Ornamental Connectivity
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With Leah Meisterlin

The amorphous body of contemporary digital fabrication-related work, although experimental and progressive on many levels of architectonic and systematic production, is not often ventured from beginnings in an extant environmental condition. At the same time, much of the work in spatial analysis and visualization of data quantifying such environments does not extend into determinate three-dimensional space and form. Spatial data can be used for more than just description, argument, or visual narrative. It has the potential to generate form as a response to the questions raised by its analysis. Similarly, projects in digital fabrication can encompass but also surpass physical descriptions of technique and geometry.

This project was conceived as an opportunity for two related but narrowly engaged techniques, geographic information systems analysis and digital fabrication, to be integrated in the production of architectural form and ornament through digital fabrication techniques and input from data environments. The assumption of such integration is that the result, rather than being a conceptual or otherwise generative idea that is realized through an accommodation of tool and technique to a projective end, would emerge from the combination of techniques, as a synthetic investigation of the ability of disparate tools to inform design. As such, the project was consciously situated within the bourgeoning climate of real-time, information-driven, communicative and digitally founded architecture.

This project investigated wireless internet connectivity and router usage across Columbia University’s Morningside campus, using a sampled dataset of 270 router access points taken during the course of finals week (6-13 December 2008). The project had two primary goals. One was to design and fabricate a prototype architectural object that uses the environmental datascape produced by this space of wireless connectivity as a geometrical infrastructure for design, but also to contribute to this space in a reciprocal, public, physical alteration. Another is the further contribution to this space through an innovative approach to interactive representation of the dataset, using GIS to both produce the datascape informing fabrication and represent this datascape four-dimensionally. Techniques of investigation included GIS analysis and data representation, Flash animation with interactive components, parametric modeling, print-to-part modeling, and digital fabrication.