Posts tagged with "ACADIA":

Placeholder Alt Text

Acadia 2018 focused on imprecision in digital design

For the first time in its 37-year history, the 2018 Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) Conference convened in Mexico City. The conference was chaired by Pablo Kobayashi and Brian Slocum, and was hosted by the University Iberoamericana. The cultural implications of holding the conference in Mexico City were best explained by keynote speaker and professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana CDMX and principal at Estudio MMX, Diego Ricalde’s analysis punnily titled PPP (Prejudice, Paradox, Pragmatism). Ricalde speculated that Mexico’s architectural culture is at a moment where the unproductive division of old world single-vision, analog thinking, and new world "digital hysteria" needs to come to an end. Ricalde’s call for action can be read as a parallel to this year’s ACADIA theme "Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity". The theme encouraged participants to rethink a machine-driven infatuation with nano-centric precision, and recover other avenues of thinking and making. One of the keynote lecturers in the conference, Francesca Hughes, a professor and head of school at UTS Sydney, presented a historically guided parallel analysis between the development of machines and algorithms (in relation to precision and imprecision). She highlighted the architectural surface as an agent that inspired a world-wide (or rather architecture school–wide) cultural obsession with precision and the birth of the software-compulsive object. Critiquing our collective obsession with precision, Hughes offered “error” as a new architectural context in which to frame other digital and "real" systems of designing. Other conference participants (organizers, keynote lecturers, presenters, award recipients, and moderators) responded in their own particular ways to the same question. Every Acadia conference is unique, and the overall discourse generated from the discussions and presentations of the work varies significantly from year to year. The 2018 six-day endeavor, split evenly between conference and workshop components, attracted 282 attendees from all over the world. One could say that this year’s conference consisted of three primary categories: theory/speculative narratives, work that investigates the aesthetic potential of new technologies, and hyper-focused computation/fabrication oriented research efforts. These categories balanced and propelled the conference into a truly spectacular, inspiring, and educational event. Projects, papers, and talks positioned on theoretical and cross-disciplinary grounds This first category can be best illustrated by the materials presented (and materials included in the publication) by participants such as Neil Leach, Mónica Ponce de León, Patrik Schumacher, Axel Kilian, Behnaz Farahi, Brandon Clifford, Jose Sanchez, ACADIA president Kathy Velikov, and many others. These researchers and thinkers are engaged in cross-disciplinary work and therefore carry a certain responsibility for setting the tone for the overall theme of the event and the conversations that continue after the conference. Leach, for example, appealed to the audience to reassess its understanding of the digital and post-digital. He suggested that we are not yet, and have never really been authentically digital. On another note, Killian warned that the anthropomorphizing of robotics as a way to move forward is a false promise. Lastly, Ponce de León, upon receiving the 2018 Teaching Award of Excellence, illustrated her broader ambitions for digital fabrication from a pedagogical and professional point of view. She argued that the two must be intertwined in order to productively engage with professional and academic architecture. Other thinkers and designers contributed to this discussion with their own predictions and convictions of where the field is headed. This meta-discussion is most essential for the future of the conference. Theoretical and extra-disciplinary discourse sets the tone for the speculative fronts of the next conference, and the evolution of its ambitions for many more to come. Work that explores aesthetic potentials in new technologies The second category of the conference, broadly speaking, can be characterized as an intermediary between the more theoretically-oriented work and work embedded in deep studies of technology, borrowing critical aspects from both. Many participants that plug into this territory discussed projects executed at the pavilion scale. What distinguishes this work from the purely technical or scientific experiments is that many of the projects synthesize serious visual problems and broader research themes. A great example of this type is Jenny Sabin’s Lumen project for the MoMA PS1 pavilion. Lumen, a robotic knitting project, demonstrates multiple layers of tremendous effort and research. While the project showcases deep fabrication/material knowledge, one cannot help but notice its balancing act between material performance optimization (robotic knitting, custom analysis software, form-finding simulation) and an equally sincere interest in visual studies (composition, lighting, color). Other exemplary practices represented at the conference operating in the same mode are Oyler Wu Collaborative, Matsys, Stephanie Chaltiel and Maite Bravo, Chandler Ahrens, Tsz Yan Ng, and many others as featured in the proceeding's publications. Deep dives into technology and science This last category, central to the overall theme of the conference, is probably closest to the initial ambitions of ACADIA as it was originally conceived. It is fair to say that almost all the projects participate in technologically-driven research and scholarship. However, a few of them focus on a more scientific approach; their project ambitions seem to culminate in the search for novel processes. The evaluation of such projects is perhaps the most speculative because the criteria are abstract and yet to be discovered. Philippe Block, one of the keynote speakers and a professor at the Institute of Technology in Architecture at ETH Zurich, presented a very thorough research project centered on the use of concrete and its capacities for structural integrity and material thickness (or thinness). Another interesting example was Madeline Gannon’s research. Upon receiving the Innovative Research Award of Excellence, Gannon presented her work on synchronized, real-time robotic motion. Her work takes form in unique environments (trade shows, gallery exhibitions, and biennales), but what was most interesting about her investigation was the custom workflows and software that she developed during her time at Autodesk’s Pier 9 space. Dr. Gannon’s interface design supports the exchange of information between different parts of machines that were never meant to communicate with one another—introducing a new type of cross-contamination of machine vision and reactive motion. During the last five-plus years, the workshop segment of the conference has been heavily focused on this last category (tech/engineering/computation). The 2018 workshop series, hosted by the Facultad de Arquitectura at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) however, was more balanced and plural by comparison; solar optimization and robotic spray-painting workshops were held in tandem. The workshops held true to the theme of the conference and interrogated various recalibrations through concentrated production-events. In the workshops, leaders investigated a reassessment of machine and software-thinking related to visual ideas, specific projects, and scientific research. Final thoughts and thinking ahead to next year’s event Of course, it is important to note that the three categories outlined above are inextricably intertwined with one another. One of ACADIA’s strengths is that it provides a unique platform for these conversations to occur under the umbrella of computation’s presence in the expanded territory of contemporary architecture. Perhaps the project that best illustrates a scenario that accommodates these three modes of thinking in a non-hierarchical manner was presented by another keynote speaker, the Mexican-born, electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. For Lozano-Hemmer, the artwork is not simply a thing on display but an interactive environment that promotes human-machine symbiosis. For example, Population Theatre (2016) is a beautifully orchestrated collection of self-inflicted responsibilities. In this work, a highly diverse team of artists and scientists collaborate to generate funds to support a politically-driven project. Population Theatre is technologically-supported by the use of 3651 Raspberry Pi boards to create 7.5 billion points of light. This exceptional keynote lecture was accessible to the public and was held at the Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar–designed Biblioteca Vasconcelos in downtown Mexico City. It was events such as Lozano-Hemmer’s keynote lecture that made this year’s gathering extraordinary. The organization and curatorial efforts for the 2018 conference were impeccable. It was very clear that the board of directors (comprising 20 members) and the president of ACADIA, Kathy Velikov’s ambitions were to widen the scope of the conference as a pedagogical and professional platform and to challenge the organization to evolve with the discipline. This year’s conference was heavily supported by industrial and academic sponsors, and by the Universidad Iberoamericana, which hosted the workshop series, the project exhibition, and the first day of the conference. Next year’s conference will be held from October 24 to 26, 2019, at the University of Texas at Austin and is titled "Ubiquity and Autonomy".
Placeholder Alt Text

AN speaks with ACADIA organizers on eve of annual conference

ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, is set to meet in Mexico City at the Universidad Iberoamericana from October 18–20. Each year ACADIA brings together leading scholars, researchers, and practitioners who push the boundaries of architecture through design and computation. AN spoke with conference organizers Brian Slocum and Pablo Kobayashi, along with Technical Chair Phillip Anzalone, about the excitement of bringing the conference to Mexico for the first time. AN: Why is this year’s conference so special? This is the first time in ACADIA’s nearly 38 year history hosting the gathering in Mexico. The type of work that will be presented is something that hasn’t been seen locally and is not yet part of the culture of the institutions. Mexico, of course, has a rich tradition of craft, artisanal labor, and analog computation within architectural practices. We hope that by bringing ACADIA to Universidad Iberoamerica and UNAM that we can start a conversation for moving architecture forward. The theme of this year’s conference is Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity. What do you mean by recalibration? The digital tools we use are very precise and by their very precision, there comes an obsessive need to control the output. In a certain sense, as a field we are facing a surplus of precision. We want to ask: Can error and imprecision (so-called glitches & failures) be seen as the creative act and be part of the dialogue? We have seen a shift in proposals and projects from those that place an emphasis on the tools of architectural design (robots, 3-D printers, BIM), which embody the precision and fidelity that the conference theme reacts to, toward those related disciplines and trajectories that break free from computational preconceptions and begin to encourage a redefinition of the traditional tools and processes that are at the heart of experimentation and production. Through technologies such as mixed reality and artificial intelligence, processes such as reuse and repurposing of materials, integration of computer and human interaction, and other trends, the current researchers inhabit a fluid zone where total control and the dichotomy of virtual and real is blurred, allowing for innovation and discovery to flourish. Also in terms of recalibrating the discourse, how do we deal with bigger, more social problems and evaluate the social impact of computation? How do you evaluate the results of an investigation that stems from a worldview rather than starting just from the data? How can we negotiate these social recalibrations without being too polemical? We started by speaking of truth and fidelity in computation output and arrived at this broader idea about recalibration. Our only hope ultimately is to shake things up a bit, shake up the discourse. AN: Can you speak more to how global (re)calibration works and how you define disciplines in increasingly co-located and overlapping fields of research? How does knowledge transfer work in an already connected world of research? The 2018 ACADIA conference is precisely (or perhaps I should say imprecisely) the forum needed for the pursuit of knowledge in a globalized environment. Simple digital connections via social media, publication, and direct communication are significantly enhanced through physical interactions, such as those that develop at a conference. The choice of a site and a theme that not only define boundaries and create parameters for discussion, but also engage a culture, an environment, and a sense of physicality, is critical to the work of combining the rigor of experimentation with the passion of discovery. The location and theme for this year’s conference is proposing not only a new way to look at research and practice in architecture but also exploring new places and ideas that have the potential to remake our environment. With an eye toward those locations, techniques, and ways of thinking that have been evolving and flourishing outside of the walls of digital environments, and embracing the difference between the visualized and the experienced, architectural design is discovering a new world of interaction that points toward to future of the built environment. AN: What are you most excited about this year's speaker lineup? I think we’ve hopefully found a good balance of speakers who challenge our own thinking on architecture and computation and continue to produce innovations in the field. Our keynotes range from global speakers such as Philippe Block, Patrik Schumacher, Francesca Hughes, to Mexico City-based practitioners Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Diego Ricalde Equally, ACADIA’s award winners this year continue to push architectural research and education in new and interesting directions. ACADIA is proud to honor the work of Mónica Ponce de León, Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler Madeline Gannon, Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann, Areti Markopoulou, and all our paper session presenters. ACADIA kicks off next week with workshops held at UNAM from October 15–17. The conference sessions and keynotes run October 18–20 at Universidad Iberoamericana. Visit for more information.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative are among 2018 ACADIA Award winners

ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Highlights from ACADIA’s 36th conference at MIT

From November 2 through the 4, 2017, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) convened the 36th ACADIA conference in the Fumihiko Maki–designed MIT Media Lab. For three days, nearly 350 people from over 30 countries drank untold gallons of coffee and shared their ideas through an array of research and paper presentations. Leading up to the conference itself was three days of intensive workshops hosted at Autodesk BUILD Space in Boston's Seaport District. ACADIA is a unique organization advancing the computational horizons in architecture. Founded in 1981 by pioneers in the field of design computation, including Bill Mitchell, Chuck Eastman, and Chris Yessios, ACADIA has hosted over 30 conferences across North America and has grown into a wide network of academics and professionals. Welcoming the ACADIANs was Hashim Sarkis, MIT’s dean of the School of Architecture + Planning. He highlighted three "turns" driving new practices in architecture. First, said Sarkis, was the "turn of scalar problems: how technology has smoothed shifts of scale from the nanoscale to the planetary." Second, the turn of values: the open sourcing of production to design processes that empower end-users and will radically change the role of the designer. Design should be a mode of inquiry that now works hand-in-hand with fabrication, said Sarkis. Lastly, he spoke of a turn toward contingency. The traditional view of a designer is that in order to be in control, we need to exclude non-relevant elements. As computational power continues to grow, more contingency enters the process as elements that were once excluded can be brought into the fold, opening design to more variety and possibility than before. MIT Host Committee Co-Chair’s Takahiko Nakamura and Skylar Tibbets welcomed the audience and kicked off the first of 13 paper-based sessions. The sessions ranged from BIM use to Automation, Visualization to Machine Learning. A major sponsorship from Autodesk allowed the ACADIA Board of Directors to award $10,000 in student travel scholarships to paper and project presenters. Breaking up the barrage of research presentations were carefully chosen keynotes from afar and close to home. MIT’s own Neri Oxman kicked off the first day, and the ACADIA Design achievement award was bestowed on designer Thomas Heatherwick that same night. Heatherwick was singled out for his studio's provocative work worldwide, and he shared insights into his studio’s processes. "The ACADIA Design Excellence Award is recognized internationally as one of the highest honors in the field," said Jason Kelly Johnson, outgoing president of ACADIA. "It represents recognition by colleagues worldwide of extraordinary contributions and impact on the field of architectural computing and design culture." The award was most recently given to Liz Diller and the late Zaha Hadid. The next day began with two awards for educators: The Innovator Award and Educator Award, which was followed by an education panel. The Educator Award went to Heather Roberge, the new Chair of Architecture at UCLA. Roberge walked the audience through a handful of studio curricula and projects, and spoke on the crucial difference between a model and a prototype, the different kinds of skills that students learn, the difference between handcraft vs machinecraft, and demonstrated how to use molds to visualize parametric concepts and form finding. The second day closed out with a presentation from Paris-based Iconem, an organization using advanced photogrammetric techniques for heritage preservation in conflict zones. Wrapping up the conference’s final day, Nervous Systems’ Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz described their eclectic design practice, and how the studio uses generative design to create interactive forms. Kathy Velikov, the incoming 2018 president of ACADIA, discussed how ACADIA brings together a community engaged with design challenges and future-facing solutions. Much of the work shown could be brought back to the office or classroom, and either might be applicable today, or open new paths to research or near-future concepts, and tools that will change work across practices. "Next year we are excited that the ACADIA conference will be held in Mexico City," said Velikov in a statement after the conference. "We are partnering with Mexico City's Ibero-American University to host and organize the event. ACADIA is a North American organization, and while we have had several conferences in Canada, this is the first time we will be in Mexico." "Besides the obvious attraction of the vibrance, history, and design culture of Mexico City, this is a fantastic opportunity to frame conversations around computational design within a different technological and cultural context, and to be able to open conference to new communities of participants," he added. The 2018 ACADIA conference, Re/calibration: on imprecision and infidelity, will attempt to recalibrate the discourse around computational design research, and a new venue in a new country is the perfect place to shake things up. The Call for Papers is live and due May 1, 2018 The full list of award winners is as follows: Design Excellence Award Thomas Heatherwick Founder/Design Director, Ηeatherwick Studio  Digital Practice Award of Excellence Lisa Iwamoto & Craig Scott Founders, IWAMOTTOSCOTT ARCHITECTURE Society Award of Excellence Bob Martens Associate Professor, TU Wien Innovative Research Award of Excellence Wesley McGee Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning/Co-founder, Matter Design Teaching Award of Excellence Heather Roberge Chair, UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Design/Founder, Murmur design Academic Program Award of Excellence Bartlett School of Architecture, B-Pro Program

Acadia 2017: Disciplines & Disruption

Disciplines & Disruption (Nov. 2-4, 2017) initiates a dialog about the state of the discipline of architecture and the impact of technology in shaping or disrupting design, methods and cultural fronts. For the past 30 years, distinctive advancements in technologies have delivered unprecedented possibilities to architects and enabled new expressions, performance, materials, fabrication and construction processes. Simultaneously, digital technology has permeated the social fabric around architecture with broad influences ranging from digital preservation to design with the developing world. Driven by technological, data and material advances, architecture now witnesses the moment of disruption, whereby formerly distinct areas of operation become increasingly connected and accessible to architecture's sphere of concerns in ways never before possible. Distinctions between design and making, building and urban scale, architecture and engineering, real and virtual, on site and remote, physical and digital data, professionals and crowds, are diminishing as technology increases the designer's reach far beyond the confines of the drafting board. This conference provides a platform to investigate the shifting landscape of the discipline today, and to help define and navigate the future. About ACADIA ACADIA was formed for the purpose of facilitating communication and critical thinking regarding the use of computers in architecture, planning and building science. The organization is committed to the research and development of computational methods that enhance design creativity, rather than simply production, and that aim at contributing to the construction of humane physical environments. A particular focus is education and the software, hardware and pedagogy involved in education. Visit the main ACADIA website for more information. View this link for the full schedule for Acadia 2017. Registration tickets are available here.
Placeholder Alt Text

A preview of ACADIA 2017, where disciplinary boundaries are blurred

On November 2-4, ACADIA will host its annual conference at MIT. Ahead of the proceedings, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with one of this year’s organizers, Skylar Tibbits, Assistant Professor of Design Research in MIT's Department of Architecture and director of the Self-Assembly Lab—to get a preview of what to expect from this year’s impressive lineup. AN: The theme of this year’s conference is Disciplines & Disruption. What are the prime disruptors you’ve identified and what types of research are you expecting to see? ST: If you asked this question in previous years, everyone’s attention was on robots. We had a robotics arms race for a moment and robotics has spun off into its own architectural conferences. The submissions this year are more about AI and Machine Learning, Visualization like AR/VR, and advances in HCI demonstrating the wealth and breadth of tools now available and the velocity of technological change. AN: The most disruptive thing is really the acceleration of technological change, is it not? ST: It’s a given that people participate in ACADIA for the latest and greatest research in technology for the architectural field and yet we are struck also by the context. Disruption isn’t about just rapid change in markets but about people, their contexts, and concerns and the feeling of cultural and technological shifts happening concurrently. AN: Can you speak more to these shifts and how you define disciplines in increasingly co-located and overlapping fields of research? ST: Disciplinary shifts look like convergence and hybridization. Boundaries between disciplines shrink and we ask what are the limits of the discipline today. Is ACADIA a Materials Science conference or a Computer Science Conference? Of course, the work comes out of architecture practice, but we need to ask those disciplinary questions in a bigger way. When everyone is a hybrid, you can get quite existential about what you are doing. We have a great line-up of keynotes from Neri Oxman and Thomas Heatherwick to Nervous Systems and Ben Fry that I think embody these hybrid practices. AN: What has changed in the course of ACADIA’s history? ACADIA started back when CAD was a novel idea and now every architecture student uses tools in really advanced ways. The technologies are now so ubiquitous and yet there is always room for innovation. The pressing questions become about testing the limits of the disciplines and how we can understand and elevate the social/cultural/political impacts while we innovate. AN: What makes hosting the conference at MIT special? The organizers and myself wanted to bring the MIT ethos to ACADIA. I want attendees to come away with a sense of the real MIT, not just that we are tight-knit group of techies, but that there are people here looking seriously at the big picture and developing hybrid research practices. ACADIA kicks off this weekend with a Hackathon at MIT Media Lab followed by three days of workshops at the newly opened Autodesk BUILD Sspace. The conference is happening at MIT November 2-4. Visit
Placeholder Alt Text

Thomas Heatherwick wins the ACADIA Design Excellence Award for 2017

[UPDATE 7/17/2017—This article has been updated to reflect that another faculty member from the Bartlett School of Architecture will be attending in lieu of Frederic Migayrou, who was previously listed below.] The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has announced British designer Thomas Heatherwick as the winner of the institute's 2017 Design Excellence Award. Heatherwick, who founded his eponymous studio in 1994, will receive the award at this year's ACADIA conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he will be a keynote speaker. Running under the title Disciplines & Disruption, the conference will address how technology is impacting architectural design, as well as its methods and culture. Touching on advancements in fabrication, materials, and digital tools, Disciplines & Disruption will also look at how technology has connected—or in some cases, disrupted—once distinct facets of the discipline, making numerous realms of architecture more accessible. "Distinctions between design and making, building and urban scale, architecture and engineering, real and virtual, on site and remote, physical and digital data, professionals and crowds, are diminishing as technology increases the designer's reach far beyond the confines of the drafting board," reads a synopsis in a press release. Heatherwick will headline the conference and appear alongside Ben Fry, founder of Information Design; Neri Oxman, a director at Mediated Matter Group and of MIT's Media Lab; and Jessica Rosenkrantz & Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, founders of Nervous System. Other award winners, who will each deliver a mini keynote themselves, include Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott, Heather Roberge, faculty from the B-Pro program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Wes McGee from the University of Michigan, and Bob Martens from the Technical University of Vienna. "Thomas Heatherwick's work epitomizes the high caliber of design innovation that ACADIA has sought to foster over the years," Jason Kelly Johnson, ACADIA president and founder of Future Cities Lab in San Francisco told The Architect's Newspaper, speaking of Heatherwick's award. "From furniture to bridges to buildings, his work is consistently experimental, iterative, and well-crafted. It also synthesizes digital and analog techniques in ground breaking ways. Thomas's upcoming ACADIA talk follows in a line of incredible awardee talks and keynote speakers including Zaha Hadid, Liz Diller, Greg Lynn, Manuel De Landa, and many others." The ACADIA conference will run from November 2 through the 4th.
Placeholder Alt Text

ACADIA 2016 showcased the diversity of cutting-edge computational design

This year’s meeting of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) was hosted at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It was the 36th meeting of ACADIA, and was regarded to be an incredibly successful showing. The theme of the conference, Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines, was paired with the Posthuman Frontiers exhibition, featuring jury-selected projects submitted to the conference, as well as the advanced work of Taubman College faculty. The events of the conference were held at multiple venues around Ann Arbor, and were preceded by several workshops that made use of Taubman College’s digital fabrication and instruction facilities.

For those of us on the outside looking in (in our lesser moments, perhaps), the ACADIA community might easily be misconstrued as a group of architects obsessed with robots, or possessing an interest in complicated shapes made in Grasshopper for their own sake. However, the three days this author spent among their ranks at this year’s conference were some of the most inspiring in recent memory. Yes, there were moments of geometric fetishism, and yes, there were a considerable number of time-lapse videos of robot arms in progress. But when taken in aggregate, these projects, papers, and talks reframed and made vibrant the essential ingredients of what we work on as architects: the arrangement of solid and void, the cultural effects of form, and the possibilities of what we might craft in the built environment.

It must be said that the range of work presented was dramatic. Even within the more immediately applicable papers and projects were sober arguments for parametric design in space planning, a smart device for lowering cooling costs in office spaces, newly designed plugins to optimize the unfolding of 3-D meshes, and progress-in-training robots to lay tile in order to relieve the strain on human bodies.

Caress of the Gaze from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

Reaching into more radical territory, we saw prototyped near-body architectures operating on the politics of the posthuman in Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of the Gaze,” an actuated garment which tracks—and responds to—the eye movement of those regarding the wearer. We saw installations that build intimacy and a sense of cooperative play between humans and digital entities. There was work which adopted uncommon material alliances of “programmable matter,” such as in Jane Scott’s intertwining of hydrophobic fibers that writhe and retract when exposed to water vapor (one of several fabric-oriented works), and too many others of note to mention them all.

But some of the most memorable moments from this conference were the keynote addresses, as they punctuated the proceedings with disparate tones and positions that illuminated the diversity of this community. Theodore Spyropoulos led the charge on Thursday with a talk entitled All Is Behavior (a play on Hans Hollein’s claim that “All are architects. Everything is architecture.”) It quickly became clear that Spyropoulos sees the future of cities, and indeed, that of humanity, in a technologically positivist light. He envisions self-organizing and aggregating structures which allow for adaptivity in the face of changing climatic or social conditions, and seeks to bring us into more sympathetic forms of interaction with robotic and digital entities.

The evening of the same day found the participants exposed to other visionary work, in a dreamy—and at times titillating—conversation between Philip Beesley and Iris Van Herpen, whose ongoing collaborations are advancing both Van Herpen’s work at the forefront of couture, and Beesley’s at, perhaps, the architectural equivalent. Lucidly expressive, Beesley’s tone was one of wonderment—of proposed, barely imaginable relationships between humans and matter. In fact, Beesley’s role is most easily understood, and his work is most easily appreciated, when it is placed in the context of couture, the goal of which is to push the bounds of what is possible in clothing.

Mario Carpo’s discussion of the cultural implications of searchability was a thoughtful meditation and provocation that ultimately concluded the conference Saturday evening, but the real climax of ACADIA 2016 was a keynote lecture Friday evening by Elizabeth Diller, as she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite a playful hesitance to engage with the foreboding finality of “Lifetime Achievement,” Diller generously outlined some of the more seminal works of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), one of the most influential practices in the world over the past 25 years. Early in the talk, Diller emphasized her interest in the fields adjacent to architecture, a propensity for smaller scale works, and a persistent fascination with “the encounter.” By the end, however, she was in a mode of pure architectural shoptalk, sharing in-progress photos of the recently manufactured steel struts and enormous wheels that will comprise The Shed, currently in construction in New York’s Hudson Yards development. Diller concluded her remarks with some reflections upon the way culture has shifted since some of DS+R’s early work. In the present day, she claims:

“...the speed of obsolescence makes technology a liability. Dumber is better than smarter and the best thing to do for culture in the future is to secure real estate. It’s as basic as that.

Then: Systems theory, game theory, cybernetic control systems were tools to democratize culture.

Now: Digital technologies allow culture to be open source, dispersed, and on-demand. However, with democracy comes the ubiquitous condition of being monitored, so it’s a different time.…

Then: Kit of parts and kinetic systems produce flexibility.

Now: Flexibility is a paradox. The more flexibility is built in, the more predetermined, leaving nothing but empty space (this is related to ‘dumb is a virtue’).

Then: Disciplinary borders had to be broken.

Now: Despite academia’s parsing and classification, the richly indeterminate contours of interdisciplinarity, intradisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity—we actually have to push to make these things happen, because somehow, the real world divides everything up again. Because that’s where money comes from—different places. And it’s going to take a long time to change the system.

Then: Government support for culture was assumed.

Now: To avoid the vicissitudes of the economy, the cultural institutions must produce their own financial security.

Then: The architect was a generalist that gathers research from subcommittees.

Now: Professionalization turns the architect into a director/producer that relies on a rolling cadre of subconsultants who bring an ever-widening depth of expertise to ever-more adventurous problems. So, then and now, the architect gets to push the agency of the profession to invent a cultural and civic project on both scores.”

These sage thoughts carried the conference into its final day, which held perhaps the most poignant moment of the proceedings, as Chuck Eastman, one of the original founders of ACADIA in 1981, received the Society Award of Excellence. Hearing Eastman describe the early days of computational design, the work that went into tasks as simple as Boolean operations, put the tools we now take for granted in perspective. It is amazing how far computational design has advanced in just a few decades, and this community shows no sign of slowing. No doubt, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab will rise to the occasion and show us the next chapter a year from now, as they are slated to host ACADIA 2017.

Placeholder Alt Text

AN interviews the ACADIA 2016 organizers

In just a few days, ACADIA will host its annual conference at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Ahead of the proceedings, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with this year’s organizers, Geoffrey Thün and Kathy Velikov—both principals of Ann Arbor, MI- and Toronto-based RVTR and faculty at Taubman Collegeto get a preview of what to expect from this year’s impressive lineup. AN: The theme of this year’s conference is Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines. What is a Cognitive Machine, and what makes this theme especially relevant in 2016? Cognitive machines are programmed with capacities such as sensing, recognition, decision-making, problem-solving, memory, or autonomous behavior. These are not only an increasing part of interactive and responsive built environments, but are increasingly part of the design process itself. Designers are finding ways to work collaboratively with these processes and procedures, and there will be a significant number of papers at the conference where designers are engaging design and fabrication through feedback-based, co-generative approaches using computational tools. How would you characterize the range of work you expect to see from the presentations? Are there any ideological opponents, or ongoing debates for attendees to watch out for? The conference will feature cutting-edge computational design work from around the globe: ACADIA is really an international community, and we’ll have amazing work from North America, South America, the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia. Presentations will range from algorithmic design to robotic fabrication to human-robot collaboration, to interactive design, to synthetic bio-digital material research. Debate will abound—the climate of ACADIA is a respectful one, less confrontational than some venues, but it’s not a good conference unless there’s at least one heated debate, and we’ll see where exactly that will emerge. We expect that Neil Leach’s paper presentation will produce some ideological frictions. I understand that hosting the conference at Taubman College has afforded some opportunities in terms of both facilities and faculty. How did this shape this year’s offerings or conversations? The faculty members of Taubman College co-chairing the conference have been active members of the ACADIA (and broader digital design/computation/fabrication/ robotics) community for years, so hosting this conference is very meaningful to us. The Posthuman Frontiers exhibition, which is running in tandem with the conference, features large-scale interactive installations by Taubman faculty, as well as the jury-selected projects submitted to the conference. The workshops—taking place in the three days prior to the conference—benefit from the amazing fabrication facilities we have in the FabLAB. Participants will be using the digital knitting machine, possibly all five Kuka robots, the five-axis milling machine, and the digital classrooms in the Duderstadt Center. Attendees will be able to see presentations in some great spaces on the campus—Elizabeth Diller’s keynote, the Philip Beesley and Iris van Herpen lecture, and the main conference proceedings will be held outside Taubman around Ann Arbor. We’ve made an effort to knit many of the events into the town’s fabric, and to connect the proceedings with that broader community of the University of Michigan, so the key evening public lectures and events will be open to the broader public and we hope to engage them with some of the questions and obsessions of the ACADIA community.
Placeholder Alt Text

2016 ACADIA Conference announces full keynote schedule

This year’s ACADIA conference, entitled "Post Human Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines" will focus on design and research that lies at the “intersection between procedural design, designed environments and autonomous machines.” ACADIA, the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, has recently announced it keynote line-up, which includes Elizabeth Diller, who will be accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the conference. The conference, which will run from October 27th through the 29th, will be held at the University of Michigan Taubman Collage in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The keynote speakers will range from academics to practitioners, each bringing their own perspective on the state of the growing field of autonomous machines for making architecture. final_diller_keynote Four keynotes will discuss their recent research and practice in the field of computer-aided design. Speaker Mario Carpo, Dr.Arch, PhD, HDR focuses his research on the intersection of architectural theory, cultural history, and the history of media and information technology. Iris van Herpen’s talk will explore her Haute Couture digital fashion, and the relationship between craftsmanship and innovation. Visual artist and architect Philip Beesley, MRAIC OAA RCA will continue the discussion of digital fabrication and design, looking at Beesley’s association with the Living Architecture Systems Group (LASG). LASG is an international consortium of academics, institutional, and industrial partners developing building techniques that have the qualities of living organisms. Director of the Architectural Association’s Design Research Lab (AADRL), Theodore Spyropoulos’s work looks at the intersection of form and communication. Elizabeth Diller, founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), will be awarded the ACADIA 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award and will give a keynote address. Keynote Schedule – Thursday, October 27th 1:30 pm – Theodore Spyropoulos Thursday, October, 27th 5:00 pm – Iris van Herpen & Philip Beesely Friday, October 28th 6:30 pm – Elizabeth Diller Saturday, October 29th 6:00 pm – Mario Carpo For the full schedule of events go to
Placeholder Alt Text

Liz Diller awarded 2016 ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award

The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has announced Elizabeth Diller as the recipient of their prestigious 2016 ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to "exceptional architects and researchers who over the course of their career have made significant and innovative contributions to the fields of architecture and computational design." The highly competitive award was last given in 2014 to the late Zaha Hadid. Diller will receive the award at this year’s conference Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines, October 27-29 at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She will also deliver a keynote lecture during the conference on Friday, October 28 at University of Michigan’s Power Center for the Performing Arts. Elizabeth Diller is a founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), an interdisciplinary design studio that works at the intersection of architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. With Ricardo Scofidio, Diller was the first in the field of architecture to receive the “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation, which stated “their work explores how space functions in our culture and illustrates that architecture, when understood as the physical manifestation of social relationships, is everywhere, not just in buildings.” DS+R established its identity through independent, theoretical, and self-generated projects before coming to international prominence with two of the most important planning initiatives in New York: the High Line and the redesign of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts campus. In addition to the nearly completed Columbia University Graduate and Medical Education Building, and The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles, Diller is Principal-in-Charge of The Shed, a new center for artistic invention at the Hudson Yards, and the renovation and expansion of MoMA, both in New York. Diller graduated from the Cooper Union School of Architecture in 1979, and taught at the school from 1981-1990. She is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University. Diller is a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Design Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Design, and the Brunner Prize from the American Academy of the Arts and Letters. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2013, Diller was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction, and DS+R was presented a Centennial Medal of Honor from the American Academy in Rome. Diller was selected by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” The ACADIA Board of Directors specifically cited “Liz Diller’s pioneering work at the intersections of architecture, art, technology and philosophy. Her critical explorations over many years have integrated design, computation and theory into a radically inventive and culturally relevant body of work from installations to buildings to urban landscapes.” ACADIA President Jason Kelly Johnson said, "From the late 1980's to today, the work of Liz Diller and her studio Diller+Scofidio (now DS+R) has been at the forefront of exploring the spatial, material and generative possibilities of new media in architecture. Their earliest experimental multi-media installations, including projects like Para-Site (1989), Slow House (1991) and Jet Lag (1998), set the stage for a substantial body of recent international built work like the Blur Building (2002) in Switzerland, the Broad (2013) museum in Los Angeles, and upcoming projects like the Museum of Image and Sound (2015-Present) currently under construction in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil."
Placeholder Alt Text

Mario Carpo and Elizabeth Diller Confirmed as Keynote Speakers for ACADIA 2016

This years ACADIA 2016 conference: Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers & Cognitive Machines has announced Mario Carpo (Reyner Banham Professor of Architectural Theory and History, the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL London) and Elizabeth Diller (founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro) as confirmed keynote speakers. In 1999, working alongside Ricardo Scofidio, Ms. Diller was awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, becoming the first in her filed to do so. Now, Diller will also be receiving the ACADIA 2016 Lifetime Achievement award, an esteemed accolade that represents recognition by colleagues worldwide of consistent contributions and impact on the field of architectural computing and design culture. Co-Founder and Design Partner of Future Cities Lab, San Francisco and recently elected member to the ACADIA Board of Directors and ACADIA President, Jason Kelly Johnson cited how "Diller’s pioneering work at the intersections of architecture, art, technology and philosophy" made her an "ideal" choice as a keynote speaker. Johnson went on to add that "the ACADIA community will celebrate Diller's critical explorations integrating design, computation, and theory into a radically inventive and culturally relevant body of work from installations to buildings to urban landscapes." Mario Carpo was also seen by Johnson as a pivotal speaker for ACADIA 2016. "Carpo's keynote will bring a much needed theoretical and historical perspective to the conference," Johnson noted, going on to say, "His research is a catalyst for critical discussions related to digital design, technology and culture."  Carpo has a strong pedigree in the field of architectural research, focusing on architectural theory, cultural history, and the history of media and information technology. Notable publications include The Alphabet and the AlgorithmThe Digital Turn in Architecture 1992-2012 and his award-winning opus: Architecture in the Age of Printing which has been translated into several languages.

The conference will focus on design work and research carried out in the fields of practice and academia  that relate to "procedural design, designed environments and autonomous machines". More specifically, ACADIA 2016 will concentrate on contemporary trends in computational design that has been used to develop "quasi-cognitive machines" and "integration of software, information, fabrication and sensing to generate mechanisms for interfacing with the physical realm." Papers that touch on relative disciplines such as material science, biology, art, computer graphics, civil engineering, and human-computer interaction have been called to contribute to the discussion.

"Every year the ACADIA conferences bring together a world-class group of designers, architects, engineers, fabricators and thinkers exploring the intersection of computation, digital technologies and architecture," said Johnson. "In North America it has become the event to present, explore and debate emerging ideas in the field."

This years event will be held at the University of Michigan Taubman College in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the conference itself will run from October 27 - 29, 2016.