Leveraging nature to envision (functional) space:
The word “sight” is typically associated with the visual sense of seeing, or observing, with one’s eyes. At base, the word is fundamentally concerned with “perception” in terms of perceiving what is, is to come or might be; which has an altogether conceptually different connotation. As a noun “sight” pertains to the capacity to realise, grasp and comprehend, or to perceive; in a manner which is not specifically oriented to seeing with one’s eyes. Shaman and holy persons are one example of which people turn to for insight, and discernment of events they cannot “see” for themselves. We tend to refer to our sensorial capacity as composed of five senses: vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste. This is, however, a compounded view of our sensorial capacities which is prompted by the anthropocentric view of existence. The manner in which this overriding view has shaped our understanding of existence has fuelled the pre-eminence of our visual sense over all others and informed technological and cultural (specifically western society) progress in a manner which is focused on the ability to see visually. The Renaissance representation of space was fundamentally grounded in an ideological conception of the world. The vanishing point and the meeting of parallel lines ‘at infinity’ evokes a God-like standpoint, determining a representation at once both intellectual and visual, which promoted the primacy of the gaze in a kind of ‘logic of visualisation’. Coupled with Modern Physics (if we negate certain relativistic theories) space was qualified as continuous, isotropic, homogenous, finite or infinite; and fundamentally a matter, given credence by visually oriented techniques of representation, controlled by means of its visual articulation. The obsession with perspective is entrenched in the perceived superiority of sight, and the significance of the image; which was followed, and accentuated, by advances in photography and film. What the image offers is the articulation of space (as visual) itself. The emphasise on the visual manifestation of space has in turn determined how architects comprehend the correlation between society and the environment, and ultimately influenced if not dictated the manner in which they perceive, manufacture and develop their ideas into built form. The objectified notion of space – as visually prescribed – prevails in contemporary techniques of representation with, for example, computation being utilised to fuel hyper-real visualisation of projects or produce mute virtual reality environments that visually mimic the physical world. In this chapter a significantly different approach is proposed involving firstly, a challenge to the prominence of sight in our conceptualisation of space generally, followed by the argument that the manner in which computation is employed as a tool in design needs to be reconsidered to account for this challenge to the limitations of the visual. It suggests that the most recent potentialities offered by computation in the field of spatial design conceptually draw on issues of semiosis and the abductive (non-anthropocentric and non-materialistic) nature of living systems that free our understanding of space and the role of computation in its creation and representation. In doing so, it will be suggested that the next steps for the role of technologies in the evolution of architecture may not be visual at all, but rather more fundamental, involving an ever greater potential to mimic, learn and engage with natural systems at a level much deeper than any human sense, most of all the purely visual.
Citation : Ireland, T. (2016). Leveraging nature to envision (functional) space. In: Graham Cairns (ed.) Visioning Technologies: The Architectures of Sight. . Routledge.
ISBN : 1472454960
Research Group : Architecture Research Group
Peer Reviewed : Yes