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Plectic architecture: towards a theory of the post-digital in architecture

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My research is centred upon how architecture is invigorated by cyberspace, the blurred boundary between the virtual and the actual, and how the different parameters of these spaces can be used to inform one another. My early experience in practice was that buildings are limited by the inert materials used to construct them and by the unimaginative ideas of what a building should look like and be. My research draws upon a variety of different disciplines to inform one architecture. The areas of research are multidisciplinary and include the changing status of the architectural drawing, smart materials, computer-aided architectural drawing, computer-aided manufacture, emergent systems, responsive environments, the architectural design of cyberspace, interactivity, cybernetics and evolving systems and algorithmic design.

To create responsive, non-prescriptive designs for architectural intervention was the starting point that led to an interest in the logic of algorithms and open-ended systems. These problem-solving diagrams used by computer programmers are very useful as a way of describing fluctuating conditions in responsive environments. This led to an interest in other computing paradigms such as cellular automata, complexity and emergence. These and other ideas I attempted to bring into the arena of architectural design to help architects cope with the rapid growth of computational technology, which is starting to revolutionize the way buildings are designed, drawn and built.

We are at another of the important perturbations in technology and epistemology that seems to affect us so often these days. Cell biology is the new cyber-space and nanotechnology. Once we fully understand the exact nature of how our world makes us and, indeed how it sometimes kills us, we will be able to make true architectures of ecological connectability.

This is our profession's future. Small steps have been made, but much more remains to be done.

Keywords: architecture; cybernetics; cyberspace; cyborgian geography; nanotechnology; plectics; post-digital; surrealism; synthetic ecology; virtual

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Professor of Architecture & Digital Theory, Vice-Dean, Director of AVATAR group, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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