Experiments in Computer Graphics

Over the past three decades the architectural process has been drastically reorganized by what historian Jonathan Crary calls “a transformation in the nature of visuality probably more profound than the break that separates medieval imagery from Renaissance perspective.” Architecture’s previously stable graphical conventions have dissolved and been replaced with an ever expanding repertoire of computational mediums.

If we acknowledge that architecture has for centuries produced new ideas and forms by treating representation as a space of exploration, how might techniques that belong to computational media—which so often seem to prioritize “workflow optimization” at the expense of representational experimentation—be made to serve this same experimental function? Any such inquiry would entail imagining and testing methods by which computational image making–or what Friedrich A. Kittler calls computer graphics–might be used to disrupt the smooth workflows which presently define digital fabrication culture.

The course will first address the difference between two forms of representation that have historically defined architecture’s relationship to culture–the documentary and the experimental—through a set of historical-theoretical texts. Second, students will be exposed to a diverse set of precedents in computer graphics, ranging from early video art practices to more recent experiments in compression aesthetics. These case studies will be paired with multi-week design exercises that explore specific technical processes extracted from those precedents. The objective is to catalog a range of technical processes as a way of gaining fluency in media practices that have generally been regarded as lying outside the domain of architectural practice, but which might now be used profitably as a way of opening up and expanding architecture’s own digital culture. The course culminates in a final project in which students will be asked to research a computer-graphical technical process and produce a physical model expressive of certain proto-architectural questions (questions of materiality, structure, tectonics, assembly, etc.) 

There are no prerequisites for the class, and no special software skills are required, only a willingness to explore and combine various computational media platforms.