Project Fusion

This thesis showed how architecture can arise the reflection on dialectically perceiving the relationship between artificial and natural. 
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Photo Credit: ISTOCK PHOTO/PHOTO-DAVE

AI has been reshaping the relationship between technology and nature/ technology and humans. For example, the rapid development of AI has equipped many Apps with powerful data-processing capabilities just like human brain; similar to ecosystem’s control of multiple layers in the natural world (water cycle, food chain, etc.), AI also manipulates data from various aspects of municipal administration to establishing an artificial landscape or even smart city with everything interconnected. Compared to Bauhaus’ initiate on providing people with a modern, convenient lifestyle to respond to early twentieth century's industrialization processes, can nowadays academic architecture be an avant-garde media to raise public awareness of the ongoing changes in the intermingled relationship between the natural and the artificial, and even to establish new aesthetics, lifestyle, and values? Can architecture join the discussion about cultural and social phenomena associated with AI, and trigger formal/ tectonic/material/aesthetic/design-target (e.g. solve environmental issues such as climate change) innovation? Times Square & Central Park, as typical examples of the artificial urban environment and artificial landscape are selected as the sites. I intend to design multiple small/medium scaled “follies” in different areas on two sites, with innovative form and material, provide people with new scenes, ideas, and reflection.

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PROBE 2.0

When Alpha Go beats the best human Go player; when an amateur driver can confidently drive to a strange place with Google Map; when YouTube gives you a series of recommendations after you watch several videos, etc. No matter you embrace or hate this technology, AI is everywhere in your life. My observation of these facts become the entry point for my architectural thesis.

 

Then I move to broader timeline research to see how previous architects responded to their pioneering technology and then how the new aesthetics in architecture led to a new round of social reaction; I also found associated Science Fiction movies/literature for my reference to widening the width of the topic. I found that people attitude to technology is either positive or negative. For example, responding to 1920s industrialization, the Frankfurt kitchen marked a milestone in domestic architecture and led to a convenient modern lifestyle/ however, in the French movie, My Uncle, the post-modern architecture with advanced automation control became a source of the joke. Similarly, AI, as what we think to make our life better now, is an evil existence in those dystopian Sci-fi movies. For example, Matrix described a future where people are unaware that they are “imprisoned” by AI in a virtual world; in Westworld, robots with AI core gain self-awareness and betrayed their “fidelity” setting, the priority principle in their programming. In these examples, technology has the power to generate complex values and moral debates. This is also true in the architecture-related subjects.

 

Central Park, as Olmsted’s design to create an artificial landscape, brought collaborative interdisciplinary technology to meet complex requirements such as irrigation, rainfall management, human activity, and ecological issue, etc. However, for New York’s residents, this is conceptually a natural green land as birds and other small animals inhabit here. Times Square is famous for its stacking of screens and billboards, celebrating an international-style commercial cityscape; but we can also perceive these technologies as low-tech, compared to smart AI and there are also hidden habitats behind the billboard or in the sewer. If we carefully differentiate the nuance of these, the boundary between artificial and natural is vague. And technology is the cause to accelerate this recognition.

 

I believe architecture and design can raise our awareness of just how artificial or natural our environments truly are. I intend to design for two sites (Times Square & Central Park) as a pair of comparisons to draw attention to our misperceptions. The design will be on an experiential/architectural scale, which welcomes people to come close and interact. The material, color, and form will be innovative, to respond to the new aesthetic brought by new technological development. For the format, it consists of a series of “follies” to represent the various levels of artificial/natural identity to respond to the different technology-human/nature relationship. Considering people nowadays preference on “soft education” rather than purely academic format, the tone of this experiential space will be entertaining, while reflective and provocative.

When the boundary of the iPad disappears, does the landscape framed by the screen and its context merge into one?

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PROBE 1.0

Since the 20th century, the rapid development of technology has reshaped people’s life and living environment. Architecture, as an academic subject, has undoubtedly reacted to the technology development path. From my observation, AI represents today's most influencing technology, as its universal application in different fields (such as Google Map/ Online video recommendation/ image processing software/ etc.). Rather than focusing on its pure functions, novel writers and movie directors during the past century have discussed many positive or negative (dystopian disaster) potentials of AI in the future. 

Because of AI’s special position between human and machine, the topic of AI has become a lens to talk about many dialectical questions. As architecture study has been engaging more and more interdisciplinary issues, artificial & natural and human/nature & technology relationships become my interests.

By studying the history of the construction of Central Park, I saw many complex artificial efforts under its green appearance. Based on the deconstructed understanding of Central Park, I unpacked different layers of the construction of Times Square. Thus, a complex reading on artificial/ natural topics was generated.

 

Observation:
The rise of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

Reflection:
Architecture and design can raise our awareness of just how artificial or natural our environments truly are.

Declaration:
I intend to design for two sites - one which appears highly natural, one which appears highly artificial - to draw attention to our misperceptions. 

© 2020 by Tianbao HU

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