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First semester 2019_2020

Architecture & Automation

For more than a century automation has been radically impacting different parts of society, from agriculture, manufacturing, shipping and transportation, to governance and warfare. Initially automation was mainly aimed at increasing the efficiency of and avoiding the associated with manual labour. Through developments in computation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, today automation is also affecting intellectual labour and even creative industries and design. Whereas earlier automation was usually contained to specific sites (factories, farms, logistic facilities…), through the spread of mobile devices, ubiquitous computing and data logging and processing, automation is increasingly mediating aspects of our daily lives (working, living, entertainment…) from chatbots, virtual assistants, suggestion algorithms to personalised advertisements.

Compared to other industries, architecture, engineering and construction, is one of the least automated industries. Architectural culture seems to be quite resistant against ideas of automation undermining the role of the architect and his authorship over design. Architectural design is hard to automate due to the difficulties of quantifying architectural design processes, dealing with wicked problems, that require negotiation and innovation. Material extraction and processing, the production of building components through prefabrication, are more easily automated, building construction often remains, a bespoke and one-off process that is context and site-specific.

However, the increasing computational power, the availability of vast amounts of data, development of artificial intelligence, combined with resource scarcity, increasing construction costs and housing scarcity, provide an urgency to develop the potential of architectural automation.

In the studio we will explore automation as a specific driving force within the technosphere, its impact on our relation with our environment in the anthropocene, and its potential to rethink the workflows, practices and culture of architecture. We will look into automation as a content, context and tool for architecture through fieldtrips, research and hands-on design exercises.

Brief

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