Hypermedia, workshop on configuration and communication of the architectural project, is an interdepartmental research group of The Polytechnic University of Madrid, located at ETSAM.

Uncertainty strategies: systems, interactive machines and self-organization. (2013)

TESIS: (Thesis)

Title: UNCERTAINTY STRATEGIES. SYSTEMS, INTERACTIVE MACHINES AND AUTO-ORGANIZATION.

  • Author(s): Fernando Jerez Martín 
  • Director(s): Javier Raposo Grau
  • Summary: If there is a common denominator in contemporaneity it has to do with change and transience. We surf in the waves of an ever-changing – uncertain – and increasingly unpredictable society. Postmodernity has become at a time without certainties, the inhabitant of the transience society does not know the foresight of the future. In the absence of certainty, individuals are required to concatenate episodic projects in the short term. This fragmented way of life requires a great capacity for adaptation and flexibility to survive in conditions of endemic uncertainty. For this reason, the construction of any situation in intellectual and methodological terms on any scale requires a new vision, not only in terms of space, but fundamentally, of time. This thesis is not intended to raise the problem from a philosophical point of view, although it will inevitably have to refer to thinkers and scientists used from architecture.

    In this line, it is necessary to ask yourself how the architect can operate with this uncertainty, in other words:

    Is there a potential for the architect in the instability and constant change of the urban, social and economic context? And if so, how do you operate with this uncertainty?

    The instability of the entire social, political, cultural and economic context in which architecture takes place today makes it essential to analyze the tools and protocols of the project.

    The thesis will, as its title suggests, address some of the strategies that the Modern Movement's postulates appear between 1961 and 1978, and reformulated under the prism of contemporaneity, may constitute tools that today are relevant analyze, from a critical but also pragmatic point of view, in the context of instability in which architectural discipline develops, these methodologies will be called Uncertainty Strategies.

    By definition, architecture has operated historically, between the known present and the uncertain future. And although in the second half of the twentieth century, there is a significant change in the way in which future program or use changes are approached, in the life of buildings, operating with change and indeterminacy as project tools , what is probably new today, is the instability of the entire social, political, cultural and economic context in which architecture is generated.

    This thesis analyses a series of strategies that have incorporated uncertainty as an active ingredient in the elaboration of the architectural project, to the point of completely redefining the discipline.

    The first hypothesis raises the design of anticipation in response to uncertainty, through the introduction of programmatic flexibility in the project, to generate structures capable of assimilating future changes. In this sense, the indeterminacy of the project will be sought to leave it open to its use.

    At the same time, the active introduction of the time factor transforms the role of the architect, who becomes an interdisciplinary manager in the generation of the open project.

    The second hypothesis raises the productive role of uncertainty within the creative process, deliberately seeking the generation of opportunities within the project process, encouraging observation and discovery in the face of design and definition, managing time, growth and chance as project variables, understanding the work as a process in such a way that the unexpected may appear.

    To undertake the research, in relation to the canonical model of the Modern Movement, new models emerged in the 60s are analyzed in different contexts, aligned among others, with the protocols of John Cage and his randomized sequences or cybernetics, fundamentally from 1961, the year in which two texts, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age by Reyner Banham and An approach to Cybernetics by Gordon Pask, are published.

    The systemic thinking of Gordon Pask – Price's collaborator at Fun Palace – will have great influence on the formulation of the concept of Calculated Uncertainty, enunciated and posed as a strategy by Cedric Price, which incorporates, from that moment, protocols cybernetics' own design, in projects such as Fun Palace and Potteries Thinkbelt in the early 1960s. In them, the architect, from the awareness of the expiration of the classical paradigms inherited from the main theorists of modernity, understands that the architectural project must incorporate a certain degree of indeterminacy to accommodate the uncertainties, introduce programmed obsolescence or verify the potential of uncertainty in post-industrial society.

    These approaches continue in the figure of a young professor who arrived in 1970 at the Architectural Association in London, the Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.

    The academic programmes developed by Tschumi in London from 1970 to 1975 – in which he combines political activism, urban actions inspired by Lefebvre and Debord and performance techniques – play a crucial role in formalizing discourse and practice architectural beginnings of the 70s and represent the transition from a direct, transitive model, to an operational model, where behavior and objectives are not established a priori, but are installed inside the processes, expanding a discipline field, which from that moment will focus on the performative.

    Following these projects, we will analyze his arrival in New York in 1978, the year in which he presented the Manhattan Transcripts and published Delirious New York, works that will replace the culture of space and form, by the capacity to act of the program from its modification dimensional and relational.

    This chapter will have its epilogue at the International Competition of La Villette in 1982, in the propities of Tschumi, Koolhaas and Price, where indeterminacy will be present through the generation of changing perceptual and programmatic landscapes.

    After the two central chapters, the final chapter Uncertainty Strategies, which gives title to the thesis, will summarize the strategies analyzed through three contemporary projects, projecting many other windows for future research.

  • Abstract: If there is a common denominator in the contemporary world, this has to do with change and transience. We are surfing in the waves of a society in eternal change and increasingly unpredictable. The time of Postmodernism is a time without certainties, the inhabitant of the transitory society doesn't know the future forecast. In the absence of certainties, individuals are required to concatenate episodic short-term projects. This fragmented way of life requires great adaptability and flexibility, in order to survive in endemic uncertainty conditions. For that reason, the construction of any situation in intellectual and methodological terms at any scale, requires a new vision, not only in terms of space, but in terms of time. This research is not intended to raise the issue from a philosophical point of view, although inevitably, we have to refer to thinkers and scientists used from architecture.

    In this line, it is necessary to ask how the architect could work with this uncertainty, in other words:

    Is there a potential, in the instability and constant change of the urban, social and economic? And if so, how could the architect operate with this uncertainty?

    In order to work with the instability of the whole social, political, cultural and economic context in which architecture takes place today, is essential to review the project tools and protocols.

    The doctoral research will review, as its title indicates, some of the strategies appearing between 1961 and 1978, after Modernism in Architecture. These strategies, reformulated under the prism of the contemporary, can become tools, that today are relevant to analyze, from a critical and pragmatic perspective, in the context of instability where the discipline of architecture is generated. We will call these methodologies, Strategies of Uncertainty.

    By definition, the architecture has operated historically, between the known present and the uncertain future. Although in the second half of the twentieth century, there is a significant change in the way architecs have dealt with change, what is new today, is the instability of the whole social, political, cultural and economic context in which the architecture is produced.

    This research, analyzes a number of strategies that have incorporated uncertainty as an active ingredient in the development of architectural design, to the point of redefine the discipline.

    The first hypothesis proposes the design of anticipation in response to the uncertainty, through the introduction of programmatic flexibility in the project, in order to build structures able to absorb future changes. In this sense the architect will search indeterminacy, to leave open the use of the building.

    At the same time, the introduction of time in the design process, transforms the role of the architect, who goes from being a designer, to be an interdisciplinary manager.

    The second hypothesis suggests productives the role of uncertainty in the creative process, looking forward to create opportunities within the design process, encouraging observation and discovery versus designing, managing time, growth and random understanding the work as a process so that the unexpected can occur.

    To undertake the research, we will review the canonical model of modernism in relation to new arising theories in the 60s, in different contexts, some of them related to cybernetics protocols and randomized sequences of John Cage. We will start from 1961, the year in which two important texts will be published: Theory and Design in the First Machine Age by Reyner Banham and An approach to Cybernetics by Gordon Pask.

    Systemathic thinking of Gordon Pask – partner of Price in the Fun Palace – will greatly influence the formulation of the concept of Calculated uncertainty. This concept was enunciated and raised by Cedric Price as a strategy to incorporate the design protocols of cybernetics, in projects like the Fun Palace and Potteries Thinkbelt the early 60s.

    In these projects, the architect's awareness of the expiration of Modernism paradigms, understood that the new architecture must incorporate a degree of uncertainty to the change, and introduce planned obsolescence in order to verify the potential of uncertainty in post-industrial society.

    These approaches will be continued in a young teacher who arrives in 1970 at the Architectural Association in London, the Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.

    The academic programs developed by Tschumi in London from 1970 to 1975 -in which he has combined political activism, urban actions inspired by Debord and Lefebvre and performance techniques- will play a crucial role in the formalization of architectural discourse and practice from the 70s. These programs will involve the passage of a straight model fo design to an operational model of design, where the goals arent set a priori but are installed inside processes, extending a disciplinary field, that from that moment will focus on the performative.

    After these projects, we will discuss the experience of Tschumi in New York in 1978, the year in which he presents the Manhattan Transcripts and Koolhaas publishes Delirious New York. These books will replace the culture of space and form, by the culture of event and action.

    This chapter will have its epilogue on the proposals of Tschumi, Koolhaas and Cedric for the International Competition of Parc de La Villette in 1982, where the indeterminacy will be presented through programmatic changing landscapes.

    After the two central chapters, the final chapter, Strategies of Uncertainty, will recapitulate the strategies discussed, and, through three contemporary projects, it will open other windows for future research.

  • Link: http://oa.upm.es/19905/

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