DISCLAIMER – DRAFT ONLY. CHANGES ARE GOING TO BE MADE. THINGS ARE GOING TO BE ADDED. REFERENCING AND PROPER SPELL CHECK WILL HAPPEN REAL SOON.
Bruce Lee and his automated fist.
In 1967 Bruce Lee founded Jeet Kune Do (‘The Way Of The Intercepting Fist’), which he referred to as a non-classical form of Kung Fu and unlike it’s predecessors, this new form was in fact, formless. He saw Classical Kung Fu styles as being too rigid and rehearsed for the spontaneous dynamics of real life combat, and wanted freedom from their oppressive sequences, patterns and moulds. According to Lee Jeet Kune Dob is just a name and is really “ a mirror in which we see ‘ourselves’ ”. If a person was to say Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do then they are simply not with it’, it is only an idea, which is that all truths exist outside of all moulds. Jeet Kune Do is in fact an ever-evolving process of exploration undertaken in a situation of ‘Aliveness’. All participants explore themselves through ‘all out sparring’ that simulates real life combat, to decide which techniques are worthy of adoption and which should be discarded, resulting in an ever evolving fighter. Unlike the restrictive ‘flowery techniques’ of traditional martial arts styles, that mostly just ‘look good’, the fragmented characteristic of Jeet Kune Do results in an ever changing, fluid fighting form that allows the participant to adapt to the constant changes and fluctuations of live combat. Interception is the main aim of the process, which means to attack just before your opponent is about to attack. Lee believed that within time a participant would build such an awareness of oneself that these interceptive attacks would become instinctive. Meaning that their fists will hit all by themselves, with ultimate efficiency and accuracy.
My personal position towards architecture is similar to the approach Lee took towards his own craft. Like Lee, I am interested in how architecture can become formless and free from the oppressive moulds of standardised construction methods. I see no relevance in static forms that ignore the complexities of our current and future situations. Instead, I am in favour of an mutable architecture. One that is as adaptable as Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. One that is interceptive. One that is Instinctive. One with a mind all of its own.
The mind of this future architecture is data. Many physical objects are already embedded with electronics, softwares and sensors which collect data through network connectivity. This is known as the ‘Internet Of Things’ and is creating a more direct integration between physical and digital space. Data is collected by these ‘Things’ and processed, useful data then flows autonomously between other devices through the network, resulting in improved efficiency and accuracy. This network is already having a profound effect on our built environment through media, infrastructure management, manufacturing, energy management, transportation, intelligence ect. More and more homes are being equipped with smart devices that control appliances, heating, lighting, ventilation, communication systems, entertainment and home security. Although this is impressive, it is merely the beginning of what some people are referring to as the third machine age.
I am interested in the next step, which is how the fabric of built structures can also become part of an intelligent system. Research into how this system might work is already well under way and reveals that the traditional architect with his ‘flowery techniques’ barely has a place at the table. The process of developing such a system is being tackled within biology, computing, information sciences, interactive design, material sciences, new media, literature and fine art. Below are a few examples of possible technologies that are currently being developed which could start to form such a system.
Self organising/ assembling objects
“Self-Assembly is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through only local interaction. In self-assembling systems, individual parts move towards a final state, wheras in self-organizing systems, components move between multiple states, oscillate and may never come to rest in a final configuration.” – definition from selfassemblylab.net
“Programmable matter is matter which has the ability to change its physical properties (shape, density, moduli, conductivity, optical properties, etc.) in a programmable fashion, based upon user input or autonomous sensing. Programmable matter is thus linked to the concept of a material which inherently has the ability to perform information processing.” – definition from wikipedia.org
Programable materials and 4D printing (Machines that make machines)
“Programmable Matter is the science, engineering and design of physical materials that have the ability to change form and/or function in a programmable manner. 4D Printing, where the 4th dimension is time, is one recent example of PM that allows objects to be printed and self-transform in shape and material property when subjected to energy.” – definition from selfassemblylab.net
All this research seems to be heading to one outcome, which is, the future fabric of our built environment will be formed of coded, programmed and possibly biological parts, that are produced rapidly and locally by machines similar to today’s 3D/ 4D printers. This process could also be completely non-human and fully automated through ‘The Internet of things’. Essentially, it will be a system of self producing, self assembling and self updating abstract machines.
I’m personally interested in what kind of architectures and situations this might lead to. There are a number of architects, designers, artists and scientists who are exploring this through generative (algorithmic) art, which according to wikipedia.com is:
“Art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. In some cases the human creator may claim that the generative system represents their own artistic idea, and in others that the system takes on the role of the creator.”
Examples of generative (and algorithmic) art can be found in the work of Driessens & Verstappen, Michael Hansmeyer, Mitchell Whitelaw and many more. Their work gives us insight into what kind of architectures we might expect in such a kinetic environment and present us with forms that are continuously morphing through each new intercepted algorithm.
The moment of interception in this process is what I would like to explore through my studio and written work this year. I would like to investigate what might cause a structure to reshape and how this might happen, as well begin to understand the spatial, social and psychological implications of this change.
I going to finish with a quote from Mr Lee. Read it once how it is and then read it again but replace the word ‘water’ with ‘Data’:
“Empty your mind, be formless.
Shapeless, like water.
If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water my friend”.
Accretor (2012) by Driessen & Verstappen
More examples to follow….