Conscious City Laboratory

Dietmar Koering
Dr.-Ing. Thesis


architecture ; artificial intelligence ; consciousness ; cybernetics ; ethics ; Industry 4.0 ; participation ; Internet of Things (IoT) ; system science ; urban design Architektur ; Künstliche Intelligenz ; Bewusstsein ; Kybernetik ; Ethik ; Industrie 4.0 ; Partizipation ; Internet der Dinge ; Systemwissenschaft ; Stadtplanung


In recent years, novel information, communication technologies, and man-machine-interfaces have advanced at a prolific pace. Certain technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, have been intensely developed as spatial conditions for growing cities. Data, robotics, and digital prefabrication constitute the conglomerates that are leading us to novel possibilities for how we, as humans, interact with technology within our environments. The present research aims to evaluate case studies of historical architectural visions and today’s Smart City movement in the context of AI, ethics and human-machine relations in the 20th century, and to discuss the transition occurring in the architectural profession. To achieve this, some core questions are addressed. For example, can humans adapt to this transition by developing a new consciousness? What does human participation mean in the age of AI? In the near future, architects and urban planners will face an enormous challenge of adaption and integrating human and non-human real-time data for decision-making processes.

To answer these questions, a physical prototype of a Conscious City Laboratory has been built and iterated according to surveys and feedback over three years. This Conscious City Laboratory optimizes this process through adaptive real-time modelling and dynamic negotiation as a novel urban planning methodology. Historic and actual precedents demonstrate the urgent need for such laboratories as participatory locations within cities to generate requisite knowledge. The dissertation is written from a theoretical perspective that prioritizes the radical constructivism and second-order cybernetics, which were advocated by Heinz von Foerster and Ranulph Glanville. It also refers to the critical social view of technologies described by Robert Boguslaw. The thesis concludes that the concept of “consciousness” within architecture and urban planning has to be redeveloped, and that cities can be understood as “devices” to reduce their complexity, which is consistent with the views of Michael Batty and Jay W. Forrester. A new consciousness, which implicit ethical goals, needs to be discussed and taught in terms of seen and invisible networks. Indeed, it will be a novel consciousness that designates technology as an extension of our human body.

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