Mediating Mediums: The Digital 3d

Presented on May 17, 2011 | Harvard GSD Advisor: Mack Scogin Greg Tran (gregmtran@gmail.com) [intro] Architecture's ability to mediate spatial and perceptual experience has historically been tied to the inherent qualities of material form and function. However, our lives have become colored by immaterial stimuli as well. Last semester Matt Storus and I did an exhibit here which explored new digital techniques.... his part focused on video game engines and mine on new developments in video and mixed reality.... The techniques we were interested in allow designers to engage in a more embodied understanding of the spaces they are designing and offer a link between intuitive experience and digital worlds. My thesis is a follow up on that project... Just wanted to start out here very briefly introduce this augmented reality model and then move into 111. . Usually this technology is used as a stand alone object... A webcam allows the visualization of a 3 dimensional model in real space, but largely it has been used as a gimmick... in advertising, games etc, but has failed to have to have contextual relationships with real geometry. This is an incredibly simple model, but keep it in mind as i show the presentation in the next room. ::show model:: Here the physical walls exist in material space, but when you look through a certain lens digital walls sync up to close the space, overlay the physical walls, and create new perceptions. It’s not about the material reality on its own and it’s not about the digital reality on its own. My project is about the mediation of these two mediums and discovering the ways that they can enrich one another. It seeks to explore the potential when the two are blurred… ::Move to 111:: The video I’m about to show is of a technique which is applicable to architecture now. It’s a representational technique in this lineage I've been describing As the material and digital collapse, new tools for art and architecture are created. The current incarnation allows for designed and simulated geometries projected into video of physical space with realistic light and textures. In architecture, the digital is largely used as a tool to help organize data, and mock up geometries and create design drawings, but the format has always been in the abstract. Current computational tools produce a disembodied representation of three dimensional space on two dimensional surfaces… These representations and modes of design production lack tangible spatial scalar context, and fail to emphasize processional or experiential qualities from

an embedded perspective. This video technique gives architects the ability to iterate through a more experiential lens. ::show first video (camera matching technique - current uses):: It used to be thought that the future of the digital would be VIRTUAL REALITY.... an entirely digital world which would be completely simulated with no context or spatial limitations. We've all seen it... in x men/james bond/star trek’s holodeck…. Any future technological reference... A white box which projects any environment that you could imagine. In this paradigm you step OUT of the Material world in INTO the Digital world. …but the reality is otherwise.... and the future of the digital seems to be moving in another direction. Technologies like the nintedo wii 3ds, xbox kinect, the ipad illustrate that the future of the digital is tied to and is enriched when it is connected to material reality. The digital becomes an infrastructural and informational prosthetic, but is most profound when it ties back to the human body and ties back to material reality… First, the digital must break out of the screen. ::Show part one of Diagrams Video – breaking out the screen:: ::Show glasses:: The hardware for this technology is very primitive... with these glasses you're able to look through a lens which overlays digital information onto what you're already seeing. But like the evolution of video, photography etc the armature will get smaller and more streamlined. They're already developing LED contacts which would be a streamlined condition. Like anything, this technology will evolve according to historical trend… ::Show part two of Diagrams video - History Diagram:: The visual and material arts work within the realm of a few defined categories... in a conventional sense, the first objects ever created by humans fall into the first which is the material 3d. These are things like tools, weapons, eventually sculpture and architecture. At some point writing, cave paintings etc were invented and began to form the second category of the material 2d and things like photography, the moving image etc engendered the digital 2d.

People assume we have digital 3d already but this is a fallacy. When you rotate your model on a screen or watch a Pixar animation is actually just a digital 2d REPRESENTATION of material 3d. What people are calling 3d TV and 3d Movies are just a form of shallow depth or Bas Relief. Not true digital 3d.

The critical/operative imperative of the digital 3d is that there is a subject moving through space. The digital 3d is in its beginning stages, but will evolve in a similar way to the digital 2d. The digital 2d began as a specialized, singular medium which was largely used for documentation purposes, but has evolved towards personalization, interactivity, fluency and distribution. The immaterial quality of the digital allows for three groups of operation (three types of programs) Personal , Internet and LAN ::Show part 3 of the Diagrams Video - 3 Groups Diagram:: The Personal functions alone... this is like digital photography or software on your computer which exist only on YOUR computer (notepad, microsoft word etc) It is site specific in that you only have access to it when you have your digital device. The Internet model group based, but it is non-site specific. It is not tied to place. The final and most important one, the one that applies to architecture... is the LAN model. The local area network. With a LAN system the network and the group ARE site specific and the digital network is tied to a radius around the building. It IS a digital characteristic of a physical building. This interrelation between the digital and physical implies that digital realities, walls, perceptions etc (things like i just showed in the models) have the potential to only be seen and experienced in that physical place. The implications of this are huge and break the trend and assumption that place is no longer important to architecture (with google images we can see a building in africa/asia and some people say we never need to go there to get that experience), but with this reality, the simultaneous and inextricable connection between material and digital require actually being there in person. It strengthens architecture in that way and creates site specific identities... identities which an internet based model has largely stolen away. ::Show Part 4 of the Diagrams Video - Thesis Diagram (Future Evolution of Digital 3d):: So the thesis lies here... the evolution of the architectural medium and how it engages the new tools of the digital 3d. The traditional mode of material production moves forward, but three new forms of design emerge. Digital 3d immersion is the first and is most similar to virtual reality (but has little to nothing to do with architecture.) It is a simulated environment which is entirely digital and relies on material/site specificity as little as possible. Digital 3d renovation is where existing facilities are retrofit with site specific D3d software and environment recognition, but the final condition is Digital 3d architecture. This bridges the design gap between the digital and the material.

These are buildings which consider/mediate the digital and material realities during design, construction and completion. Here, the medium really is the message… The new medium is not meant to supersede material architecture but rather give new agency to architects and empower the profession on a whole. The purpose of this thesis is not to design an architecture that works perfectly within this new medium, but rather to highlight the medium itself, research potentials, create kernel ideas and discover the implications that this type of reality would hold. Before I show this next video let me just preface it by saying there are two types of Digital 3d… The first is the Visual and the second is the Operative. The first part of the video will describe The Visual and then later on it will describe The Operative ::Play Final Video (The Visual – The Operative – Gund Hall D3d Renovation):: [Script in Final Video]
::the visual:: In order for meaningful connection/visualization to occur between the material and the digital, first the two have to be aligned. This allows digital/material adjacencies, overlays and simultaneous realities to be possible… when you're looking through a certain lens... This requires that the digital model match the physical reality perfectly. At the GSD we have both the material reality and a physically similar digital model so it’s a perfect venue for testing potential. This all assumes that the inhabitants of a building are connected to the visual display through a local area network... Through that network simultaneous digital realities are perceived and allow for experiential or informational overlays, hierarchies of visual privacies in addition to remote digital spatial access. Most simply the overlay can change things like material treatment or material scale and depending on the complexity and accuracy of the digital model is able to alter the material reality in more subtle visual ways as well. It can create barriers that function according to time and group and provide visual and even social privacy in specific locations. With the material and digital geometry synched up its can allow for new forms of transparencies and broader spatial awareness of proximity and spatial expansion... This can also be selectively occluded to render notational information such as paths or wayfinding. Because the 3d digital cannot function on a material level, it sometimes creates counterintuitive effects like this interior/exterior condition. This example also suggests a softer type of social boundary which can be permeated smoothly. Spatial depth is replicated to create expansion or compression of space and can function in collaboration with visual privacy barriers. It is most powerful when it draws on the material context and blurs the line between real or rendered.

The examples so far have been in a physical context, but these abstractions show more generally ideas about artificial spatial depth, processional possibilities and issues of privacy and remote spatial linkage. My previous work also explored these visual potentials and focused on the interactivity and changeability of a building that can potentially be given to users... ::the operative:: The second and potentially more profound method of the digital 3d is the operative. This is essentially the idea that invisible spatial barriers are able to turn functionalities on and off, and also have awareness of your spatial location, identity and preferences. A wireless network is a perfect example of this functionality, but represents a weak spatial boundary. At the GSD for example when you are within a certain radius, you're able to access your programs, files , all of these things… but when you leave that space that functionality turns off and some of your digital abilities are lost. If that weak boundary is made spatial, if it’s made even more site specific then your location relative to it becomes even more important. These can be used as subsets within buildings, can be tied to material walls and can be visible or invisible to users. These borders and changing functionalities already exist in the space of the digital 2d. When you enter a spatial boundary here, your abilities change. It knows your location and because of that it allows you certain levels of access, interactivity, production or visualization. When you leave that space, your digital abilities and immaterial visuals change, but it’s all couched within a site specific geometric model. This new type of D3d design also calls for a new form of design drawings. The main drawing is of the material reality. The context. This is the armature for everything else , and in addition you must draw the overlay. The digital spatial or perceptual drawings. Like the space of the internet these representations and immaterial updates are characterized into three types. What the user sees can be based on location, time, or group. In the example of the expanded hallway shown earlier, the perception changes based on location. When he enters the hallway, the visualization is activated, and the material reality is overlaid with the first digital/location based drawing, as he moves down the hallway the image persists but as he enters the classroom it changes again based on his new location. Time and group based drawings function in a similar set but have different criterion. Time based visualizations change throughout the day, and group based drawings change based on hierarchy relative to the building. As one example, students are able to see and interact with one reality, professors with another, and visitor with a third. Presumably more interactivity or userability is given to inhabitants that have a closer bond with that specific place.

The operative condition allows different buildings to function like different websites. Like their material reality, the functionality of these is based on the site specific group to which it caters. Some are informational, formal, some are based around a social network and the sharing of information. Their ability to know who belongs and who is logged on at that moment allows for interactivity and social reorganization and the precursors of gps and social tracking sites already give a spatial tie between material buildings and digital location.

In the space of the internet today, you tell the system about yourself, your interests and to what groups you subscribe. In return it orients you around people and information which is most relevant to you. It is all about proximities and gives you the ability to navigate around your preferred places and social groups. An example application of this could be applied to the GSD… When you arrive it recognizes you, your schedule, intent, academic interests and groups. Currently the trays are organized by studio and social interaction is dramatically based on that physical proximity. But like the example of the internet, our social organization is multilayered and we belong to more groups than just one. If the building is aware of who is logged in (who is physically there) what groups they subscribe to, who their friends are and what their academic interests are, these proximities can be much more fluid. When you arrive at the building, it is aware of all your potential social groups, is able to filter out the people who aren't physically there, filter out the people who have to be in a specific location at a specific time, and place the potential adjacencies. With this fluidity the maximum number of desks in use at one goes down and can be taken out and you can be placed in a common group each day. Based on your preferences and schedule your groups change parametrically and throughout the year you sit in a multitude of different locations. This allows the digital 3d to function as a new type of social organizer and is able to affect the physical space through user efficiencies based on time and occupancy. This evolution is culminated with an architecture designed simultaneously with the digital. Projects which consider both material and digital realities from conception to finish and allow architects continued effect and commission throughout the lifespan of a building. With this new agency, architects are able to update and maintain the digital and are given the ability to reauthenticate digital spatial paradigms as the audience changes. This territory must be navigated thoughtfully to avoid empty stimulation or gimmicky appeal. The digital 3d has the potential to change perception and action, but it is fundamentally unable to replicate material effects like shelter, texture, touch and heightened privacy. The new medium It is not meant to supersede material architecture and would be unable to if it tried... the tools simply provide new potentials for architects and create a site specific condition which can empower and give agency to the profession at large. ::Gund Hall D3d Renovation::