PCAD (post-critical-authorless-design) or (parametrically-controlled-automated-design)…thank you Wes Jones

October 16, 2008

PCAD (post-critical-authorless-

design) or (parametrically-controlled-automated-design)….thank you Wes Jones

We seem to be at an interesting moment in architecture today, one that espouses the virtues of authorless design while generating totalizing environments that fill and often overwhelm a person’s sensual comprehension. This tendency towards affect establishes a strange relationship between the designer and the designed world, one where there is a tremendous amount of media being produced, however it is entirely unclear what the aim of all this production is. Traditionally the totalizing environment has been an extension of the state, a technical apparatus that uses architecture as a means to multiply the state’s authority. With authorless design, we do not have this political agenda anymore, instead we have the multiplication of tectonic elements for no other reason than the creation of visual effects in an of them self.

What is perhaps most troubling about this development in architecture is that it presents a totalizing spatial matrix that is simply waiting for a political entity to assume its totalizing power. Unlike Modernism, which was the product of certain social and political processes, PCAD is a movement without manifesto, it is a product for product’s sake. The most liberal practitioners of PCAD espouse the great liberty afforded to them by this new value-free (value-less?) design methodology. One where the digital magic of algorithmic architecture generates an image of an environment that is beyond the capacity of the designerto produce, where randomness produces unanticipated results and are treated with degree of awe and wonderment that is typically reserved for non-human processes. But as Greg Lynn pointed out in a talk at Harvard last year, that simply outputting 50 pieces of garbage from a script and selecting the best one, is still selecting a piece of garbage.

What I find to be the most disingenuous aspect of PCAD is that it creates a kind of omnipotence about the script, where in the definition of generative forces are allowed to play out, the results of which are both entirely within the genius of the script and outside the responsibility of the designer, it is to say “things happen” (which I might point out is an explanation of last resort). When speaking with Kristof Crolla about his AADRL thesis he positioned himself in such a way that the architectural product he was creating was the product of the script, therefor he bore little to no responsibility for the failings of the project, but was more than ready to accept the praise for the dramatic image of it. Of course this work is not without merit, there is a remarkable facility demonstrated here for working across media and across scales.You can see Kristof’s project at http://www.sugar-inc-architecture.com.

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2 Responses to “PCAD (post-critical-authorless-design) or (parametrically-controlled-automated-design)…thank you Wes Jones”

  1. darby said

    In general, scripts are just tools, tools that allow designers do the same things they always do, but much faster. Like machine guns, they can be both more effective and more dangerous, depending on the shooter.

  2. kg said

    I think that ‘authorless design’ as a term is a little bit ironic coming from someone who collects pre-made shipping containers and combines them as if ordering from a catalogue.
    The notion that a design created parametrically is less ‘authorial’ than one where lines are extruded upwards to create wall with an infinite number of unconsidered points in space is BAWDGSz. (bitter architects who don’t got skillz)

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