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Discreteness as a value proposition

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What has been described as Discrete Architecture can be presented as a renewed interest in parts and the composition of wholes through the production of patterns. Discrete Architecture has important implications in the definition of form, but it holds the risk to be evaluated just as an aesthetic paradigm, much like parametrics.

As we will explore in the following chapter, the production of content can grow exponentially with the introduction of digital platforms. Non-expert users are able to engage with design through digital interfaces or video games that have been designed to educate and aid in the implementation of technical knowledge. But who profits from such production and what are the ethical imperatives of platform infrastructure in regard to users? It has not been the architectural field that has initiated a pushback toward contemporary inequality in identifying the Commons as an area of theory and in need for formal implementation; the acknowledgment and protection for the Commons has been a global project for many disciplines for decades, and a movement that seems to gain strength with the global understanding of the calamities perpetrated by a form of unregulated capitalism. As Negri and Hardt explain:

Neoliberal government policies throughout the world have sought in recent decades to privatize the common, making cultural products—for example information, ideas and even species of animals and plants—into private property. We argue, in chorus with many others, that such privatization should be resisted.31

The production of valuable design patterns by a multitude requires the conceptualization and structural implementation of the Commons; a legally defined territory that can absorb and store the production of value. Architecture’s role needs to bemore clearly associated with the discipline’s skills in the conceptualization, design and fabrication of models for equitable and inclusive cities, starting from the very fabric of its buildings.

The self-imposed constraint of using serializable parts does not follow a stylistic trend but rather seeks to encapsulate knowledge in physical objects, allowing for a democratization of design when opened to larger audiences through digital platforms. This might seem an arbitrary constraint, but behind it is a social and economic agenda that seeks to expand the role of architecture beyond market economics. This strategy shifts the production agency from high-stakes developers who hold large accumulations of wealth, toward multitudes that can generate collective iterations of contingent issues. This call is to hinder the model of knowledge protection by large actors in the economy and to facilitate a model of knowledge propagation, attempting to dismantle a “one-to-one” correlation between architects and buildings, allowing for an exponential proliferation of culturally relevant design patterns via the Commons.

The rise of inequality calls not only for political participation as citizens, but also a reformulation of our professional practice, examining our established practices for funding, labor and design objectives. In architecture, form and composition are not “off the hook” when we address our socio-political concerns. The field needs to be able to distinguish which strategies perpetuate a neoliberal landscape that divides and polarizes cities and the rest of our built environment. This is not to be misinterpreted as a regressive proposition that is attempting to go back to a time in which the discipline did not need to concern itself with issues of technology or fabrication. Discrete Architecture is an attempt to engage some of the most pervasive forms of technological governance and branch out parallel trajectories that place social progress ahead of a technological or compositional one.

As we will discuss in the next chapters, the production of the Commons and the attempts to protect them can be observed in formal developments concerning copyright and mechanisms for social organization. Technologies such as the General Purpose License (GPL) by Richard Stallman, Creative Commons Licenses and Open Source initiatives constitute organizational and legal innovations that allow an alternative trajectory for professional practice. The role of these innovations is fundamentally linked to the ability of individuals to organize themselves and develop protocols for sharing and governing the outputs of their collective labor. While the parametric design movement of the 1990s was facilitated by innovations due to calculus and the development of surfaces, today’s technological advancements offer the capacity to connect people in a myriad of ways, many of them with the potential for exploitative extraction of capital. Architecture needs to acknowledge its role in the perpetuation of an economic model and discover avenues for alternatives.

Notes

1 Christopher Alexander, ‘Systems Generating Systems,' Architectural Design, 7.6 (December 1968), 90-91.

  • 2 Theo Van Doesburg.'De Stijl, 1917-1928,’ De Stijl (1952), MoMA museum catalogue, .
  • 3 Le Corbusier, The Modular: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale Universally Applicable to Architecture and Meeh (MIT Press, 1977).
  • 4 Stan Allen, Points and Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City (Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).
  • 5 Philippe Morel, ‘On Computationalism,' in EP: Design Fiction (Sternberg Press, 2016), pp. 142-153.
  • 6 Corbusier, The Modular.
  • 7 Christine Wall, An Architecture of Parts: Architects, Building Workers and Industrialisation in Britain 1940-1970 (Routledge, 2013).
  • 8 Corbusier, The Modular.
  • 9 Gilbert Herbert, Dream of the Factory-Made House: Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann (MIT Press, 1984).
  • 10 Wall, An Architecture of Parts.
  • 11 Alexander, ‘Systems Generating Systems.’
  • 12 Alexander,‘Systems Generating Systems.’
  • 13 Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (George Braziller Inc, 1968).
  • 14 Neil Gershenfeld and Jonathan Daniel Ward,‘Hierarchical Functional Digital Materials,’ 1 (2013). .
  • 15 Jonathan Ward, Additive Assembly of Digital Materials (MIT Press, 2010).
  • 16 Rasa Navasaityte and Daniel Koehler, ‘Mereological Tectonics: The Figure and Its Figuration,’ TxA Emerging Technologies Proceedings (2016), 1-14 .
  • 17 Ian Bogost, Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, Unit Operations (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006).
  • 18 Bogost, Unit Operations.
  • 19 Bogost, Unit Operations.
  • 20 Gilles Retsin, ‘Discrete Assemblage as Design and Fabrication Strategy,’ TxA Emerging Technologies Proceedings (2015), 98-103.
  • 21 Levi R. Bryant. The Democracy of Objects (Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2011).
  • 22 Georg Gregor, ‘Lectron—Elektronisches Lern- Und Experimentiersystem-Das Lectron Prinzip’(1965) [accessed 13 April 2014].
  • 23 Jose Sanchez, 'Polyomino - The Missing Topology Mechanic,’ in ALIVE: Advancements in Adaptive Architecture, ed. by Manuel Kretzer and Ludger Hovestadt (Birkhäuser, Basel, 2014).
  • 24 Kostas Terzidis, Permutation Design: Buildings, Texts, and Contexts (Routledge, 2015).
  • 25 Terzidis, Permutation Design.
  • 26 Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building (Oxford University Press, 1979).
  • 27 Timothy Morton, Humankind: Solidarity With Non-Human People (Verso, 2017).
  • 28 Morton, Humankind.
  • 29 Morton, Humankind.
  • 30 Christopher Alexander,‘A City Is Not a Tree,’ Architectural Forum, 122.1 (April 1965), 58-62.
  • 31 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Harvard University Press, 2009).

References

-------, The Timeless Way of Building (Oxford University Press, New York. 1979)

Allen, Stan, Points and Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City (Princeton Architectural Press. New York. 1999)

Bertalanfiy, Ludwig von. General System Theory: Foundations, Development,Applications (George Braziller, New York, 1968)

Bogost, Ian, Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, Unit Operations (MIT Press. Cambridge, 2006)

Bryant, Levi R., The Democracy of Objects (Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor, 2011)

Doesburg, Theo Van, ‘De Stijl, 1917-1928,’ De Stijl (1952), MoMA museum catalogue, https://www.moma.org/documents/moma_catalogue_1798_300159061 .pdf [accessed November 2017J

Gershenfeld, Neil, and Jonathan Daniel Ward. ‘Hierarchical Functional Digital Materials,' 1 (2013). [accessed November 2017]

Gregor, Georg, ‘Lectron—Elektronisches Lern- Und Experimentiersystem—Das Lectron Prinzip’(1965) [accessed 13 April 2014]

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Harvard University Press, Cambridge. 2009)

Herbert, Gilbert. Dream of the Factory-Made House: Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1984)

Le Corbusier, The Modular: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics, (Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology Press, Cambridge. 1977) Morel, Philippe,‘On Computationalism,’ in EP: Design Fiction (Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2016), pp. 142-153

Morton,Timothy, Humankind: Solidarity With Non-Human People (Verso. London, 2017)

Navasaityte, Rasa, and Daniel Koehler, ‘Mereological Tectonics: The Figure and Its Figuration,' TxA Emerging Technologies Proceedings (2016), 1—14

Retsin, Gilles, ‘Discrete Assemblage as Design and Fabrication Strategy,’ TxA Emerging Technologies Proceedings (2015), 98-103

Sanchez, Jose, ‘Polyomino - The Missing Topolog)' Mechanic,’ in ALIVE: Advancements in Adaptive Architecture, ed. by Manuel Kretzer and Ludger Hovestadt (Birkhäuser, Basel, 2014)

Terzidis, Kostas, Permutation Design: Buildings, Texts, and Contexts (Routledge, Abingdon. 2015)

Wall, Christine, An Architecture of Parts: Architects, Building Workers and Industrialisation in Britain 1940-1970 (Routledge, Abingdon, 2013)

Ward, Jonathan. Additive Assembly of Digital Materials (Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology Press, Cambridge, 2010)

 
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