|Grasshopper Screenshot (source)
||Living in the Ice Age, Thomas Léon, 2010 (source)
For the first time in my short life, I am starting to feel old. Not because I have physically aged all that much—my skin still has a great deal of elasticity—but because I cannot figure out Grasshopper. No, not the natural variety of grasshopper that jumps around the yard, but the generative modelling software by the same name.
Unable to design via generative algorithms, I am forced to rely on antiquarian inventions such as the sketchpad and pen, along with my primitive Homo sapien brain (there is also the marginally more advanced Autocad and unadulterated Rhino). When confronted with those rare design problems that cannot be solved through any other means, there is always that last fallback, which is to take advantage of perceived aged-ness and demand the help of that younger more tech savvy generation, also known as ‘the intern’. This feat carried through in confidence, with the knowledge that someday they too will stumble upon their own Grasshopper and the cycle will begin anew.
E. Sean Bailey
James Cameron and other moneyed Hollywood producers are not the only non-architects generating imagined landscapes out of 21st century digital software. Many young artists and filmmakers are producing works which present new ways to understand architecture by recontextualizing spatial imagery, using the methods of related disciplines.
In the English artist Thomas Lock’s piece Breaking Points—a project which is influenced by Paulo Virilio’s Bunker Archaeology—grand melancholic photographs of weather-beaten war bunkers sited on the French coast have been programmed, using Open Framework, so that they are randomly selected from a bank of hundreds to create a moving image which continuously destructs and constructs itself. With a similar dynamism, the French artist Thomas Léon’s film Living in the Ice Age is created with Lightwave 3D and Blender. In this work, an abandoned building is placed in the middle of a frigid landscape and as the sun rises and sets, skyscrapers appear and disappear behind it.
What becomes significant in their methodologies, is the thorough understanding these artists have of their tools, using them as a carpenter would use a hammer. This direct, almost mechanical relationship, to digital technology, something that John Roberts would call the ‘transformative agency of the hand’ makes new types of fantastical architectural visions possible to imagine without a reliance on the discipline’s conventional methods of representation.