December 2020

Digital Space

54/03

Digital Space

As architects and urbanists of this world, we focus on physical forms. However, the digital interwove itself into the fabric of our day to day existence in just a few decades time. If this trend continues, we might start talking about it as something independent and self-maintaining. A second, digital world. Are we, architects, going to be designers of this digital world?

Editorial team

Christopher Clarkson, Federico Ruiz, Inez Margaux Spaargaren, Robert van Overveld, Oliwia Jackowska, Jonas Althuis

With contributions from

Bruno de Andrade, Matthew Cook, Marco Fusco, Jack Pilkington, Nadine van den Berg, Iman Ramshini, Amina Chouaïri, Szymon Smyk, Joep Merx, Bo Kuiper, Martin Sitorus, Amber Leeuwenberg

Cover design by

Editorial team

Editorial

Unsurprisingly, pandemic became the word of the year for 2020, along with quarantine, social distancing, flatten the curve and defund the police being the most searched phrases on the web. An imposed global house arrest, introduced to protect public health, meant that most people’s lives were happening in the digital space, from home. It is safe to say that the current prominent role of technology in our lives is a continuation of already existing trends. However, the past months emboldened the reality in which you can start a revolution from your chair or a comfy sofa at home. We follow Amina Chouairi, this year’s best graduate, who was making her attempt to improve the world from her student room in Delft, while in the article “A public digital space at home,” we explore the boundaries of privacy in the never-ending sequences of video calls.

Apart from this very pertinent, yet controversial connectivity given by the digital technologies, the understanding of the term digital space is vast and diverse. From a technical perspective, it refers to everything that is displayed in the screen or in the background of a digital device. "The history of the Human-Computer Interaction" goes back to the beginnings of understanding how a Man can control and interact with the Machine. All this while asking a question of what the future can hold, and how the digital environments can surround us without being noticed. However, we are already surrounded by emerging visions for the built environment, where the standing physical cities and imagined future urban landscapes exist parallel to each other. The article “On Renders” questions the culture surrounding realistic renders with ‘perfect environments,’ and the pressure that designers face to “sell” their designs, in spite of the representation’s misrepresentation of reality. On the other hand, Theo Deutinger in his interview, says that “to understand [spaceship Earth] we largely rely on artificial intelligence.” He argues that technology saves lives by gathering data on events such as earthquakes or global warming.

But how does digital technology and its new realities relate to architecture, and particularly architectural education? By asking a playful question “What if Vitruvius played Minecraft?”, Bruno de Andrade challenges the unchanged methods and theories in teachings of architectural history, which ignore the new cyber layer over the city and a shifting digital culture.

This question of the digital space has also become especially significant for us, as the editors of Bnieuws. That’s why with this issue, we’re thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of the Bnieuws website. With the QR code placed on the front cover you can catch a glimpse of what is to come.

We are excited to introduce you to this extended issue of Bnieuws – Digital Space.

Contents

What if Vitruvius played Minecraft? First notes on gaming architecture as experimental design

Pen Pal

1

We all know that Vitruvius’ (c. 90 - c. 20 BCE) treatise “De Architectura”, divided in 10 books, is still a guide for building projects. According to him the successful architect and engineer should have theoretical and practical knowledge based on a wider comprehension of sciences and arts. Buildings should always contain three aspects: beauty (venustas), stability (firmitas), and usefulness (utilitas). I wonder what Vitruvius would say about the contemporary city, concerning the new digital dimension being hybridized with it, and how we are teaching architecture.

Xiao talks tech

BK Report

2

I have known Xiaoyoue Shi for several months. His elaborate metaphors, accurate timing and confusing speech -conditions I want to believe we share- make him one of the most peculiar characters I have come to know during my BK days. Having the right person and lacking a decent idea for this article, I decided to work in a reverse order: instead of defining an interesting theme and then finding an interviewee, I decided to talk with an interesting man about anything and then elaborate on that. In this occasion, and for the sake of coherency, we discussed technology and the intricacies of digital space.

Living in safe mode: In conversation with Theo Deutinger

The Berlage x Bnieuws

3

In early November, Theo Deutinger led The Berlage Design Master Class, entitled "Living in Safe Mode: A Quest for the Essential." The premise of the master class was to identify the basic needs of a single person—housing, food, clothing, transportation, health, and education—in order to define a self-induced "safe mode" for humans. An exhibition of the results, entitled “Safe New World,” is currently on display in the Department of Architecture. Prior to this intensive fortnight, we had the opportunity to speak with Theo Deutinger. Overlooking the Alps, covered with the first snow of the year, he reflected upon his most recent work including the acclaimed Handbook of Tyranny and more recent Ultimate Atlas: Logbook of Spaceship Earth.

Space syntax as urban design tool

Pen Pal

4

The following text is an adaptation of a resarch paper, written by Jack for AC1 on the topic of space syntax in urban design. For the sake of brevity, it is published below in a shorter, reader friendly format.

Thinking the unthinkable

Pen Pal

5

Even though storytelling is implicit in urban planning and design proposals, stories can be used explicitly as research and design methodology. Urban planners and designers, as future-oriented storytellers, can use the valuable skill of storytelling as part of their design thinking, research by design, and creation of persuasive plans.

I would rather…

Pen Pal

6

The gaming industry is considered to be one of the most exciting industries in tech because of its importance to culture, entertainment and technological progression.  Parallel to the fast advancement of technology, the gaming industry has also experienced tremendous developments in the past decades. The improvements are not merely concerning the resolution at which the game plays; detailed features are continuously introduced to push the gaming experience closer and closer to reality. Thanks to the massive development of the gaming industry, several game genres appeared in the market. Life simulation gaming is one of these genres which centres around the concept of living or controlling one or more artificial lives. In practice, the opportunity of creating and designing of lives is granted to the gamers in this genre. However, how would the gamer react to this artificial empowerment of being the designer of lives?

The history of human-computer interaction

From the editors

7

Typology.exe

From the editors

8

When considering typologies of the built environment, a few spring to mind: The church, the house, the library, the graveyard… these all together provide for a diverse experience when departing the home. Different typologies carry not only diverse formal characteristics but they house specific experiences unique to their formal qualities.

Four paragraphs and an incipit on my last six months as a BK student

Pen Pal

9

On the 2nd of July 2020, I graduated (online) with my ten-months-long research-by-design project in Landscape Architecture, “The Operating Venetian Lagoon: The Agency of Barene.”

On renders

From the editors

10

As technology advances and our computers continue to get smarter and faster, the rendered world and the real world seem to be converging, slowly merging to become one and the same. It can be genuinely difficult to tell a rendered image from a photograph sometimes. And yet, I think there’s a growing disparity between the rendered world and the real world. Not in visual quality, but in contents.

The daily digital life

From the editors

11

About four months ago, I stopped checking my phone directly after waking up. Not that my sleep was bad, but I’ve started to dislike the behaviour. It still feels like a small victory every time I resist the temptation. On average, people spend one-seventh of their time on their phone. Combined with laptop and television use, this results in eight and a half hours of screen time a day on average in the Netherlands. For architecture and urbanism students, this is likely even longer.

A public digital space at home

From the editors

12

How are private and public spaces organized and designed in the modern information society? Have you ever thought about this? Now, you might...Video communication is a tool that takes place in two separate rooms; this way of communication is used more and more. Everywhere, spaces that were once wholly private are now being becoming more public through this video communication development.

Pritzker Prize for Escher: revisited

Spotlight

13

While it might now seem like a lifetime, it was not even two years ago when I sat down to write what would become my contribution to the first issue of the newly started students’ magazine INVOLVED. The article was set to investigate the potential benefits architecture can reap from the rapidly developing virtual reality technology in the near future. And while I am happy to look back at the article and see the scenarios I imagined becoming reality, it is humbling to see how severely I underestimated the speed of progress. My predictions, accurate as they might end up, did not account for two factors that changed the VR scene in 2020 – a global pandemic and the resurgence of two separate cult classics.

Nature as a museum

Pen Pal

14

As humans, we tend to believe that our idea of nature is clearly defined. Especially in times of climate change, this should be questioned to stimulate new points of view. We have always used the term nature as a projection of our personal beliefs. Therefore, the term has a variety of interpretations, such as being an antipode to the city, an aesthetic ideal, an ecological phenomenon, or a source of natural resources. Whether we like it or not, every discussion about nature is heavily influenced by these ideological ways of understanding. Conscious of this, we try to interact critically with these ideologies, therefore making our project just as paradoxical as nature itself.

Artefact: Vitra .04

Artefact

15

‘Artefact’ is a recurring two-page spread, which features a beloved object presented by one of the BK City staff members. Every month, the ‘Artefact’ contributorship is passed on someone new. This months’ artefact is from Amber Leeuwenburgh, who is the Faculty Secretary.*

Digital symbology

From the editors

16

Shown below are a variety of symbols from the digital world, from internet browsing  to smartphone apps. Which symbols do you recognise?

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