Real and Imaginary Variables

Halfway between the socially responsive discourse of programmatic freedom and the alleged futility of parametric form-giving, this studio celebrates architecture’s critical return to form. Our interest in the topic of form is neither aesthetic nor ideological. Contrary to the notion of shape (with which it is often confused), form is for us a syntactic, procedural, and (increasingly) technical proposition with a fair amount of disciplinary autonomy, like the study of language in the 1970s -or the more recent emergence of object-orientation in the software industry.
Our past briefs have systematically explored the architectural potential of the variable parametric surface, a conceptual vehicle chosen for its relentless abstraction and relative resistance to predictable questions of function and architectural figuration. The investigation continues.
In conjunction with the spring term elective VIS-02404-00 Superficial Spaces, this studio will aim to produce sophisticated (if counter-intuitive) new formal prototypes -incorporated into a pragmatic urban and architectural proposals located in a variety of sites ordained by size and character and sited in South Korea, Norway, and the United States. 
Real and Imaginary Variables
Building on the disciplinary ambition of the recently concluded high-rise design experiment conducted between 2007 and 2011 on sites ranging from Singapore to New York (‘Rising Masses’ 1, 2 and 3), we will further explore the seminal thesis of architecture as a complex interplay of desire and automatic writing.
Architecture, in this view, depends on achieving a practical and theoretical balance between real and imaginary variables: real variables depend on empirical knowledge of a given type, site, and programme; imaginary variables depend on the equally important though far less rational properties of indexical modelling (term to be defined). The two parts of the typological equation need one another to fulfil themselves: without the imaginary part, a type withers into predictability and repetition; without the real one, it is merely self-fulfilling and forfeits all relevance.
Beyond the single, mono-functional, and ‘semi-automatic’ brief of high-rise dwelling, we will open up the real part of the typological equation to more types of drastically different scales and uses, some well-rounded, others less so, in the spirit of open exploration, and at the participants discretion . In every other respect our objective will remain the same: to figure out fresh ways in which a formal analytic model (otherwise known as a seed) might correlate to a building type’s functional organization, programmatic uses and affinities, material structure, etc. and successfully integrate the type’s real and imaginary parts. 
Site and Methodology
Using the studio’s trademark seeds and a correlative brief, participants will develop in tandem the two parts of the process. When each part is sufficiently developed and integrated with the other, participants will begin work on either or 4 fully documented sites ordained by size, character, or theme, from a coastal location in South Korea to prime urban locations in Oslo, New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. There will be a studio visit to the New York site.