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The relationship between video games and architecture

The relationship between video games and architecture


(distant booming) (audience applauds)
– Thank you Gabe. Thanks Gabe, thanks for the introduction. And I really appreciate what
you are doing here Gabe. I think it’s sometimes taken for granted, the amazing work and the heavy lifting that needs to be done to orchestrate the kind of series that has been, I think acknowledged quite internationally with the people that you’re bringing in and the kind of energy that it’s happening within the program so
everybody should feel very lucky to have you, I think. So and thanks again for the invitation. So it’s quite intense
to jump from a whole day of conversation and have to address. And some of the issues with my own work so I’m gonna try to unwrap this idea that I call the architecture
for the commons. Let me know if you can hear me well. So yes there is politics going on. And that’s quite inevitable, right? This is the situation we’re living in. (audience laughs) For me, the issue behind the election independently of the
candidates and so on has to do more with what we’ve
been discussing all day today. It has to do with wealth
inequality, right? This is a graphic that
you’ve probably seen online quite a bit, it’s a video showing how Americans perceive the distribution of wealth in the economy, what you can see in the bottom is an
idealistic distribution. In the middle is the
perceived actual distribution. But this is very far detached
from what is actually going on which is the graphic on the top. I was born in Chile, 1980. The time where under
dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. And this was a very strange dictatorship. It was one that set in place a new form of economic system, right? He appointed a group of individuals known in Chile as the Chicago Boys. These were people that were studying in Chicago under the
tutelage of Milton Friedman. And they were bringing back to Chile certain ideas, basically the dictatorship was dismantling communism
and it was trying to set into place a new form
of experimental capitalism. It later was known as neoliberalism. It was much earlier than when
this was actually implemented in places like the UK or the
US by Reagan or Thatcher. So the brewing ground is something that I started seeing very
closely as I was growing up. Just to clarify, we keep
using this word today and I was surprised the
amount of usage of this word. I think that we need to stop for a second and really dismantle it and
here I refer to Paul Mason. There’s this idea of neoliberalism is really a collusion between
the state and the market. Before there’s been an idea
that you actually would resist or just push and pull situation between capital and the
state but in this case, we really have a system
that is creating bailouts and is actually supporting
the uncontrolled, unregulated development of the market. And that has taken us to
quite a situation, right? This is the dual side of
the coin of neoliberalism. On the one hand we have great progress. Dropping prices for many of us, perhaps. But at the same time,
that kind of situation, it’s creating ripples
somewhere else in the world. Ripples that really dismantle the ethics of human rights and also
the labor conditions that become very problematic. Behind this there’s an equation. There’s an equation that
suggested winner takes all. It’s a society that wants
to celebrate the people at the peak, extrapolate that value and it’s leaving most of
the other group behind. And this relates closely to
architecture I would say. This is how this equation
really operates in architecture. This is the Guggenheim
Helsinki Competition, and this is when you see that you need 1000 architects or thousands of architects to really come up with one idea that would actually become a building. This is how that equation
really takes place. We have winner-takes-all politics. We’re all dreaming, somehow,
to have this kind of relation. Find a client, a benefactor, right? This is a case of Frank Gerry
with the Lewis residence which provided Frank Gerry for 10 years of support, economic
support as a benefactor. And he actually acknowledges
that the formal maturity of his work only came about having this form of scholarship if you want. The support to actually develop and iterate over this project
that never got realized. Ross Perlin argues that over $2 billion are actually being subsidized
in the concept of free labor. Unpaid or non-ethically paid labor. We’re subsidizing the production
of the neoliberal agenda and that’s something that I
find very problematic as well. So here’s the first reflection and it has to do with a contradiction. How can we, as architects, be subsidizing with free labor the
work of the avant-garde? How can we actually equate
progressive practices of architecture with unethical or regressive practices, social practices? I don’t have to go deeper
but you probably know many of the cases of unpaid situations in architecture, extended hours and so on. These are regressive social practices that we’re trying to get rid of globally. And somehow that is equated
with progressive architecture and I think that that’s something
that should be examined. So our models need to account
for more than just form. They need to kind of start looking at architecture in a much broader context. I wanna start thinking how
does a generation get informed, that we can actually start saying there’s a pure little
moment, there’s a moment in which we can actually
define, there’s an inflection. And we can say well it was
the object-oriented ontology. There’s accelerationism in different forms of philosophies going on in the air. But I think that there’s
something stronger than that which was the 2008 collapse. For me that moment was a wake up call for what was going on and we needed to start developing new systems, new models, to operate,
and that really means dismantling the ones that we’re used to. So I think there’s a call of arms today. There’s enough contingent ideas out there to start addressing this
form of post-capitalism. And redefining what that is is something that’s in our hands, I would say. So I echo some of the sentiments from people like Nick Cherney said who was here, as I
understand, and Alex Williams. But among many others like Paul Mason, Jeren Linier and Jeremy Rifkin. So how does the post-2008
architecture look like? So that’s the first question, right? Let’s start addressing
a bit more precisely the content of architecture, right? So what I like to call
the brick and mortar is a dual state of
technological development that we’ve seen in the past 20 or since computation, I would say. Which is two different systems at play that have very, very different logics. On the one hand you have the bricks that represent a discreet
form of materiality. And on the other hand you have the mortar which represents a continuous analog form of viscous materiality, right? Those two present radically
different ontologies. Since the ’90s, we’ve
had these developments from animate form and Greg Lynn suggesting that form could actually transition into intensive state, a
state of mutual dynamism or perpetual dynamism driven
by forces and performances. Where we could leave
behind the Cartesian grid and really start addressing
a virtual multiplicity. This was greatly supported by the work by Geo Selis and some of that philosophy. What today is being
called new materialism. The idea of becoming this
process-driven architectures that are constantly in flux
and constantly mutating to adapt to their environment. What we start thinking of here is that we start addressing what has been as coined by Frederic
Ringu and many other people as the non-standard architecture. The protocols of non-standard architecture has to do with mass customization, file to factory protocols, and
the differentiation of parts. So we leave behind this creed. We are basically moving
away from the discreet in this time, this is
what’s happening in the ’90s where this is the diagram from Reglin and what has been brought up again by people in the discreet conversation like Daniel Coller, how we had to develop particular technologies to start thinking differently. Like Reglin talks about spline modeling but I would argue that
there’s many other layers of infrastructure like the
Catmull Clark algorithm in Maya when you press three Maya, you’re basically working with a form of smoothness that is enabling you to think much more quickly in
terms of continuous surfaces. Same thing happens with
isosurface algorithms that are wrapping and creating surfaces or isosurfaces around
discreet series of parts. Arguably Grasshopper, it’s a great tool also for this kind of primaritization. You’re actually creating these gradients, interpolations between information and creating these transitions. If we look very closely
at parametric curve, what we could see here
is that when we zoom in, each one of these nodes or the curve is actually constituted by a
series of points, of samples. And those samples in architecture have become very, very literal. In this case the discrete bricks actually are following
a parametric equation. And continuous architecture is dictating their position in the overall whole. For me that’s a jigsaw puzzle. This is the model that we’re pursuing. It’s a model where we have a whole. We’re breaking it, we’re cutting it into all different parts and each one of them fulfills a particular role. This is a way we, it’s probably presented in our computers, we have these files and each one of these
parts actually fulfills only one connection, it has topology only with one other part
just to assemble a whole. We’ve seen great examples of this work. Marc Fornes using greatly these techniques can actually erect huge structures just by folding metal and
doing precise connections. And if you take this
analogy of the discreet that is sampling points and
you increase the resolution of that sampling you
actually could imagine that this is actually
continuously pouring material. So what we’ve seen with
3D printing technologies as well is that you could
actually sample so quickly that basically you could
actually pour concrete and 3D print concrete in a particular way. And in that way it’s what
Greg Lynn has mentioned where we’re solving tectonics. We’re no longer dealing with parts but we’re using the positioning of fibers in a particular orientation and you can actually distribute this information in a gradient form. So you can transition
from something very thin, from something thicker and stronger or change the direction in
which the fibers operate. Someone like Neri Oxman
as well argues heavily for leaving behind parts, the paradigm of mechanistic architecture as opposed to start switching to
this growing architecture in these gradient formations. So what are the benefits? As argued by many of these people, it has to do with overcoming
serial production. This is the paradigm that
we wanna leave behind. We wanna leave behind
the cookie-cutter results that was offered by the previous system in seeking heterogeneity,
seeking specificity. But achieving that through
quite expensive often means of production, these
3D printing techniques or these heavily parameterized buildings often require a lot of intensive labor. And that somehow is becoming a problem. The promise behind this paradigm has to do with an infinite variation. We’re describing a script or a system that can, like in nature,
adapt to different conditions, become idiosyncratic and contingent. But it’s somehow changing only in degree and this is something
that I also wanna address. It’s not changing radically in terms of in kind but rather in degree. It’s always a parametric slider that allows a particular
range of mobility. This is the way we actually see when we’re dealing with
parametric architecture. We are actually having a multiplicity of buildings or designs in our computers but we actually end up
with one single solution. Out of all possible buildings
that we could actually do, we decide this is the
one that we wanna execute and that’s the one that moves forward. All the rest, the virtual multiplicity, gets eradicated in a way. So my question really comes,
who benefits from this model? It’s not what we’re seeking to overcome but rather is this model
serving anyone in particular? And again we go to the relation between architecture and a client. I think that if you start thinking of parametrics not as a variation of form but as a sampling mechanism I would argue that this model, which
we spoke about recently, is also defining what we call parametrics. It’s a large sampling
of possible solutions. Picking one of those, materializing one, discarding the rest, that’s
exactly what’s happening in Grasshopper every time you’re working with this parametric constraint. And that’s a model that
is incredibly wasteful. It’s incredibly wasteful
because there’s a huge amount of labor being lost, and I think we should be able to address
things somehow differently. So if we wanna move away
from serialized production, and that seems to be common ground. And parametrics suggested
one avenue of doing so, what would be an alternative trajectory? One that can consider some of the ethics of production as well and I’m gonna try to adventure and alternative. So the discrete, as we’ve
been addressing it today in the review and together with a series of people like Casey Reem, Gels Redsin, and Daniel Coller, it’s an idea that has been proposed to
address some of these issues. And I think the discrete has
its own particular logics, mechanics if you want,
that’s what I wanna address their physics, the
physics of the discrete. In 1952, there were two scientists in the University of Chicago
that is Stanley Miller and Harold Urey that
developed this experiment. This experiment is quite
an interesting one. They were trying to simulate Earth before there was any life on it. So they placed a series of molecules, in this case were methane,
ammonia, hydrogen, and water, and they created this loop
in which they would simulate how was Earth behaving
before life was there? So you have the sea, you have the ocean. Then you have evaporation,
lightning perhaps, and then eventually condensation and then you basically have a loop. What you’re trying to do
is simulate the shaking or the condition of
those molecules randomly to see if those could
self-organize into something else. After two weeks of
running this experiment, the water turned black and
they analyzed the water and they realized that they
have spontaneously created forms of sugars, lipids, and amino acids. And these were structures
that are the building blocks for life, they didn’t get life itself. But it was an argument of how these units could actually self-organize
and find structures that were stronger, patterns that were more meaningful perhaps than
the pure randomness of the mix. And some people have argued that this has to do with the combinatorial
power of the carbon atom. There’s a particular characteristics to the carbon atom that would suggest that it can bond with other molecules and with other carbon atoms as well. So for me as an
architecture, as a designer, I look at that model and I say well, let’s break that model apart. What are the ingredients of that model? First of all we have parts,
right, as we know them. We have patterns which
seems to have arrangements of parts that seem to
work more than others. What we would call in some
degree meaning or value. And then we have the commons. The commons is a pool
of available resources that could be or could not be used. They’re freely available
for, in this case, a random process to have
organize structures. So those three elements
for me are constituting a different kind of
ontology of production. And one that is heavily being challenged by the neoliberal model today. As we look at parts,
those are being dissolved by 3D printing companies,
companies that wanna get rid of us having access to
parts and these are, if you look at the discourse of many of the 3D printing companies, it’s really to dissolve the idea that you
could actually have a part. You wanna have access to a machine that would print things for you so it’s an ontology of access as opposed to one of democratization of form. Second patterns, patterns are
heavily, are basically free. Information has been the best way of transmitting and collectively
sharing these patterns. These are patterns that are very difficult to constrain and the way in which you are challenging those
is by copyright laws. So there are many ways in which we are talking about market enclosures. So what happens here is that this model between parts, commons, and patterns is heavily being challenged
and it’s really being addressed or against by the previous paradigm of continuous architecture as you can see with some of the examples shown today. So the commons is
something that we really, I think that we should definitely defend and resist its enclosure and we need to do that in many different ways. When we talk about the commons, it’s also good to clarify what we mean. This is a concept that
has been there forever. But it has been popularized with the idea of the tragedy of the commons. Maybe you’ve heard of that idea. And it really has to do with
a misconception for many that if you have a
pasture, a common pasture where let’s say farmers
would actually feed their animal or cattle,
basically that commons would actually dry up because everybody would try to get the most out of it. And this was a paper
written by Harding in 1968. And that really popularized the idea that the commons as an economic
system doesn’t really work. That you need private property, that you need to have a
series of institutions that would actually not allow
the depletion of the commons. But that’s precisely what
is actually happening. The neoliberal model
seems to be plundering the available resources in a way. And the description of Harding
was a free for all system, one in which anybody could
take as much as they wanted. As argued by Bollier and many others, the idea described by Harding was not the commons as we know them today. The commons is really
a form of stewardship, a form of collective organization in which we arrange and we have forms of defining how much do we take from the resources that we have. It’s a form of collective oversight and this is how Bollier presented. It’s a form of provisioning
and stewardship. So I wanna echo Negri
and Hardt’s sentiment about resisting, rejecting,
and creating alternatives for the market enclosures which are one of the biggest challenges
we’re facing today as designers and in our field. The neoliberal agenda, it’s trying to take away many of the resources that we have available,
privatizing things like even genetic information and
ideas and products and so on. There’s no limit, or we
haven’t seen the limits of how far that model could actually go. So why do we need these parts? This is the first question, right? Parts as we’ve seen them with Legos become a fundamental building block to actually allow for
a form of innovation. If you look at things like MineCraft, MineCraft was a way of
discretizing building blocks. Very much like Lego to
allow for communities. People would be able to
create digital patterns and arrangements in a virtual environment. When you look at something
like Grasshopper, I find it quite paradoxical as well. Because Grasshopper is a software that is serving the purpose of parametrics but David Rutten, its creator, actually decided to use
a very different paradigm to propagate it socially, right? It said well we’re gonna
do a discrete software, one that you could actually
have different parts like a language, right, you can connect those visual programming
parts in many different ways. So you could create
patterns, you could share those patterns easily and anybody could actually create more parts so those parts would be
compatible with the previous ones. That’s exactly what we’re
describing as a discrete model that is actually being communitorial and it’s actually across
many, many individuals that are collaborating, in a way, indirectly by expanding the platform. But all for the purpose in this case to develop parametric architecture. It’s in a great paradox that I find. The development and the conceptualization of the software in a social means and its propagation capability but for the purpose of parametrics. Things like GPL, the
General Purpose License by Richard Stallman and
the CopyLeft movement, open source movement,
and the Creative Commons. These are all infrastructures and ideas that today, as we did back in the ’90s, are reinforcing that
we could actually think the discrete as a form of resistance of what’s going on in
our political landscape. For me, there’s one particular rule in the Creative Commons license that is central to avoid, actually. It’s in there and I could
understand why it’s in there. But the idea of nonderivative works is precisely what I
feel should be rejected. The idea that a pure sense of authorship but rather the idea that many people could resample the work of others and reconstitute value
in many different ways. And that’s, I guess, what the discreet in my understanding should be doing. Technologies like the blockchain, also trying to
disintermediate the middleman, remove institutions that are creating the gatekeepers of capital. For me this is a very important image. It’s an image that shows how
ambition design community. First of all, on the bottom
layer, you have disorder, right? We have parts that are
just freely available for potentially ideas if you want. On top of that we have a social system. Some of them are working individually, some are working as groups, maybe some of them are peeking into the
other people’s creations. And some of those are creating patterns so we are producing this negative entropy from disorder to order and creating different instances simultaneously. The difference between those two models, if you look at those parts and in the different organization, it’s only energy and data, right? The energy to put these pieces together and the data that would actually determine the pattern for them to be
in a particular arrangement. Arguably this is what architecture
has been doing forever. It’s a form of negative entropy. We’re moving raw materials we’re finding in nature or otherwise
and just really creating organizations of those, right? And when we isolate the forms of energy, you could have said
well there’s been forms of fabrication, traditional
forms of production. But there seems to be a series of people looking at
innovate forms of energy in terms of what would
bring these pieces together. Some of them could be automation as we’ve seen in the work in the Bartlett with Sheila Manu I believe. I have been here where
Skylar Tibbits’ looking at self-assembly, right, how do you encode that energy out of
randomness or in this case, a particular kind of automated process to deal with the assembly process. But also as has been demonstrated socially by experiments like the Wikipedia Project, or the Line Out Project or open
source projects in general. There seems to be a social component. This is an idea that we were exploring for the Bloom Project and it has to do with how do you start a dialogue with a crowd to actually experiment and innovate on particular structures? The Bloom Project, it’s an urban toy that is just one unique
piece very much like a Lego. But it has a slight flexibility and that allows you to
break the rules of the game. So the rules are encoded
into the geometry. You basically are allowed to
branch in different directions but depending on what you do, the structures will start
becoming more or less stable. These are some of the
images that you’ve seen. I find this image particularly interesting because it was presented in the Naturalizing
Architecture exhibition. And every other work
beside the Bloom Project was actually, in my view,
following the paradigm of parametrics or nonstandard architecture still coming from the ’90s. And we were left outside,
we were in the garden. So for me it was a way of thinking, well maybe this doesn’t belong here. So we’re looking at different forms of production of this energy. For me the distance of authorship, in the middle model,
the self-assembly model, there’s a lot of agency in the engineers behind the production of the form. In the left, the automation model has a lot of agency for
who owns the robots, who owns the automation process? I think in the right,
the social production, puts emphasis in the
ownership of the user. There’s a deattachment from the creation of the parts as a first tier perhaps. And a second tier which is a form of authorship that is being distributed. So reexamining those ideas,
patterns, parts and commons, start to define what I
call combinatorial design. These ideas are allowing
us to think of parallelism. How can different
architects or enterprises compete with one another
but still collaborate? Basically operating
under certain constraints or standards in which they could actually become part of an ecosystem. We’re encapsulating knowledge in the parts that we’re working with and
there’s an idea, exaptation. Exaptation is the idea that
you could actually take what seems to be an innovation
in a different field, extrapolate it to a different one, and perhaps it resonates
or takes a new meaning. So there’s a knowledge propagation that could be quite quick. There’s a beautiful documentary by Wired Magazine that brings some of these issues and
suggesting that Shenzen, the Silicon Valley of
Hardware as they call it, it’s a place where you can actually have this form of ecosystem going on. Where there’s such a massive amount of parts at play that
innovation happens very rapidly because you can really
tinker something new and really innovate based
on what is already happening and the parts that are freely available. Well maybe not freely but a great exposure to the content or ideas. So we’re moving from parts to patterns and this is where we have to
address issues of mereology. And I think that this is another word that has gained new interest, right? When we address the idea
of the jigsaw puzzle, we have to address the idea of mereology. What is the whole part
to whole relationship? And in the jigsaw puzzle the part is fulfilling one unique role, right? It has a specific position
in the jigsaw puzzle and it can only fulfill one role. That’s not the only way in which we could establish a relation
with the whole, right? That’s why mereological
studies are interesting because they could suggest different forms of relation to the whole. In a parametric model, the
data structure is extrinsic meaning that there’s a
equation or a driving force that lives outside the
model and it will tell any grain of sand or any particular unit in the system where it should be. But I would like to think,
what are open wholes? So what is the idea of
these non-holistic sets? So let’s quickly define what is a whole. Maybe it’s something that is complete, something that you couldn’t add more to it or remove things from it. Or perhaps it’s a state of
equilibrium between parts or as many of the popular
descriptions have mentioned it, it’s emergent properties
when you hear things like well the whole is more
than the sum of its parts. It’s a series of emergent properties of a whole that define it as such. So if we go back to Christopher Alexander and we start addressing the way he describes the word systems, there’s interesting
insights there I think. And for Alexander, and I’m
gonna skip a little bit this. I’m gonna summarize, for Alexander there seems to be two hidden ideas within the word systems, right? Systems on the one part are
arguing for a kit of parts. It’s a series of elements
that work with one another. But at the same time, it’s dealing with the idea that a system
has holistic properties. That those parts are really
working and achieving a goal. I would suggest that we focus more on the generation of
parts and the kit of parts as opposed to dictate
what are those wholes that the parts are allowing for? Because those are contingent,
they could change over time. And the ecology of parts is something that could actually propagate and create many different wholes at different times. If you look at products today, I’m very interested in this kind of small modular robotics systems that you’ve, we’ve seen
proliferating the last years. Things like Little Bits or Moss. But all of these systems really come from the ’60s, there was this idea called the Braun Lectron Kit. And this was a kit that would allow you to play with these building blocks, these little electric dominoes, and all of them would have different kind of connectivity and a series of capacitors and resistors and it would allow you to create electronics out of these blocks without really knowing how
to deal with electronics. So a kid would actually
engage with such a system. This is the way the model
or the set was presented. It’s a series of parts,
those parts do not have a specific arrangement, there are many possible arrangements
that could be possible. But it’s quite dramatically different from the jigsaw puzzle
where it is a closed whole that has been broken down into pieces. In this case we have an open set that can actually constitute
a series of different wholes. So as we address those two key issues that we mentioned before, energy and data, we start talking about patterns. What is the arrangements
that define the organizations or what we consider
meaningful within parts? Those patterns need to become transient and also contingent and idiosyncratic. We’re not thinking that
there’s an absolute pattern that needs to be fulfilled but rather, the hierarchy of parts
would allow patterns to emerge spontaneously and those could be at any particular culture or time could actually vary from one another. This is some of the conditions that we could, if we’re starting to talk about combinatorial design. This is the subtext of what
I call discrete architecture and it has to do with combinatory. It’s crowd sourced enabled, it allows for automation as we’ve seen
in other cases or self-assembly but it reinforces the
idea of the propagation of recipes, the immaterial production, and it’s a collaborative project. So very different from
things like kitbashing or other initiatives, the
combinatorial design strategy has to do with looking at
affordable means of production. Why is that, because the
parts could actually become very cheap when you serialize them, right? And the patterns could be even cheaper being propagated by the internet. You’re differentiating
architecture or design through patterns, immaterial patterns, not through parts themselves, right? You can actually serialize parts. So and it allows participation. It allows that the creation process is actually something collective. It does reduce the hierarchy of the author and many people maybe
have problems with that and again the outcome, it’s
a contingent proposition. It’s in that context where the work of video games for me, it’s important. I would not like to associate my work. I do architecture in video games. There’s a precise and strategic decision of using a particular
medium like video games to address an issue of
social participation and the massive recombination of parts, or in this case digital parts, in the search of how this process could actually create negative entropy and solutions or designs
by crowds for crowds, not crowds for a particular
company in this case. So this is some of the images of the work developing the Bartlett back in 2011. And these are all, I’m not gonna show too much about this
project because this was a very early times
working in this project. But you’re starting to
think of a feedback loop between what is an algorithmic system and a series of decisions made by a human behind a computer. So you’re thinking more
intelligence augmentation as opposed of artificial intelligence. Lately the polyomino
project has been a way of addressing some of those ideas as well. Polyomino, it’s a word that is coined to represent these little
molecules of squares. Very popularized by games like Tetris. And those are interesting
because when you’re dealing with them you’re looking at form as an arrangement of discrete parts. You’re not looking at
form as the definition of units themselves, the discrete set. The finite set has in its
combinatorial capability, it’s what it really exercises
the power of the pattern. Like dominoes, we are
starting embedding data in some of the units
so some of these units will embed possible connectivity with one another well
or reject one another in different ways with students we work with packing structures so we
do this three dimensionally. And these simple models
that we start exploring with paper, how these structures like dominoes would
actually define a voxel grid that is being informed by some of the connectivity of the units. Just as a quick workflow, what we do with those units is just embed some more complex geometry
within those units so that the units that you design maybe have a particular connectivity or topology that connects
one with one another. Or some of them would actually be able to transmit load-bearing capacities. So what you’re creating is a series of a handful of tiles that
in their combinatories can actually create difference. So this is some of the patterns
and studies of those units. And this is some of the software that we developed using
Unity and gaming engines and virtual reality to
really start thinking how does someone that is uninformed can follow the rules of a system to create a particular form of order? At the same time, we’re thinking how can we actually materialize this? If something like 3D printing
will become a technology that will be massively adopted, my interest is not
neccesarily explore the edges of form with 3D printing but rather, how can 3D printing be disruptive
in forms of fabrication? So you’re no longer shipping wood or materials all over the ocean but rather you have local forms of fabrication happening
in local 3D printing shops. So if that would be the case, perhaps gaming and technologies like this one or MineCraft
as was purchased by Microsoft with that intention
would become key pieces of software that would enable clouds to produce their own content. And here is where we’re getting closer to the idea of a prosumer, right, a notion presented by Alvin Toffler, suggesting that consumers
no longer become consumers but the producers of their own materials. Again in the interest of time, most of this work is online as well so I don’t wanna just,
we explore basically this model in two different forms. One in which you are basically adding all these units in digital space and basically printing the result. And another one in which we are printing the results separately and using a form of physical gameplay
again similar to Bloom, embedding magnetic joints to allow particular arrangements or
patterns to be possible. Some of the images of the project. And this was very early on on this agenda. So I think that the work
has gone far away from that. This is the idea of prosumers, right? I like the way Jeremy
Rifkin articulates this because Rifkin really
argues that prosumers will be key for a post-capitalist society. The production of content by people will be enabling different forms and that’s one of the key issues for him. Like I mentioned before,
like the Bloom Project was really shipping plastic manufactured somewhere in Chile, moving into London, then taking it to an exhibition
somewhere else in the world. It was an incredibly wasteful form of where you materialize these and the logistics of moving this piece of matter all around the world. But 3D printing, you’re
really challenging the form of distribution and I
think that’s a much more disruptive force of this technology than the particular shapes
that it can actually produce. And so polyomino has
evolved in different ways. These are some of, I just
wanna show you quickly the work done with students
in different years. In this case we have a single wood element with a cut in a particular angle and that angle allows it to not create bundling surfaces
and slide with each other. So you’re basically having two units, one very short and one very
long but they’re the same. And that’s defining everything that you could actually
do with the system. There’s no secondary algorithm here. It is just basically clicking, knowing what are the constraints of a particular unit in
this case sliding, sorry, and rotation and the idea is to explore how can form be only achieved
through the patterning of these material constraints? This is some of the
fabrication of those units. Defining how these bundling
or not actually occur. And the speculation of
what would that material look like again, a single system. I’m not saying that it
has to be a single system, but for the sake of the
exercise of the studio, a searching of what this,
only the data will define the articulation of form. These are pavilion pieces,
this is a second project. Again looking at a single building block, this is a wood hook block
as described with students. And this particular shape,
it’s easy to be dismissed when you’re looking at it but
if you really start studying its combinatorial power it’s
quite particularly interesting how it really recurs and loops on itself. And it it keeps creating a
particular set of arrangements. So the work goes from the connectivity between two units to a series. So you’re basically like
Alexander did this analogy. You’re going from the letter to the word to the phrase to the
paragraph, the poem perhaps. And you can see here some of the catalogs or the different connectivities and basically patches,
different striations and arrangements that are
allowed by this particular unit. Again, one unit alone. And the students here were exploring this fabrication as well,
what could be achieved. This was just, we basically
produced 20 pieces and we ended up not being able to put all of them together but obviously, digital is something that
goes quite differently. You can actually grow
the systems very quickly. When the constraints are pre-embedded, we spend a lot of time writing the code for that you can only do the constraints that the material would allow you to. And then you could basically play like a kid, like in MineCraft. You can just click and rotate
and do whatever you want and follow certain logics and redmicities to then create order out of
these particular constraints. And I think that the argument here, again, is how do you get a very affordable form of complexity that is not relying on a heavy form of fabrication but rather serialized parts, so that
make them extremely cheap, but then again here the pattern is what is carrying all the weight. So finally, just to wrap it a little bit, I wanna just share a final project that has to do with
the idea of the commons and the production of
the commons I would say. In 2008, there was an experiment
developed by David Baker. Maybe you’ve heard about
this quite famous video game called Fold It, it’s a
protein folding video game that was developed by scientists to invite players to
participate in science. Allowing them to fold
this little structure that was accurately modeled so you could actually create vaccines out of it. Within two weeks of the
introduction into the public, someone in Manchester I believe, solved something that
state of the art algorithms had not been able to address which had to do with the particular folding of this three dimensional structure. So you’re basically, well
this is another example of using this form of gaming technologies to work together with a crowd. This is the block by
block initiative by the UN together with MineCraft
and it was an initiative to really see how to recreate
neighborhoods and invite a form of participation
through a digital platform. One that would be easily understood by the players and you can see here, there’s a correlation with the real world and this is a place in which an exchange of planners and the community
was actually happening. So creating a medium for communication between crowds and experts in this case. I love the game MineCraft,
I really find it an interesting case study
but I definitely thought that it didn’t have many of
the architectural constraints and ideas that we architects
often engage with. So I decided to do a proposal for a Smart Geometry
Conference in Hong Kong together with Torosha Jihara from Siark and we said we are going in in London to suggest a small prototype
for a video game project that would take ideas like MineCraft or similar to SimCity as well and suggest, let’s look at a build like a city block in the city of Hong Kong and think of it as a three dimensional voxel. And what if we would be able to play by adding and removing these units and see the ecological matrix? What are the kind of dependencies that these units would actually
establish with one another? So that was the beginning
of the Block Hood project. After that prototype in Hong Kong, I decided to pursue the
project independently and quite professionally for
the next couple of years. And it’s been a while in development. We’re finally reaching its final stage. It has been in early access for a year now so you can actually get it out there but it’s getting its completion in the 11th of May, this coming month. So it’s been an exhausting journey. The project has three
core mechanics and ideas that it wants to explore, right? And these are big words and I take them with hopefully with some seriousness within the mechanics of the game. So ecology, entropy
and coexistence, right? For me the idea of the lack of awareness that we currently have of how our ripples, the actions that we have in the world, ripple through the planet
is quite substantial. So a game that could
actually make us aware of those ripples would
be interesting to me. Ideas like ecological urbanism presented by projects like The Plant in Chicago. This is an urban farming facility that is making very sure that everything that is added to this pattern of farm, an urban farm, would actually be using the waste of some other entity. So if something is
producing a particular waste that is actually being used for, let’s say hydroponic production is creating a particular kind of waste that is used by the tilapia farm and everything feeds into one another. So you get rid of the
idea of waste altogether. You can actually create a loop out of the what has traditionally
been called waste. And again in a much more idealistic sense, I was always very influenced
by the Whole Earth Catalog. This was a publication in the ’60s that was listing out all
the current technologies that we had available at the time. Inspiring a generation of DIY, let’s say. At that time they were
called hippies I guess to go outdoors and just
build whatever they wanted. Buckminster Fuller was heavily
involved in that project and when you think about
the Whole Earth Catalog and you envision well what
would that catalog be today? Someone like Kevin Kelly would say well that catalog would
be an updated version of the catalog, we would just
use the current technologies. It would be a fatter book
or the internet maybe would be the deal, for me it
wouldn’t be a catalog anymore. It would actually be a video game and it would be a video game in which you could actually play and tinker with the parts that are available. So you could actually say well, I wanna play with that little piece of technology and see what would happen if I mixed it up with this other one. So that was the idea for the game. Discretized urbanism, make
up little building blocks. Put some data into them
and this is a trailer. You can talk while we see it. This is the current state of the game and as I mentioned, we’re discretizing the building blocks of the city and that is a catalog that
is constantly in production. We have close to 260 blocks right now. And all of those blocks
have a particular series of inputs and outputs, this is information that makes them allowed
to exist without decaying. They would slowly deteriorate and decay to the point they will die unless they receive their inputs provided by the output of some other block. So there’s a mesh of interdependence
produced by the units. The game is also trying to challenge some of the conventions that you have in gaming because in every game
you are basically given, the content is being provided
to you in a very paced manner. I wanted to do a game in
which from the beginning, like an architect, you could have access to everything you could do. So you would actually
create your own problems. If you wanted to grow very quickly and create a little
apartment then suddenly you very quickly had to
scale and produce the energy and the infrastructure for
those apartments to exist. So the level of difficulty of the game has been mapped to the
ambition of the player. So the game is not telling you slow down, let’s go to chapter two and so on. It’s giving you everything from the get-go and then you’re actually free to create quite crazy things quite quickly. So this is the kind of
diagrams behind the game. You have a housing unit and
that is producing labor. That’s a resource that will actually feed as an input to farms and this is the way basically everything works, right? Trees would actually create fresh air, different forms of energy production, factories, everything
would be interlinked. And as long as you create this mesh of interdependence, the system
will stay at equilibrium. If you’re missing some of the outputs, the system will slowly decay and die. There’s also synergy so there’s things that actually have extra
points, if you want, because they wanna go with one another. So we’re suggesting
that particular industry maybe doesn’t wanna go close to housing. And these are kind of
architectural criteria that we’ve embedded into the game, suggesting that there’s certain things that should happen or are more beneficial for the community and others that are not. And that’s again something
that you could argue, it’s been imposed by us and it’s something we could actually open up and you could actually tinker with
the data, potentially. This happens, the
dystopian side of the game, happens when you are not catering for the necessities of that neighborhood. The building will slowly
decay and become abandoned. So you’re constantly living in this sense of equilibrium of the resources
that you have available. And you don’t have to play for humans, you could actually play the game for any species that you want. If you don’t wanna have
humans in the system, you just have to provide inputs and outputs for in this case deer or any kind of animal that you, we have a series of different animals. So there’s no difference of
actually addressing the game as for humans as you would
deal with them without them. So blurring the idea of what
is traditionally conceived as nature and artifice
but everything in between. The game is using the same model to simulate a landscape
than to simulate a city. So things that the game can do right now are things like let’s say we wanna model the industrial food system using a cafo concentrated feeding operation with GMO farms and a particular form of production of food,
that’s one alternative. But maybe you wanna explore
in a much more sustainable way the organic food production
and its challenges. So there’s tiles that would allow you to do that and it’s up to you to realize what are the benefits, or what is at stake when you make that decision? It’s not just so easy to switch to organic because
there’s different yields and there’s different challenges that that pattern presents and perhaps there’s patterns in between
that could be explored. For me, the idea of
cash, capital and money is not the only currency of the game. Any resource that a city has is considered an urban currency that could be exchanged in many different forms and
this is the way the game looks, or looked at least a year ago maybe. And at any time you can switch between the different data modes that we present to you as a player. The data behind the system so you could actually create that feedback loop. Start changing the system,
that’s production data, decay data, structure data, circulation. Access is important
because without access many of the blocks do not produce resources. And this is quite interesting to me. Since the game has been released in this early access format the community has been engaging the
game and playing the game quite obsessively which
we’re very excited about. And these are spreadsheets developed by the community reverse
engineering how the game works. There’s a lot of things
that the game tells you but a lot of things that
the game doesn’t tell you so that you can start discovering what are particular strategies that could be beneficial
in different contexts. So the community’s basically,
this is a five tab spreadsheet with different information,
what is beneficial, what works with what, and
it’s constantly being updated. So everything that you would create maybe two years in the
making in a video game, it will be explored by a crowd of thousands of players
in a matter of days. And that’s, you could
say well an algorithm perhaps would do it quicker but I think that the corners and the reflection and the critical thinking
that many humans will have over this material,
it’s always interesting. And if you start jumping into the forums, you don’t need architects and experts to start addressing and
seeing conversations about ecology and balancing
of some of this data and the feedback loop mechanisms and it’s really really
exciting to see that material. Quickly some images, you
can probably find many more of these online if you’re
interested in the project. I could send you a key if you’re, send me an email I’m happy to share always this material academically. So for me, this game presents a form of an emergent form of parallel urbanism. That is opposed to a
notion of a holistic view or master planning concepts of urbanism that we have engaged traditionally. It’s a distributed form,
you would never look at the city as a whole, you’re looking at a city as a block, one block at a time. And it really presents the opacity of information in the city
as a point of departure. There is no one solution in the game. You will never play the game
and find the optimized solution because there’s so many opposing criteria that you will always
have to take decisions. You are put on the spot as the player. It’s understanding what
are your hierarchies and that’s when it becomes idiosyncratic. Communities will play the game and it will play them very
differently in different contexts and we don’t want, as developers, think that there’s one solution or one good way of playing the game. But rather you can constantly innovate, what are the patterns
and recipes for the city? So for me, if you allow for a kid to play this game and create some insight on these ideas of ecology,
that would be a great game. It would be a beneficial
game in terms of education. But I don’t think it
would be really successful until we really start propagating the patterns that the game produces. If these patterns are
actually becoming patterns that could be useful for the city, and those could be proliferated
massively online for free, or decided by the players
how they wanna share them because they’re basically
the creators of them, I think that’s where
we’re getting somewhere and I think that that’s addressing some of the larger
research of the project. Oops. So for me it has to do with
creating an infrastructure, an infrastructure for a different
kind of humanistic economy and that we’re not just exercising our political interest with our vote, but rather with our work,
particularly creating infrastructure that would be cool or could potentially be
disruptive for the discipline. So I wanna finish and I
know I said that already. But with a very short coda that
goes back to the beginning. This is the current model
of architecture, right? This is the model in which
we engage architecture today. We need 1000 architects
to create one building. And we’ve addressed the issues behind the dissolution of parts. What happens when we are
creating corporations that speciate out from the ecology of design parts and
elements that would allow innovation traditionally to be emerging. But in this case, it’s a privileged form of large players and the
power embedded into those. Here the idea of combinatorial design and discreteness has to do with creating an alternative for that model. It promotes how pattern,
immaterial patterns, would actually carry the
weight of form production. There’s no reason to be
go back to minimalism. I’m full embracing complexity here. But that has to be achieved
through a very strategic means and that has to do, that’s
what the discrete is all about. It’s a low entry cost, anybody could actually start engaging with this idea. It’s a highly distributed
so you’re all invited to really participate in it. It fortifies the commons, right? And what belongs to all of us and, I would argue, accelerates innovation. In response to ideas like Patrick’s that was here recently,
don’t get me wrong. I think that parametrics works. It does work I think, it has been proven by very successful practice
like Zaha Hadid Architects. But it only works for a very, very small population of architects, right? So maybe one of you would be, maybe Casey, maybe someone else, would be very lucky to enjoy that stardom position
after a competition perhaps. But I would like to see that 99 of us would actually be able to
engage with something else. Just the wasted production
of labor from neoliberalism. So how does the architecture
for the rest of us look like? And if that is 1000 to one, I would like to invite you to think, how
do we invert that model? Thank you.
(audience applauds)

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