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Stealth Group

3/4 process + 1/4 matter

Stealth Group, The Wild City: Urban Genetics, 2000-2001
The Foundation has supported the development of 3/4 process + 1/4 matter, a design process exploring urban data in the boundary zone between fields of digital-media technologies and architecture.

The Stealth Group is passionate about restoring the vital links between innovations in architectural design and those in digital-media technology. By doing so, the group hopes to contribute to architectural discourse. Initially, the group didn't plan to incorporate digital technologies into its previous project, The Wild City: Genetics of Uncontrolled Urban Processes. Yet these technologies became essential as the project unfolded. The "urban genetics" in the title is abstracted from the city's physical reality. This premise was developed using static techniques of observation and mapping through sequencing to stimulate time in a shifting environment. Through observation, it became clear that urban codes are part of dynamic and complex processes. If made compatible with the vocabulary of the digital environment, these living codes can give rise to an operating system for a model for designing natural forms.

To better grasp the complexity of urban living and urban spread, the emerging design and architectural model incorporates notions related to organic biology and geometry, to the brain's information processing system, and to the morphology of information networks. The Stealth Group's new project, 3/4 process + 1/4 matter, falls within this methodology. In other words, the project researches complex processes and environments (such as the Wild City of Belgrade) and channels the knowledge obtained into architectural design, intervention procedures and material design objects. The project's title refers to the horizon where process meets matter.

3/4 process + 1/4 matter is essentially a "form finding machine" (1) that has been thoroughly developed, tested and refined over the course of the project. As in the Wild City, from which the codes are distilled, the newly generated forms are adaptable. They evolve, remain autonomous and possess emergent behaviour independent from the designer.

The project consisted of two phases. The first phase (3/4 process) entailed devising processes. Urban genetic codes and the "game of life" (2) (3) were refined and translated into an "abstract machine." This machine is a computer software designed using data from urban genetic codes. The software possesses properties for describing and guiding a design route within a complex environment. Collaborators from different fields lent a hand during this first phase. Brainstorming sessions were held with architects, engineers and genetic biologists. As well, a programmer-analyst assisted in developing the software.

During the second phase (1/4 matter), the software undergone preliminary testing to measure its capabilities. The results were first presented at K├╝nstlerhause - haus.0 in Stuttgart, Germany, as an installation in an environment that reacts to a visitor's presence.

Other partners included the critic John Thackara of Doors of Perception in Amsterdam (4) and the Smart Architecture Foundation (5), a research group in Rotterdam that explores architectural and ecological innovation.

In addition, DataCloud by V2_Lab played a key role in the project with the design of a system for gathering complex information and to make the collected information public.

In 2002, K├╝nstlerhause - haus.0 presented a series of events and debates based on the project's theme. Also, this art foundation unveiled the project's final results in June 2003.

Dominique Fontaine © 2002 FDL

(1) "Form finding," an expression coined by the architect Frei Otto, refers strictly to the laboratory experiments in researching natural forms and lines.

(2) A translation of the visual vocabulary of urban genetic codes as a language system for an abstract process of form finding was presented as an urban scale in the magazine Hunch under the title "Game of Life." See the Stealth Group, "The Wild City: Genetics of Uncontrolled Urban Processes," Hunch, No 4 (Winter 2001), p.106-127.

(3) Originally, Life was a cellular-automata game created in 1970 by J. H. Conway in the field of artificial intelligence.

(4) Doors of Perception: http://www.doorsofperception.com/

(5) Smart Architecture Foundation: http://www.smartarchitecture.org/