Infoscience

Thesis

Dynamic Ornament: The Design of Responsive Architectural Environments

This thesis study investigates the architectural potential of digital information, using case studies and prototypes to explore the integration of dynamic information in the architectural environment. Responsive architecture, a design field that has arisen in recent decades at the intersection of architecture and computer science, invokes a material response to digital information and implies the capacity of the building to respond dynamically to changing stimuli. One important function of responsive architecture is the communication of dynamic qualities of the environment, a function that has the potential to enhance the experience of the building by giving expression to its fleeting, changeable aspects. I have chosen to use the discourse of architectural ornament as a means of engaging the architectural roots of interactive intervention. Like responsive architecture, ornament addresses the integration of furniture and objects, and well as movable, mechanical elements in the work of architecture. This is a topic that I believe has particular relevance for computer-augmented architecture. In addition, the history of ornament offers into the integration of information in buildings, and can be mined for strategies that have the potential to inform the integration of dynamic data in the built environment. "Dynamic ornament" is a term that describes the subset of responsive architecture that I will investigate in this thesis. I have focused in the thesis on responsive components whose functionality involves the communication of dynamic information. The primary contribution of the thesis is the identification of design strategies for the integration of dynamic digital information in buildings based on the tradition of architectural ornament. A primary intention of the thesis is to rehabilitate the position of computer-augmented architecture by addressing some of the principal critiques made against it: rapid obsolescence, superficiality, and irrelevance to the central concerns of architecture. Like ornament, the digital augmentations of architecture are commonly treated as accessory to the central and lasting concerns of architectural theory and practice. It is my contention that the modernist debate over ornament is a persistent topic which has refused to go away, and which continues to influence contemporary discussions of architecture and digital technology. I hope to bring a new focus to the design of responsive architecture, one that emphasizes the symbolic aspects of digital interventions by engaging a neglected history of architecture augmented by technology.

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