DIS2004: Day One: Bill Mitchell Keynote

He’s given an excellent talk on how campus design and design for learning spaces have been changed by wifi and ubiquitous computing.

He gave a great quote by Charles Moore when showing Gehry’s new MIT Stata Centre:

“the fundamental principle of campus design should be to figure out the exact spot that the next revolution should begin”

More notes below, by Dan Hill and myself. Links and pictures to follow.

BILL MITCHELL: KEYNOTE
[subetha notes by Dan Hill and myself]

Rethinking campus design

rethinking the campus in terms of interactive systems
major part of the thinking

Go up the scale little and think about HCI meeting Arhcitecture, and urban design

New types of learning spaces not only incorporate new hardware and systems they also create new patterns of social and intellectual interaction,

The entire campus becomes an interactive learning device

Campus = VLSILD (Very Large Scale Interactive Learning Device)
[nice archigram-like acronym😉

Don’t know what students are up to when accessing their PC wirelessly during a ‘connected lecture’
[no pantopticon for the person on the platform / lecturn]

new social dynamic in classroom – just new way of passing notes in class OR think of classroom as small, transient community, sharing and contributing to discourse around that community

changing the dynamics of teaching and seminar sessions in a dramatic way
“when i say somehting, a student immediately googles it and injects the results bakc into the conversation”

doesn’t map well on to old fashioned authoritarian teaching style, relying on complete knowledge of a subject – some ban it.

“the most exciting thing that’s happened in the classroom in a longtime”

design studio at MIT
“gigantic mess” – “fabulously creative” – lots of simultaneous activity – intense information density

multiplexing space – physical work, media, and electronic in one space

totally against standard ideology of modernism (i.e. separating and optimising functions)

wifi + portable poweful devices are the triggers / drivers to this change

appropriating a space in this way makes it possible to use for multiple purposes

“injection of technology in space”

cafe space doubles as work space – appropriate space as work space too

less demand for formal work space, increase in demand for informal, flexible, easily appropriated, “unscheduled space” used nomadically

[archigram stuff on nomads? someone in my college did an interesing thing on this about 15 years ago… “caravanserai” – cool]

wiring up the dorm rooms: exacerbated geek factor – encourages anti-social pattern of behaviour? never came out of dorm rooms … [though is that necessarily anti-social? they could be acting socially within their individual dorm rooms, connected/conversing on a different layer albeit non-physical … anyway]

wifi/portables give very diff social effect: working in semi-public / semi-rpivate spaces… encourages informal grouping / clustering in ad-hoc ways. [physical wiki!]

encourage this effect by implanting technology in space

lot of thought recently on classroom design and patterns of teaching …

shows: space for teaching physics , based on a ‘design studio/atelier’ model

informal, networked, [is this just hotdesking? no… i think hotdesking is about efficiencies for individuals in office… maybe this is ‘hotgrouping’: which i think is a more fruitful pattern – yup – be interesting to see how groups change over time in that space or if ‘teachers’ encourage that] – encourages physical connection and digital connection … teachers circulate around space, acting as coaches + encouragers … teacher akin to “senior designer in atelier model”

Thomas Jefferson’s design for campus of University of Virginia … extraordinarily successful design …
jokes: “jefferson would have been very famous as an architect if he hadn’t dabbled in politics…”

community organised around central green space (akin to greek agora, and arguably web) – residential spaces organised around colonnades – at head of public space is library (information resource, ‘brain’) … coming together physically around carefully organised physical space (people and books)

MIT campus – early design stole from Virginia etc. – exactly same organisation.
Originally a commuter campus, using transportation system – very utllitarian “factory on the charles” approach …

shows picture of contruction of original neoclassical campus “under the skin, the system is very different” … curtain wall of neoclassicism…

Simmons Hall (Steven Holl Architects)
Intensify on campus life of MIT – much more local residential …
“mixed use”

trying to fundamentally rethink the idea of campus life

Metaphor for building was permeability: ‘sponge paintings’
(mitchell’s kids call the stephen holl building “spongbob squarepants”!)
intersecting pre-formed sponge patterns with intellectual rigour of a grid …

later section drawing – double-loading corridor, but perforated with ‘flow-throughs’ – not creating barriers – vertical spaces akin to chimneys? Circulation spaces …
“Smoke signals going up though the building” – boston globe architecture critic
This forces individual floors to create vertical as well as horizontal sub-communities
Informal flexible space – become real core that holds building together …
[seventies architectural thinking: “long life, loose-fit, low energy”… are we finally getting there?]

Building surface v nice use of colour – nice interplay of colour of windows – air conditioning no longer means that the building has to be sealed.

natural light, operable windows, natural ventialation – better control systems mean that you can allow this instead of the usual hermetically sealed building – also the tech is now fine with a less controlled environment (e.g. laptops are meant to be used anywhere)

computers no longer delicate beasts i.e. no need for air-con, dust-free environment etc.

Students have become sick of visiting tourists, particularly architects!
there is a hand-made sign on the door showing a picture of an architect in a circle with a slash though him/her!

Overall scale of MIT has remained the same over many decades … policy decision. Reusing buildings and plots.

*Stata Center*
Frank Gehry
Extraordinary building – almost complete.

“Attempt to make a spatially defined community that intensely interacts” – building based around a whole series of physical network spaces
“face2face is remarkably important still”

Building 20 – “much-loved old building” – had reached the end of its lifetime. Literally falling apart. Actually also low-density use of site. “With tears in our eyes we knocked it down” …

More than 10% of MIT campus – largest building that Gehry had ever done (at that point). Cleverly conceals bulk of what’s going on – large flexible space inside, with surface articulated to be an ‘artificial hillside’, breaking down the scale very effectively.

Bring air, light, visibility into spaces …
Catch glimpses of people at work – transformation of traditional lab space
encourages cross-discplinary connections
follows the MIT pattern of ‘the infinite corridor” – the internal streets of the Stata building represent a rethinking

[similar concepts here to what Maccormac is doing with new Broadcasting House]

“if you tried to stop an have a conversation in the traditional infinite corridor of the rest of MIT you’d be knocked over by a rush of students”

clustered social spaces, childcare, coffee shops, informational functions etc. alongside corridor – nooks and crannies with benches, tables, places to stand and converse … think of it as “an indoor streeet with public functions and sidewalk cafe functions where the social life of the building can really begin to unfold”

(on the prominent outside ‘greek’ theatre space) charles moore: “the fundamental principle of campus design should be to figure out the exact spot that the next revolution should begin”
Gehry reckons this will be in the theatre

influence of the “aesthetic of ray-tracing” – light bouncing around the building

laser positioning devices onsite based around CAD-CAM modelling … came in at exactly the median price per square foot for lab buildings in US

relationship beween work space and social space, and the way that interacts with networked informational space.

*Brain and Cognitive Sciences Building*
Interesting network with infinite corridor in Stata building
Spans railroad track – interesting technical issues …

think of these as piazzas and public squares
[have a bit of problem here – walking around yesterday the area is completely soulless – quite dead – ok it was a sunday, but they are nowhere near like piazzas and agoras and mediterranean urban form in reality – a bit like cambridge saying it’s ‘boston’s left bank’ – the left bank doesn’t have vast chemical corp hqs in science park architecture in the middle of it!]

*Media Lab*
Fumihiko Maki/Maki and Associates

In Media Lab, public spaces are on top of building (cafe etc), drag people up through the building, through atrium. Reversal of traditional approach to locating public space within a building. Mezzanine levels enable an escape – this is working quite well.

Summary
Ubiquitous wireless connectivity combines with portable devices to provide interactive information access everywhere.

Drop in demand for highly specialized workspaces – particularly cubicles, computer labs, and other spaces organized around desktop computers.

Rise in demand for pleasant, flexible spaces that can be appropriated, as ncessary, for many uses …

“wasted space which is not particularly programmed may beocme the most important”

Computer-supported social interaction is becoming increasingly important – with implications for both interactive system design and for architecture.

The paradox of good technology: the more technologically advanced a space actually is, the less high-tech it looks.

Used to be that you sealed the building up around technology (darkened, hermetically sealed, disconnected from exterior) – don’t have to do that anymore. “Now the technology disappears into your pocket … and into the woodwork” … Now the telephone and the computer accompany you rather than being fixed to desk.

Go back to thinking about space which is highly functional in terms of technology and so on … but also build in very basic human needs “light, and air, and sociobility and view” …

QUESTIONS:
Q. “Why put social space at top of Medialab building?”

A. Didnt; Escalators keep breaking down all the time – how to put transparent elevators in an atrium without making it look like a tacky hotel.

Q. “What thought did you put into use – issue of use?”

A. Community-based design processes. Highly engaged with clients. Amazingly complex constituency of faculty members and students and trustees etc. Highly interactive process – particularly Gehry building and MediaLab building … Don’t ask people what they want (you get conservative response) – get into highly interactive dialogue, going back and forth – process of speculative designs and getting people to respond. f2f and website based consultation. Process of argument and debate. Try to build sense of join commitment to the goals. Debate about goals. Get buy-in to radical thoughts too.

Q. [MJ] “Steven Holt stuff – school of though in seventies architecture – long life, loose fit, low energy. We have tech to do that now, but have we got there in software yet”

A. Long life, loose fit got boring. Highly modular, repetitive buildings – had chaste virtues of simplicity and clarity – got boring after a while. Stata shows you can have that but not be boring. Have no clue what people are going to be doing 5 years down the road … Essential unpredictability of the future … begins to deal with that. Have no idea how to do that in software.

Q. Spaces being populated by next wave of tech?

A. Deliberately showed simple current devices (laptops etc.) – because that’s the reality now … Extraordinary explosion in location aware and context aware devices – relationship between what’s on the walls and what’s on your body is extraordinary complicated thing …

Q. In new building space, what about conundrum of office space? Socialising ‘open-plan’ spaces versus personal office spaces …

A. Can’t force cultural transformation … Can’t impose the designer’s ‘clear vision of the future’ – what people really need is spatial variety and to be able to see the expectations and differences between those spaces … All these MIT buildings also provide personal ‘withdrawn’ space … what spaces? Lockable spaces? Lockers? Or more like ‘your home’? How can you make spaces that feel like home for short periods of time? i.e. appropriated for 15 minutes

Q. [Gillian C-S] Depends on kind of work you do. If you’re writing code you really need quiet; if you’re designing, an open space can work – people from IT background can find it torture to be ‘exposed’ …

A. Same person is different at different moments – one size fits all modular space – doesn’t work … highly complex environments, which can shift space very fluidly – may seem to work more effectively.

Q. [Gillian C-S] Also furniture is important …

0 comments
  1. Andree said:

    “Go up the scale little and think about HCI meeting Arhcitecture, and urban design”

    Man, sorry I’m not there this week. That sentene above will really resonate if you’ve read McCullough’s new book “Digital Ground.”

    The campus/learning environment is maybe a unique location for thinking about pervasive computing, since it can get away from the market-driven concerns that are drivers elsewhere. McCullough’s discussion of post-utilitarian valuation of computing is useful: “places are great accumulators of value”, even though they may not have any inherent value.

  2. Pingback: no, 2 self

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