[ISEA97] Paper: Gillian Hunt – ‘Intelligent’ Architecture: Cybernetic Theory and Architecture


The paper discusses current descriptions of ”Intelligent” architecture and proposes the relevance of cybernetics in affording an alternative criterium for it’s conception and production. The recent appearance of what has been cited as a ’new genre in architecture’ includes buildings which have various levels of automated and computer controlled functions – “robotic” infrastructures. Information Technology and Communication Systems have since the 1960’s aided new conceptions of architecture and fuelled speculation concerning architecture’s future development. Contemporary, architectural discourse now includes artificial intelligence in the technological debate, contributing another dimension to the modern ‘machine esthetic’. Current descriptions of ”intelligent” architecture are consistent with a model of artificial intelligence which has been generated by the predominance of the electronic digital computer and the prevalent symbolic and logic driven descriptions to which it adheres.

Consequently, the existing ”intelligent” building is unable to achieve better performance over its initial, well defined specification and is incapable of interacting with the world as an autonomous entity. The cybernetic concept of an ”intelligent” building demands some degree of epistemic autonomy in order to improve itself, a capacity which is only attainable through structural autonomy, as is the case with all biological systems. The development of ”intelligent architecture” as an informationally open, organisationally closed, cybernetic system is discussed in relation to existing extensions of ”robotic” technologies in architecture. Interaction, a fundamental characteristic of intelligent, decisionally autonomous and unpredictable living systems, was explored by cybernetician Gordon Park (1928 – 1996). His work is compared here to the predefined, receptor-effector devices currently in use in order to highlight the limits of existing adaptive machines and to suggest the relevance of his ideas in providing an alternative, human-centred design methodology

  • Gillian Hunt, UK, graduated from the University of Wales College, Cardiff in 1989 with a BA (Hon’s)-1st class in Architectural Design resulting in her work being reviewed in Architects Journal and Architectural Design the same year. She has worked as a freelance designer for a number of architectural practices on a variety of projects in the United Kingdom and Europe from 1983-1994. Gill attended the Mackintosh School of Art & Design from 1991-1993 gaining an M.Des. with Distinction. Glasgow University awarded Gill the Laurie Bequest Scholarship for her innov­ative project involving the use of ‘smart’ materials in creat­ing interactive, memorial artefacts as an alternative, sus­tainable system of ‘design for death’ in secular society. She is currently lecturing on a part time basis at the University of Wales College, Newport on the Contemporary Art Theory Course while undertaking a Ph.D. in Art and Design at CAiiA. Her work is concerned with the current conception and production of Intelligent Architecture and the rele­vance of Cybernetics in providing an alternative design methodology.This is examined through the work of cyber­netician Gordon Pask (1928-1995) being particularly con­cerned with the development of interactive systems in affording a model for the production of ‘aesthetically potent environments’.

Full text p.30-31