Digital Culture, Architecture and the City

Some twenty years ago, when Bernard Tschumi and young instructors like Greg Lynn or Ali Rahim launched the so-called \”Paperless Studio,\” based upon the intensive use of the computer, the endeavor was considered at best as highly experimental. Today, computers have literally invaded schools of architecture and design offices. Their introduction has been accompanied by the emergence of new methods and forms. Moreover, their use is representative of a much broader phenomenon: the influence of digital culture on architectural and urban design. Beyond the design world, digital culture appears as a fundamental feature of our contemporary society. Ubiquitous computing constitutes one of the expressions of its pervasive presence. This course will envisage the complex set of relations that have been established between computer and architecture, as well as between digital culture, as a social phenomenon, and architecture and the city. Its aim is to contribute to a better understanding of what is at stake in a process of change that is still going on today. Whereas we are no longer fascinated by blobs, new subjects of interest have emerged such as the development of parametric design, the new possibilities offered by digital fabrication, the rising challenges of sustainability and the role digital technologies will play to address them.

In order to foster this better understanding of what is at stake in the digital, the course will begin by providing a series of historical points of reference regarding the development of digital culture. From history the course will quickly turn to the present and to the various issues it raises. One will pass thus from history to theory. Following almost twenty years of accelerated technological developments, the time has come to assess what they represent in terms of the way we define architecture, urban design and even urban planning. Indeed, they are challenging a number of received ideas about these disciplines.