Soft Surface Operations
Wild Energies in a Continuous Urban Landscape, 2011
In the past six months, a series of tools have been introduced that offer a comprehensive and fundamentally new approach to architecture and landscape architecture. These tools facilitate 1) the collection of data -such as various flows across urban surfaces, 2) the wireless communication of data streams to 3D modeling programs, 3) the graphic analysis of this live data -translating from comma separated values to three dimensional form, 4) the ability to re-order layers of data, perception, and performance in terms of spatial formations, aka -design, 5) the two way connection between sensors that record data and actuators that transform surfaces -with all the potential for re-evaluation and iteration that this suggests, and finally 5) the ability to take the graphic files directly into CNC fabrication.
This software and hardware has been produced by independent entrepreneurial and university teams situated in various places around the globe, all working within the Rhino-Grasshopper environment and in touch with each other through the Grasshopper Forum. The common platform is critical because it means that all of these devices can work synergistically and (almost!) seamlessly through the Grasshopper plug-in for Rhino.
This semester we will explore the transformative potential of these tools.
As you can imagine, this is an exciting moment to be a designer, as these new tools will expand the design field, create connections with other disciplines, and significantly change the nature of design professions. From the common understanding of architecture as discontinuous artifacts, protected behind thermal barriers and separate from the landscape, we can now envision a responsive synergy between inside and outside with the potential for a fundamentally new relationship between the human and the biotic matrix. As designers at this particular moment, we have the potential and the responsibility to chart this new territory.
This year’s course will take advantage of research from the spring 2011 Theories of Parametric Design Seminar, as well as research that I have conducted over the summer with Katherine Treppendahl. As you can see from this site, we have put together examples, tutorials, and troubleshooting tips, and have solved certain expected problems with key devices. This means that the delays and roadblocks normally associated with a new territory will be greatly reduced so we can move ahead quickly. For timely support, I will hold office hours all day, three days per week.
From its inception as “microclimates” to “constructing weather” and now “soft surface operations”, ARCH 5380 has always focused on the means to adjust the flow of wild energies to create a optimum human habitat. We will continue this focus on the wild energies in an urban matrix, now using the Grasshopper platform as an aggregator for our research. A basic familiarity with Grasshopper will be a significant advantage in the course, though support will be offered to students with a great desire to discover the potential of this software. In addition to Grasshopper, and in order to connect the virtual and physical environments, the course will involve significant experimentation with the arduino microcontroller and the Firefly plug-in for Grasshopper.
Updated: July 18, 2012