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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Data mediation and visualisation

Data mediation and visualisation
  • On November 8, 2015

Image: Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Soft architecture can be translated as a procedure of mediation between the physical world and the invisible space of data. Soft architecture in terms of Negroponte is investigating the new digital means of his era through the view of the world as a memory1. Data input was translated into image elements: diagrams, sketches, lines, curves and graphical syntheses through special systems of recognition, making softness visible. The output’s complexity was dictated by the capacity and special features of the medium, in this case the primitive digital tools of the 70’s. Nevertheless, these simplistic forms of human — computer communication established a start point in the world of digital interactions.

Diller Scofidio Blur

A good example of soft architecture’s connection to image is Blur building by Diller+Scofidio. They created a fog for the Swiss national expo 2002, which is produced by a smart weather system who controls how the water will by pumped, filtered and shot by special nozzles. This system reads environmental aspects like temperature and humidity, processes this data and creates a fine mist. There is also a sound installation, transmitting natural sounds. The Blur is a low resolution environment where vision is substituted only with the basics: it is a white noise nebula, where Diller+Scofidio tried to dematerialise architecture and electronic technologies 2. In this case soft architecture can also be viewed as an effort of dematerializing space in a level where the interaction between architecture and technology is perceptible only by it’s results 3.

Soft architecture machines according to Benedikt’s [1991], Introduction to Cyberspace: First Steps can be the visualisation of the intrinsically nonphysical 4 and the forming of society’s most intricate abstractions, processes, and organisms of information 5. Soft architecture machines are the tools of what Sir Karl Popper calls World3 ie structures that are abstract and purely informational: forms social organization […] or patterns of communication 6.

Aranda Lasch - Brooklyn Pigeon Project

Another example to describe these structures that visualise the non physical or better that reinvent the process of visualisation is the Brooklyn Pigeon Project by Aranda / Lasch. TPB is an alternative way of mapping through trained pigeons who carry special transmitters — recorders. The pigeons are used as a ‘component of an imaging apparatus 7 only transmitting signal. The total of the interactions of the flying recording machines can be comparable to World3 and their interaction with the environment creates a special map of Brooklyn.

In conclusion, soft architecture provides the structure for a dense network of interactions, through special devices oschillating between material and immaterial. They conduct digital information in special ways; they are abstract capacitors open to interpretation. So how is soft architecture visualised? What are the special tools and operations behind this visualisation process?

1. Negroponte Nicholas [1975], Soft Architecutre Machines, The MIT Press, p.45

2,3. Betsky Aaron, Hays K. Michael, Anderson Laurie [2003], Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, p.70

4. Benedikt Michael [1991], Introduction to Cyberspace: First Steps, The MIT Press, p.18

5. Benedikt Michael [1991], Introduction to Cyberspace: First Steps, The MIT Press, p.18

6. Benedikt Michael [1991], Introduction to Cyberspace: First Steps, The MIT Press, p.3-4

7. [accessed on 15.10.27]

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