Robotic City

Robotic City

MA Research & Design Workshop, Fall Semester 2008, Spring Semester 2009,  Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft (NL)

We are facing the robotic revolution.

We need to get prepared for this robotized world we are facing, since unemployment rates all over the world will be utterly devastating to the world economy. Without a doubt, in the very near future robots will perform every task essential to human survival. Robots will grow, package, transport and sell all of the food we eat. Robots will design and construct all of the housing we live in. Robots will make, transport and deliver all of the clothes we wear. Robots will manufacture all consumer products, store them, present them to customers and take their money. Robots will transport anything from anywhere and move us to any place in time. In short: robots tend to become an irreplaceable factor taking over the entire dynamics of the city.

In a smaller scale this is already happening in so called ubiquitous computing, an integration of information processing into everyday objects, activities and spaces. When we extrapolate this phenomenon further into future what kind of merging of urbanism, architecture and product design can we imagine? What kinds of new relationships will there be between people, objects and spaces? To what extent will our bodies function as interfaces to the environment? When everything is automated and transparent, where is excitement and danger?

Many futurists suggest that there will be even stronger relationship between virtual and physical environments. This is already resulting in merging of spaces and functions. Home becomes office, supermarket and meeting place all at the same time. How far will this merging go? Virtual design has also very different necessities; in virtual space there is no need for shelter, but there is need for privacy. Will we need transformer architecture or on the contrary, blank-white screen-architecture onto which different ideas can be projected? When computers pass the ‘Turing test’ (machines are capable of demonstrating intelligence), what happens to human-machine relationship? What more professions will humans stop performing as dangerous, dirty or unpleasant? Can we imagine completely automated robotic cities, without people, performing certain functions or producing goods? Current development of the separation of design and technology also deserves commentary. In electronic objects this issue is most evident. As Anthony Dunne observes ‘The electronic object accordingly occupies a strange place in the world of material culture, closer to the washing powder and cough mixture […]’ referring to the fact that designers of electronic objects easily become designers of the packaging when the technology inside slips further and further away from their hands. In architecture a separation currently exists in the installation technology, but if architecture becomes the new holder of electronics and interfaces, will the role of architects be also reduced to the one of packaging designers?

Participants: Klaas Boersma, Purcy Marte, Robert Pluijmers, Huiyi Lin, Yu Yu, Lu CP, Pedro Fulgencio Molina, Jan Twilfer, Eduardo Felici, Khalid Ghobashi, Maarten Haspels, Ahmet Korfali

Related:

Automated City

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