Monstrous Space: Architectural Production in an Age of Algorithms

Thesis Advisor: Lawrence Sass
Reader: Terry Knight

There has been much attention in the last half-century on developing digital technologies for architectural and design production. These research trajectories are frequently concerned with interfaces between machines and designers and the fabrication of objects in innovative ways. As a result of these efforts, these technologies have enabled novel and powerful methods of representation, approaches to fabrication and construction, and the unprecedented exploration of architectural form.

In this thesis, I offer an expanded view of the role digital technologies play in architecture and design by investigating the spatial consequences of ubiquitous computation (Weiser and Brown 1997). In particular, this research is concerned with domestic architecture both as a physical manifestation and—as represented through cloud-based peer-to-peer video communication platforms—a digital echo. This physical-digital conversion fragments architectural space as its digital representation is redacted and disjoined from its embodied counterpart.  Critical parallels surface between the material qualities inherent to these fragments and those belonging to spolia, architectural fragments produced through the ruination of existing architecture and repurposed as material in new constructions.

A conceptual framework is developed which situates a hybridized physical-digital domestic space in cross-disciplinary dialogue with other concepts and processes of hybridity and aligns the aesthetic qualities of domestic-digital space within the lineage of the grotesque in Western art and architecture. A methodology for architectural production is developed in response, including a structure for hybrid human-machine design collaboration, and approaches to material creation, organization, and assembly. A Fragment Catalogue is produced, documenting and organizing a collection of digital spolia, and a series of speculative domestic architectures are constructed using fragments from the Catalogue. Differing approaches towards assembly are tested with the goal of producing spatial qualities resonant with grotesque expression.