24: Digital Culture in Architecture

short review


Confronted with architectural forms to which traditional functional and aesthetic criteria do not apply easily because of their novelty, forms above all inseparable from a continuum of alternatives obtained from direct deformation or parametric variation, how is the architect to determine the most appropriate solution - like Faust asking time to stop in a moment of perfect happiness? - Antoine Picon

Antoine Picon, the G. Ware Travelstead Professor at GSD, Harvard spends 216 pages recounting, in a very academic way, the deep history of digital design from its origins, the information-based society at the end of the nineteenth century to the radical adaptations that architects had to undergo at the beginning of this century to remain relevant.

Picon, who strangely enough ends every chapter with a project by R&Sie displayed as a perfect illustration of his point, achieves a high understanding of the technological changes which modern society is currently undergoing, always seeing them in relationship to the potential impacts they might have on the discipline of architecture, from the more removed: social media as an explosion of individuality and personal expression, cyber-sociability, GPS technology, wireless internet, social media, virtual / augmented reality to the more obviously tectonic: media facades, composites, and robotics.

Antoine Picon is almost too good of a cliche for the french intellectual. Not afraid of using high-flying philosophical concepts by Deleuze, Sloterdijk or Bruno Latour, or low culture Hollywood movies as examples, he spends rigorous time in explaining his thesis and acquires a multimodal analysis, zooming out to historical cases (i.e. Debord, Lefebvre, Boulle, Hennebique, Laugier, Viollet le Duc, etc) and precedents in urban planning and zooming in to materiality and specific architectural-scale singularities. His book is full of poignant critique; critique which fortunately, in an era of instagram and snapchat, is invested in deep historical understanding and scholar commitment with a philosopher’s mind.

Despite the diversity of research directions revealed by this half a century long history, the architectural uses of the computer in an experimental perspective have generally privileged form: the investigation of shapes in complete contrast with the limited vocabulary of modern architecture - Antoine Picon

Just like Beaux-Arts or modern architects addressed again and again the same fundamental issues, designers of the computer age tend to concentrate on recurring problems like the smooth transition between heterogeneous subparts that was at the core of the folding program exposed by Lynn - Antoine Picon





ISBN 10:3034602596