Inviting Speculative and Critical Inquiries on the Com-position of Techno-science, Architecture and the City

[2nd – 3rd October 2020]

Technoscience is the com-position of science and technology, meaning that science submits to the constraints involved
in becoming the technology that formulates the systematic conditions of its evolution.”
Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3

“Not a global Being, but a Being-Global. The first word points to an ontological fixity—or at least the artifice
or aspiration for fixity, a worldview born for the most part in the agrocivilizational mind-set—and the second word
to a deontological anywhere, born for the most part in a world of airplanes, ships, electronics, and PowerBars.”

Mark Jarzombek, Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age

In 1946, Le Corbusier met with Albert Einstein in Princeton, NJ, and took a picture together under a tree. Seeking ‘scientific’ validation for his Modulor from Einstein, Le Corbusier’s pursuit represents Architecture’s eternal desire to be bound to Science. It is through ‘scientific metrics’ that normativities in architecture – from ADA to the stability of structure, from light distribution and acoustics to indoor air quality – are defined, measured and legitimized. While Architecture employs science for assembling material realities, it also embodies its scientific thought processes in form. For example, in their Electronic Poem Iannis Xenakis and Le Corbusier captured the dynamic physics of sound in ruled surface-structures; Gaudi’s hanging chain models informed his catenary masonry arches; and Frei Otto used the material reactions between wool and water as a ‘model’ to form-find and to design structure. Furthermore, notions of space, time, form, architecture, atmosphere, and so on – matrices of objectivity that architectural historians inevitably employ – are also legitimized by allusions to Science. Empiricism, objectivity, and rationalism in architectural history are indebted to methods and discourses in the Sciences. The History of Architecture is thus analogous with the History of Science.

How is the relationship among science, technology, architecture and the city trans-figured or reconfigured in the context of technoscience? Our reality today is not only mediated but steadily trans-formed, re-produced and re-invented through technoscience both at a macro and microlevel. The “com-position,” as Stiegler puts it, of increasingly miniaturized hardware with increasingly personalized and personalizing software implicates scientific knowledge at every scale and moment of our “being-global.” Such com-position points to spatio-temporal realities that can hardly be accounted for through the traditional architectural concepts of composition, geometry, boundary, enclosure or threshold. If we agree with Fredrick Jameson’s hypothesis that postmodernism is a “force field” that affects a wide spectrum of cultural, economic and social practices, then what form will architecture and the city take under such technoscientific dominance? Are the archipelagoes of gated communities with smart homes amid a chaotic sprawl and non-normativity in the margins the only form that the contemporary city can take? How does architectural composition figure in the com-position of techno-science and being-global?

Such questions only become more tangible and urgent during crisis such as these pandemic times. The world resembles a complex web where everything is entangled in a knot: technoscience, politics, economy, health care, media, morality, popular myths, conspiracy theories, history, education, as well as urbanism and architecture. As often happens in postmodernity, the high and the low come dangerously close to one another. On the one hand, we hear complex scientific arguments on the probability of virus’s dispersal and effectivity; on the other hand, we are told that a geometrical concept as primitive as a (social) distance of 1.5-2 meters between two points (people) is the best defense against COVID-19. On the one hand, we are fed complex technoscientific arguments on possible cures and vaccines; on the other hand, we are told to stay inside and drink a lot of water. On the one hand we ‘surf’ and teach online; on the other hand, we are physically stuck inside four walls and more isolated than ever. On the one hand, we have a lot of information; on the other hand, we don’t have a clue what and how to deal with it. At the same time digital technologies shows us as graphically as possible how powerless and fragile we are. The city is the empty stage where this crisis of the being-global body without organs, to borrow a term from Gilles Deleuze, is played out. It seems that in these difficult and unusual times architecture has recovered one of its most primitive functions: that of division and separation.

This web-conference, organized in the context of Tirana Architecture Week 2020, invites speculative and critical inquiries on the com-position of techno-science, architecture and the city. There will be five categories of contribution:

Techno-science and the modeling of architecture explores how digital design and modeling technologies influence and figure in the design process of architecture.

The techno-science of building explores the how technological and scientific methods, product and applications figure in the construction and occupation of buildings, and how they bear on the social experience of architecture and the city.

Architecture and the city as (an object of) scientific research explores how the discipline of architecture and urban planning define and frame their object of research, and how techno-science influences the way we research architecture and the city

Architecture, the city and the History of Science explores the epistemological intersections of science and architecture and how they are mediated through technics and technology.

Housing and Informal Dwelling invites research papers that puts on focus the housing rights for a Security of tenure, Affordability, Habitability and Accessibility from the perspective that to understand the informal settlements we need to see strategically the relation of the inhabitant affected with the big frame; with the universal rights, constitutional principles and with the institutional environment and good governance. Moderator: Dr. Artan Kacani