An essential component within the field of architecture is the client, and at its heart, architecture is an industry of service. The client can take a number of forms and scales from an individual to the greater public, but in any case architects provide a service. As with any service, there is a level of accountability necessary to ensure safe, quality products. This accountability in recent years has grown into a suffocating force, marginalizing architects to the point of obsolescence.

Installation as an architectural pursuit allows architects to take charge of the content by releasing themselves from this subservience. This break allows architects to experiment outside the Vitruvian obligations of permanence (firmness), functionality(commodity), and aesthetic(delight). The removal of one or more of these categories allows installations to take on an experimental quality with the potential to expand and re-inform the building industry as a whole. Dis[Course]4 is a focused investigation into the practice of Making; one that suggests a “blurry” mode of architectural design. A mode that utilizes parametric practices to scrutinize manufacturing potentialities and explore material properties.

The conceptual goal of Dis[Course]4 was to break down the (often isolating) vertical stratification of MIT. By occupying a building stairwell, one of MIT’s few sectional anomalies, the project is poised to generate inter-floor/interdisciplinary discourse.

The project was sited architecturally, meaning considerations were taken to ensure physical compatibility between site and project, but truthfully nearly anything occupying that space would have generated some sort of dialogue! This demonstrates the project’s operative lack of specificity and suggests reconfiguration of the global system. Unlike other site specific projects, Dis[Course]4 is flexible in it’s ability to adapt to physical conditions of site through a designed versatility and physical flexibility. The project embodies a rigorously investigated manufacturing process as a physical representation of the combined efforts of designers and engineers.

Dis[Course]4 is an architectural installation designed and constructed entirely by architects, as an experimental prototype and an investment in Making. It is the informational precipitates inherent in the process of making that contain the potential to affect the greater whole of architecture. This truly alchemic process transforms designs by linking data to material/matter. During the design process material data was continually collected thru the generation of prototypes and their subsequent analysis. Each material tested demonstrated unique physical qualities such as workability, fold-ability, and machinability. That data was then reinserted into a computer model to re-inform the whole.

Dis[Course]4 was truly a process oriented exploration of the tectonic and the technological. Composed of over 5,000 parts the project required a fluidity between design and manufacturing in order to appease both conceptual agendas and budgetary restrictions. An important distinction between current trends in architectural production and the production of Dis[Course]4 is one of complexity. Instead of first designing the ‘whole’ to be later subdivided into discrete parts, we developed an intelligent component capable of approximating any number of ‘wholes’. This technique with the combination of custom computer software, ‘scripts’, allows for the deployment of the system on any desired ‘whole’, outputting individual component actuation levels.
During this series of bottom up design decisions we constantly transcend the traditional boundaries of the designer and assume roles as material researcher, fabricator, computer scientist, and engineer. Modes of making and describing space are consistently being reexamined, installation art provides architects an essentially risk free testing area. In Dis[Course]4 we advocate a productively “blurry” mode of architectural design, where physical prototypes directly affect and infect the design process as a whole. In this mode of Making mock ups are not merely a ‘final test’, but an impetus of the design as a whole.
Writing by James Coleman

MIT 150th Anniversary: Fast Festival