Design is, by definition, inhuman. We humans design, yet we do not, cannot really, at least not yet, design humans. Yet the boundaries of contemporary design increasingly encroach upon the real. The design of fleshy bodies, genetics, entire species, landscapes, territories, and even planets are becoming no longer mere fantasies. But do we really know how to design, to think, to be creative, to be careful, to be responsible, to be innovative, to be progressive both at and between such scales?
While the Istanbul Biennial questions ‘Are We Human?’, Volume explores the post-human world of Artficial Intelligence and Machine Learning. It’s not about the future, not about promise, it’s very much about the here and now. Please join us coming Friday (October 28) for an informal gathering at Post Office, Rotterdam to exchange on this life changing topic.
The data-saturated environment we live in today was already there almost half a century ago; it’s just that the nature of data has changed. Data used to be much more spatial, more architectonic, and the means of locating oneself in, and navigating through, such a space could be revealed by architectural theory and critique. With data only penetrating deeper into our cognitive realm by the day, what is there for architecture to say?
Machines need to learn to be able to act on their own. It’s a debatable question whether we want, or need, machines to do so, but the trend toward automation, is undeniable. Autonomous machines are being trusted with increasing responsibility in maintaining and providing for contemporary society, and we are finally finding out what happens to the human after the machines take over.
The concept of the ‘tipping point’ is a properly Cartesian understanding of history. It not only presumes that there is such a thing as ‘before’ and ‘after’, but also that we will be able to recognize and identify its difference to a single moment in time. This used to work, when historical events were things like wars, and we could organize our collective energies to effect the course of history. But now that events take place at the speed of light and even at a quantum level, how can we know when we’re already past where?
With the rise of computational networks and power, cognitive models developed and debated over in the postwar decades have finally been able to be put to work. Back then, there was a philosophical debate raging alongside the burgeoning field of computer science theory on the nature of consciousness. Yet with the proliferation of data and the centralization of its archives, theoretical practice moved from conceptual experiments to empirical tests.
Volume #49: Hello World!, the third in our Learning series, seeks to take one small step in the direction towards understanding the contemporary relevance of machines for architecture, and one giant leap for mankind. It includes ‘In Loving Support’, a 32-page insert produced with Het Nieuwe Instituut on living and working with algorithms.
In April 2010 Cloud Lab visited the Asada Synergistic Intelligence Project, a part of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency’s ERATO project. In an anonymous meeting room surrounded by cubicles we met with Hiroshi Ishiguro to talk about the future of robotics, space and communications.
The Ganges River is India’s largest and most densely populated water basin. A lifeline to millions of people and carrying enormous celestial significance, the river is also severely polluted and suffers from dramatic droughts and floods. Vere van Gool spoke with Anthony Acciavatti to discuss the decade he spent navigating the Ganges and the new reading he was able to construct of this sacred river.
Volume #48: The Research Turn contains the exhibition catalogue for BLUE: The Architecture of UN Peacekeeping, the Dutch entry at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, by Malkit Shoshan. BLUE focuses on the most prominent footprint of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations: the compound.
We’re retreating! With Het Nieuwe Instituut, we’re holding a public discussion on July 2 with Merel Noorman in Arnhem as a part of SONSBEEK ’16 on the social and ethical dimension of the relations between humans and artificial intelligence. If you are in the area, please stop by an join the discussion!
Architectural practice requires a degree of intimacy and insight into complex sets of forces. While building is architecture’s bread and butter, it’s not always the best format to make a statement. It’s sometimes not even the most appropriate language to respond to a brief. Volume spoke with Reinier de Graaf of OMA/AMO about how research and media can become a vessel for political agendas.
The political left has had a rough few decades; everything just seems to be going in the other direction. Instead of romanticizing what it would be like ‘only if’, we’d better get to work on figuring out how to turn the engine of progress around. Volume spoke with Adrian Lahoud about the stakes of architectural research within the academy today and how it might contribute to moving towards the horizons of the left.
“Today it’s not so important what you know but rather how you think. Progress, in this sense, is predicated by critical reflection on ways of knowing and disciplinary traditions of thought. This issue of Volume – the second in our series on learning – is dedicated to mapping the contemporary field of research that is pushing processes of knowledge production forward in architecture, art and the social sciences.”
During the Venice Biennale 2016, Volume organizes ‘Whose Side Are You On?’: a breakfast discussion on the possible role of architecture in UN Peacekeeping Missions. In addition, Volume #48: The Research Turn will be officially launched.
‘To beyond or not to be’, our slogan over these years, has proven its relevance. By becoming the norm it’s topicality has been lost. It is time to move forward and take new directions.
Together with the International Master of Architecture of the (KU Leuven), Archis organizes a lecture series on the topic of Learning.
Volume 45: Learning mainly focuses on alternative methods of learning. But what about the impressive machinery called school and education already in place? What is its presence globally and what are major developments? For his second contribution to this Volume issue, Leonardo Dellanoce dove into statistics and reports on national, regional and global education, with the intention to draft a global map. This proved far more complicated and time consuming than hoped for, yet some valuable insights were found along the journey.
Learning by Doing: A digital interview with Francien van Westrenen, Willemijn Lofvers, Tim Devos and Hans Venhuizen, the intiatiors of Stroom Den Haag’s project ‘Stadsklas’.
Refugee camps are, by definition, meant to be temporary. Yet in Palestine refugee camps have existed for well over half a century, and architecture plays an exceptionally symbolic role. Every stone set is a representation of permanence and undermines the refugee’s political existence as such. Within these constraints, DAAR members were asked to design a girl’s school in the Shu’fat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The architectural result is a statement about life in exile and a vision beyond the tired dialectic of temporariness and permanence.
Back closer to the turn of the decade, OMA/AMO was invited to help found Strelka, a new pedagogical initiative in Moscow that sought to erase the distinction between academic and practical knowledge. The glove seemed to fit the hand perfectly, seeing as how AMO has expanded the limits of architectural practice and application of research into ever-new territories ever since it began. Now that it’s been taken off, we invited Reinier de Graaf to reflect about what it was like to actually put the glove on. What we got back was instead a high personal mediation on gloveness and the motives behind putting them on.
Radical Pedagogies is a project of collective intelligence. In that respect it is a scholarly and pedagogical experiment in its own right that questions traditional models of academic authorial production. It delves into the largely uncharted territory of extra-large collaborative projects that source expertise from a global network of scholars – a model with a large history in the academic fields of the sciences but rarely the humanities. Radical Pedagogies seeks to present a horizontal cut through architectural education throughout the second half of the twentieth century – a history of which, or multiple histories, has yet to be written.
The 2013 film The Competition follows an employee from Jean Nouvel office, a ‘head of projects’, navigating his level on the pyramidal scheme of organizing conventional contemporary architecture offices. (1) The image of this man, suffering the pressure of the genius-boss, trying to respond to deadlines with the effort of sufficiently trained and motivated young architects working behind him, neatly draws one of the professional glass ceilings that most accredited architects can expect in their working life.
In 2000, the so-called ‘Millennium Development Goals’ were adopted by the UN, one of which was primary education for all. This was in the wake of the post-historical years that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which a ‘Yes, we can!’ mentality was present (long before we had even heard of America’s first black president). Poverty, famine, malaria, and more – all problems that we can and should solve as global community; that was the spirit. In light of the program, this year’s results have been evaluated. Some goals prove to be tough, but education scores rather well. Not yet 100%, but if we can believe UN statistics, today 93% of all children between 6 and 12 receive primary school education.
While education is currently under financial and ideological pressure, learning is flourishing. Learning is not a self-contained period of time and place in which we magically transform into adults, but rather a life-long condition, a process that now permeates everywhere and everything at all times. For some learning is a luxury, yet for others it’s an economic necessity. Learning can be a tool of social liberation, but also one of financial subjugation and political oppression. In this issue of Volume, we’re thinking about what it means to learn: how it happens, where, by what, for whom, and why. Learning points us in a direction and gives us tools; does it also teach us how to use them and make a move?