University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design
Taylor Seminar February 2018
Faculty Host: Jason Johnson | Associate Professor & Associate Dean (Architecture)
Guest Instructor: Dana Cupkova
This workshop aims to investigate the effects of simulation and natural behavior on the shaping of architectural objects. In an intensive academic classroom setting students were guided to use simulations of environmental data sets related to landscape formation and water flow, to engage a non-figurative description of fictional landscapes as a method for the formation of new contingent digital objects. These computational workflow forefronts a bio-technological framework of architecture and asks to negotiate differences between organic and inorganic, formal and performative, cultural and ecological, zones and boundaries, solids and gradients, proximities and tendencies, objects and fields. Using abstraction as a codifier of geospatial data sets we re-inscribed the invisible forces into formed constructs, with hope to shift the focus of design away from singular contextual ‘truth’ of data, towards the constraints of perception and spatial aesthetics. Here the use of drawing and simulation straddles across empirical and metric-based design input; questioning an acute ambivalence between the determinacy of the data and the ineffability of the sublime. This workflow tests a hybrid representation and transformative set of procedures that employ computational drawing and simulation to evolve away from a performative model, and towards collapsing the information and abstraction onto an object itself. The boundaries between information, image, and narrative are less distinct and are embedded directly within a physical artifact. This way of working re-situates the role of technology in the design process. Collapsing the space between analysis and design, while simultaneously using simulation techniques to describe shapes through non-figurative rather than representational means, opens up new ways of seeing and designing forms. To a degree, there is a representational literalness to the process of visualizing thermodynamic and naturalistic processes that are directly actuated by shape and matter. The simulation of behaviors such as surface water flow, which primarily exists in temporal or experiential realms, become a means of describing the form. The analytical data set becomes operative in distilling the formation of new constructs, and is subsequently imposed directly into the description and formation of surfaces and objects. The process of embedding the immaterial patterns directly within the matter shifts design thinking away from a linear logic of predetermined solution space and creates a completely different cognitive framework for design. It also attempts to undermine historical definitions of disciplinary boundaries as it necessitates engaging other knowledge, such as biology, or material science, within a design space. For example, starting with a thermally-actuated geometry of a concrete surface.