Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Digital Practice' keyword pg.1 of 1
19 JUNE 2014

How do we create things together in a shared environment?

"When critical thinking is at its strongest, it often comes from exactly the sort of fluidity of practice that does run through Digital Revolution. The London–based architect and artist Usman Haque has been creating innovative software products alongside interactive artworks for more than 15 years. In 2007, he founded Pachube, a global data–sharing network that anticipated by years the current buzz around big data and the internet of things. In 2011, Pachube enabled hundreds of Japanese civilians to quickly and easily share weather and radiation data in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, boosting monitoring and relief efforts. Haque's Umbrellium team has produced a new artwork for Digital Revolution, which takes up the entirety of The Pit, the Barbican's subterranean theatre space. Called Assemblance, the piece allows about 25 people at a time to physically shape beams of light with their hands, pushing and pulling them around the space–while also bumping into and potentially messing up the shapes created by other people.

Haque calls it 'a virtual reality', but not in the sense of a purely digital realm: 'It's there, it's responding to you, you can see it, but as you try and approach it you can't actually feel it. For me, the idea is to question this distinction between the physical and the virtual.' The process is akin to building a sandcastle on the beach, where you are building a structure that anyone else, or the elements, can destroy in a moment.

Assemblance attempts to answer the question: 'How do we create things together in a shared environment, where we can't always trust each other, but we need to act together regardless?' This, indeed, is the situation we find ourselves in now. In the modern digital world, the question of participation is crucial as our various networks–social, media, national–require us to constantly mediate between acting as individuals and acting as a group. For Haque, the digital has given us 'the capacity to have an effect on the other side of the world almost instantaneously', from news events and economic flows to disaster response and warfare. 'We can do things to other people in distant lands, and so the question of our responsibility, and our culpability, is thrown up in ways that it hasn't been before. On the other hand, we now have the capacity to connect with each other, and develop new ways to work together, rather than against each other.'

Assemblance asks the audience to see itself as part of a networked whole, where actions have consequences. It also points towards the fact that 'the digital' is not a medium, but a context, in which new social, political and artistic forms arise. After 50 years, at least, of digital practice, institutions are still trying to work out its relevance, and how to display and communicate it–a marker, perhaps, that it is indeed a form of art."

(James Bridle, 18 June 2014, The Guardian)

Fig.1 Assemblance, a 3D interactive light field by Usman Haque and Dot Samsen from Umbrellium. Photograph: Umbrellium.



2014 • act together • acting as a group • actions have consequencesartwork • Assemblance (artwork) • Barbican Centre • beam of light • big data • capacity to connect • collaborative action • collective culpability • collective responsibility • creating things together • data sharing • data-sharing network • digital artdigital art exhibitiondigital art form • digital context • digital practicedigital revolutionDigital Revolution (2014) • Dot Samsen • economic flowsflowsFukushimaGoogle DevArtimmersive experienceimmersive worksindividual and collective activities • innovative software • interactive artworks • interactive light fieldinternet of thingslightlight artlight installationlight sculpturemediated interactionmediated reality • modern digital world • new ways of working together • Pachube • part of a networked whole • participationphysical and digital interactionPongresponsive light installation • sandcastle • shared environment • trustUmbrellium • Usman Haque


Simon Perkins
14 APRIL 2012

Achim Menges: Architecture and Product Design Research

"Architecture as a material practice is predominately based on an approach to design that is characterised by prioritising the elaboration of form over its subsequent materialisation. Since the Renaissance the increasing division between processes of design and making has led to the age–long development and increasing dependence on representational tools intended for explicit, scalar geometric descriptions that at the same time serve as instructions for the translation from drawing to building. Inevitably, and with few exceptions, even in today's digital practice architects embrace design methods that epitomize the hierarchical separation of form definition and materialisation.

The research of the Institute for Computational Design explores an alternative, morphogenetic approach to design that unfolds morphological complexity and performative capacity from material constituents without differentiating between formation and materialisation processes. This requires an understanding of form, material, structure and environment not as separate aspects, but rather as complex interrelations that are embedded in and explored through integral computational processes.

The notion of material system constitutes one central aspect of this research. Material system does not only refer to the material constituents of a building alone, but rather describes, in a system–theoretical sense, the complex reciprocity between materiality, form, structure and space, the related processes of production and assembly, and the multitude of performative effects that emanate from the interaction with environmental influences and forces. This conceptualization of material systems enables the utilization of computational design processes. The ability of computation to simultaneously do both, stochastically derive and systemically process complex datasets within a defined or evolving constraint space, can be utilized to explore a material system's performative capacity within its materially determined limits. Furthermore, continuously informing the form generation with different modes of computational analysis enables a direct link between the ontogeny, the history of structural changes of an individual, and its interaction with external forces and energy respectively, that is its ecological embedding. This enables to conceive of material systems as the synergetic outcome of calibrating and balancing multiple influencing variables and divergent design criteria, which always already include the interaction with the system–external environment. The resultant environmental modulations can now be understood as highly specific patterns in direct relation to the material interventions from which they originate.

The design of space, structure and climate can be synthesized in one integral design process."

(Achim Menges,



Achim Menges • architectsarchitectural conjecturearchitecture • bifurcation between theory and practice • building • complex datasets • computational design • computational design processes • computational processes • cultural technologydesign and makingdesign methods • design of space • design processdesign researchdigital practice • elaboration of form • environmental influences • environmental modulations • European Renaissanceform • form definition and materialisation • formation and materialisation • hierarchical separation • history of structural change • Institute for Computational Design • latticematerialmaterial interventionsmaterial practice • material systems • materialisationmateriality • materially determined limits • modes of computational analysis • morphogenetic approach to design • morphological complexity • ontogenesis • performative capacity • performative effects • product designproduction and assembly • representational tools • scalar geometric descriptions • space • stochastic • structure • synergetic outcome • synergy • system-theoretical sense • systemically process • theory and practice • translation from drawing to building • wood • wood lattice


Simon Perkins

to Folksonomy

Can't access your account?

New to Folksonomy?

Sign-Up or learn more.