UBC Graduate Research

Source Fields : Experiments in Computation and Public Architecture in the Age of the Echo Chamber Preiss, Alexander Edgar


Source Fields is a research and design project that aims to be critical of its urban and societal context through antagonization. The work intends to be emergent through optimization of architectural experience obtained through computational negotiations of physical and human forces. This exploration sought to understand how computational design is changing contemporary practice. Through an interview process with local professionals, it was determined that computation is changing how the design process is carried out. This research identified key areas of future study including early use of computation, and the potential powers of machine learning. The research portion of the work investigates architecture’s changing relationship with the public. Further it examines the role of the technology throughout history in shaping new aspects of practice and society. This body of research informed a reading of our contemporary society as an echo chamber. The following design work attempted to use computation to counter this contemporary phenomenon. The design work is an experiment in computationally arranged space. It is the design of a computational system that would simultaneously create form, and perceive the effect of that form on explicit architectural experiences. This process was split into five phases which plot iterations in a three dimensional field of thousands of possible design iterations using multi-variable optimization. Three buildings were produced from these source fields which represent a minimum, medium, and maximum amount of computation time. The project is intended to be understood as an experiment in the value of optimization, and of intuitive design choice within an architectural design methodology. Embracing the documented restructuring of architectural practice, this project shifts an architect’s attention from object to process. The proposed building is a community centre for Surrey-Newton which acts as the context of an unconventional deployment of computational strategies that attempt to quantify the qualitative. Rather than optimize for physical efficiency, the aspiration of this process is to map a field of options in pursuit of variety of experience and chance encounter.

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