Architecture, at a core a discipline concerned with building and buildings, is being challenged in an emerging and fast advancing process of digitalisation. Our daily interaction with the digital environment mostly dismisses the material component of the digital, perceived as an immaterial entity, omnipresent and even omnipotent.
However, this emerging techno-engineered ecologies rely and thrive on a large material footprint, made up of submarine cable networks, data centres, power stations and various types of extraction mines, spread across the globe. The immaterial cloud, neither ephemeral nor weightless, cultivates synthetic environments.
These emerging ecologies are techno-centred and carefully engineered; the human component is rather peripheral. Before we can imagine the future role of architecture and speculate on its potential, we must understand the emerging digital ecologies in all of their dimensions.
So far, architecture had to perform in relation to its physical environment, but how does it relate to digital environments reflecting on material transformations in a post-human context? Who controls these immaterial constructs, which rely on vast material networks? And how do external, immaterial, digital forces shape territory, landscape, architecture and also the architectural practice and the discipline?
Cristina Nan is a Lecturer in Digital Fabrication and Design at the University of Edinburgh.
Trained as an architect at the TU München and holding a PhD in architectural robotics from the HafenCity University in Hamburg, Cristina is specialised in the applied field of digital fabrication, robotics and architectural theory of the Digital Turn.
Her robotics project ‘Minibuilders’, developed at the IaaC Institute in Barcelona, has been widely published and exhibited. Her work and research engages with topics such as digital ecologies, additive manufacturing, design and fabrication logics in architecture, the digital revolution and Industry 4.0.
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