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Parametric Semiology: The Design of Information-rich Environment

Professor: Patrik Schumancher

Teaching Assistant: Nicolas Turchi

Students Image credits: Emily Ashby, Chris Grenga, Danielle Rose, Jack Oliva Rendler, Sichuan Chen, Shen Li, Beijia Gu, Ben Penell

The societal function of urban and architectural design is the innovative ordering of social processes. This function depends on the communicative capacity of the designed environment. The enhancement of this capacity poses the Semiological Project: to design the architectural project as a system of signification.  The life process of society is a communication process that is ordered via rich typology of communicative situations. The built environment is thus society’s physical memory; it functions as a system of signification that we all intuitively navigate to find relevant communication partners in pre-structured situations. The designed settings/spaces are themselves communications: they are communications that define, premise and prime the communicative interactions that are expected to take place within the respectively framed territory. Building is communicating.

This studio will start by researching various visual languages like traffic sign systems or graphic notational systems as source domains for semiological design. The design of an architectural semiological system implies the build-up of a system of distinctions with spatial position, shape, morphology, materiality, color etc. as registers of semantic encoding. The basic unit of architectural communication is the single space, zone or territory as an architectural sign defining a particular, distinct social situation.

The program to be accommodated is best understood in terms of interaction patterns of the users/participants. These patterns of communicative interaction can be modeled via scripted agents that respond to the coded environmental clues. This implies that the meaning of architecture can enter the digital model (design medium) and thus become the object of cumulative design elaboration. This system of signification works if the agents consistently respond to the relevant positional and morphological clues so that the expected behaviors can be read off the articulated environmental configuration. As agents cross significant thresholds, their behavioral rules are modulated. Territorial distinctions thus order and coordinate interaction patterns.

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