People and Buildings

Course Description:The seminar will examine the interaction effect between the context of space and the context of culture. In any organizational culture, there are two parallel universes: one of authority from which unfolds formal rules and trust, through which informal knowledge is transmitted. The former is characterized by hierarchy and the latter by networks. Understanding the science of networks may enable architects and designers to culturally customize environments. Trust links people invisibly together and, like any underground utility, we sometimes don\’t see where lines are buried to get access to what is stored within. In building cultures as in constructing buildings, it is critical to \”make transparent\” this type of knowledge needed for flexibly adapting to changing environments.The impact on the built environment is profound. For example, trust, like a rubber band, can \”be stretched\” through space and snapped back in place. In moving people and knowledge around, those we most trust are often better off dispersed in virtual environments where their knowledge is best transferred to those who are most in need of it. So the solution is often not more, but smarter or multiple spaces. This is accomplished by changing the present conditions: the built environment, the cultural context or both.Furthermore, generalized mobility becomes less prescient in corporations and communities than directionality (for example, running to, not away, from problems). Smart environments may potentially shape and shift cultures. Pinpointing the recombinant properties of human networks within any given context (physical or virtual, transparent or opaque) makes this a very real possibility. But do we want to have this level of transparency?Pedagogic Objectives:The objective is to make apparent the evolutionary moment as humans overlay technological transparency with trafficking in trust.Completion Requirements:Attending all classes is mandatory. The criteria for final evaluation will be based on class participation and a final paper (15-20 pages).Prerequisites: none.