Category Archives: Media_Lab

discursions II: networked architecture, a networked book

I’m pleased to announce a new networked book project the Institute will begin working on this fall. “Discursions, II” will explore the history and influence of the Architecture Machine Group, the amazing research collective of the late 60s and 70s that later morphed into the MIT Media Lab. The book will be developed in collaboration with Kazys Varnelis, an architectural historian whom we met this past year at the Annenberg Center at USC, when he was a visiting fellow leading the “Networked Publics” research project.

arcmac seek.jpg

“Seek,” Architecture Machine Group, 1969-70

As its name suggests, the Architecture Machine Group was originally formed to explore how computers might be used in the design of architecture. From there, it went on to make history, inventing many of the mechanisms and metaphors of human-machine interaction that we live, work and play with to this day. Lately, Kazys’ focus has been on contemporary architecture and urbanism in the context of network technologies, and how machine-mediated interactions are becoming a key feature of human environments. So he’s pretty uniquely positioned to weave together the diverse threads of this history. Most important from the Institute’s perspective, he’s interested in playing around with the form and feel of publication.
And good news. Kazys recently resettled here on the east coast, where he will be heading up the new Network Architecture Lab (NetLab) at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. One of the lab’s first projects will be this joint venture with the Institute. Unlike Without Gods and GAM3R 7H30RY, both of which are print-network hybrids, “Discursions, II” will grow one hundred percent on the network, beginning from its initial seeds: a dozen videos of seminal ARCMac demos, originally published on a video disc called “Discursions”. The book will also go much further into collaborative methods of work, and into blurring the boundaries of genre and media form, employing elements of documentary film, textual narrative, and oral history (and other strategies yet to be determined).
From the NetLab press release (AUDC, mentioned below, is Kazys’ nonprofit architectural collective):

Formed in 2001, AUDC [Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative] specializes in research as a form of practice. The AUDC Network Architecture Lab is an experimental unit at Columbia University that embraces the studio and the seminar as venues for architectural analysis and speculation, exploring new forms of research through architecture, text, new media design, film production and environment design.
Specifically, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the impact of computation and communications on architecture and urbanism. What opportunities do programming, telematics, and new media offer architecture? How does the network city affect the building? Who is the subject and what is the object in a world of networked things and spaces? How do transformations in communications reflect and affect the broader socioeconomic milieu? The NetLab seeks to both document this emergent condition and to produce new sites of practice and innovative working methods for architecture in the twenty-first century. Using new media technologies, the lab aims to develop new interfaces to both physical and virtual space. This unit is consciously understood as an interdisciplinary entity, establishing collaborative relationships with other centers both at Columbia and at other institutions.
The NetLab begins operations in September 2006 with “Discursions, II” an exploration of history of architecture, computation, and new media interfaces at the Architecture Machine Group at MIT done in collaboration with the Institute for the Future of the Book.

For a better idea of Kazys’ interests and voice, take a look at this fascinating and wide-ranging interview published recently on BLDGBLOG. Here, he talks a bit more about what we’re hoping to do with the book:

The goal, then, is to create a new form of media that we’re calling the Networked Book. It’s a multimedia book, if you will, that can evolve on the internet and grow over time. We’re now hoping to get the original players involved, and to get commentary in there. The project won’t be just the voice of one author but the voices of many, and it won’t be just one form of text but, rather, all sorts of media. We don’t really know where it will go, in fact, but that’s part of the project: to let the material take us; to examine the past, present, and future of the computer interface; and to do something that’s really bold. It’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing [laughter] – it’s that we have a wide variety of options.

Congratulatons, Kazys, on the founding of the NetLab. We can’t wait to move forward with this project.