Elegance in Architecture

This seminar will explore systemic thinking and digital design techniquesthat yield elegant architectural forms. The last thirteen years in digital design and fabrication have given primacy to the development of dynamical systems and other emergent techniques, focusing on their formal outcomes and their fabrication using laser cutters, CNC milling machines and robotics. As the discourse of digital design and fabrication technologies has evolved, it has been documented and explored through a series of Architectural Design (AD) issues edited by architects that use these techniques within their design practices. In Folding in Architecture (Greg Lynn ed., 1993), Greg Lynn brought to the fore concepts relevant to the use of digital media, prior to the prevalence of these concerns inside or outside of the academy. This was followed by Architecture After Geometry (Greg Lynn ed. 1998), that showcased topological forms. At this juncture, a series of AD issues arose addressing larger shifts related to the digital design field. Contemporary Processes in Architecture (Rahim ed., 2000) explored how the act of designing was changing due to generative systems, and Contemporary Techniques in Architecture (Rahim ed., 2002) examined techniques that were spawned by generative systems thinking and the effects that they brought about on users. Versioning: Evolutionary Techniques in Architecture (ShOP ed. 2003) explored the implementation and fabrication of digitally-designed architecture, and Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies (Emergent Technology Group at the Architectural Association, 2004) brought to the architectural arena digital form-finding techniques usually associated with structural design. The next issue in this digital design series is entitled Elegance, (Rahim and Jamelle eds. 2007) which moves beyond examining the forms that arise from generative systems and digital techniques to highlight a selective tier of projects. Elegance argues that to develop sophisticated architecture leveraging the latest digital techniques, an accompanying visual intelligence and refined aesthetic sensibility is required.The mastery of techniques, whether in design, production or both, does not necessarily yield great architecture. As we all know, the most advanced techniques can still yield average designs. Architects are becoming increasingly adept at producing complexity and integrating digital design and fabrication techniques into their design process – yet there are few truly elegant projects. Only certain projects that are sophisticated at the level of technique achieve elegance. This seminar explores some of the instances in which designers are able to move beyond technique, by commanding them to such a degree so as to achieve nuances within the formal development of projects.Architects who have been able to add that layer of aesthetic sophistication to their designs share several characteristics pivotal to the digital design discourse today. All the architects who achieve elegance operate within paradigms of generative techniques, and have moved past methods completely dependent on the rigorous application of scientific standards. Each exhibits a systemic logic of thought that eschews mapping a specific process, or revealing the process of an algorithm being generated, as strategies to generate a projectbas varied as establishing continuity of surface and structure, articulating integral surfaces as complexly anti-smooth forms, and creating surface definitions that integrate program, space and systems in one highly articulate form. In the most elegant of designs, scripting is used to develop new types of interrelational models that integrate all of the design and manufacturing intentions in one seamless model. Ultimately, the architectb