Pedagogical research in this paper explores the confluence of physical contexts, atmospheric media, environmental sensing and augmented reality in architectural and multi-disciplinary design education. This confluence is catalytic in the creation of mixed-realities wherein architecture is simultaneously disciplinary and multi-disciplinary as well as increasingly becoming a composite of corporeal and ethereal media. In Program Earth, Jennifer Gabrys explores environmental sensing technologies and the ways in which they are in co-evolutionary relationships with environments themselves.1 New sensing technologies have the capacity to “know” environments in ways that are different from human bio-sensing in that they transform physical phenomena into discrete sets of computational phenomena. By transforming materiality into information, sensing does not simply mirror a given reality but, according to Gabrys, “generates distinct types of realities.” In addition to generating distinct realities, sensors can also feed back onto the physical world by triggering micro-infrastructural technologies that change atmospheric content or perform environmental tuning such as altering carbon-dioxide levels or soil chemistry. In light of sensing technology, contexts can be understood as interactive. At the same time, landscapes can be what Christopher McAlorum has termed “enabled” when their data sets are connected to augmented reality technologies, thus forming mixed-reality partnerships between material environments and electronic infrastructures. While mixed-reality relationships among architecture, context, sensing technologies and augmented reality platforms are catalysts for innovation in design research and pedagogy, they also offer opportunities for new kinds of environmental transparency. Where environments were once opaque material complexes of historical developments, socio-economic dynamics, toxic particulates and invisible flows, they can now be rendered as available sets of information to be visualized on site and in real time. This new architecture of mixed-reality and environmental transparency transforms the design of objects into the creation of platforms for greater urban, architectural and ecological awareness and co-evolution.
Jason Vigneri-Beane is an architect, industrial designer and Associate Professor of Architecture at Pratt Institute where he has taught courses on design, media, technology, cyborg ecologies and speculating on near-future scenarios. He is the coordinator of 100-level design in the Undergraduate Architecture program and, prior to that, he coordinated the MS ARCH Post-Professional degree and the media sequence in Pratt’s Graduate Architecture and Urban Design program. As a founding member of Pratt’s Augmented Environmental Sensing Program (a-ESP), he leads design research on architectural compositing of physical componentry and environmental data visualization. He is the Founding Principal of Split Studio, a Brooklyn-based practice interested in multi-disciplinary design across scales, modes and media that include graphics, video, augmented reality, industrial design, architecture, urbanism and ecology. His recent exhibitions and publications include projects and texts for near-future scenarios, cyborg micro-ecologies, architectural envelopes, physical-virtual composite componentry, robotic infrastructures and two long-term projects on creaturing architecture called Bestia Ex Machina and Cryptomorph.