critic: Gwyllim JAHN
Stephen ANNETT & Grant TREWELLA: Our project is not about using algorithms to optimize architectural production in any fashion. Rather, it is in pursuit of fragile qualities: ridges, spires, aperiodic pattern and the suggestion of stress that in unison form a building with a unique, singular language and character.
It is about producing a strange provocation within the urban context that consists of such abnormal features and yet may pass as a familiar place of (possible) worship.
The Temple of Atrophy raises a number of questions concerning the nature of digital production. The simulation of complex phenomena that has become the fascination of so many design studios typically results in unique design “solutions” to predefined constraints, but what if we are to question the value of originality? What role does authorship play in a semi-autonomous design process anyway? When working with prepackaged techniques, who is the author of the artefact: the tool or the designer? What if we are attempting to redefine or discover a new design problem (if for instance the original problem is too complex to solve)? In responding to these concerns the project is entirely uninterested in solutions or the optimal, in the new or in the beautiful, but instead explores strange confounding objects that prompt us to re-examine our values, tastes, assumptions and agency as designers.
By treating shape and form as the starting point in the design process and engaging with a kind of “digital essence” comprised of subtleties that are not exactly evident to the human eye but are intrinsic to the qualities of that form (mesh topology or rounding errors in vertex positions for example) we can unleash a wealth of creative potential that might be attributed to this digital object itself rather than to the hand or trained eye of the designer. Much like how minute interferences in processes of recursive natural formation can produce enormous formal variation over time, our project explored how such subtleties in mesh geometry might be exaggerated when subjected to iterative analysis and deformation. This is intended to produce scalloped and eroded formations that suggest a legible architectural order and respond to the immediate urban context without an explicit index to an obvious means, style or technique of pre-ordained formation. If we take the view of an Object Oriented Ontologist then this “essence” could be considered to recede from our tangible perception of the object, but could none the less play a part in how that object interacts with other objects and contributes to the design process.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
SA & GT: There were both natural and manmade influences in our project. Some of the architectural ones were: Marcus Barlow’s Manchester Unity Building; Angkor Wat; and Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. The natural ones were: bones and joints; termite mounds; and rock formations like Monument Valley.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
SA & GT: Reading: Jorge Luis Borges, Lebbeus Woods, Manuel De Landa, Pia Ednie Brown, Alisa Andrasek, Jane Bennet, and Tom Wiscombe.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
SA & GT: Neri Oxman, Tom Wiscombe, and François Roche.
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