IMPOSSIBLE AND HYPER-REAL ELEMENTS OF ARCHITECTURE
AUTHOR: CARL LOSTRITTO
“The book is written for the reader who wants to make and theorize at the same time. In that spirit, the guest contributors and Lostritto aim to provoke and demystify at the same time."
Impossible and Hyper-Real Elements of Architecture addresses how and why architects, artists and designers manipulate reality. Front and center in this discourse is the role of rendering. Most often, to render is to engage a thick software interface, to accept a photographic framework of variables and effects, and to assume an unquestioned posture of articulating material, mass, and color. But like drawing, rendering is an interdisciplinary, algorithmic, historically rooted cultural practice as much as it is a digital vocation. Its digitality is itself rich with conflict and contradiction. For example, rendering consumes and produces digital images. Likewise, rendering requires mastery of the digital to subvert digital aesthetics.
The element is the other essential ingredient in this discourse. Elements exist behind the scenes of digital render and as subjects of those same scenes. Elements are essential in the construction of reality but can also essentially disrupt a conception of reality. The nature of elements invites a convergent conversation between matters of topology, technology, and theory. The elements in this book are labeled “impossible” because they avoid a fixed relationship to a singular built reality. Digital bonsai trees, pixels, video game levels, grids, and dioramas extend like skewers through multiple media and formats.
Through work that looks very real and can’t possibly exist, representation becomes the territory of speculation, ambiguity, and curiosity. In the same ways that drawing can describe something and can be something, a paradigm for digital representation that cycles back on itself to become that which it represents is exposed from multiple angles. Materiality and craft, concepts often seen as oppositional to digital culture, are reinvigorated with respect to contemporary technologies. Historical review of grids, gaming culture and pixels offer surprising insights on how we interact with—as well as how we might shape—software and digital media today. Throughout the book, exercises serve two functions. They offer the reader an opportunity to apply the concepts in this book to their own work in self-directed experimentation. These exercises are also discursive. They articulate a middle ground between practice and theory. They raise questions with specific, but open-ended prompts.
The internet is awash in how-to videos and tutorials about digital rendering. Critical discourse that asks, “why?” (and “why not?”) is mostly absent. Architectural discourse, on the other hand, tends to ignore rendering. It’s associated with something that we deliver to clients in professional settings. Relatedly, the “post-digital” implicitly suggests that digital methods can’t possibly be interesting or challenging to the world of architecture today. In the same way that Computational Drawing aimed to take a familiar representational subject: the drawing, and through computational customization, misuse, hacking and tool-making provoke new ideas and theories about the media of design, this book aims to champion and disrupt digital rendering.
This book is written for the reader who wants to make and theorize at the same time. In that spirit, the theoretical desks provoke and demystify at the same time. The book is written from the perspective of practice—by creators who want to influence and enable others to create—but what’s offered is something different than tutorials. The stage for discourse with a series of elements that have a slippery way of existing in new or varied forms of reality. Because these elements are intertwined with (and sometimes created wholly through) the representational media that convey them, the act of unpacking, explaining, and sharing these elements is itself a project. Methods are exposed including (and especially) those that are strange, weird, messy, extravagant, and obscene. The authors posit that representation is speculative, and that speculation is more than a matter of what to build, but how we see and affect the world.
“Ubiquitous, vintage, and natural materials, forms, and objects including bonsai trees, video game levels, and dioramas are made strange and uncanny as they are reconsidered impossible elements of architecture. ”
“The Philosophy and know-how of the anonymous builders presents the largest untapped source of architectural inspiration for industrial man. The wisdom to bee derived goes beyond economic and esthetic considerations.”
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