100th Annual Meeting

100th Annual Meeting - Digital Aptitudes
ACSA 100th Annual Meeting 
March 1-4, 2012 in Boston, MA
Host School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Co-chairs: Mark Goulthorpe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Amy Murphy, University of Southern California

Theme Overview

This Annual Meeting culminates the events associated with ACSA 100. The Boston conference will mark the centennial year that educators from diverse institutions have gathered to share ideas with the goal of advancing architectural education. It will be hosted by the first school of architecture in America, MIT, whose department of architecture was founded in 1865. To mark such an occasion, the conference will critically examine the ground covered by the discipline since its inception, as well as speculate on its future trajectory, the central theme of the conference being the profound impact of digital technologies’ computational and communication capacities on architecture.

The ability to process and share massive amounts of information has clearly opened entirely new opportunities for research and praxis that radically exceed empirical methods and previously held notions of space and time. But, as history has taught us, a change in technological paradigm is rarely absorbed efficiently, or in an undisputed manner, even if its effects are profound or beneficial. The Phonetic alphabet, devised by Phoenician merchants to be able to trade between all language groups, was seen as a corruption to the integrity of different languages, yet it proved enduring as it offered effective communication. Writing itself was frequently castigated as a compromise to living memory and intellect, yet it proved itself to be a remarkable and enduring mnemonic and communication medium. Print technology similarly caused concern amongst the literary elite for the threat to culture of broadening and massively extending the potential for writing, but it gave birth to new genres of communication and literature, and a liberalization of social exchange. Such prior technological changes caused broad cultural adaptation that was often difficult to appreciate during their absorptive period. Digital technologies seem to have inaugurated similar fundamental changes, particularly in those disciplines that are both technical and cultural, such as architecture.
While prescient scholarship from the past can still assist us in anticipating the broad effects of technological change (as exemplified by a seminal text such as Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin), our specifically digital future must still be imagined and our digital present critically assessed—for the terms of progress are always in flux and their relationship to our current ‘global village’ quite relative.
The conference's keynote addresses, various panel sessions, and papers are to pose searching questions as to the pedagogical formation and professional status of the architect in this period of radical technological change—each one examining the distinct (or indistinct)_ impact of digital technologies on architecture. Given the increasingly ubiquitous presence of computation today, the conference hopes to address all areas of architectural discipline—the historical, theoretical, technical, environmental, professional, cultural...

  • What new role(s) might ‘the architect’ have (if any) when working within the emergent digital paradigm?
  • Will new hyperbolic analytical tools increase the performative aspects of building, making design more intelligent?
  • What historical learning remains most pertinent to informing emergent computational aptitudes?
  • What shifts in pedagogy are necessary to nurturing new base skills and to increase digital intelligence generally?
  • What distinctions in parametric thinking must be made with differing scale of engagement (from the molecular to the urban)?
  • How substantially will architects be able to re-inscribe themselves within building process through radically new material and manufacturing logics?
  • How consequential are new technologies in destabilizing any particular set of culturally established spatial, temporal or social definitions?
  • What new relationships to nature might digital technologies potentially accommodate?
  • What critical understanding (or imagination) is necessary to ensure that architects are not too naive regarding the consequences of western technological positivism?
  • What is next? And what does it mean for architecture over the next hundred years?
We intend to be mindful of prior re-alignments of pedagogy and praxis occasioned by technological change over the past century (at least)—expecting some scholars to speculate on the current and future evolution of architecture under influence of ‘the digital’, while others might look back 100 years to recall similar incertitude occurring in pedagogy in light of the rapid evolution of industrial technologies. We also welcome proposals for a set of Open Sessions to support exemplary scholarship and inquiry that, whilst not seen as falling squarely within this conference’s central theme, seemingly resonate with the centennial event more broadly.

Call for Participation

This ACSA Annual Meeting will serve as a forum for reflection and discussion that relates to the meeting theme through research, scholarship, and design explorations.   Faculty members have the opportunity both to propose session topics and to submit papers related to the topics.