My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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3/13/2013

Call up a tree - at your local ethically grown symbiotic public space

I'm researching for an arts grant call and as I'm about to hand it all in, I thought I'd put on here what I can't fit in my proposal. The best person to introduce it all is Neri Oxman. She mentions 5 tenets of generative design that sound a lot like the beautifully disagreeing Beam Bot philosophy or the 12 principles of permaculture.

But my project isn't just about making something that complies all those great tenets, but it adds an internet connection and community to a "generated" space, together with attempting to deal with a big problem I've seen in working with the Catalan Integral Cooperative, with many intentional communities, trading goods and working together from different locations, so I've been able to see this problem a lot. Communication. My project is all about bringing together sustainable construction techniques, hackerspace style electronic invention and 3d printing in order to create a shared networked space that allows you to experience sensor readings as sound, light, colour and as the shapes and textures of the building itself as it slowly grows and / or is collaboratively built.

I just spent many months working in a cooperative and learning participation techniques, and I'm interested in public spaces and how they have been eroded and yet have become spaces for great experimentation and allegedly brought a lot of cultural renewal and just plain hope when the new deal commissioned a huge amount of public art works. Also I was there in 2011 when the squares were all occupied, and many other self organising movements sprang from or were strengthened by these unique days. Here is a nice presentation on this whole area of generative architecture on a city level which has been my bane all month while researching all this.


M Arch Living Architecture from Rachel Armstrong

So I'd love to link up first of all a central city public space with a very remote but more natural space far away, and see how that relationship progresses. Then I'd try and get more spaces to link too. More on this aspect later, but it's basically the idea of sensors and a space in which to "sense" them comes from an wish to defy the dominance of certain abilities and senses in regular long distance communication, and letting the others blossom too.

On a larger scale, it's an attempt to add people and real situations to what is being theorised about a lot, and shown off a lot to well off clever people. I think housing is a social issue and in dire need of reform. I think both the intentional community inhabitants and generative design experts of the world can learn a lot from each other.

Right here in barcelona live http://www.fabclay.com/about/ - a group presented really nicely in this Pecha Kucha from a couple of years ago by Marta Malé-Alemany of Barcelona's Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and beyond. Around 1.45 she starts talking about the properties of modern houses and at 4.07 she shows a 3d printed architecture by a team called Digital Vernacular and some of their generative designs for houses:



I don't really like the idea of a truck with an arm printing out houses, I'd rather it had more involvement from people or communities, especially if that makes these methods cheaper and more accessible. Digital Vernacular's own video is a bit more slow moving:



But then my problem is mostly with modern online communication. I feel the data surveillance state present in the modern internet as well as the dynamics of online contact brings a lot of problems when trying to communicate or cooperate at long distances, due to our culture around them. Having said that, transport fuels are getting more and more expensive every day, and will soon become an elite privilege, so a logical answer to that is relocalisation, movement from complex to simple and from centralised to distributed. A networked, tech but eco friendly set of communities might be the answer to the usual problem with these situations - loss of contact. As communities get more and more self sufficient they get more parochial, but an exchange economy might be enough reason for us to want to be in touch with each other, and not just be stuck with whoever is in your particular group, and this requires long term ability to understand each other.

A big problem resulting from this disconnection is the lack of human contact, of everything that doesn't actually go in emails or videos and that is just part of our day to day, what isn't shared or said, maybe that we are not even aware of. In the long term this leads to problems between the inhabitants of both spaces or of those areas. In a more radical sense, I believe in all aspects of our environment have the right to be felt, seen or heard. I want to bring seismic, co2, emf, light and temperature readings, electrode fitted leaves and moisture in the air, to the fore via this project and create public sensory artworks that can allow for this networked communication between spaces, in a way that informs their own growth or maintenance.

So here is what I've written so far for the proposal (I've now scrubbed all of this out in the actual proposal and started again, but maybe it explains it all some more)

Modern organic and generative architecture such as that proposed by Rachel Armstrong's Protocells or sustainable building techniques such as the earthship, attempt to turn around the classical process of mineral extraction, and industrial processing and product manufacturing into something more modular and grown. There is however little contact between the emerging technologies at the forefront of these activities, such as 3d printed FabClay or the open source hardware shelter system, the Hexayurt, and the traditional and natural ideals behind a lot of popular low impact construction techniques. Modern construction still favours the private rather than the public or community based. Another problematic aspect of architectural construction is the emphasis on the rational right brain rather than the spiritual or emotional aspects of living spaces – creating “squares”, involving extensive planning, precise requirement identification, expensive construction costs, and ultimately the short term outlook of the finished product.

This project will use technical workshops together with democratic and participative meeting formats in order to teach a group of people a series of building techniques, and give them the tools required to build a generative organic, low impact structure that can then continue to grow beyond the project's lifespan.

At each point in it's modular growth, the construction of this shared space can be informed not only by human planning and calculation, but also via a strong connection with the surroundings of each space and it's inhabitants, and of that of similar spaces. Circuits and sensors would process and retransmit data that could then inform the 3d design of new parts of the space. I am currently investigating 3d clay printing, firing and assembling as an outer layer around compressed earth or plywood. The end result would therefore be to enable participants to draw from techniques as disparate as 3d printing and clay firing, use of recycled materials and sharing ambient sensor data across multiple interrelated and networked spaces.

The creative process would be something like as follows:
  • A group of participants is assembled in a natural space, such as an intentional community.
  • They participate in a series of workshops on clay firing, kiln building, 3d modelling, 3d printing, circuit building and networking
  • A first space is created using quick but sturdy sustainable construction techniques.
  • This space is then networked: Seedstalkers or similar arduino based circuits can collect from a variety of ambient sensors, for example light, moisture, heat, electromagnetic fields and seismic data. The data would then be used on site, and in one or more affiliated spaces.
This data would allow non human-centric interactions to inform the next stages of the building process – for example creating spaces that can resonate acoustically according to sonic readings or generative designs based on the sum of EMF readings, that correspond to the presence of people with devices or other sources of static electricity.

The sensor data would be performative and would allow for affective communication between the inhabitants of this space and others: In other words, this space can be “played” and “felt”, not just by human beings. Readings wouldn't be experienced as graphs or statistics on device screens, the interpretation of which demands a certain educational background. Instead they would be present as a more organic collection of sound, light or the output of laser rangefinders, LED based circuits or simply natural resonance in fired earth structures, to be experienced only in this space and in it's interconnected siblings.

The ultimate aim of this project is therefore a geographically distributed network of symbiotic and shared public spaces, built democratically and organically, for longevity, from cheap local materials and that can speak a language of gestures, presence, warmth and vibration. There is a union not only between sustainable architecture, arts and technology, but also a meeting of disruptive design concepts with the universal right to have access to free information and to a living space.

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