The Digital Design Ecosystem: Toward a Pre-Rational Architecture

In this Viewpoint article, Paul Seletsky, Sr. Mgr. of Digital Design, SOM New York, reflects on the impact of digital technology on architectural practice, and shares some of the ideas behind the Digital Design Ecosystem, a joint initiative between Georgia Tech, Square One Ecotect, Gehry Technologies and SOM, that uses advanced computation to impart tacit and explicit experience into the earliest stages of conceptual exploration.


3 thoughts on “The Digital Design Ecosystem: Toward a Pre-Rational Architecture

  1. I have a few questions and comments:

    I have always been surprised that diagrams like the Ecosystem start off with an Excel list of spaces and square footage. It doesn’t seem logical to build a computer and then feed it computed material. Isn’t determination of space part of the design?

    Shouldn’t we recognise that the Internet economy is based on advertising, and that there are very many manufacturers willing to pay for their products to be put under the noses of designers at the right place, at the right time, and in the right format. Of course, as with supermarkets, there needs to be conditions for such collaborative competition. I firmly believe this has the potential of funding a technological advance that has been in the wings for so long.

    By the way I am a bit confused why the Digital Design Ecosystem diagrams have a patent pending notice. What is the application actually for? And if successful how would it effect the business of architecture generally?

    Thanks for the essay; it made me think!

  2. Your observations are very astute. Excel is used to denote programmatic requirements and to suggest that the computer has much more to offer than simply an extraction of area square footage requirements but rather an identification of room typologies, whose spatial definition may be greatly informed (determined) by air exchange requirements or occupancy loads – among many such fundamental conditions. This is an area greatly overlooked today, as is – you are absolutely correct – the potential for material and product queries (search) through the building information database. As Google provides a gatekeeper status relative to product search, market cost, and availability, architects could do much the same for the clients.

    Furthermore, the Ecosystem diagrams must be understood within a web-based domain, as opposed to a client PC installation. Therein, an insular mode of passing information linearly (PC to PC) is replaced by a virtual environment, where a geometric transfer protocol (GTP) enables parametric modeling to serve as a vehicle, and multiple types of simulation to be imparted as ‘”cloud-based services” – a radical transformation of existing collaborative concepts.

    Finally, the patent application is only meant to acknowledge the development of intellectual property but certainly not to impede its use or availability. Open Source development of new software tools is one fundamental condition to providing architects a critical change in status, a central theme of the essay.

  3. This article reinvigorates me in the field I got excited about as a I child and have labored in since deciding to join the engineering field. While the author could scare away some people who have more fast food wrappers on their coffee tables than books about architecture, it presents a very elegant argument — with the quote from Mies van der Rohe putting a perfect exclamation point on it. Now let’s make it a reality.

    Attempts by the ASCE to include a master’s degree in the required Body of Knowledge for Engineers and their licensure should be followed suit by architects to include practicing in a firm and possibly receiving a master’s in a related field to receive their RA. Outside of just architecture, nearly all engineering and construction schools should find themselves working overtime to introduce technology in the classroom right now. If they are not, then they are not trying hard enough! Do not let go of the old way of doing things — teach it, learn from it, but start to focus more on how the real work is done in the field so we can complete it faster and move on to the next better way to do it!

    Thanks for getting me excited again!

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