Post-cybernetic architecture

Towards a post-human condition

Project Details

Student/s: Stratis Georgiou

Date: August 20, 2016

At the core of this dissertation, lies the question to what extend digital technologies affect human and its surroundings. This work concludes of two parts, respectively to the question above. The first part investigates the way technologies gave rise of the post-human and the second one sees diachronically the influence of technologies on the built environment (i.e. architecture), with the notions of urbanity and the city as main references. What is common to both parts is the science of cybernetics. Cybernetics was an interdisciplinary approach which was introduced after WWII and its goal was to bridge the human, the animal and the machine. It tried to explain the flow of information through these three parts consisting the world and tried to unify the natural with the artificial under a unified theorization. In the formative years of cybernetics, the relationship between the natural and the artificial was thought to be controlled by humans as a dominant species. And that control was based on a purely mathematic and linear way of explaining natural systems. Through the years, although cybernetics itself seized to exist, it gave rise to numerous scientific approaches that were questioning this mathematical and linear image of the world humans had formed, in order to place themselves as controllers. Through the deep understanding of the operation of natural systems, their non-linearity and complexity, humans are thought to be part of bigger and complex interwoven systems and not in control of them anymore. This is what the recently introduced approach of post-humanism argues about. On the other hand though, there are still many scientists and theoreticians continuing an anthropocentric way of exploiting the deep understanding of natural systems. Through a transhuman agenda, they believe that the human kind will evolve, with its will and through technological advancements into a new species, scraping the material and natural world. This is the capitalistic way that Braidotti wants to get rid of and argues to move towards a post-human and post-anthropocentric way, where nature and matter are themselves powerful agents and the human agency is not overcoming them, but is part of them.
In the field of architecture and urban planning, cybernetics were introduced by Norbert Wiener as a means to protect the American cities from atomic bombs, as a tool of control. But besides the controlling nature of cybernetics, many architects and designers saw in that field an opportunity, way beyond the initial war implementations of this interdisciplinary science. In the British context, architects such as Cedric Price, along with cyberneticians such as Gordon Pask, envisioned that information processing media could help towards the creation of non-plan buildings and cities, which they would develop a mutual relationship with their habitants and co-evolve with them. Information machines and networks of information were also a key reference to the French context, were many avant-garde architects proposed utopian superstructures over the existing urban tissue, where the individual need would be of key importance, but their main goal was to form a counter proposal to the unsuccessful modern movement, with its bureaucratic structure. Although these proposals were never being realized – at least at the large scale that were envisioned – they are re-approached by many architects, with Francois Roche and R&Sie(n) being the most characteristic. Their work is coherent and multifaceted, but it will prove helpful instead to focus on the network and information technologies, on trying to explain the ways these affect the design processes and modes of production, in a post-industrial and decentralized condition, where control seizes to exist and is replaced by a complex, symbiotic and post-human future.

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