Category: Research

A small piece of folded paper

I just came across this article I wrote for the TU Delft magazine Bnieuws, back when I worked in the Architecture faculty. The magazine has a regular column where they ask a staff member to write about one of their favourite objects. I chose a small piece of folded paper. Here is the article (you can read the original in Bnieuws 52/2 here):

A piece of paper, covered in notes, on which is composed the entire article you're reading now

This article describes an object and a process. The object is a piece of cheap A5 paper torn from a notepad, and the process is the one I use whenever I have to define an idea, or communicate something complex to anyone else. I use this process for every presentation, lecture, lesson plan, syllabus, artwork, or article (including this one).

Limitations fuel creativity. A single small piece of paper is great for clarifying ideas. It fits in your pocket, it’s cheap, and there is always a piece of paper nearby.

I fold my piece of paper into eight segments, to make a little pad. Then I go for a walk, and think. I write down ideas as they come to me, putting each separate idea or theme into a new section of the paper. If I can’t think of anything to write, I’ll continue walking. If I have another idea, I’ll stop, and write again. Walking removes all my usual reasons for not starting, and all the distractions that usually stop me. I don’t plan a destination, but try to take a route I haven’t taken before. I just walk to enjoy walking, and thinking. When my paper is full, or I feel I have enough written to continue with my project, I go home.

So much of communication is about finding the hierarchy of information that enables other people, who don’t have the knowledge you have, to understand what you’re thinking. On my little piece of paper, similar ideas naturally cluster together, and soon enough an order emerges. I try to write everything that someone with no knowledge of the subject would need to understand it, but not too much. After all, I only have one piece of paper.

There are little folded pieces of paper full of notes in plenty of my pockets, my wallet, my sketchbook, books, and drawers. Finding them again instantly takes me back to the places I was when I wrote them, and the little journey I took to come up with an idea. Similarly, there are strange pockets of cities around the world inextricably linked to the ideas I had when I was there, writing scrawly notes on tiny pieces of paper such as this one.

A piece of folded paper, covered in notes, on which is one eighth of the entire article you're reading now A piece of folded paper, covered in notes, on which is one eighth of the entire article you're reading now A piece of folded paper, covered in notes, on which is one eighth of the entire article you're reading now

PhD

I am pleased to announce that after four and a half years, I have been awarded a PhD by Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL. My examiners were Dr Kevin Walker at the Royal College of Art, and Dr. Penelope Haralambidou from the Bartlett, and the thesis was supervised by Professors Stephen Gage and Peg Rawes.

Many thanks to all who helped my work get to this stage, and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Palais de Tokyo for providing the funding and framework for the research to take place.

Scripted performances: designing performative architectures through digital and absurd machines

Abstract

‘Scripting’ in architecture is usually associated with computer-based design programming. However, this narrow usage belies a rich vein of concepts intrinsic to architecture and authorship. This thesis frames scripting as a critical mode of computation, performance, and design process. It does this through seven projects that explore relationships between technology, society, and the philosophical absurd. Works include films, performances, programmes and installations produced independently and collaboratively with experts from scientific and artistic fields.

This thesis asks: how might an expanded definition of ‘scripting’ act as a critical methodology for performative architectural design?; how can this methodology mediate between, and comment on, technology and society?; and what is the relationship between scripting, authorship and agency? Computational scripting has been explored in depth by a number of practitioners and theorists; performative scripting has been examined within the context of theatre and artistic practice; this study adopts an expansive definition of scripting that embraces each of these approaches whilst simultaneously proposing scripting as a critical design methodology. Furthermore, the thesis introduces the philosophical ‘absurd’ as a framework for critiquing emergent technologies and their impact on society.

In chapter 1 two projects (Ant Ballet, Godot Machine) are discussed as modes of diagramming absurd theatrical scripts. The ‘framing’ of these projects provides direction for further work within the thesis. Chapter 2 introduces two dance pieces (Nybble, Scriptych) which represent scripted performances and a novel computer-scripted feedback mechanism. Both are diagrammatic modes of presenting contemporary computing mechanisms. Chapter 3 then discusses two experimental computationally-scripted absurd films exploring the practices and impact of contemporary technology companies (86400, 24fps Psycho). Chapter 4 introduces a film (Network/Intersect) created through a novel design process imposing strict rules on the creation of work. It concludes by naming this practice ‘reflexive scripted design’, proposing it as the thesis’ original contribution to knowledge.

View at UCL

Note: I want to publish as much of the work as possible. Watch this space for updates.