Weblog Kas Oosterhuis: Next Generation Building

Weblog Kas Oosterhuis: Next Generation Building

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Death of the iWEB


Death of the iWEB

Finally in 9/11 2014 the predators of TU Real Estate have come to destroy the iWEB, on purpose, wilfully. How did we end up in this unfortunate mess? In May 2008 the Faculty burnt down, set on fire by a short circuit in a coffee machine. I will save the juice details for another occasion. The faculty was lost, but the iWEB remained undamaged. But there was one little problem, which turned out to be the party spoiler, the fire brigade did cut off the iWEB from the electricity network, which caused the inflated roof to collapse. Despite our intense efforts to bring in generators to keep the roof inflated, we did not get allowance to enter the crime scene. From then on the iWEB was doomed.

After years of bureaucratic negotiations with TU Real Estate and potential users of the iWEB including student interest groups, research groups, Deft Robotic Institute, Green Campus and a variety of commercial firms, in the end no single party was able to raise enough money to pay TU Real Estate to revitalize the iWEB. Back in 2005 the faculty dean Mr Beunderman, who actively supported digital innovation, approved of a 500k € budget to bring the WEB of North Holland to life again and host Hyperbody’s protoSPACE Laboratory. Those glorious days are gone, there is no more money in the university for such support, these days all money has to come from external funding. The faculty dean Mrs Laglas was not motivated to do any effort in saving the iWEB. And yes, the current architectural supervisor for the university campus Mr Kaan obviously does not respect the iWEB as a benchmark project of our time and therewith has agreed to erase our subtle traces of the nonstandard. His modernist framework accepts no existence of such signature structure like the iWEB.

The retro-activists are striking back, but for how long will they be able to keep up appearances? For how long will they be able to force their outdated fundamentals on a society that has already changed.


Farmland of the 21st Century


Each time again on my way to Hungary and back I am impressed by a strong experience of the 21st Century landscape. This is Burgenland, the area between Vienna and the Hungarian border, a great wine region, the rich harvest area of the Esterhazy's, who acquired their fortune from grain trade, and the birth ground of Joseph Haydn, who was hired as their house composer. The A4 highway is in this particular stretch gently embedded in the ground, thus allowing for acoustic absorption and making it easy for green ducts to cross the highway. On my way I count at least seven of these robust landscape bridges, in the background I count hundreds of windmills. It gives me the feeling of navigating the farmland of the future, only solar farms are still missing to complete the picture. Of these I have seen many on my way in Bayern, where farmers turn to harvest solar energy as an alternative to growing crops. In Burgenland farmers lend their land to harvest wind energy, and cyclists experience the region as a continuous landscape, while the highway is sunken into the ground and hidden behind the bushes, the monotonous noise of the highway no longer bothering their appreciation of the soft mixed use landscape.

What this simple but effective intervention in Burgenland does is to connect what has been spaced apart before. Highways typically create barriers in the landscape, but now the Burgenland approach shows that such barriers can be overcome, that separation of functions can be transformed as to become a connection instead. We now have entered the age of connectivity and interactivity, indeed the age of the Internet of things and people. The urgency to connect and re-connect is to be found on many levels, on the level of landscape planning, on the urban level, while such awareness completely will change the way we shape our built environment, changes the way we establish relationships between the components of which our hyper-natural world is made of.


Architecture is the name of the game


"Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light" as Le Corbusier put it in his manifesto Towards A New Architecture. Everything has changed since then, and we are ready for a new paradigm: "Architecture is the programmable hyperbody played skilfully by its masters at the speed of light". Le Corbusier gave shape and meaning to architecture in the era of the Industrial Revolution. Let’s now programme hyperreality in our era of the Digital Revolution. Let’s face it: virtual reality is in all respects more real than what we take to be natural reality. Virtual reality including any software ever written for any platform is hyper-real. Simply because we know the stuff it is made of. We know every bit and byte. In the Digital Revolution reality is being rewritten from ground zero.

Architecture becomes a game being played by its users. And not only architecture will be subject to the forces of real-time calculation. Planning, construction, interior design and landscape design are also ready to be developed as real-time games. During the design process the game is designed by the architect and played by all parties involved. During the life cycle of the building and the build environment, the game is played by their users, by the visitors and by the built environment itself. Visitors become participants in the experience economy. By playing the game the participants set the parameters. Each actors triggers an array of sensors writing the new data into a database, from where the building picks up the new data and starts reconfiguring itself, in shape, in content, or in both shape and content. Then the new configuration is matched to the desired conditions. It is fair to say that the building will find itself in a state of continuous operation. The building elements consists of numerous cooperating programmable elements, behaving like a swarm. The building elements will show flocking behaviour, always keeping an eye on the neighbouring actor and always ready to act and react. Hence we propose a new motto for the discipline of architecture: "Game set and match". To be played over and over again. Architecture is turning wild.


What is Interactive Architecture?


First clarify what it is NOT. Interactive Architecture - from here on abbreviated as iA - is NOT simply architecture that is responsive or adaptive to changing circumstances. On the contrary, iA is based on the concept of bi-directional communication, which requires two active parties. Naturally, communication between two people is interactive; they both listen [input], think [process] and talk [output]. But iA is not about communication between people, it is first defined as the art of building relationships between built components and second, as building relations between people and built components.

iA is the art of building bi-directional relationships. The Centre for Interactive Architecture, regards all iA built components as, essentially, input-processing-output [IPO] devices. iA theory includes both passive and active IPO systems. Let me clarify this statement with a classic example: the door. The door in the building functions as a switch. It is either open or closed. When we add the lock to the door, it is either locked or unlocked. And the one who has the key is authorised to lock and unlock the door. The door functions in the building as a semi-permeable membrane for the two spaces A and B at either side. The door allows people or goods to go in or to go out, which s as output from room B and input from A. Input and output are clarified now, what about the processing? The door processes people, but also goods carried by the people, airflow, dust particles, smell etc. When the door is opened, the two systems find a new equilibrium: number of people, goods, light, temperature, and data. The door processes by counting what passes through the opening.