The Future Agency of Digital Design in Architecture
Magazine article, 2010
The past 15 years have seen an open-ended, innovation driven development in the field of digital design in architecture, where the current ambitions are focused on fabrication and production. In many ways this is concluding a phase of free exploration by proving that things before envisioned can be actualized as built work. In parallel, the discourse has targeted critical practice, suggesting its replacement with projective practice, and design intelligence has been defined as a mode of operation that allows innovative architecture in a commercial arena. Recent attempts to conjecture a heterogeneous discourse into a collective manifesto, as well as a regard of the first decade of this century being characterized as “un-serious” in its formal approach, has been answered by critical voices that suggest that this trajectory of architectural development is superficial, internal, self-absorbed or even subversive.
While these responses may be directed at singular voices (such as Patrik Schumacher´s recent manifesto), they are suggesting that contemporary architectural discourse needs more than a formal discourse. Yet, very important new knowledge has been created in the networks of practices that have emerged over the last decade, and perhaps more importantly, the lineage of computational design is far older than the mid 1990s. The missing piece today may be the future agenda, the agency beyond the explorations of spatial conception and material fabrication. How can new modes of design respond to and interact with the demands of society? What is the role of the primarily American aesthetic discourse in this regard? Is architectural practice changing, as suggested by Michael Speaks already in 1995, or are we replicating the classical notion of the architect augmented by new modes of representations?
This text will investigate the shifting field of digitally based design within architecture, and its recent turns, including internal discourse, external debate, and samples of especially potential design. It will suggest that we need to multiply our agendas and combine techniques with agency. This needs to be supported by the establishment of new conceptual tools that incorporate digital techniques, the notion of the parametric and the potential of network practices in order to step up to the challenges of the future while building on the recent past.