tobias ebsen [.dk] DIGITAL ART AND DESIGN


An inquiry into the convergencies of constructed space and screen-based media

This text explores the concept of media architecture as a phenomenon of visual culture that describes the use of screen-technology in new spatial configurations in practices of architecture and art. I shall argue that this phenomenon is not necessarily a revolutionary new approach, but rather a result of conceptual changes in both modes visual representation and in expressions of architecture. These are changes the may be described as an evolution of ideas and consequent experiments that can be traced back to changes in the history of art and the various styles and ideologies of architecture.

This text proposes that a new approach to what is known as “the screen”, is emerging as it adopts spatial formations and enters into public space. I shall argue that these phenomena that appear in both architecture, art and domestic screens are not the result of a revolution of new technology, but rather an evolution of both existing visual media and architectural explorations that has been evolving for many years. The screen inherits it flat, rectangular surface from a tradition of perspectival representations that can be traced back to the invention of the linear perspective. This paradigm of screen culture, which include photography and painting, has during the last few hundred years made several attempts to escape the paradigmatic surface and evolve into three-dimensional space. Screen culture has, especially through art, undergone experiments that transformations inherent perception mode from looking through to looking at the screen. New experiments with screen technology manifest itself in recent phenomena like media facades, where entire building surfaces get wrapped in pixels, but also in the field of art, where new experimental artists use pixels suspended in space or image projections on three-dimensional surfaces. Concurrently, the field of architecture has undergone vast transformations in regards to expressions and construction methods. Various styles or ideologies have dominated through the last hundred years, and each have their own particular approach to function and symbolism. These approaches can be characterized in their communicative relationships with either the surface or the form of architecture. Form and surface make up the expressive signs in architecture. In this respect, I refer to Eco’s theory of signs as a method for analysis of expression ideology. The aesthetics of architecture can be analyzed in terms of ambiguity and being self-focusing, which can be described as transformations in the specific codes of expression. All these aspects support the articulation of architecture as a communicative medium that seeks new ways of expression.

The argument is constructed in three parts. The first part serves as an introduction to the field, which describe some of the current approaches to media architecture on both theory and practice. This part will also touch upon the existing understandings of urban screens, media facades and media architecture in general. The second part traces to motivation behind media architecture to an understanding of architecture as a communicative medium. The third part describes the physical evolution of screen as an offset for current trends of spatial screens. And finally, the fourth part, will attempt to unite the two previous parts by analyzing current trends in media architecture through a series of “lenses” or interpretations of the field. This includes seeing media architecture as: screen, architecture, virtual architecture, relational architecture, and finally, transformations of public space. Different examples and theories are emphasized along with the interpretive perspectives. These “lenses” must be regarded as perspectives that are open to further investigation and serves to prove how vast the field of media architecture may be.

The term “media architecture” is at once the offset and the etymological frame for this exploration. By regarding media architecture as a convergence of media and architecture, it becomes a reversed metaphorical figure for the movement from surface to space. This dichotomy of surface and space, and the various attempts to transgress from one domain the other, is the central focal point for this thesis.

As a final perspective, I have included a case study describing my work with developing a media facade for the Denmark Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The process is described by first explaining the foundations for the project – in terms of analyzing expo as a concept and describing the Danish participation – and afterwards going through the individual steps from initial ideas to final result. This includes explaining the need for new tools for media architecture and how different unforeseen obstacles can arise underway. The descriptions serve to highlight both technical issues, but also reflect on the process as an insight into general concerns for media architecture.

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