In an upcoming exhibition, the Yale School of Architecture gallery will be home to a variety of revolutionary contraptions, including a morphing wall that can read the “digital mood” of the room.

On Dec. 8, the school will open “Media and Machines,” an exploration of how digital tools allow for innovation in and different perspectives on architectural works. The exhibition marks the second part of a three-year project titled “Archaeology of the Digital,” which comes from the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. School of Architecture professor Brennan Buck said the exhibit highlights important technological developments in the field of architecture over the last several decades.

“We’re really at a point where digital technology has been an integral part of being a student or instructor in the school,” Buck said.

The CCA project aims to investigate methods of collecting and displaying digital architectural projects from the late 1980s through 2005 — a period that CCA Director Mirko Zardini called “transformational.” Zardini said that a main finding from the research was that architects were programming digital software themselves during this period, often without legal licenses to do so. He added that while there were only a few software programs available to architects at the time, architects today have access to a much larger variety of digital products.

Zardini noted that he thinks the exhibit’s attention to this period is particularly important to young architects and architectural students because it emphasizes the importance of understanding the history behind the digital tools that are now widely used.

Buck highlighted that since computer technology has become increasingly prominent in the architecture profession over the last 20 years, faculty and students at the School of Architecture are currently trying to balance the use of computer software with the use of traditional, hand-drawn techniques. He explained that he thinks digitally created designs should serve as a complement rather than a rival to hand-drawn designs.

“There is really not much of a conflict between hand drawing and the computer,” Buck said. “The role of technology is about adding to the potential of hand drawing.”

School of Architecture professor John Eberhart said that computer programs are highly integrated into the everyday practices of students at the school, especially in 3-D modeling projects. Roughly 10 years ago, he added, the school made a large investment in supplying computers and a range of software to all of its students.

Meghan McAllister ARC ’15 said she draws most of her projects on a computer because modeling programs such as Building Information Modeling allow for greater precision and stronger visual quality.

“The BIM softwares have more realistic parameters set into it, so you have to construct your digital model like you would a real building,” she said.

Eberhart noted that the school has a visualization sequence, which is a series of courses that employ both hand drawing and digital softwares. The sequence is aimed at developing students’ ability to depict their designs using hand-drawn as well as computerized models, he explained.

“Media and Machines” was on display at the Canadian Centre for Architecture from May to October 2013.

GAYATRI SABHARWAL
CAROLINE WRAY