Taming the Erratic : Representation and materialization in post-digital architectural design

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: This thesis investigates materialization and representation in contemporary architectural design practice. 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, simulation and scanning offer new design opportunities that are located in the transfer between representation and material. This has given rise to a post-digital model of practice and thought, in which ‘real’ and discrete chunks of matter are incorporated at the earliest stages of design.The thesis is practice-based, and spans in scope from design to technology to theory. The design work included explores materialization and representation from a particular point of view. In addition, it suggests a methodological approach to design, and explores the theoretical implications in this approach. These implications are addressed in two connected research questions: How can material processes, whether real or simulated, turn transfers between geometry and materialized objects into productive design opportunities? And how might material simulation alter the ways in which representations are conceptualized and used by architects? In parallel with practice-based work, the thesis suggests a theoretical framework for current issues of representation and materialization in architecture. This framework draws from the recent history of the digital turn in architecture as well as from recent design research work and theory in a post-digital turn.This thesis makes contributions in three main areas. Through the design work Erratic, it makes a visceral case for how the use of material simulation might open up new ways of harnessing material agency. It positions simulation in the field of architecture in-between established polarities such as geometry vs. matter, virtual vs. real and drawing vs. mock-up. It discusses the conceptual difference between design based on geometry and design based on discrete pieces of material. Finally, it proposes that form in architecture increasingly can be conceptualized as ‘chunks,’ as opposed to reduced descriptions of geometry. 

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