design + software + games

(imperfect acts of architecture) 

My work is situated at the intersection of architectural design, pedagogy and software design. I am investigating the technical, conceptual and cultural effects of software in its complete takeover of the image space of architecture. I do this through making apps that are tools of design and mediums of representation at the same time. Apps that create architectural assemblages by sampling and mixing digital readymades. I work with versions and screenshots. I deploy these apps into an academic setting to test their immediate effects. I work with students to ask questions about the nature of architectural imagery within the digital regime. We rehearse the techniques of radical embrace of the digital image regime. Heuristic, Surfing, Improvisation technologies (obligatory Forsythe reference). Did I mention aesthetics?


The Third Glass is a speculative, spatial-digital object based on Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass. The project has been produced for the Städelschule Architecture Class (SAC) in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) versions. Its first staging was at the Städelschule Rundgang 2017, the art academy’s annual student exhibition. It was also presented at the biennial NODE Forum for Digital Arts on July 1, 2017. The project launch was accompanied by a series of talks on architecture and the arts in relation to AR/VR, and guests included Sanford Kwinter and Liam Young.

We try to understand the relations between the grounding of the digital practice and disciplinary questions in architecture. We are not bothered by the unclear ambiguous nature of these relations, we point them out and enjoy them. We do not shy away from this difficulty as we understand every project to be a work of fiction without any claim to authenticity. Duchamp taught us that effects of any process will be read as meaningful if the process appears to be coherent and precise. It is all design, and the truth is in front not in the back. It is after all a problem of projection.

Lands v.1 - Interactive diorama project

Software collapses the field of visual effects, and enables messy encounters between drawing, painting, photography, cinema, games and all possible images of architecture. The tools we use model us back. Software is an apparatus. How to overcome the representational lockdown? Through DADA-like detournements, artistic eruptions of life force into the heart of the technological sublime? Through restless accumulations and remixes, through sampling of all possible search spaces? Computer graphics tropes as elements of the digital vernacular, games as unfiltered expressions within contemporary culture. High Definition Abstraction. Raw materials of software, a new multiplication of the author through the entanglement with non-human agency, a collapse of Albertian window, the mirror of Brunelleschi and the machine vision regimes. And in the midst of it all, a sensuous unraveling: the garden in the machine.

Software - Platform Sandbox v.3:  Create architectural assemblages by playing with digital readymades.
Platform v.2 - 5800 screenshots made by the students during a two week workshop in April 2017
Platform v.2 - selected screenshots made by the students during a two week workshop in April 2017
Platform Sandbox v.2 customized by Natalya Voinova

As a direct descendant of traditional design mediums, standard design software prescribes a very specific role to the user: that of a disinterested, disembodied subject that has a full access to any projection space, that operates on a spectrum of full visibility and full zoom-in. This approach continues and vastly expands a specific subjectivity of an architect operating in the “god-mode” of the traditional discipline. A Cartesian mind.

Unlike other software, computer games tend to problematize the notion of subjective agency through either exposing and putting into question the ability of a player, or by disturbing the notion of a goal. Because of their full spectrum deployment of interactivity, games could be thought of as the most ‘medium-specific’ type of software. The notions of agency and authorship are thus perceived in a different manner, which enables loosening up the idea of control. It is precisely the notion of loose control that can be postulated as a possible new authorial model, pitted against the totalizing normativity of current computational methods of design.

Based on these ideas, The Platform Sandbox software is used as a pedagogical tool for design in a first year studio in the Stadelschule Architecture Class in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is envisioned as a disciplinary-aware design software, with the purpose to expose the established conventions and defaults of software by making the student aware of the underlying implications of design tools. It was designed to resemble a standard, default way in which design software operates and especially, how it looks, but it works more like a game. The software is a part of the larger pedagogical project that investigates agglomerations and loose wholes as architectural images arising out of the contemporary culture.


The endless grid of Superstudio has transformed into the endless grid of software. So what? Both propose a nostalgic utopia, or is it maybe that the utopia of "Fundamental Acts" has finally been delivered in the form of our current cyberspace? Did Superstudio invent the Internet? Was it a better one, or at least, more beautiful, more picturesque? The only architecture will be our lives...

The past and the present are infinite sampling depositories. A search space where everything is available and ready to use.

Office Archaeology 2016

Exploring the possibilities of large dataset neural network algorithms as tools for architectural design. The creation of new, never before seen William Morris patterns, by combining the 'styles' of two existing ones. This is not a collage. In recent years, machine learning has advanced to the point where object and face recognition have attained near-human performance through the usage of a class of biologically inspired vision models called Deep Neural Networks. This new world of artificial intelligence-based image-making presents possible new sets of problems for architectural design, from the purely representational, to the political and authorial.


© Damjan Jovanovic