Water Work 2017-18 // Machine Theories and Natural Fictions

Thesis Group 2017-18 //
Professor Catherine Bonier (Image: Fragilis Study Model by Brett Shaw)

Water is a powerful element, connecting life and design at all scales. It also links what we improperly perceive as separate elements, nature and technology.


Dominant modes of seeing the world – primarily science, medicine, and engineering – have influenced design of the built world. At times this influence has been an unavoidable and reasonable process. For example, in the past 40 years, we have developed more accurate theories of climate change. Architects therefore craft interventions around this new way of understanding nature and the future.

More important for this thesis group are the other channels of influence. Scientific models (theories) and technical devices machines/technologies) have found their way into art and design through conscious inspiration or analogy. Some of the most influential visionary architectures are imagined by men and women who can see the scientific soup we’re swimming in, and who borrow from, mimic, critique, or reject scientific and technological paradigms of knowledge. The odes to grain silos and ocean liners sung by le Corbusier; the racecar manifestos of the Futurists; the playful, political spacesuit fantasies pasted up by Archigram; Frei Otto’s soap bubble studies; and the recent resuscitation of 19th century evolutionary theory by members of the digitalia are all engagements with theories of nature and technology.

Method: Fluidity / Rule-based risk-taking / Research-driven imagination

Investigate scientific, technical, or natural systems which relate to water.

Explore material, spatial, structural, organizational, and formal logics.

Reveal and understand systems and processes of change, growth, and motion.

Devise future theories, manifestos, and design rules, and set time frame.

Elucidate underlying ethical and political assumptions and ramifications.

Construct an experimental narrative based on central questions and ideas.

Develop designs, determining scope and scale, ranging from urban to object.

Experiment with visualization techniques to craft evidence of phased layered change.

Reevaluate the strength, coherence, and relevance of the story and its artifacts.

Critique and revise theories, rules, and narratives, while refining designs.