13 December 2011

Week 16


  • “It is precisely in such moments of change where critical thought and new theories are produced and practice is radically restructured.” (pg. 168) How has use of the computers in design restructured practice?

  • Has rapid prototyping been “instrumental in the generation of architecture?” Can you think of any examples where rapid prototyping has contributed to the physical make-up of a building?

  • Drawing, writing and building are important methods of architectural representation. Are any of these more important than the others?

  • “Networks of information and communication take place in an ‘other’ space where the major parameters are speed, time, and movement.” How can this be better incorporated with physical space?


  • What kind of program would be more appropriate for the presentation of analytic data?

  • Are the issues surrounding Power Point a result of its inherent functionality, or user error?

  • What does the Gettysburg Address example point out concerning the problems in Power Point? In what ways does PP-ifying the speech make it better or worse?

08 December 2011

visible certainty - tumblr


I have had a tumblr account for awhile and done nothing with it. I have recently started to add images of various things I find interesting. Some of the images are from my lectures. It is updated frequently...enjoy!

06 December 2011

Avoiding Digital Pitfalls

Rachel Hicks, Kelsey Webb, Roberto Jaimes

Week 14

Picon, “Architecture, Science, Technology And The Virtual Realm”

“What are the conditions that, at certain times, make the relations between science and architecture truly productive?” (pg 294, para 3)

Picon says, “Science and architecture meet when they both contribute to the cultural construction of perception.”(pg 295) What does this mean for the two disciplines?

How, as Picon says, is architecture a virtual reality? What are the differences between a design created on a computer versus a hand-drawn design?

What does Picon mean when he says “Information is nothing but a production of events”? (pg 304)

In using computers in architecture, how might we mitigate the impression of arbitrariness that work in the digital realm might create? (pg 304)

What kinds of issues of scale arise with the use of computers in architecture? (pg 307-8)

Allen, “Terminal Velocities: The Computer in the Design Studio”

How does Allen’s example of cats falling out of windows in NYC relate to his argument about virtual reality in architecture?

Allen quotes Paul Virilio: “The field of freedom shrinks with speed. And freedom needs a field. When there is no more field, our lives will be like a terminal, a machine with doors that open and close.” Do you agree with this? What might be the definition of “field”? (pg 72, par 2

In the undergraduate level, when, if at all, do you think the computer should be in the design studio?

“Technology, Michel Foucault reminds us, is social before it is technical.” (top pg 73) Is this true? Why or why not?

29 November 2011

Tactics + Strategies/ SNAFU

Walker, Bartlett, Tretow


What/is there  a responsibility for architects to interpret the world as philosophers do?
How can we create something new from the damaged old? How do we as architects interpret Acute self-reflection? (P27 end pp1)

What are second order designs? Is designing the architecture of architecture similar to tactics? Pg. 28 (bottom)

Should we design as if we are in a post-apocalyptic city? Are their more appropriate times to design post apocalyptically? Or, Is the message about doing something radical, and the apocalypse is how radically the world is changing? 

Can you design for the radical future and still be timeless, or is timelessness even important?

Is it more efficient to be political as opposed to ideological? Does a series of ideologies lend to a political view? Is it appropriate to be political in a post-apocalyptic scenario? (P30 pp1)

Woods states that, “Only be neglecting purpose and meaning may [architecture] once again have them.” When a building no longer has meaning or purpose, what becomes the role of the architect in a post-apocalyptic scenario?


What does SNAFU stand for?

What significance does ironic paradox have in architecture? How is abnormal included in normal? (P4 pp3)

How do we pervert the ritual of design? Can something like the Habbakuk only come out of restraint of material, or is it a perversion of design ritual? (P6 PP1)

If eaves dropping is normal in art galleries, what tactics can we employ as architects to assimilate the abnormal in projects? (P 8 PP1)

What is the architectural equivalent of the slippers? P8 (pp3)

What role does speculative architecture play in the future of architecture?

21 November 2011

Change to Week 13 Readings

The Woods reading will start with page 27 at "Tactics and Strategies"

Add the Lewis Tsuramaki Lewis essay "SNAFU", pp 4-13 on d2L.

15 November 2011

Exercise 4 - Chicago 2011

Your final exercise of the semester is a personal research topic. This topic may be related to your current/past studios, Master's project topic or other topic that you would like to graphically research for this course. Your topic may be directly related, tangentially related or reciprocal to architecture(al) thought. You may critique conventions, processes or projects. You may also decide to explore phenomena that are not directly related to architecture, in that, it is not a building, drawing or other.

By Class-time on November 30, you must submit a 500-word abstract of your research topic. Within your abstract you must clearly state the topic as a thesis of inquiry, your methodology for research and your expected out comes. Keep in mind, this topic must be formatted to fit the final document per the syllabus.

Please post any questions as comments to this post so that the entire class may benefit.

14 November 2011

Week 11 Readings - Research Methodologies - Corbett/Bartlett

Week 11 – Discussion Questions
Mike Corbett and Evan Bartlett

Research Methodologies
16 Nov 2011

Practice – Stan Allen (Intro)

1 - Allen states that “The practice of architecture tends to be messy and inconsistent precisely because it has to negotiate a reality that is itself messy and inconsistent.”  What are the risks we, as architects, face when attempting to keep the “messy” intact?  (XI – P.1)

2 - What is our responsibility, if any, as architects to challenge the protocols of normal practice?  (XII – P.2)

3 - Is it a correct response to avoid “known situations” and “safe repetitions” inherent in following these protocols of normal practice?  (XII – P.2)

4 - How does theory benefit architectural practice, and vice versa?  (XIII – P.1)

5 - Allen speaks of architecture as a material practice as opposed to a discursive one.  
What are the differences between these two practices?
What makes architecture a material practice?  (XIV – P.1)

6 - If meaning is not “something added” to architecture, where is meaning derived?  
 What gives architecture meaning?
 As such, can or should there be only one meaning?  (XIV – P.3)

7 - If meaning is a result of a “complex social exchange,” as Allen suggests, can there be static meaning in architecture, or more simply, does the meaning remain constant?  (XIV – P.3)

8 - How have the “immaterial effects of film, new media, and graphic design” aided in the enlargement of architecture’s catalog of available techniques?  (XVII – P.3)

9 - For Allen, the activity of writing is a part of his architectural practice.  Is this a necessity?
What other disciplines might complement our own practices?  (XX – P.2)

Beautiful Evidence – Edward Tufte (Chapter 5)

10 - Is there more information that could be added to further enhance the narrative, and, subsequently make Minard’s map more successful?

11 - Is this the most effective way to portray or present the information Minard wishes to present?

02 November 2011

Week 9 - Muybridge and Movement

Rachel Hicks & Mary Burke
November 1, 2011

Allen, Stan. Practice: Architecture Technique and Representation. Chapter 2, Notations and Diagrams
1. What are the differences between diagrams and notations?
2. What does Allen say about the use of realistic digital renderings versus the use of notations in representing architectural work? (pg44-45).
3. Allen says, “A diagram is often thought of as an after-the-fact thing, an explanatory device to communicate or clarify form, structure, or program.” Do you think this is the true value of diagrams?
4. In Allen’s book, page 59, he explains that the “advent of mass communication and information technology has undermined the idea of the city as the place of architectural permanence.” Do you think this is true? If so, do we as architects attempt to stop this change of perception, or do we embrace it as the contemporary city?

Arnheim, Rudolf. Art and Visual Perception. Chapter 8, Movement
1. On Page 375, Arnheim says, “Every newly arriving percept finds its place in the spatial structure of memory. In the brain every trace has an address, but no date. The structure of a performance derives from the interaction of the traces it leaves within us.” How can we relate this idea into architectural design?
2. Arnheim talks about forms of non-sequential narrative. In the linear succession of a design narrative, is there a benefit to portraying events in an objective sequence, or in a meaningful path of disclosure?
3. Can the three factors of the visual experience of movement—physical, optical, and perceptual—act alone, or can they affect each other? (Page 379)
4. The visual field of objects represents a complex hierarchy as to which others are seen to depend. (Page 380) What are some examples of these dependencies?
5. Arnheim discusses the way we assign emotions and human attributes to the attributes of movement, especially with organic objects. He alludes to how we may perceive a vine crawling up a wall as “indicative of anxiety, desire, and happy fulfillment. What are some other examples of this? (Page 385)
6. We normally view objects moving at a range of speeds logical to the capabilities of that object. What happens when there is an ambiguity of visual dynamics—when our perception of the speed is changed? (Page 386)

18 October 2011

07- The Form of Data

Erin Okeson and Mary Burke

Tufte, “Parallelism”

1) Is there a certain method of parallelism that is more appropriate to utilize over another, in architecture or its design process?

2) Is it possible to depict images in parallelism without having some kind of code?

3) Is there another coding system that is as common to people as reading music?

4) Tufte explains that scale can interfere with effectiveness of parallelism, what other graphic elements could no longer make two images parallel?

5) In what situation would using a code be more appropriate than direct labeling?

Tufte, “Sparklines”

1) Can spark lines communicate more effectively than words? Or is there too much room for interpretation?

2) How have computers increased the use of sparkline graphics in daily life? Where are they most prominent?

3) What is the difference between an icon vs. a sparkline? What kind of situation would you use one over the other?

4) How does Durer’s engraving contribute to the definition of a sparkline?

5) How would you produce a sparkline that does not provide misinformation?

11 October 2011

Narrative Armature

Webb, Tretow, Corbett


  1. Can icons be universal?  Why/why not?
  2. Can you think of an icon in everyday society?  What is it and how did it affect you?  Is this different from an icon in a comic?
  3. If comics become more realistic and stories become more elaborate, does this defeat the purpose of the comic?
  4. Can iconography limit our creative potential? 
  5. Should icons morph?  Should there be a universal icon for an idea?  Is there a current icon said to be universal?


1.      What do you see that you could convey in our current studio project via a storyboard?

2.      What is the difference between a storyboard and a comic?

3.      What do storyboards offer that renderings and models do not?  What is the value of a storyboard in architectural representation/communication?

4.      What other type(s) of information can be conveyed in a storyboard that was/were not discussed in the Davids article?

5.      If architecture should be more experiential, and comics help the viewer to place themselves in the narrative, than why aren’t non-traditional graphics more regularly in architectural practice?

10 October 2011

Being John Malkevich

Charlie Kaufman: why I wrote Being John Malkovich

By coincidence, I came across this after our exercise one discussion. I think it gives some interesting insight into some of the underlying premises in the film.

27 September 2011

Week 4: Index

Notes on the Index:

Part 1

  1. Krauss describes the shifter as a device used by Acconci to shift the viewers perception from viewing art to being self-aware. When in architecture is it important to make the user/viewer self-aware?
  2. What is the index and how does it relate to the shifter?
  3. Can architectural photography act as a valid index of space and experience?
    1. In Krauss’s view, this ‘snapshot’ is the ‘readymade’ which in her view is empty. Do you agree or disagree?
  4. Krauss clarifies the idea of the index by Duchamp’s ‘With My Tongue in My Cheek’. In this example, she uses the casting of the face as the index, and the self-portrait as the icon. How can this duality be applied in architecture?

Part 2

  1. Describe what Krauss means when she says a photograph is like a ‘message without code’.
    1. When a text is provided as a supplementary description to a piece of art, does that explanation become one that guides or misguides the audience? Or both?
  2. Krauss juxtaposes the art work of Pozzi and Kelly to help define the index in its immediate context. Is this something that we as architects can liken to the idea of site context? Should our design intent be as obvious as Pozzi’s panintings?
  3. Krauss describes the work of Gordan Matta Clark at p.s.1 as: “bringing the building into consciousness of the viewer in the form of a ghost”, in this example does the building represent the index?
  4. The photograph can be seen as a paradox – “presence seen as past” Explain Krauss’ argument/examples.
  5. Can we use indexing to sub- consciously affect our audiences understanding of our design?

20 September 2011


Visual Certainty – 02 The Agency of Mapping
1) Tufte talks about the importance of scale when mapping or diagraming. How does this apply to us as architectural designers? Does the work we do always need scale?
2) Tufte sets out to separate the diagramming of Loran and Hockney from the mapping of art images by Mossel – he argues that Hockney and Loran are credible because they are explaining something coherent about the image, conversely he speaks of Mossel’s diagraming as “explains everything and therefore nothing”. Would you agree/disagree that as architects we need to be equally aware and critical of our own design processes?
3) Are modern day mapping techniques lacking in innovations? Corner argues that other fields have been progressing while mapping and cartography are stagnant – the focus and standard being tracings vs. representations of place, time and movement.
4) A key term for Corner is the French term ‘Milieu’ meaning; surroundings, medium or middle. He goes on to describe the process of cognitive mapping happens within a field that is encompassing a series of points or interactions. How does this apply to design process at the building scale vs. city scale?
5) Corner goes on to give examples of how mapping can break the barrier of simply tracing. He separate's them into the categories; Drift, Layering, Game-Board and Rhizome. How are each of these techniques different and what are the merits of each?

1. Maps can convey a great amount of direct meaning but can also give a bias towards a certain type of agenda or to make a certain point. In what ways can maps be bias and skew information to make a certain argument or push for a certain agenda?
2. Since maps can convey certain information should they be an accurate as possible depiction of reality or is it OK for them to highlight only certain amounts information that benefit the authors intent. For instance should it be more research like in that you are given all the data and decide yourself or should it paint the picture for you?
3. Tufte said that, “mappings become more credible if constructed independently of a favored result.” How do you construct a map independently of a favored result if the goal is to usually make a point or show something?
4. Is it possible to show too much information on a map? And if so how can it affect the meaning of the authors intent? Can it be damaging to the effectiveness of the map?
5. Does anyone disagree with the fact that mapping should come before planning and if so why?

13 September 2011

Abstraction what is not and is?

Jacob Walker and Roberto Jaimes


1) Under harmful dichotomy abstraction is said to be described in terms of words, but could one say that abstraction can be described in the physical form or art and design?

2) Is abstraction possible without precedent?

3) What is the difference between perception and abstraction?

Does the idea of harmful dichotomy enrich abstraction or cloud it?

4) If a sound is not an abstraction to a blind man, how can a blind man abstract sound?

How can extension presuppose intension? How can intension presuppose extension?

5) James describes confusion as a lapse into an undiscriminating state, where the author argues it is a result of special conditions.

Are these conditioning ideas?

Is there a more valid explanation?

6) Does fusion create or facilitate confusion?

7) If abstraction can be understood as, "A smaller quantity containing the virtue or power of a greater," How can we know if there is still too large or too small a sample to accurately abstract an entity?

8) Do the three difficulties of simply removing elements clarify integrated concepts, or does it simply tell you what a concept is not?

Is it an effective explanation? Can you confidently abstract?


1) What is the difference between genus and differentia?

2) What makes a concept generative?

How do we know a concept is generative?

3) How can concepts be altered to accommodate qualitative differences?

Are qualitative differences always important for abstraction?

4) What comes first, A type or a container?

Can they be reversed? Does on inform the other?

Is the process of generating containers and types happen sequentially?

5)How can we make the distinction between a generality that is intended and a generality that is perceived?

6) What is a concept? How do we know when something has become a concept?

7) How do dynamic concepts allow for a lack of physical continuity?

8) What is generalization? How does it relate to abstraction?

10 September 2011

2011 Discussion Leaders - Chicago

Week 2 - Walker, Jaimes
Week 3 - Wesley, Gozdowiak
Week 4 - Kristo, Gozdowiak
Week 6 - Corbett, Tretow, Webb
Week 7 - Okeson, Burke
Week 9 - Hicks, Burke
Week 11 - Bartlett, Corbett
Week 13 - Bartlett, Tretow, Walker
Week 14 - Webb, Jaimes, Hicks
Week 15 - Okeson, Kristo, Wesley

28 July 2011


cinemetrics from fb on Vimeo.

An extraordinary film visualization tool. What distinguishes this from others is the incorporation of movement. A films dynamic is made apparent and you can compare films, directors, etc.

from the website:
"cinemetrics is about measuring and visualizing movie data, in order to reveal the characteristics of films and to create a visual “fingerprint” for them. Information such as the editing structure, color, speech or motion are extracted, analyzed and transformed into graphic representations so that movies can be seen as a whole and easily interpreted or compared side by side."


13 July 2011

Mode of Representation needs to be Rethought

After outlining modes of representation used during the Renaissance, late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Agrest states, “while new vocabularies are developed in this process generating stylistic changes, the mechanisms of production of form remain untouched, as can be seen in very recent examples of practice” pg. 167. What does she mean by this statement? What in your opinion can be done to change this fact?

In describing the plan in the Carpenter Center, Agrest states, “This building offers a vivid example of the overdetermined nature of representation in architecture” pg. 170. What are your thoughts on the representational mechanisms Le Corbusier used? How effect were they in your opinion?

In the Urban Reading section of the reading, Agrest states that, “the city requires a different approach to the questions of perception and representation”, than previously used pg 173. Do you think Google Map and similar programs are the new version of what Eugene Atget photographing Paris was a hundred years ago? Do you find these new tools to be effective in helping you design better or to see the city from the different perspective?

Agrest says that given the complexities of the contemporary city, new modes of representation are needed. What could these new modes of representations be? How important will it be to use such medium as film and animations to communicate your designs?

“It seems that the computer only operates as a tool in the production of an architecture that in terms of its mechanisms of representation is not very different from previous historical periods” pg176. Do you think that the computer has made us more detached from our surroundings? If architecture played more on the senses, architecture would become less of a flat visual image as it is today.

get to the point.

Tufte criticizes PowerPoint for it insistence on a single model for presentation which fails to adapt to a diversity of information. In failing to adapt, the information is compromised and bullet points substitute for substance. Minutia trumps meaning. How are we as architecture students held to standards of presentation that fail our greater intentions? What is demanded of us regardless of the specific content of our work? How does this work for or against us?

Tufte seems to suggest that the ‘pitch culture’ is a hazard to greater knowledge. He shows, in fact, how the meeting ‘pitch’ sold bad information to NASA executives, ultimately leading to grave human loss. In our experience, presentations are very much rooted is this same ‘pitch culture.’ Buzz words, spin, inflection and performance often times speak louder about our projects then the drawings themselves. Perhaps more prevalent, a poor pitch person can not sell a good project. How have you witnessed this phenomenon? Knowing that this condition is not exclusive to architectural education (it will continue to prevail while pushing ideas and courting clients) how does a mastery of this skill to pitch factor into your own experience? Is this as diabolical as Tufte suggests? What are the ground rules or foundation lessons in our architectural pitch culture?

The relative amount of information included or excluded from a slide, chart or graph bears much of Tufte’s criticism in the analysis of PowerPoint. As architects, we are not fond of overlong written explanations. In fact, we are told many time that architects simply do not read the text at all. They just look at the pictures. What does Tufte’s opinion mean to us? Why do we value brevity and is this at odds with the reading’s analysis? We are all familiar with the phrase less is more in formal reasoning. Is this true of presentation information, as well?

We have already discussed somewhat the notion that images in isolation are relatively less explanatory then comparisons drawn from multiple images side by side. Tufte agrees with us, rejecting the notion of conventional PowerPoint teaching that one idea per slide is always best. Other then showing two images simultaneously, what are ways that we can in our presentation draw conclusions through comparison? How can we relate dynamic information? How do stagnant images communicate to an audience? When are they appropriate? When are they not?

Tufte includes and amusing illustration of a jar of PowerPoint Phluff. These are the add-ons, ‘features’ and other imagery that add pizzazz, but no meaning. They dilute the information, boring the audience, which in turn requires more Phluff to stimulate a drained interest. We surely have out own variety of architectural presentation fluff. What have you witnessed that would fall in this category? How was this fluff received by the class or jury? When is fluff useful and when is fluff for fluff’s sake?