Component of the System

Albert Bierstadt In The Mountains
Dr. Dietmar Koering

The first stone can be laid or thrown. Under this heading, contributions emerge capable of both: theoretical texts by authors presenting theses on architectural practice, subject to contentious debate. Dietmar Köring sets the stone in motion: Engage in discussion—through letters to the editor and on!

In today’s architectural landscape, intelligence is achieved through data situated somewhere between human and machine. This leads to an inherent and profound complexity in the realm of contemporary architecture.

Since the early eighties, we have utilized computers, which eventually became affordable, for various tasks—including architecture. This transition had a significant impact on our society and the trajectory of architecture, giving rise to the emergence and evolution of several architectural genres, such as the renowned Blob Architecture and the new digital design methodology, dubbed by some as “Parametricism”. However, until the late nineties, computer-aided computation remained a niche field, spearheaded by entrepreneurs like Greg Lynn, who popularized digital architecture, making it an everyday tool for professionals and students alike. Today, computers are indispensable in universities, where all our historical knowledge has been digitized and stored in virtual space. We now develop programs for programs within programs, not only to enhance complexity but also to afford greater freedom in data processing and management.

This evolution demonstrates how humans have optimized machines over the past thirty years to fulfill their functions solely through direct or indirect CPU computation. The English abbreviation “B.C.” no longer signifies “before Christ” but rather “before computer”. Curiously, it was Charles Babbage, the father of computers, who remarked that he would require a functioning “Difference Engine” to complete the first one. In essence, he needed a working computer to finalize the first computer.

The illustration depicts the original painting “In the Mountains (1867)” by Albert Bierstadt. Renowned for portraying romantic vistas of the western Americas at the onset of colonization, Bierstadt’s landscape is rooted in reality yet exists as a collage in itself. Thus, long before the advent of computers, a debate on reality and representation was sparked, echoing contemporary discussions. With the invention of a new imaging technique—the photograph—interest in his work waned for most. Eventually, Albert Bierstadt passed away in dire circumstances, long forgotten.

The inserted digital object was created using modern virtual modeling techniques (Virtual Sculpting). One may wonder how architects work today and their relationship with computers. Do architects still rely on physical sketches, or is everything now virtual? Into the Mountains 2013 does not provide an answer but aims to raise awareness and encourage reconsideration of how new techniques may influence space and its users.

We are still preoccupied with inputting data into machines, rather than considering the information these machines can provide us. We must optimize the interface between humans and computers to constantly receive positive feedback. This issue was highlighted by Norbert Wiener in 1940 with his famous quote: “We have changed our environment so radically that we must now change ourselves.” The integration of computers into our daily lives has occurred so rapidly that humans have had no time for a longer evolutionary process to adapt to this new environment. An environment in which we continually face new technological challenges previously unknown to us. Hence, we must determine the best way to navigate this new complex system. We must understand how to analyze data and how to work with data in the future—with the awareness of being part of the system.

Read the article in German here: “Die Architekt” Teil des Systems