Digital Media: Models

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 structure our investigation around the notion of the model as a means of addressing broader questions related to the role of digital media in architecture and design. Whether a digital entity, physical artifact or something in-between, the model can be considered as an instrument for the development, prototyping and representation of architecture, as well as a discrete design artifact to be evaluated on its own terms. The plurality of design approaches and working methods afforded by the postdigital has blurred the role of models within experimental architectural practice. Accordingly, we position the contemporary model not as a singular entity but as an amalgamation of multiple models, each tailored to inform the design process, instrumentalized to act on the world, and evaluable via its own unique criteria.

Our exploration will be categorized into four sequential thematic areas – digitization, simulation, materialization, and visualization. Each thematic area will act as a lens through which to reconsider the role and agency of the model.  Lectures, readings, and in-class discussions will situate the model within a theoretical and historical context. Digital processes including photogrammetric 3D scanning, animation, physics-based simulation, texture mapping, interactive visualization, along with select digital and analog fabrication processes, will be introduced via a series of workshops.

The course will address the content described above through a combination of lectures, discussions, technical workshops, and design exercises. Typically, each session will be divided into a lecture half and a workshop half. Technical workshops will introduce software including Rhino/Grasshopper (along with its associated plugins for analysis, simulation, and animation), Autodesk Recap (photogrammetry), and Cinema 4D (rendering, simulation, animation). All software utilized in the class is either available for educational use via the GSD or open source.

The presented concepts and techniques will be explored through a semester-long project organized into a sequential set of assignments. Beginning with the process of photogrammetric 3D scanning, students will explore a variety of modeling and form-making strategies using a collection of digital and fabrication tools. Subsequent assignments will explore the affordances of specific modeling techniques and examine the relationship of the presented technique to architectural concerns including scale, materiality, originality, and authorship. Each assignment will invite opportunities for scalar translation, ranging from 1:1 to scaleless to various scales over physical and digital models with a focus on reciprocal materiality, structure, and organization changes. For the final project, participants will work in small groups to utilize the workflows presented in class in a collaborative design exercise.  Anticipated costs include materials for two physical modeling exercises, executed in groups, at the midterm and final reviews.