The PROTO/E/CO/LOGICS symposium, entitled “The Field is Open,” was held last weekend at the Hotel Lone in Rovinj for the second time running, organized by the Mediterranean Laboratory for Architecture and Urban Strategies (MLAUS). Last year’s theme “Speculative Materialism in Architecture” opened the discussion on speculative directions in architecture. This year, the curators of the symposium, Alisa Andrašek and Bruno Juričić, proposed a panel-discussion format where twelve architects and architectural theorists from universities worldwide would present their current research within four thematic units: Supersensitivity-Physics, Axiomatic Heresy-Codes, Contingency-Data and Non-Natural Objects. Moderators Benjamin Bratton, Alisa Andrašek, Adrian Lahoud and Eva Franch i Gilabert, along with round table discussion guests Anthony Burke, Florencia Pita, Dave Pigram, Tom Kovac, Reiner Zettl and Daniela Zyman contributed towards the overall high-quality level of the discussions.
Within the first panel discussion “Supersensitivity-Physics,” architects and professors Michael Meredith founder of the MOS Studio, Roland Snooks founder of the Kokkugia Studio, and Eyal Weizman, founder of the “Research Architecture” Center at Goldsmiths University of London offered their views on the question as to whether or not we’re becoming super sensitive and to what extent within the context of the rapidly growing science and technology development. All three practices have different approaches towards the topic of sensitivity and physics. Eyal Weizman, in his lecture “Forensic Architecture,” views architecture simultaneously as a sensor and an agent, a political plastic of sorts, where social forces are molded into form, Michael Meredith works upon the theme of ruins as architecture, while Roland Snooks emphasizes inconsistency as the critical state of design in his lecture “Volatile Order.”
The second panel discussion “Axiomatic Heresy-Codes” served as an overview of the diversity in design approaches within the context of the computer paradigm. Skylar Tibbits, in his lecture “Self Assembly and Computational Construction,” presented the latest research which is conducted at the MIT within the framework of “The Center for Bits and Atoms.” Just as the user and environment can serve as a source of information, specific parts can also act as such. Research that Tibbits conducts is based on the hypothesis that the code, i.e. the information, lies within the material itself, not outside it. For example, the research “The Self-Assembly Line” translates self-construction laws which occur in molecular protein indicators into architectural indicators with the goal of designing material that would contain enough information for universal automatic construction.
Marc Fornes, founder of the Theverymany Studio, and long-time lecturer at Columbia University of New York, presented a series of experiments in his lecture “Structurant Bark”, which Fornes himself calls out some of them as complete failures, where he attempts to find out the application of digital fabrication in architecture, at the same time, touching upon the topic of design and construction. Michael Hansmeyer, a lecturer at the Zürich ETH (The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), on the other hand, exclusively presented his formal experiments with algorithms as design tools.
Following a series of exhibitions linked with the analytical approach to design, a panel discussion entitled “Contingency-Data” ensued, under the moderation of Adrian Lahoud, which is on a city scale according to Keller Easterling, or on a planetary scale according to Benjamin Bratton and Philipp Morel, whose goal was to provide answers to policy issues within the context of global cloud computing.
Philippe Morel thus presented his excellent lecture “Computation Beyond Mystics and Blahblahctivism: Which Social Theory for the Age of Computation?” which is a part of his years-long research on the computational logic of late capitalism. Benjamin Bratton, a theorist whose work includes philosophy, art, and design, poses the question of the future of sovereign geography in the age of planetary cloud computing in his lecture entitled “Cloud Medievalism,” suggesting that contemporary political and cultural formations that stem from this state are more medieval than modern.
Keller Easterling leaning on Bruno Latour’s theoretical work, in his lecture “The Active Form,” analyzes the contemporary city and its spatial products – buildings and urban formulas – infrastructure as a manifesto of digital capitalism and suggests that architects complement their past items from “object form” to “active form”, indicating action as form.
The final panel discussion was perhaps the most intriguing in its diversity, linking three very different presentations tied to the topic “Non-Natural Objects.” Hernan Diaz Alonso, the founder of the Studio Xefirotarch and winner of the prestigious MoMA PS1, in his lecture “Form and Circumstance,” presented his current work through the theme of excess and the grotesque. Bruno Juričić, one of the curators of the event itself, searched for the definition of a post-architectural state in his lecture entitled “Exciters,” while Lucy Mcrae in her lecture “How Can Technology Transform the Human Body” presented her work on the research of the human body and its limits. A vigorous discussion ensued, moderated by Eva Franch i Gilabert, a Catalan architect known to the Croatian architectural public as the new director of the New York Gallery Storefront for Art and Architecture.
In addition to the series of four panel discussions dedicated to architecture, the public had the opportunity to attend a lecture by philosopher and professor at The American University of Cairo, Graham Harman entitled “Object Oriented Philosophy.” The symposium was closed with a “site-specific” sound installation by the Island artist Jane Winderen, under the auspices of the Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation.
As the PROTO/E/CO/LOGICS symposium shows, the field of architecture is actually quite transparent, and as Eva Franch i Gilabert points out, it always has been. This transparency and porosity of discipline is, as suggested by the symposium organizers, preconditioned by and displayed through science and technological development via topics that are of interest to contemporary architectural production ranging from planetary scales and geopolitics to the human body and biopolitics. In any case, topics presented at the symposium traversing two diametrically opposing open-field poles, that of the analytical linked with computing and generative design to the projective linked with politics and critical practice, didn’t find common ground in the final debate, statements and proclamations that could be heard in the final debate were straight from the infamous Eisenman and Krier debate: “My theory is better than yours.” Regardless, the discovered disagreements, which according to Ranciere are the basis of democracy, will serve, we hope, to lay the groundwork for the next PROTO/E/CO/LOGICS.