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Indepth Arts News:

"Folds, Blobs, and Boxes: Architecture in the Digital Era"
2001-02-03 until 2001-05-27
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Over the past decade, software originally created for other purposes--from designing animation to sneakers--has altered contemporary architecture and opened up possibilities unthinkable in the pre-digital era. Folds, Blobs, and Boxes: Architecture in the Digital Era, on view at Carnegie Museum of Art's Heinz Architectural Center from February 3 through May 27, 2001, explores the impact of this software on architectural design.

Joseph Rosa, curator of architecture at the Heinz Architectural Center, organized the exhibition. In just over a decade, we've seen the practice of architecture completely revamped by this new design software, he said. I doubt if architects will ever completely abandon the craft of drawing by hand, but because architects have digital capabilities, we now have a range of architectural shapes that were impractical before the computer.

At a glance, digitally generated architecture looks different. Digitally designed forms, unlike traditional rectilinear architecture, often have smooth exteriors and shapes found in nature--design possibilities made easier with computer software.

A few architects in the pre-digital era anticipated the shape of today's sleek and supple buildings, but for the most part, designing and building these structures became possible only when architects began designing with computers. Today, computer software helps architects envision and depict their ideas, control and simplify complex calculations, and test alternatives. In fact, the digital realm can administer, unify, and streamline the architectural process from conceptualization to construction. To a great extent, computers have made many of today's large, truly innovative architectural projects--buildable.

Folds, Blobs, and Boxes presents a variety of computer-generated drawings and CD-ROMs, as well as three-dimensional models, and features works by a number of today's leading architectural firms, including Preston Scott Cohen, dECOi, Peter D. Eisenman, Frank O. Gehry, Kolatan/MacDonald, Greg Lynn, Reiser + Umemoto, Stamberg Aferiat Architecture, Joel Sanders, and Bernard Tschumi. (Peter D. Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi--are among the five finalists chosen to submit plans for the expansion of the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh's North Shore, to be completed in 2005. Reiser + Umemoto and Stamberg Aferiat Architecture were finalists in the recently completed Pittsburgh Children's Museum competition.)

Folds, Blobs, and Boxes begins with a look at twentieth-century projects by R. Buckminster Fuller, Frederick J. Kiesler, and Claude Parent, whose pre-digital-era work continues to influence and inspire today's architects. These men created revolutionary designs, but their achievements owe more to the innovative use of new materials and alternative building techniques than to new design technologies. The new materials they used included aluminum and poured concrete, which permitted the building of sinuous and curved forms. In other cases, predigital designers relied on alternative construction methods to realize their ideas. R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car (1933), for example, was created with marine construction techniques and built in a shipbuilding factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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