Cultivating the Erratic: Architectural representation and materialisation after the digital turn

Abstract: This thesis investigates representation and materialisation in contemporary architectural design. Due to cultural and technological shifts, the act of design is no longer squarely located in the abstract realms of drawings or digital geometries. Computer aided manufacturing, physics simulation, and 3d-scanning offer alternative possibilities for design by incorporating the often-erratic qualities of extant objects and materials. These developments call for architects to intervene in and theorise technological transfers between representation and material reality that might otherwise become matters of mere expediency. Spanning in scope from design to technology to theory, the thesis is developed through a combination of analytical enquiry and design driven research. The design works included, Erratic and Completions , explore materialisation and representation against a critical review of key concepts associated with the ‘digital turn’ in architecture during the 1990s and 2000s. The thesis interrogates how those concepts have been developed and challenged in the decades after this turn. Key to the analysis is a critical enquiry about the nature of architectural representation and the significance of theoretical frameworks gleaned from other areas of enquiry, including materialist and post-digital thinking. The implications of the design work are explored by positioning physics simulation and 3d-scanning as means of representation through an interlacing of thinking from such frameworks with detailed accounts of technical apparatuses involved in conception and production. Overall, the thesis aims to build a new position for architectural conception and production. It argues that the means of representation that facilitate architectural design have agency, and that simulation and scanning offer a contemporary context in which the effects of such agencies can be productively observed. This opens a disciplinary discussion on issues of projection, translation, and codification and their role in shaping the architectural imagination. The discussion also extends beyond such architectural concerns and into political critique, as practices, technicalities, and histories of representation condition how we view the world, how we operate in it, and might even modify how we view ourselves.

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