Interactive Architecture

Interactive Architecture

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-653-7.ch006
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From Digital Elements To Interactive Textures

Pieces of electronics do not make interactive textures happen. Instead, in order to make the move from pure pieces of technology to interactive textures several aspects needs to be carefully considered. With the same eye for quality in material selection when it comes to creating new physical textures that any skilled designer, artist or architect is used to we also need to carefully select the digital technology to be blended into these new textures. In the same way as any skilled designer considers the material properties of any physical material, some specific attention must be putted on the properties of the digital material in question.

Further on, as we are to bring these two elements together in the creation of new textures, the connections or relations between these two must also be designed as to fully make the two elements work together.

A source of inspiration for this complicated work can be found in the intellectual work by Oosterhuist (2007) on the components and nature of interactive architecture including his statement that:

interactive architecture is not about communication between people, it is defined as the art of building relationships between built components in the first place, and building relations between people and the built components in the second place”.

As noticed from this quote we need to think about integration of materials at different levels. We cannot only think about integration between the physical and the digital into one coherent structure. But we must also consider this integration in relation to its potential users.

In the movement from digital elements towards the creation of new interactive textures a guiding notion can then be the concept of “compositions” as described and outlined in chapter 5. Through this unifying concept equal attention is given to the creation of relationships between the elements of the composition and the relationship between the composition and an external observer via the concept of appearance as wholeness. Thus, in our efforts to design new textures we should critically ask ourselves whether or not a certain composition of physical and digital elements appears as a wholeness – and not only visually, but also functionally and in the interactional interplay in which both physical and digital aspects of a certain composition comes into play.

One of the hardest challenges to make this appearance of wholeness happens lies in the designers ability to texturize the computational in the physical, mostly because traditional materials are easier to carve out visually, and digital technology on the other hand, are typically a challenge to fully embed in the physical world.


From Textures To Architectures

When we have the new textures in place, when we have access to new transmaterials and new architectural elements to play around with the next challenge is to move from these textures and elements to the level of architecture. This, both in terms of scale of installations, but foremost in terms of conceptual thinking on digital integration in our physical world.

Here, to make the move from textures to architectures require a mindset focused not on interactive textures and architecture as two separate elements, but instead, a thinking that directly takes a point of departure in a unified view on these two under the label of “interactive architecture”.

The notion of “Interactive architecture” (e.g. Bullivant, 2005; Fox & Kemp, 2009) bridges in itself two design traditions, i.e. design of interactive systems (e.g. Benyon, 2004) on the one hand, and traditional architecture (e.g. Ching, 2007) as the tradition of designing our built environment on the other hand. As such, this emerging area, in which digital technologies are used as one design material (Vallgårda & Redström, 2007) amongst other materials in the creation of new built environments, challenges the traditional approach to systems design, as well as the methods applied to arrive at well-grounded digital solutions. More specifically, interactive architecture as an emerging design practice simultaneously calls for an architectural approach to interactive systems design, and for an interactive systems design approach to the design of our built environment. As described by Sengers, et al. (2004) the recent movement towards ubiquitous computing calls for such a practical and theoretical bridge between architecture and interactive systems design.

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