Ferda Kolatan, University of Pennsylvania
(New Modes of Architecture Thinking in the Post-Digital Era)
Architecture discourse in the digital era, in academia as well as in private practice, has strongly revolved around principles of relationism. Operating within an increasingly globalized world with 24-hour accessibility, it appeared sensible if not necessary to apply primarily net-based concepts, terminologies, and phenomena to the real world. As a matter of fact, the very definition of the real world was reassessed through terms such as connectivity or network by transferring them from the technological into the aesthetic and ethical realms.
For instance, the term connectivity is now routinely being used to synonymously describe such diverse things as socio-political transparency, programmatic flexibility, or formal continuity. This conflation of concepts across domains has strongly characterized the discipline of architecture and led to an ever increasing focus on questions of translation, dependency, and relation, while simultaneously rendering questions concerning the material qualities of architectural objects and cities as non-essential, antiquated, or even obsolete.
Furthermore, this paradigm has brought back to life the modernist dream of a universal style enabled through technology (computation, digital fabrication, etc.) and characterized by a homogenous plurality. This stands in stark contrast to the early ambitions of the digital project, which sought to utilize the then-emerging technologies towards novel material manifestations and the testing of these within authentic and heterogeneous contexts of the real world.
For this panel session I propose a discussion that challenges the dominance of relationism in architecture by investigating alternative modes of thought and design. As we enter the post-digital era, where digital tools have become fully integrated into the mainstream of architecture practice and education, the next frontier cannot merely be located in the ever expanding refinement and applicability of these tools. Neither can it be found within the echo chambers of relations, systems, and networks, which simultaneously propagate a faceless universalism as well as undermine any sincere engagement with realism.
Taking cues from the recently emerging philosophical movement of Speculative Realism a number of questions will be posited and examined through the theoretical, educational, and design work of the participants. Some of these question are: How can architecture in the post digital era re-engage questions of realism without reverting back to outdated, pre-modernist models? How can academia help shape a design paradigm, which has come fully to terms with the technological advancements of the recent past and seeks to examine its potential beyond the categories of either efficiency or relationism? How can we overcome through our own disciplinary means the modernist divide between the human and the world in order to address contemporary problems of technology, nature, and culture in more meaningful and productive ways?