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Catching Up

October 24, 2009

I haven’t been able to blog much during the ACADIA conference because we are located inside the Art Institute of Chicago and there isn’t any internet service anywhere! Kind of weird considering we are in auditorium spaces adjacent to the school. Then at the end of the day, I’m hiking to the Hostel International a couple of blocks away, which is turning out to be both cheap and fine. But they only have wifi in the common lounge area on the second floor. I can’t pick it up in my room on the third.

So, I’m hanging out in a Corner Bakery waiting an hour for the evening talks to begin and taking this chance to catch up.

First, since I’m an architect type, a word on the spaces. The opening talks were in the restored Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room from the early 1900s, designed by Louis Sullivan. The Stock Exchange building was demolished in 1972 but the Art Institute was able to rebuild and restore the Trading Room to its original state within the Art Institute buildings. It is a beautiful room with lovely detailed stencil patterns on all the walls and ornate stained glass ceiling above. I see what the hype about Sullivan is all about.

After the intros, the presentations moved over to a very worn out auditorium. Seven talks per day, the first day was devoted to Hardware, today is Software, tomorrow… you guessed it, Middleware. There were several talks yesterday covering ideas overlapping some of the things I’d been working on recently and writing about here. For example, one presentation by Francis Bitonti of FAD Architects created a wall pattern generated off a cellular automata image created by Stephan Wolfram, whom I previously mentioned in Cloud Computing. This was  an interesting start, unclear where it leads. It falls into the category of taking a neat algorithm and seeing how it can be turned into architecture, as opposed to having an architectural idea and figuring out how to create it using whatever algorithmic tools you have at hand.  You need both approaches at different times. Next steps seem to be to explore 3-d automata to see if additional directive rules – such as rules that know something about structure – can be added other than just pattern generating ones. Lots of ideas to explore here.

Facade using design generated from Arbaic and NY Grafitti art.

Facade using design generated from Arbaic and NY graffiti art.

Later on there was a terrific project on light screens presented by a couple of folk from the Adaptive Buildings Initiative. Here they took layers of glass panels with “fritted” opaque dots printed onto them. The layers could be shifted relative to one another so that the dots covered more or less area of the screen thus adjusting for privacy or solar screening or just to generate interesting patterns. They are mechanical, which has its problems over time, but these folks seem to know how to build mechanical actuators that work. We will see these in the future I’m sure.

There was also some terrific modeling software in Rhino that analyzed the solar coverage with different configurations and panel offsets.

However for me, the most interesting and inspiring talk was Kai Strehlke, the keynote speaker last evening. He presented some work on generative designs that his firm, Herzog & de Meuron in Switzerland, has been working on. They are creating beautiful architecture, especially a “Flamenco School” project in Spain where Kai had generated a spiderwebish facade based on a combination of glyphs from Moorish calligraphy and NY graffiti art. Very inspirational stuff!

Off to another talk!

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