, emerging techniques and methods seem to have absorbed the bulk of IT, mainly with regards to software applications, which influence greatly the way architects think, design and visualize their ideas. Meanwhile, the area of fabrication has been rapidly evolving so that the versatility provided by design software can now be materialized through advanced manufacturing equipment, previously employed only by the industry. Moreover, advancements in material science have also been supporting experimentation in that direction. Last but not least, this new culture has progressively established its ethos in the education of the architect detectable in student design works, in the new nature of the design studio (lab) as well as the gradual devaluation or even elimination of modules related to the Humanities in the architectural curricula and their being replaced instead by modules on scripting, biology and representation software.

The paradigm of nature, the development of more powerful, sensitive, interactive and intuitive software as well as the ability to experiment with electronic assemblies have facilitated an ever-growing tendency for responsive architecture. One of the most significant shifts of contemporary architectural thinking in our fast changing world is a strong inclination towards an innovative experimentation adaptable to the speed of changes occurring in our mind, soul and body. As a result the whole practice is moving towards responsiveness today. Thus, design tools are used according to user demands and needs, which are now conceived as unstable and transformable while fabrication methods are developed to respond to design idiosyncrasies, and space is designed to respond directly to changing human behavior and environmental conditions.

However, voices criticizing this digitalization of architectural thinking are becoming more numerous and boisterous. Not only are they the voices of practitioners and educators, who steer clear from avant-garde ideas and experimentations but, more significantly, of those who have been strongly involved and engaged in the development, implementation and theorization of the contemporary technology-driven architecture from its infancy. The common grounds of these critics focus on three main orientations; the design process, the nature of the outcome, and the role of the architect. The digitalization of the design process and its development as an imitation of the biological, morphogenetic process is questioned on its potential to continue to be considered as an act of creation when it follows a purely mechanistic development sterilized by the decisive presence and the creative role of cultural values. The architectural outcome of such a process is questioned on its merit to adequately represent our contemporary culture when the dominant characteristic through which it gains its value is its capacity to be passively adaptive and responsive to preprogrammed external human or environmental stimuli. Finally, what is questioned is whether the architect more as a script editor-programmer than a thinker-maker working on values to give form to our everyday life, can safely translate, in parametric terms and the script language, the complexity of human senses and behaviors. The common denominator of all this questioning is a broader concern that, by overemphasizing the technological capacity of the available means, we risk considering the means as objectives and thus lose the human being as the ultimate end of architectural creation. Is IT the end or a means to an end?

All the above issues translated into new questions that have nourished research and experimentation, trigger off debate, contemplation and influence the practice and education of the architect. Is it possible to find the human being in IT driven architecture? Is it possible to have an adaptive architecture in which the presence of the human being will be more influential and decisive? Can the contemporary technological means assure a value-based responsive architecture? Can we have an architectural production, which will not only reflect some of the abilities, constructions and properties of the alive, but will also be made to be receptive to the senses, the feelings, emotions and sensations of the human being which will inhabit it? Can we use advanced information technology to protect architecture from becoming a consumable, self-complacent object, fascinating for its elementary intelligence, admired for its advanced technical competences, attractive for its formal peculiarity but distant from those who are invited to appropriate it by investing in its spaces and forms feelings, aspirations, cultural attitudes, and values emerging from social life?

Taking into account the state of the art of this context, the Conference wishes to develop on three main axes:
1. To record the research undertaken and the output produced by schools of architecture aiming at advancing responsive and adaptive architecture critically towards a more sensitive involvement of the human values.
2. To present cases of architectural design and fabrication where information technology is amalgamated with a values-based rethinking of architecture.
3. To follow the ways that this output produced (or imparted) by research, practice and contemporary contemplation on architecture is (tran)scribed and recycled into architectural design teaching practices.

The conference will be structured upon the following four main sessions:
1. think Re-thinking a critically responsive architecture
2. re-search Re-searching a critically responsive architecture.
3. create Re-scripting and fabricating a critically responsive architecture
4. educate Teaching a critically responsive architecture.

We are inviting architects, teachers and researchers of architecture in Europe to present their views, research outcomes and teaching experiences related to the theme of the Conference. We expect that this event will give us the possibility for a fruitful and creative exchange of experiences, views and practices, which will enrich our teaching and nourish our efforts for a more profound understanding and practice of architecture.


   
    European Network of Heads of Schools of Architecture | European Association for Architectural Education