DigitAlia. The Other Digital Practice

DigitAlia. The Other Digital Practice
Colletti, Marjan.
Published in:

AD Exuberance: New Virtuosity in Contemporary Architecture (guest.ed Marjan Colletti), March/April 2010, Profile No 204, pp 16-23. 

The pursuit of computerised complexity per se is, at present, most often a rather shallow endeavour. Elaborated topological 3-D crochets appear as frequently on the Internet as 3-D rendered chimeras and monsters. Indeed, the first are good enough for copy-and-paste blogs, the latter for 3-D software gallery pages. But surely, this issue's quest for (digital) exuberance does not pertain to either group of these skilled modellers.

Neither does exuberance concern the rationalist and epistemological lobby: its barricades crowded and piled high; its manifestos engineer-functionalist, mathematic-descriptive and neo-Sachlich. Against this trend, I bring forth the possibility of an empiricist phenomenological counterpart: DigitAlia – the other digital practice. It adheres to the principles of openness and synthesis, and favours a digital avant-garde developed through 3-D software and computer numerically controlled (CNC), rapid prototyping (RP), computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies. DigitAlia has no manifesto, as it does not believe in dogmas, doctrines and isms, yet it has a clear political agenda, which is outlined below:

1. Digital Politics
The politics of DigitAlia are inclusive and involve everything that is to do with digitality: practice, profession, methods, manoeuvres, principles, opinions, strategies, intrigue, and control over structure, organisation and administration.

2. Digital Poetics
DigitAlia provides an alternative to the understanding and the production of CAD beyond protocols, mathematics and geometry, and towards digital poetics: performance, (re)production, (re)presentation, projection, mimesis, automatism, reflection and bliss, intuition, creativity and intimacy.

3. Convolution
DigitAlia equals convolution (blur, overlap and interference): it expands architecture by blurring and pushing the boundaries of the discipline, by layering contexts, ideas and technologies, and by multitasking and by interfering with linear design processes.

4. CAADemiurgy
DigitAlia re-proposes the digital architect as demiurge: the creator and craftsman, whose skills manage to call into being possible spaces, places, images, things, words and worlds that are not, with a plethora of means of representation and of Technik not available to the analogue practice.[1]

5. CyberBaroque
DigitAlia avoids the dichotomy of rational and empirical thinking, and enables the morphing of classical-digital architectural semantics into playful theatrical tectonics and typologies. In fact, the most contemporary manifestation of digital architecture achieves the synthesis of poetic expression and intuitive knowledge, of culture and tradition as well as industry and progress.

6. Phenomenology
DigitAlia does not dismiss a phenomenological inspection into CAD's personal, subjective, intellectual and cognitive processes. On the contrary, the phenomenological goal for DigitAlia is twofold: the phenomenology of the poetic imagination (of the designer and the user), and of the poetic image (of the architectural input and output).[2] Such poetic digital image achieves the overlap of intuition/input and expression/output.[3]

7. Cognitive Parameters
DigitAlia aims at merging geometric parameters and cognitive properties, as well as geometric properties and cognitive parameters. Geometric properties are to do with materiality, form, organisation – the setup of Gestalt; cognitive parameters are to do with senses, perception, behaviour – the setup of consumption (or even empathy). The latter include anamorphic projections, perspectival illusion, environmental criteria and other perception-based parameters.

8. Approximatively Rigorous
When architecture is understood as an approximately exact dynamic morphological entity – as variations in decisions and process do inevitably produce different outputs – rigour is the approximatively exact coming to terms with an anexact yet definitely maybe rigorous process: the coming to terms with ambiguity towards control by extrapolating individual observations towards a common strategic agenda and social proposal.

9. Exuberance
Criticising objectivity as invariance, evolution as method, users as observers, it could be argued that it is the challenge of this generation of creative thinkers (whatever the discipline) to fully engage with the actuality – rather than the virtuality – of CAD. This means that after the initial period of definition and discovery of disembodied virtual realities, datascapes and cyber-realities, the endeavour now is to establish a debate in which experimentation, technology and progress do not exclude the actuality of emotions, traditions and identity – and the pursue of exuberance.

10. InterPolis - Interpolated Urbanism
Pursuing an interpolating research strategy that is synthetic – as it introduces something new between an array of existing elements – results in the emergence of InterPolis. Digital urbanism usually extrapolates geometric singularities into multiplicity and modulation of complexity/language via parametric cohesion. Such an approach is global, and pursues networking, evolution and growth. InterPolis approaches urbanism by interpolating multiplicity and modulation of complexity/language into singularity via convoluted cohesion. Such an approach is also global, as it pursues identity, involution (involvement) and synthesis.

1. The CAADemiurge can overcome the schisms in the 15th and 16th centuries between intellectual and manual labour (and architecture), and in the 19th century between automatic mechanisation and poetic creation. The operational field of the demiurge is the ‘chōros, the precosmic space, the place and the “nurse” of all being'. See Joseph Rykwert, The Dancing Column: On Order in Architecture, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA and London), 1996, p 386.
2. In contrast to Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, phenomenology is here not dismissed as ‘the desire to have everything grounded within the body and within experience’, and I do not agree that ‘phenomenological practice could never propose a new architecture’. Reiser and Umemoto claim that phenomenology is not good enough as a ‘generative model’, and that if it were, then architecture would lapse ‘into some form of modernism for the purpose of organizing space’ and some sort of classical model of humanism. See Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, Atlas of Novel Tectonics/Reiser + Umemoto, Princeton Architectural Press (New York), 2006 pp 230, 84.
3. Very much in line with Gaston Bachelard and his poetic reverie, it demands active participation and intuitive response during design production. See Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos, trans Daniel Russell, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1971, pp 183–210. And it seems to look 'for salient “poetic” (cultural) and not merely scientific-rational (technical) proponents of the digital revolution’. See Mark Goulthorpe, ‘Notes on digital nesting: A poetics of evolutionary form’, in Leon van Schaik, AD Poetics in Architecture, Vol 72, No 2, March 2002, p 19.