Digital media, software interface used by computers, prevail today in all types of visual communication that provide information or services, including architecture. Digital media allow complex calculations and forms to be created using computer algorithms, leaving to the designer the role of selection among a series of options, a fact that has ignited debates regarding creativity, human agency, releasing control of the design process to software, curvilinearity, expressionism, computing information, all kinds of virtual space and the role of technology in society. Digital design combined or not with artificial intelligence has resulted to a vast expansion of the creative sphere, especially towards what Greg Lynn calls animate form, which is contrary to the ethics of statics in all visual arts, dedicated as they are to eternal stasis and permanence. This desire for timelessness in architecture is intimately linked with interests in formal purity and autonomy, Lynn contends, whereas digital design favors multimedia and hybrid forms. Challenging architecture by introducing models of organization which are not inert does not threaten its essence but advances its scope. Advancing systems of dynamic digital organization in architecture alters the abstract space of design from a neutral set of Cartesian coordinates to a space defined by force and motion, as in naval, airplane or automobile design where the properties of flow, turbulence, viscosity and drag are taken into account. Animate design is defined by the co-presence of motion and force at the moment of formal conception. Buildings like sculptures are designed with the cultural expectation to last forever when in fact they persist only for a limited period of time. Rather than designing for permanence, techniques for obsolescence, dismantling, ruination, recycling and abandonment through time, warrant exploration. Likewise, the functional fixity, stability as well as vertical development in architectural conventions are notions that ought to be questioned when it comes to outcomes like buildings. Architecture engaging with digital design is obliged to incorporate factors of time and motion and via experimentation with non visual regimes permeated by transformation and deformation, architects may discover how to engage time and motion in design.
The profound transformation that digital media have introduced in design has reshaped the architectural modes of production that have been roughly stable for the last five centuries and has deeply shaken the disciplinary foundations of architecture. Digital media have blurred the distinction between original and copy and have challenged the traditional notion of authorship. Furthermore, images have become poorer, as Steyerl argues, by losing resolution and by becoming endlessly ripped, accelerating through the web in the form of immaterial presence of temporary binary code translations, as May contends. An increasingly faster internet and digital social media platforms offer an alternative sense of space and time, instant gratification mechanisms, fostered by a neoliberal economy that, as Pasquinelli claims, transforms every subject into a digital entrepreneur of a Neofeudal society. FILARCH 2023 is about the effects that the “digital turn” has had in architecture and how digital media have transformed the way we conceive, think, discuss, produce, build, interpret, consume and define architecture.
Organizing institutions: University of Patras, School of Architecture, Centro de Estudos
Arnaldo Araújo-Escola Superior Artística do Porto (CEAA-ESAP)
There is an ancient and unresolved battle between Culture and Nature. Some of the few places where we may encounter a truce between them are gardens. The relation between humans and nature has been primarily hostile, based on struggle and survival, but the garden has also been the symbol of the domestication of the wild, the victory of reason, of elegance, and grace. The cultivation of gardens, that is, the cultivation of natural beauty has a long tradition in different cultures and historical eras. Beauty has a strong connection with our senses, as the discipline of aesthetics also stems from sense perception. From seeing to touching, the tamed and ordered nature is a great source of pleasure, revealing and elevating the perception of smell that takes an important role in the contemplation and enjoyment of a garden. Time is a physical concept in a garden. We can observe the seasons unfolding through the colours, the leaves, the branches, and the water. A garden is an honest and humble reminder of our own fragility and temporality. It stretches to the sun or to the snow, to the flower or to the tree, and from them all, we may draw a unified conclusion: seek peace and you shall find it here, which is a place of joy and community. Laying down or just strolling, babies and elders, women and men, all taking part in this arranged and natural intermission in the daily battle of life. All seems untouchable, with a silent background orchestra of nature’s sounds.
The relation between philosophy and gardens is also ancient. Today the garden is interpreted and understood along the notions of landscape and ecology, or under the wide notion of the philosophy of the city. The garden city movements that unfolded across Europe in the 19th century offer an alternative to the seemingly irreconcilable contrast between industrialization and nature. The emphasis of the garden as public space reveals a political, sociological, and anthropological dimensions. The demand for urban community gardens has appeared, and houseplants have become increasingly important in our apartments. All these issues raise important philosophical issues from tackling questions about the very nature, the essence of gardens to their social, moral, perceptual, and aesthetic implications.
One of the greatest beauties of Architecture is its work with what does not exist, with what is not yet seen, with what is not there. As in sculpture, the lines of this work draw precisely that effort to show, to unveil the thought, and its images, in the eyes of the other. The sharing of a vision is a stripping of the act of creation, an exhibition, an interior that becomes exterior. A movement of the sketch, in the notepad, in the plan, to the realized. As a crime, and perhaps more than in any other art, architecture allows you to collect all the crumbs and find the thread from the headspring to the mouth. This movement is far from easy, although it can be simple, and the work of understanding and describing it is vast and multiple. What holds us here and constitutes the proposal of FILARCH 2021 symposium is the challenge of showing what a vision consists of, a possibility that rises in reality as a shadow of the imagination over things. Baudelaire warns us about this fight, between night and day, and in the gap, he encounters the phantasmagoria where “an artist (…) is then as if assaulted by a mob of details, all claiming justice with the same fury. of a crowd eager for absolute equality”, all asking for salvation from the dark abyss of oblivion. In the dilemma between the fixation and the shapeless, in this interlude of creation, loving the freedom and the anticipated melancholy of the crystallized, of which will never come to show its total strength and all its affluents, the vision of a work is a prisoner of the future, of the futures, without a redeeming gesture that saves it from the long and arduous path from potency to act. If Aristotle saw this with the utmost clarity regarding the potentiality, the possibility is played today in the virtuality of an infinite fold. If, from a technical and execution point of view, the management of the project is today at the mercy of the beacons of technology and information technology that subjugate the art to the performer, it may be necessary to re-consider the vision as a free horizon, in its entirety problematic while rooted in a projection-vision movement, of an idea that is drawn more than a postcard that can be seen in a certain light. Under the rule of imagination, focusing on the visions of possibility entail an understanding of Architecture as art, an art more than a technique. Vision, transformation and transfiguration as a mirror of the free play of the faculties that Kant immortalized.
The hand that draws the line inhabits within the same impulse as the hand that writes the music sheet. In its most radical nakedness, the same gesture is rooted in its utmost simplicity: a sight-hearing, a white sheet, a pen or pencil. The virtual root of an invisible process. For this very reason, we are fascinated by the unique beauty of notebooks, diaries, the small papers, the scribbles, and all the first attempts that something makes to be born. There is something primitive about this process that occurs before thinking and even after within thinking. A process of plasticity, possibility, visions, and imagination, mixing future and past in the same present. Coincidentally as primitive seems to be the relation between thought and architecture, as old as the relation between man and the need for shelter. That translates immediately to a specific form of relation towards nature. A division between hostility and comfort. A need for security and freedom at the same time. From a basic necessity to the beauty of a house, or to the wonders of historical buildings, the sculpture of space, its molding towards our own wishes has enable a rich and complex relation between ideas and architecture, nature and culture. In this theoretical and practical relationship, we see the main paradigms towards historical categories of analysis, but also in aesthetic surroundings where the dispute of architecture among the other arts shows its ambivalent nature between beauty and the utilitarian function. Between impossibility and creativity, reason and emotion, the hybridity of architecture build its place from the small space to the grand majestic landscapes. Trying to understand architecture is also a movement towards a practice that expands and compresses at the same time, micro and macro, from the time of thinking the building, the general space, to the place for the table, the paint, the light, the garden or the bus stop, but also the contradiction in the pressure of the construction, rapid development, economical anxiety of profit, either in builders, or in public policies planning the future of our cities. It’s a vast and passionate world that in our days faces the threat of a reductionist approach by the design and fashion industry.
Although all of the above, Philosophy of Architecture as an autonomous field, is still in its very beginnings. In this sense, the symposium presents itself as a challenge, both to philosopher and architects, to get together to think about architecture in its complexity, variety and richness. We will be in Porto to celebrate this freedom that links hand and brain, heart and minds, to bridge praxis and thought through the creativity and freedom of all those who will join us either speaking or listening. We will open the space to remember that forgotten and lost link between those two forms, to show different silhouettes and to present the state of the art in this area.