future forming (and other strategies)

Here at [Re_Map], we share the view that we have entered a post-digital age in which how and why we design has become as significant as what we design. As part of our ongoing research and critique into modes of representation and production, a new book by Nick Dunn has just been published, ‘Digital Fabrication in Architecture’ (Laurence King). The publication features work from leading-edge practices and researchers from around the globe as well as numerous [Re_Map] alumni.

Architecture is fundamentally concerned with two core activities: designing and making. Of course, these are not mutually exclusive and often inform one another in a continuous dialogue as projects progress from concepts, through design development to final form – typically the realization of a building. The ability to effectively communicate creative ideas remains a central aspect of the discipline. With the development of numerous Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and other software packages, the variety of design processes available to architects, which may influence the fabrication of architecture and its components, is greater than ever. Of specific interest in this field is the recent capability of completely digital workflows or the ability to integrate analogue and digital techniques and processes to produce physical objects, whether three-dimensional concept diagrams, scale models or full-size prototypes.

As such, there has been considerable emphasis on the notion of ‘digital craft’ which, rather than the relationship between human and the machine creating distance from the design and making process, actually reinforces the level of engagement between the two. Therefore, whilst some of the contemporary tools we may now use differ vastly from those used in previous times, the idea of craftsmanship still prevails in the sense of a designer who is involved in a cyclical process between the generation of an idea, its representation (whether through drawing and/or modelling), and its fabrication.

This book seeks to bridge various gaps in understanding through three major themes:
1. Generation – how do we produce and develop design data?
2. Integration – how do we than use this design data, since it is often also the construction data, in a meaningful and creative manner?
3. Strategies – what are the overarching approaches connecting geometry and material, design and fabrication?


‘This welcome publication is inspiring, informative, lusciously illustrated and methodically structured. As digital fabrication technologies seep evermore into the daily routines of design practice, it should provoke more designers to become familiar with these tools, and to exploit their potential as makers.’

– Bob Sheil, RIBA, Senior Lecturer and Director of Technology and Computing, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

‘Nick Dunn has perfectly situated this book at a point where advanced thinking in architecture meets emerging, cutting edge technologies. Digital Fabrication in Architecture is as inspiring as it is informative.’

Thom Faulders, Architect, Faulders Studio, and Professor, Department of Architecture, CCA

Cellular Urbanism – Data Mapping # 1

The use of maps in relation to cities and our experience of them is both a familiar one and historically extensive. Our engagement with an unknown city is nearly always translated through the map whether illustrating streets, tourist destinations or transportation systems. Indeed, urban experience in an unfamiliar context is typically an exchange between cartographic spaces and the materials of the built environment. Considered in this manner it is evident that urban and cartographic spaces are entwined and continue to exist in a mutual relationship with each other, surviving temporal shifts and developments. With the increasing growth of potential opportunities and creative practice for urban mapping it is important to remember that the critical discourse surrounding public space and notions of privacy and place must continue in order to parallel such developments and frame them in an intelligible manner. One of the most prevalent capacities of the information age is the accessibility and exchange of data, rendering the previously latent visible. This project, developed by Joe Haire, Felicity Hurling, Dicky Lewis and Dan Stock, created an interface for data collation, cellular automation and site designation.

  • By utilising the interface of postcode data and Ordnance Survey grid based sub-divisions it is possible to design live applications that offer a multitude of possibilities not simply confined to architecture or urban design.Image
  • In this particular manifestation live data from a number of sources pertaining to lifestyle choices was streamed to a cellular automata model. Image
  • This included crime rates, house prices, leisure facilities and such and their respective incidence in each cell. By using a sliding scale against the assigned 15 parameters prospective householders or developers were offered possibilities as to the best area to live or to start their business.Image
  • The possible application of this software is effectively limitless in terms of the scale at which it is applied, the number of parametric inputs and the needs of any particular user as yet undetermined.Image

the image of the urban landscape

The imaging and imagined urban landscape, its processing and representation is fundamental to geographies of the city. From Bill Bundy to Kevin Lynch, from Otto Neurath to James Corner, reimagined and processed versions of urbanity are used by geographers, architects, urbanists, statisticians and artists to interpret and afford legibility to the complex edifice that is ‘the city’. It was with notions such as these in mind that the authors recently chaired a session ‘[Re_Map]: the image of the urban landscape’ at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2011: The Geographical Imagination, held at the Royal Geographical Society, London, 31 August – 2 September.  The session sought to expose the theory, the practice and the methodologies of mapping and representation techniques across a range of disciplines to explore the inherent proximities and tensions in relation to vocabulary, terminology and realisation. The cross-disciplinary session covered a considerable breadth of topics and depth of issues and commonalities in relation to: urbanism, mapping, representation, narrative and notation. Crucially, the session enabled the perceptible gap in the research and practice of geography, architecture, art and computational design to be discussed and further explored in relation to urban space. Commencing the session with their paper, ‘Data Mining: Abstract Urban Topographies’, the authors opened up the territory and debate by questioning the role of data mapping as part of architectural and urban design strategies and offering insights into its application as a means to develop instrumentality within the increasingly complex scenarios of contemporary urbanism.

















Space Intelligence Agency – Automatic Urbanism, 2009.

projection mapping / light space

Pablo Valbuena - Medialab Prado, Madrid

First brought to our attention via the digital archive slowly building on the excellent ICASEA blog attached to the UK/JP electronic art label, the work of artist/architect Pablo Valbuena challenges the perception of space by the direct manipulation of light to create complex geometric illusions. The use of form, space and light, highly conventional architectural terms, as layers of intervention and re_presentation through sculpture and projection mapping in his work is well removed from the prevalent employment of such.

Perhaps of most interest here are the interventions in urban space, rather than those in interior environments. The animation of the hard rectilinear landscape outside of the Medialab Prado in Madrid (2007) is a post-Tron digital dissection of space. It is remarkable how the aesthetic of cybernetic art has returned to a minimal and binary position. The works of Carsten Nicolai and Ryoji Ikeda have consistently relied upon a retreat to minimal linear and geometric form that can be easily perceived as not too distant from the pioneering work of Lloyd Sumner and Roman Verostko.

Ryoji Ikeda - Datamatics

comparing utopias

The 49 Cities exhibithion at Storefront Gallery for Art and Architecture, New York, seeks to provide a comparitive datascape for unrealised urbanism. The proposal, born out of Work AC‘s research seminar at Princeton University concerned with ‘eco-urbanism’, began as one that considered the contemporary city, but rapidly acknowledged the role of the unbuilt utopian models on modern urban form; the work of Ebeneezer Howard, le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright perhaps most influential in this regard.

Using a standardised method of representation, the exhibition and catalogue convey with great visual acuity and clarity the characteristics of each model city. The built area, density, greenspace and infrastructure are all considered in their component parts and presented in a tabular form alongside the diagrammed plans of the respective cities. The back of the publication holds bar charts wherein the values of these parameters are overtly comparable. An incredibly simple idea, very well controlled and executed with consistency.

The book may be purchased here. There is also a 20 page PDF sample for free at the same address.

Site plan for Noahbabel. Coastal Waters, 1969 (Paolo Soleri). Image from Storefront. Copyright Work AC

Site plan for Tokyo Bay. Tokyo, 1960 (Kenzo Tange). Image from Storefront. Copyright Work AC

090511 goto run

This is the blog based archive of events, objects and spaces that are pertinent or of concern to the Re_Map B[Arch] at the Manchester School of Architecture. It represents the interests of Dr. Nick Dunn and Richard Brook, their travels and working diary.