architecture is code

Nicholas Nova points us (yes, I noticed this via Adam’s blog first even though Nicholas’s is also in my daily RSS feeds) in the direction of a talk given by Rob Kitchen on "Code/Space." Kitchen suggests that (in the world of network culture) spaces of everyday life are increasingly coded by software, that is, not only are we more and more reliant on our PCs, we are also reliant on elevators controlled by computers, automobiles and streets controlled by computers, communication and entertainment networks, and on and on. Kitchen and Martin Dodge have written a paper "Code and the Transduction of Space" that elaborates on this condition.

But what is code? And why should architects care?

Although Lawrence Lessig famously argues that "Code is Law," throughout Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace he also invokes the field of architecture. Over and over, Lessig describes code in specifically architectural terms, referring to the shapers of cyberspace as architects. This is no accident. In his citations, Lessig points the reader back to texts on architecture. Lessig’s goal, in resorting to an architectural framework, is to underscore the constructed nature of both built environments and cyberspace, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, environments are increasingly the product of code. Architecture, code, and law are increasingly melding into one.

For architects, the consequences are clear. Regardless of what the "Make it New" crowd wants, building codes, design review guidelines, historic preservation ordinances, protective covenants, together with the demands of the financial and real estate markets are creating a condition in which a building is virtually pre-determined before an architect ever sees it (if he or she ever does). Architects frequently lament this condition, but what if instead we agree with Kitchen and Dodge that code is a fundamental constituent of our culture. What then?

Well, to start, we realize that if these spaces are increasingly given by code, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, they are also coded, active spaces. In other words, the old idea of the space invested with meaning is now replaced by a performative space with a certain capacity for producing situations.

And that, is a big change that we are investigating at the Netlab.

 

Nicholas Nova points us (yes, I noticed this via Adam’s blog first even though Nicholas’s is also in my daily RSS feeds) in the direction of a talk given by Rob Kitchen on "Code/Space." Kitchen suggests that (in the world of network culture) spaces of everyday life are increasingly coded by software, that is, not only are we more and more reliant on our PCs, we are also reliant on elevators controlled by computers, automobiles and streets controlled by computers, communication and entertainment networks, and on and on. Kitchen and Martin Dodge have written a paper "Code and the Transduction of Space" that elaborates on this condition.

But what is code? And why should architects care?

Although Lawrence Lessig famously argues that "Code is Law," throughout Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace he also invokes the field of architecture. Over and over, Lessig describes code in specifically architectural terms, referring to the shapers of cyberspace as architects. This is no accident. In his citations, Lessig points the reader back to texts on architecture. Lessig’s goal, in resorting to an architectural framework, is to underscore the constructed nature of both built environments and cyberspace, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, environments are increasingly the product of code. Architecture, code, and law are increasingly melding into one.

For architects, the consequences are clear. Regardless of what the "Make it New" crowd wants, building codes, design review guidelines, historic preservation ordinances, protective covenants, together with the demands of the financial and real estate markets are creating a condition in which a building is virtually pre-determined before an architect ever sees it (if he or she ever does). Architects frequently lament this condition, but what if instead we agree with Kitchen and Dodge that code is a fundamental constituent of our culture. What then?

Well, to start, we realize that if these spaces are increasingly given by code, as Kitchen and Dodge suggest, they are also coded, active spaces. In other words, the old idea of the space invested with meaning is now replaced by a performative space with a certain capacity for producing situations.

And that, is a big change that we are investigating at the Netlab.

 

One thought on “architecture is code

  1. It strikes me that people
    It strikes me that people like REX and BIG are attempting to resolve code in their practices, if in a somewhat simplistic manner. Their habit of presenting projects as a series of diagrams which explain the ‘necessity’ or inevitability of the architectural proposal is a specific development of OMA’s brutal rationalism. These younger firms are using code (zoning, building code, or restrictions imposed by the client) as an alibi for their projects and as a foil against which they can attempt to create meaning, but it also establishes a fairly depressing lock-step situation for the establishment of value. In other words, when a project is argued as a response to code it begs to be evaluated primarily on those terms, a depressing proposition for something which (ideally, at least) is producing numerous effects beyond its diagram-response. One of the striking things about the Seattle Public Library is the richness of the building that’s a result of everything but what was depicted in the offset stacking diagram so often published with the project.

    If we’ve seen some early stabs at operating within the productive strictures of code, what will the virtuosos
    produce? Or perhaps what we’re seeing now in these OMA offshoots is not so much designing with code but designing _to_ code.

    Of course, there’s a difference between code as a part of the architectural proposal and code as part of the practice. It’s the latter that I’m particularly finding interesting these days.

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