Architecture and technology, design and digital media: a more and more daring connection that may seem outrageous because of its hybrid and audacious nature. After the two episodes dedicated to Lab(au) and Limitezero on the last issues of DIgimag, another piece has been added to this complicated mosaic, which is still far from being completed.
I’m talking about doubleNegative Architecture (dNA) , a Japan based agency made of architects, designers, sound & visual artists and graphic designers coming from all over the world. They refer to Sota Ichikawa , who is already well-known inside of the digital art as he was involved in Gravicells Gravity and Resistance, in collaboration with Seiko Mikami , a project that during the last 2 years has been presented at a lot of international festivals, and also at the Share Festival in Italy . Also in this case, it’s hard to entirely analyze dNA works in order to render it with depth of analysis and the right structure of adjectives and adverbs. Above all in front of polymorph interdisciplinary paths, when unknown chords are stricken. In a world, in case of a metalanguage able to facilitate the interaction between different disciplines and design techniques. As for other fields over the last years, architecture and design are walking towards a revolution that will lead to a change in languages and codes, above all for what concerns the ability of representing and interpreting the environmental contests where we live.
These themes are vital sap to doubleNegative Architecture : their architecture structures are digital creatures in a constant mutation with the organic humus they live in, a multimedia mirror of a nature that is never so live and visible, a planning transfer of a natural environment that has never been so tangible and assimilable. To be more specific, I’m talking about the project Corpora in Si(gh)te , commissioned and exhibited at the YCAM Yamaguchi Centre for Arts and Media, from the 13 th October 2007 to the 13 th January 2008 . This is the latest project of a widest subject (the whole ” Corpora ” series) along dNA research process in the relationship between design, technology and spatial environment.
The point-of-view shot is the heart and main characteristic of ” Corpora in Si(gh)te “: an architectonic body able to give a subjective and autonomous vision of the surrounding environment (data about direction and power of the wind, about temperature, humidity, brightness, noise level, ) thanks to a series of electronic super-eyes able to report and influence each other like the knots of a digital net whose weave derives from the data gathered. And it expands, shrinks, twists and twists again, modifies, grows and develops like the living being indeed it represents
According to dNA “architecture is above all an instrument to measure space”. And Sota Ichikawa is going to repeat it several times along the interview. Architecture is lived like a huge accumulation of spatial measures: measures suitable for a new digital visualization, subject to the constant re-distribution of their values. Fully virtual complex structures, able to re-design themselves in real time according to the changes and variations of the data flows. A complex architecture able to be part of the environment, and influence it by filling it up, modifying its habitability, interacting with human beings; with the aim of intertwining a design dialogue with real structures, with the more traditional forms of architecture, like dNA demonstrated in the projects “Algorithmic Wall” and “Corpora Structure 1” .
Twenty years are gone since the beautiful Tower of Winds by Toyo Ito, but maybe at that time it was the first sensory perception system, not based on the Cartesian axes xyz, but on a polar coordinates system in order to give birth to new conceptions and visualizations of space. This is what Sota Ichikawa began ten years ago with the fundamental system of the whole project Corpora Projects called ” smooth compound eyes -> super-eye “ Enjoy the reading!
photo: Ryuichi Maruo(YCAM)
Marco Mancuso: I’d like to start talking about the project Corpora in Si(gh)te, tell me something about it and the exhibition at the YCAM. Where did you get the primary idea for this project? What’s your work method? Which is the technological relationship between physical materials and digital technologies?
Sota Ichikawa: “Corpora in Si(gh)te” (CiS) is the latest and full scale representation of our continuous project called “Corpora Project”. We already have several version of Corpora project. I do not remember where the first idea from. I can say it already began in the project called “smooth compound eyes -> super-eye” 1995. So this is more than 10 years work. Actual Corpora project is working since 2004. We “doubleNegatives Architecture” (dNA) assemble members for each project, core members of CiS are Max Rhiner, Ákos Maróy, Kaoru Kobata, Satoru Higa, Hajime Narukawa and me Sota Ichikawa
Briefly CiS is autonomous building re-designing itself influenced by the natural site parameters. On surface of CiS, it captures real-time environment data such as, wind direction, wind speed, brightness, temperature, humidity, noise level, using around 40 units of mesh network devices in the site of ICAM (Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media). You can refer this technical idea to “smart dust” concept. The virtual autonomic architectural structure is computing in the same scale of real space. The architectural structure re-designs and updates itself, changing is per several seconds.
Audience can see that virtual structure on the augmented reality screens. We set several network cameras shooting YCAM site in real-time, the computed structure overlay onto those real-time images. Audience can refer all data and generation image with changing the camera angles on touch-panels in the exhibition room.
In the end, all skills what we use for CiS, were totally from surveillance technologies.
Marco Mancuso: Therefore Corpora in SI(gh)te is a virtual living architectural entity able to react to the surrounding environment and “visualize” it. It looks like a double relation between “the inner space” and “the outer space”, between “natural” and “digital”, between “physical” and “virtual”. What do you thin k about this relations? Are they intended or just a consequence of the project itself?
Sota Ichikawa: The core theme / concept of CiS rather of Corpora Project, is considering where objects are controlled from. The usual way of designing, production is to see the objects from outside, to be well controlling from objective view point. Corpora project tries to control objects from inside, from subjective view points, from many subjective view points. The name “Corpora” is the plural form of “corpus” from Latin, meaning body / dead body / compilation of words. We mean it the compilation of subjective viewpoints. In the Corpora Project series, we set autonomous element called “super-eye” which has special notation system, is subjective view point, has programmed rules of behavior and is node of structure. This “super-eye” explore the surrounding environment data of itself and watching the surrounding other “super-eye”s. The point of the naming is including “eye”. It means group of viewpoints watching the space.
The “super-eye” try to make clone if it is in good condition, if it is dark: try to get higher, if it is windy: try to make short stroke, try to be intense for toughness, if if the structure unstable: try to be leg to stand, etc. Also if it is surrounded too much density: it dies and disappears. The basic system is from John Conway’s “game of life”, is well known as cellular automaton computing models. I am thinking the concept of such controlling from viewpoints group, calling “Dust Eye / Dust Architecture”. Dust watching space, dust seek the data in the space, dust re-design itself to be architectural structure.
Marco Mancuso: Who influenced you both in the field of architecture and design? Or even audiovisual art? Looking at Corpora in Si(gh)te you promptly think of the ” Tower of Winds ” by Toyo Ito, for example, although with the due differences in the use of physical technologies rather than digital. Which kind of relationship you have with the other contemporary great architects?
Sota Ichikawa: Well, there are many great architects in the world, yes, Toyo Ito is great. Although I have no consciously reference to such architects. If I force to say, 70’s architectural mind can be laying under me. What I was directly influenced are sci-fi novels, comics and mysterious vernacular building / landscapes. I do not have good comment about interaction design, audio visual art, we use those just because we have them. All of our project’s aim is not to exhibit it, but to see how it works, to see how relates with us, it is experimentation of way of architectural thinking. Those are not combination of architecture and media technologies, but showing the vision of architecture somehow.
Marco Mancuso: What do you think about the use of the digital technology on a software level to create very ambitious forms and architectures (as in the case of a master like Zaha Hadid)? Your approach to architecture looks completely different as you shift your attention on different matters , as the interaction design, the audiovisual spatialization, the hyper-mediate representation of the environment
Sota Ichikawa: Zaha is great, it seems natural for her to shift using generative algorithm for beautiful forming. I think she is one of most remarkable architects in the world. Your feeling of deference in our approach maybe because we started from on different mechanism of spatial perception. It could be refer to mechanism of the flying birds group, building ant hill or small leaf beetles group, such mass controlling mechanism. I think perception will reflect to the notation system of space. There are 2 side of “Corpora Project”. One is to inspect and show the process of generation, like CiS. On the other hand, we are trying to apply this system to real structure, like “Algorithmic Wall” and “Corpora structure 1”.
Marco Mancuso: You all consider your approach to architecture like a system to measure space, like a possible way to represent the surrounding environment by using lights, images, sounds. Some years ago you did the same when you tried to create architectures able to visualize the complicated structure of the Internet. So which is you work method and your approach to interdisciplinarity and to the hybrid representation of physic and virtual spaces?
Sota Ichikawa: “Architecture as spatial measure machine” is the basic concept of us. It is very simple and strong. Architecture is huge accumulation of spatial measuring in the process. Even the building itself, it always re-compose time and space, the measuring is still on going continuously. It is the intelligent corpus measuring space.
You can imagine that architects and designers learn the system of drawing, plan/elevation/perspective, those are also way of projection related to notation system, then we can read them, draw on them, exchange ideas on them. The drawing system can become as the language / protocol of space. Then I thought, if we use the deferent way of notation = language, we may touch another concept of space. It is easy to imagine, to think in Italian, to think in Japanese, will give us different outputs. What we did at the start of doubleNegatives Architecture (dNA) 1998, the project called “smooth compound eyes -> super-eye”, is creating different 3D notation system based on not xyz axis but polar coordinates. This idea is still alive and core of CiS.
Marco Mancuso: Do you think that the use of digital technologies can really be considered like a method apart from architecture to represent the structures of information networks and digital layers that innervate our cities, or like an instrument to work directly with the concept of the body plunged in a multimedia space? Do you think that architecture can merge with other art and design disciplines? For that matter also doubleNegatives Architectures is made up of a professional mix of architects, designers, sound & visual artists, graphic designers
Sota Ichikawa: We will forget such naming “digital”. We will feel them a part of nature. Now such technologies are not special things, those are everywhere, those are really in our hands. We should think such technologies as materials like concrete, steel.. we should use them same as legacy materials. Actually such technologies are still in progress, we will see the changing shape of computing products, smaller, less power consuming. It is easy to guess that everything will go to be seamless, we will never mind the separation/deference between.
Programing will be the most main operation for all profession. There are many levels of programming already, video recording scheduling, wake-up alarm , such levels as well. Voice recognizer will help you to program something. we already surrounded programmings. Products will be more open for programing. More raw-level programing will be required for architects and designers. Such a programmable environment and full covered network will give us different kind of perception, emotion, terror, happiness, power, society, state, map… It is difficult to get foresight of those fusions.
photo: Megumu Wada
Actually what we see today, are already in the idea of sci-fi writers. As you see “smart dust”-like concept can refer to “A Fire Upon the Deep”. Most advanced concept can be from writers like Vernor Vinge, Greg Egan. They really foresee. I respect such imaginative visions and I am feeling those are kinds of architectural activity.