Pre- and Post-

Pre- and Post- is an introduction to fundamental concepts, techniques, and methods in digital design, with a focus on processes of translation between digital media and material artifacts. Beyond an exploration of novel form and its reading, this course is a critical inquiry into how digital tools can extend beyond visualization and fabrication to change the way we view architectural projects from the past, present, and future.

Today, digital representation and fabrication methods are primarily used in the production of new projects, rarely finding application in the analysis of historical precedents. Restriction of contemporary tools almost exclusively to contemporary architecture limits the knowledge these methods can help us glean from projects built before the digital era. By analyzing pre-digital precedents through a post-digital lens, we can begin to reconceptualize these precedents and situate these new tools within architectural history at large.

The course is organized into two sequential areas of inquiry. In the first phase, each student will research a different architectural precedent, considering how new digital tools could allow us to reconsider the project’s design and representation. Students will fabricate each precedent’s primary volume/massing with an articulation of the underlying geometry and tectonic logic. Students will also reconstruct analyzed information in the form of digital data which will then be represented through a series of animated projection mappings. This process will speculate new possibilities for perceiving and conceiving architecture, challenging established conventions of representation. 

During the second half of the semester, each student will develop a critical stance towards the precedent’s forms and will suggest a radical modification/manipulation of it. In this phase, students will also speculate on the capacity of digital technologies to assign new or alternative readings to physical form. Through a series of animated projections used against physical models, we will explore how time-based modes of two-dimensional representation can activate three-dimensional form. In this process, animation will transcend its role as a method of visualization, subverting the conventions of metrical geometry and becoming a design tool itself. Here, design will manifest a dynamic environment of forces in which form and matter can be manipulated by ever-moving, ever-changing sets of data and digital information. 

This framework allows the conception of a variable architecture, capable of representing not only static forms but the very conditions of formalization and the embodiment of dynamic variables. The line between physical objects and digital creations blurs as projections alter architecture in real-time. These projection mapping projects create a liminal zone between real and virtual space and question the relationship between perception and representation. In this series of design exercises, the course explores how new processes of manipulation—namely, techniques in digital fabrication and representation—can facilitate new ways of thinking about architecture, both pre-digital and post-digital. 

Course format: Offered as weekly three-hour sessions of lectures, discussions, and workshops, the course will address the content described above. Instructor-led workshops will include a rigorous introduction to scripting (a pre-modeling tool) and a set of post-modeling tools for the advanced representation of projects. Lectures and readings will situate these digital tools into the contemporary discourse on the status of representation and abstraction in architecture. There are no prerequisites for this course.