By 2015, predictions are that the information on the internet will reach a zettabyte (in comparison, all the books in the present Library of Congress can be stored 4 million times over, a human genome can have 36 million variations). It will be more information than ever produced in the history of recorded civilization. Citizens will be surrounded by a data atmosphere manipulated and spun with mobile devices. The divide between those with and without technological augmentation is in flux. The more important divide for architects is the one of meaningful information in the digital miasma, and the relevance of embedded information within the physical objects of our buildings and cities: we are in real danger of witnessing the loss of the role of design to others. More specialists and experts are now designing – interfaces, tools, devices, vehicles, buildings – than are architects being requested for the same. What was once the province of a total designer from branding to product to production plant is now a reduced package.
But what more can well-crafted buildings – beyond a stately repose of light and mass – hold as information within its collection of elements and occupancy? What can be added to increase its information by several orders of magnitude that still retains meaningful knowledge and experience beyond the digital noise of most internet media?
We will address this challenge with the inversion, a function whereby elements in a closed field becomes transposed by the same procedure to change the contents of that field to another. We will make Architecture Machines again.
The familiar programme of live/work will be reconsidered within a Research and Design environment and will be re-formulated by each part and their relationships – a Domicile/Office/Lab. R&D is the industry\’s heroic laboratory outside of academic institutions where invention need not immediately answer to market. Research and Development of Architecture Machines is similarly not bound only by programme and form but can be linked with other speculations – garments, robotics, material, interaction, reconfiguration. The new programmatic conditions will interrupt established patterns of usage, or rhythms of civic life; patterns that may become transformed with an anomaly not easily discarded due to its intrinsic links within the design discipline. Connecting known architectural types and devices for the unknown or the recently-lost through inversion will create a methodology to engage a synthetic world of nature and machine and architecture, where the machine is not reduced to a technological filter or interface. The inversion of nature and the uncanny agent-to-agent relationship is then highly compelling as Machine will come to mean an autonomous agent, a player or author – as the architect is also a player or author – engaged in conversation.
Our siting of the Research and Development Domicile/Office/Lab is in the old industrial ports of Montreal, with its layering and its past promises of future life (Expo 67 and the 76 Olympics). Bounded by the Vieux Port, its adjacent Quais and the Cité-du-Havre, the project recognizes its industrial past and the harbingers from the Expo.