Digital Media: Artifacts

This course is an introduction to fundamental concepts, techniques, and methods related to digital media in architecture and design, with a focus on reciprocal processes of translation between digital media and material artifacts. It examines how digital technologies mediate our interaction with the physical environment, critically engages the capacities and limitations of select computational processes, and investigates the latent design opportunities embedded in each one. 

This semester, we will study the process of photogrammetry, along with related technologies for image processing and geometry manipulation, as a means of addressing broader questions related to digital media in architecture and design.  Broadly defined as the process for extracting three dimensional information from photographic images, photogrammetry is an accessible means of generating digital data from physical artifacts using little to no specialized equipment. As a method for documenting and interacting with our physical environment in a digital format, the process is of particular relevance in our current global context and this semester's virtual learning environment.  

While often framed as a technical process striving for an accurate digital presentation of our physical world, we will depart from the notion of the scan as merely a digital copy or representational device, instead considering each component of the process as a site for design intervention, with its own unique materiality, structure and organization. The act of scanning separates an artifact from its physical context and materiality, and invites multiple interpretations and modes of engagement. 

The scanned artifact is simultaneously a non-hierarchical collection of discrete metrical data, and a geometric entity that can be manipulated using traditional formal operations. Accordingly, we will examine two distinct approaches for design intervention.  We will first explore technologies related to two-dimensional image manipulation.  A second approach will examine the intellectual and technical means of describing three-dimensional geometry and form, with a focus on the possibilities to translate it into raw material for developing novel artifacts.  Liberated from physical context, how might the scanned artifact perform or operate in new ways? 

Course Format – The course will address the content described above through a combination of lectures, discussions, technical workshops and design exercises. Typically, the course will meet synchronously on Wednesday, while content for the Friday session will be available for asynchronous viewing. Technical workshops will introduce techniques in photogrammetry, image processing, mesh editing and manipulation, texture mapping, rendering, collaborative digital modeling, and design materialization. Software utilized in class will include Photoshop and Rhino/Grasshopper (along with its associated plugins for analysis, simulation and animation). The presented concepts and techniques will be explored through a semester-long project organized into a sequential set of assignments. For the final project, participants will work (virtually) in small groups to utilize the workflows presented in class in a collaborative design exercise. 

Prerequisites: None.