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Soft Thought: Towards a Theory of Digital Design

SS15 PROJECT_POSTED_BY Larisa Tsvetkova     April 29, 2015    


Digital design remains one of the few areas within the discipline of architecture that remains relatively under theorized. This situation is in part the result of the novelty of the area, in that digital design is still a relatively new field that has yet to develop its own theoretical framework, but it is also in part the result of the still existent skepticism towards computation, a skepticism surprisingly common among architectural theorists. For some, surprising as it might seem, the computer is still seen as responsible for propagating an approach towards design that is superficial, apolitical, asocial and empty of content. This workshop will attempt to respond to this. It will cover a range of topics, including digital culture, digital design, digital urbanism, digital fabrication and interactive design. It will look at material as diverse as biomimetic discourses inspired by nature, such as Swarm Intelligence, and robotic fabrication technologies for 3D printing structures on the Moon and Mars. This workshop does not assume any prior knowledge of digital design techniques, and does not include tutorials on the actual use of digital tools.


Monday 1st of June – Wednesday 3rd June. Each session will take 3 hours.


Students are encouraged to watch the following video prior to attending the workshop:




Session 1

Digital Design

This class looks at the logic of code in algorithmic design processes, and enquires what the real potential of computation might be within the process of architectural design. This session also looks at the background cultural conditions against which the discourse of computation should be set.

  • Neil Leach, ‘Digital Morphogenesis’ in Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi (ed.), ‘Theoretical Meltdown’, AD, Vol. 79, no. 1*
  • Neil Leach, ‘Parametrics Explained’*


Session 2

Desiring Machines

This session will explore the logic of digital fabrication technologies that are being used increasingly to fabricate architectural form. Drawing upon Deleuze’s notion of the ‘machinic’, it seeks to position ‘machinic processes’ beyond the simple world of the mechanical into a realm in which the human is always already inscribed. It will look at 3D printing, CNC milling and robotic fabrication, and will also look at digital fabrication on the Moon and Mars.

  • Neil Leach, Machinic Processes, in Leach, Xu Weiguo (eds.), Machinic Processes, Beijing: CABP, 2010*


Session 3

Adaptation and Interactive Architecture

This lecture looks at adaptation in human behavior and adaptation in interactive structures drawing upon the notion of ‘becoming’ in the work of Gilles Deleuze. The lecture includes references to interactive designs, whose use of recent technological innovations, such as Kinect, Arduino and Shape Memory Alloys, allow technological controlled environments to challenge the notion of alienation so commonly associated with the technological.

  • Neil Leach, ‘Adaptation’, in Simone Ferracina, Rachel Armstrong (eds.), Unconventional Computing, Toronto: Riverside Architectural Press, 2013*


Session 4

Swarm Intelligence + Digital Cities

This session looks at the topic of Swarm Intelligence, and considers how the logic of the swarm is informing a range of different disciplines today from philosophy, sociology, economics and art through to engineering, biology and robotics, and how these ideas might inform the field of architecture. Drawing upon material published in the Architectural Design issue on Digital Cities it will also looks at the potential impact of digital techniques within the urban realm.

  • Neil Leach, ‘Swarm Urbanism’ in Neil Leach (ed.), Digital Cities, AD, 2009*


* indicates required readings.





Enrollment is open now !
Students who are interested, kindly join the workshop group 
Studio Group link :