2012 - 2013: Crypto Phantom’s Sensorial Materiality
Nannette Jackowski, Ricardo de Ostos, Manuel Jimenez Garcia
"Technology is built on science. Science is like the alchemists’ uroburos, continually eating its own tale. The process of science doesn’t work unless young scientists have the freedom to attack and tear down old dogmas, to engage in an ongoing Titanomachia. Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish." —Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
Unit 18, or Generational Phantoms, continues to investigate fast paces of social and technological change in contentious environments. This year specifically we will use the concept of cryptography to generate architectures with rich encoded social and material effects.
In many societies secrets, mysteries, secluded knowledge and confidential information have been converted into codes, signs and symbols, their real meanings only being noted by those in the know. Cryptography as the art of encrypting information has been vital in history to securely transmit classified messages. Wars have been lost and cities have fallen due to broken ciphers. From Julius Caesar’s substitution cipher to secure diplomatic messages and communicate with his army to the first cipher disk described by the great Italian architect Leon Battista Alberti; securing, conveying and accessing information has been an intriguing business for a long time. In World War II code-breakers located at Bletchley Park in UK succeeded in cracking enemy codes and hacking into Hitler’s personal super-code machine - the ‘secrets writer’ – a feat causing a u-turn in future conflict events. During the deciphering process brilliant minds like cryptanalyst Alan Turing laid out the blueprint for the general purpose computer giving birth to the digital age.
In the spirit of Alan Turing’s exploration of what computational power can be and do, how could architecture as a vessel of spatial and material information further levels of social interaction? Could cryptography and its neurotic concern with security, codes and calculation power be utilised in architecture, not only to protect but also to create unconventional access to layers of interactive performance in buildings?
Starting the year with a visit to the Second World War intelligent code-breaker facility at Bletchley Park we will explore how computational and material concepts can encrypt plain information and decrypt / release it using poetic effects. Interactive drawings will tell stories through performance and materiality.
Workshops on digital computation and interactive material manipulation will help students to learn and develop technical and conceptual ideas. Here the act of drawing, the making of a prototype/model and creative thinking will be used for manipulating cultural symbols, codes and social practices.
Jerusalem and the Diplomacy of Symbols
In the second phase of the year the unit will travel to the sacred city of Jerusalem. A city immersed in rich diverse and ancient culture Jerusalem is a vessel of knowledge and devotion. Among Jews, Muslims and Christians it is a place where social practices are accompanied with rituals, myths and most important symbol systems. Where diplomacy, co-existence and access are key to understand the nuances of one of the oldest cities in the world we will study their materiality, meaning and encoded information in order to explore future space opportunities in the city. On a road trip in search for encrypted systems we will visit the desert of Negev and its archaeological secrets, the Red Sea and its exquisite coral ecosystem and the Dead Sea’s mineral laden waters. Here first phase studies of cryptography shall guide students to develop their personal views and arguments generating design ideas for the final project.
The unit will constantly work between digital prototypes and intuitive design as a way to decipher social interactions between building and ritual.
Fourth year students will focus on the concept of de-territorialisation based on the concept of extraterritoriality and places of particular access. Diplomatic like spaces shall be the ground for cultural and ritual material tests. Here technology and social practice come hand in hand as the techno-social.
Fifth year students will develop a thesis following their research and expanding on the concept of extraterritoriality with digital and material experimentation towards an architectural output.
Unit website: http://phantom18.co.uk/