I only bumped into this artist because of a post he made on Instagram I read about on Dezeen. Influenced by the group finch3d and their Adaptive Plan 3d algorithm for designing houses Sebastian Errazuriz urged architects through his post to “continue to think and design “architecture” for more abstract systems” in fear that the nature of the profession is changing and fewer architects will be needed in the future.
The finch3d tool is actually pretty fun to watch: a house plan keeps changing while someone presses/slides different buttons of a grasshopper code. Yet I fail to see how that changes architecture. First of all, someone did write that code, probably an architect, choosing what parameters can be changed and how. The very choice of what can be changed is already intentional; it expresses the hierarchical thinking of its designer. By transferring this intentionality to a potential client you only allow him/her to think within a framework that is already set. Unless the client himself/herself writes this code, finch guarantees no more freedom in planning than before.
And by allowing/promoting the use of such tools to the greater public do we really think that we are being deprived of designing? Hasn’t it always been the case in anonymous architecture? US building code for example allows people to freely build their houses on their own as long as they comply to state regulations. So what if that person used the finch tool? And why is the finch tool any different in its conception that the state regulations? They both perceive design as in keeping up with predetermined rules.
So, do I think that architecture is an endangered profession? Do we really risk our jobs by evolving and expanding into new realms? Not really. Experimenting with different design tools has always been a core activity of our profession. But designing is not just designing space, is it? Because then, a code like that could definitely jeopardize what we do. We don’t design space: we design spaces for the people who use them. And it is the elusive nature of human thinking and being keeps us afar from any certainties. It is this incompleteness, the lack of a single answer that drives us and will keep on driving us to explore what it means to be fully human.
And then I see Errazuriz’s breathtaking installation: a led lit image of the earth set in an urban void, an unexpected surprise event that invites viewers to contemplate on the “fragility of our existence.” (artist’s own words). And then I think: “go ahead and make as many codes as you like. You will never be able to codify the feeling/the sense of fragility of existence.”Because there are qualities and values in architectural designing that can not possibly be expressed algorithmically.
Architecture can never be generic, nor abstract. In that case, it isn’t architecture, it’s just building. Architecture in my understanding is site-specific, it is contextual, it is a means of communicating who we are not just in terms of our physical existence, but also in relation to others, it is transcendental, just like that earth image suddenly hitting you as you walk by. And if there is ever a code that does that, hell, I am gonna be the first to use it.