[iDC] Beyond the blob

Mark Shepard mshepard at andinc.org
Wed Sep 27 15:21:50 EDT 2006

Brian pointed to Non-standard Architectures @ the Pompidou. Frank  
referenced "Hybrid Space : new forms in digital architecture". To  
that I would add the Non-standard Praxis symposium @ MIT - http:// 

Ahh... The usual suspects. The starchitects are in the house!

It's high time we get beyond the blob, the digital hybrid, and the  
tendency of architecture to merely "represent" ideas in formal terms  
using the common digital tools (CAD/CAM, digital fabrication)  
available to us today. I think for some architects at least, the  
whole "constructing digital architecture" debate has really run its  
course. Moving beyond screen-based simulations or real-time  
"reactive" spaces (which are often no more than glorified automatic  
door openers), the questions today have less to do with the old  
digital/analog debate.

I know I'm the one who introduced the form-fetish syndrome into the  
discussion, but I did so more as a provocateur than anything else.  
It's been more than a decade since people like Niel Denari  conducted  
a graduate design studio at Columbia on blob-form as a graphic  
strategy, or Greg Lynn introduced concepts of generative form,  
iteration, and responsiveness into the design process (also at  
Columbia). I'm not a historian of the term, but I recall hearing (and  
using) blobitecture (and its close cousin "spaghetti architecture")  
as a derisive label for the work going on there at the time. (Mea  
culpa: I was a graduate student there then). I find it remarkable  
that these terms could be still "in vogue" today.

I think Usman's on to something here:

> As I see it, interest in hertzian and networked space is a  
> satisfactory first small step in the right direction, because it  
> negotiates between a fascination with form (ala blobs) and a  
> fascination with architectural program (ala early Tschumi) because  
> such an approach deals explicitly with both the relationship  
> between people and their physical spaces and with topological  
> frameworks that give rise these relationships.

> A subsequent step must be to question the design process itself,  
> no? How might the production itself of an architecture *really* be  
> "interactive" (in the sense that Maturana or Pask use the word)?  
> Surely such an architecture would never be "complete"? This is why  
> I find it quite interesting that Omar, too, is interested in the  
> notion of "performance": because performance is a work, the  
> production of which is very much the work as well.

Architecture in this sense involves a dialogue (conversation?)  
between people, physical space, and the topological frameworks that  
structure and inform this dialogue. What happens when this dialogue  
is understood not in terms of real-time "reactions" or "responses,"  
but rather over an extended time-frame? The life of a building, for  
example? What happens when the "certificate of occupancy" (issued by  
the building inspector when a building is considered "finished" and  
safe for inhabitation) is not the end of the design process, but  
merely another step along the way?

mark shepard

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