Similarly Different Lines, a Computing Drawing Studio
This RISD advanced architecture studio–the third and final in a related series–explores computer programming as a drawing medium. Programming, defined as the design and execution of algorithms, allows designers to tap into the science of computing in ways that more fashionable approaches to digital media (parametric modeling, for example) preclude. How programming can and should be used to conceive of architecture is a perpetually open question. Rather than immediately computing architecture, this studio begins by computing drawing, which by definition allows the human eye and mind to play a prominent role in design. Conceptions of authorship, ambiguity, and representation remain the focus of attention and criticism as the course moves from drawing to building (and back to drawing).
The studio, as a community, cultivates an actionable obsession with three foundational elements of architecture: line, surface and corner.
What follows is an excepted collection of the work of the studio. It is much more thoroughly documented on the course website
, which includes all course documents including project briefs, example scripts, as well as student work.
Beginning with a kind of calisthenics in the Python programming language, students control a machine (pen plotter, laser cutter or other) that affects paper by marking line(s). Computed (and computing) lines are sorted, grown, aggregated, tested, indexed, critiqued, extended, constrained, broken, extended, etc. In other words, we draw. The inquiry at this stage includes an analysis of linear precedents in art. This drawing by Sunny Zhang concludes the first phase of her work in which collections of arcs follow a path arc and deviate based on spatial forces. Already these drawings can be understood as works of architecture as multiple conceptions of form and space are legible in and through the paper.
Sunny Zhang began the semester as all students did: designing and programming the behavior of lines.
As Sunny Zhang's algorithms for constructing variable lines evolved, a three-dimensional formal system emerged. However, the depth is entirely perceptual. Her lines are constructed based on two-dimensional variables, instructions, and operations.
Chris Beck's early work likewise acknowledges a kind of "pseudo depth"
Chris Beck adjusted the two-dimensional order of his lines to heighten the perception of depth.
As the semester progresses, we use the idea (and the "problem") of the corner as an intermediate territory between drawing and building. Corners exists in both. Ziyu Su's work treats the corner as a zone of intersection. In that zone, new corners can be created in reverse, which, depending on projection method, can introduce more ambiguity. Ziyu's work also brings the material implications of pen-plotted ink to the fore as dense lines suggest a variably transparent surface.
The traditional "corner problem" entails two surfaces of different orientation or order that must be resolved at their corner intersection (think colonnades in Renaissance courtyards). Sunny Zhang's corners are the opposite: corner curves are the genesis of form, which algorithmically extend out to form surfaces.
Sunny Zhang's corner as a singular construct
Chris Beck conceives of a spatial corner invisible when drawn from certain projection methods.
Chris Beck's corner from another angle
Chris Beck's corner over a range of projection angles
Aashman Goghari develops an algorithm for generating form as a field of "corner modules."
With initial work "rendered" with lines, use of light simulation software introduces some welcome constraints: solid surfaces, orientation and scale. Aashman Goghari's rendered corner field.
"In" and "out" versions of Ziyu Su's corner rendered
The final phase of the course introduces a corner site in Boston's Seaport District. The program of a USPS warehouse and retail facility offer a contrast in dimension and accessibility needs: the retail small and with public access required; the warehouse large and with truck access required. With that noted, the program and site are not meant to be the subjects of inquiry, but devices to further research. Successfully responding to their forces by designing a building is only the beginning. How does drawing mediate/influence/fuel/disrupt the relationship between human, computing and architecture? When and how can the process of drawing a project become the project? Students are asked to extend their work from phases one and two and continue to design a design process. They continue to experiment with the relationship between drawing and space. How, with what media, and with what machines students compute is open. Here, Sunny Zhang develops a new drawing type: the dual-pivot section that uses two axes–the surface of water and building corner–as operators.
The plans of Sunny Zhang's project reveal the "total cornerness" of the building. Building elements have an uncanny quality: normal in the nature but strange in their manifestation.
An oblique section cut through the corner, drawn by Sunny Zhang, who considers the reflection in the water to be an alternate reality of the building.
Drawing is the space in which Sunny Zhang connects the materiality of line to the materiality of the front facades of the building.
The corner's geometry cascades through the interior of Sunny Zhang's building.
Aashman Goghari's work continues to explore the formal implications of a linear field.
Chris Beck's building is wrapped in lines related to multiple key vantage points.
Mengcen Shen's sees the post office linked to the mail as an animate formal condition.