We gain a lot…but what are we losing? A critical reflection on the implications of digital design technologies

Fourth Author's Department

Architecture Department

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Research Article

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Open House International

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Purpose: Highly sophisticated digital technologies have distanced architects and designers from intimate and immediate hand-drawing practices. Meanwhile the changes they rapidly bring come with undetected changes in cultural and social norms regarding the built environment. The growing dependence on computers calls for a more holistic, socially inclusive and place-responsive design practice. This paper aims to shed light on what we are losing in the design process as we rapidly transition to communicate architecture using digital media. The authors contemplate the paradigms in which the human body and physical objects still play an important role in today's design environment. Design/methodology/approach: The paper looks at current trends in developing and establishing “computer imaging” within architectural education, and the architectural profession through parametric design and the area of sustainability. In order to reveal novel and hybrid ways of architectural image-making, it also looks into art forms that already experiment with bodily practices in design by taking an artisanal animation project as a case study. Findings: The renewed longing for craft, haptic environments, tactile experiences and hand-crafted artifacts and artworks that engage the senses can be exemplified with the success of the documentary Last Dance on the Main, an animated film on the endangered layers of human presence in one of Montreal's downtown neighborhoods. The open possibilities for creative hybridizations between the handmade and the digital in architecture practice and education are exposed. Originality/value: The influence of film on the perception and consequent design of cities is well documented. There is little literature, however, on how the materiality and process of artisanal film animation can provide alternative, if not additional, insights on how to communicate various aspects of the built environment, particularly those rooted in the human body. Furthermore, handmade film explores a broader understanding of sustainability, which includes considerations for social and cultural contexts.

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