Interview: Sir Peter Cook's questions to Marjan

Interview: Sir Peter Cook's questions to Marjan.
Partly published in Peter Cook's book: Drawing: The Motive Force of Architecture, 2nd Edition, Wiley, 2013. 

Q1.  What current development of the digital representation process excites you most AT THIS MOMENT.
My premise is that simulation is representation, too. I therefore disagree with those that would like to split the digital world into those who use the computer to depict, and those who generate. But there is a difference between those who engage in a feedback with digital and computational techniques and those who simply use them as tools.
At this moment in time I am excited by postdigital, postgeometric complexity and postfunctional paradigms. By Neomaterialism. I support the current trajectories towards high fibrosity, porosity, permeability, fuzziness. I have always been intrigued (or frustrated) why so much architecture was discussed and drawn without any material properties and capacities, without any atmospheric phenomena and performativity.

Q2. What earlier stage of the evolution of digital creativity was the key breakthrough ?
Clearly: digital theory! A large number of people are savvy with computer-aided design (CAD) software, many dig deep into programming, and develop novel techniques and languages to create repositories of computational research. But only a few manage to be theoretically propositional (not only analytical) and experimental (original, innovative).
I have always been interested in digitality because it refreshed the architectural debate in the 90s when I was studying. After Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, High Tech, Dutch Diagramism, architecture seemed to be stalled. The virtual and the cyber only confused us more by promising total disembodiment. Digital theory brought back dynamism, philosophy, smoothness, textures, elegance, exuberance. And more recently, bio-geometries, Neo-ornamentalism, etc… Digital skills and computational techniques are merely the developing of a craft that follows on to an intellectual shift in architecture. Extremely liberating….

Q3. Do you still scribble by hand ?
Of course I don’t. There are 4 reasons for this: 1) Since my architecture is convoluted and layered I need a tool or medium that is capable of handling such complexity and which is dynamic: I demand immediate visual and 3D, even 4D, feedback from drawings; 2) I am more intimate with the mouse than the pen, thus I use the computer as it allows me to communicate more efficiently; I do not want to rely on the ‘gifted hand’ and prefer to push the boundaries of what can and what cannot be drawn – or better: modeled, simulated, constructed; 3) furthermore, a CAD program allows me to control geometries, but foremost material properties and phenomena (such as light, transparencies, colour etc.).
I think that having taught for a considerable amount of time I can describe ideas and architecture also only by language; but you can do this only if your architecture is not a mere diagram of functionality, but a vessel for phenomena (and a strategic setup for mundane and idiosyncratic moves and gestures). Nonetheless, sometimes I have to scribble down some doodles to some students (but somehow they all end up looking the same…I guess I do not make enough effort to be precise; or: can you scribble with a Rotring pen how light is being refracted by a spongy CNCed semigloss surface – or similar?). 

Q4. What is your equivalent of ‘scribbling’ or ‘exploration’ or ‘trying it out ‘ ?
3D sketching and physical model making. By directly handling data, I do not have to abstract as much and can transfer more information (and intuition) into a measurable and evaluative medium: bites and bytes. The great advantage is that I (or a colleague) can manipulate something more malleable – no: ‘palpable’ – if I have a digital model. Besides, I can forward it straight to a machine, say a 3D Rapid Prototype printer, which can give me further feedback. Or an engineer, who can use it to calculate its fitness.
            I would assert that we are in a Neomaterialist society, in the sense that matter matters, especially considering the extreme pressure architecture is put under in order to perform better in terms of energy consumption, implementation of sustainable materials, more efficient processes etc. Material intelligence and novel fabrication processes (e.g. by industrial robots) are paramount. Physical model making is back. But not with white cardboard or balsa wood… 

Q5. Does digital activity and ‘hand-drawn’ inter-folding interest you. …….If so, how ?
Absolutely. However, I see the potential more in the hybridization of analogue and digital/computational in the domain of digital fabrication, than in ‘mixed’ drawings. Besides, these days the term ‘by hand’ is referring to ‘by mouse’: hand-modeled, as compared to scripted.
On the one hand I am very curious to see what the results of a ‘screen-less studio’ would be (a revamped paper-less studio of early days that would push scripting to its limits). On the other hand I am still convinced that the hand (the mouse), as much as the eye, the brain, the heart, the belly and the nose (your famous ‘sniff’, Peter) matter in producing, translating and formatting bits and bytes. There is still necessity for authorial intent and intelligence in understanding data (big and small). 

Q5.  What software offers the greatest CREATIVE potential at this time …or appearing on the horizon ?
Hardware more than software. I am hopeful that building-scale RP machines, advanced CNC processes and industrial robots will allow us to make architecture more intelligent, more 21st century.
            At the same time, I expect most software to be controlled by multitasking gestures (as in touch-screens); the contrary of the ‘screenless studio’ I mentioned above. No keyboard, no mouse, but touch-sensitive, intuitive devices with easily implementable postgeometrical complexity and immediate access to cloud intelligence. 

Q6.  What should I have asked you?
Hey, where are you. Let’s meet up sometime soon?