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Space Popular HOW I STARTED HANGING OUT WITH HOME: Anthropomorphic Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence MAI 2018

Wenn Gebäude Roboter werden und Roboter Menschen,

und leistbarer Technologie drängt sich die Frage auf, ob

wie menschlich werden dann unsere Gebäude sein?

Gebäude bald ein Bewusstsein entwickeln werden? Wenn

Gebäude bewegen sich bereits und sprechen mit uns,

ja, wie werden ihr Geist und Körper beschaffen sein? Wie

sie treffen Entscheidungen aufgrund von Daten, welche

werden wir uns mit ihnen in Beziehung setzen? Werden

über uns erhoben werden. Mit dem fortschreitenden

sie unsere Gefährten sein? Werden sie wie wir aussehen

Einsatz künstlicher Intelligenz und immer effizienterer

oder sprechen? Wie wird der Anthropomorphismus die Architektur beeinflussen? Die Installation vor Ort setzt sich mit diesen Fragestellungen durch eine Serie architektonischer Elemente auseinander, wie ein Portal und eine Säule, die auf der Ebene des Formalen





Verhaltens anthropomorphe Züge aufweisen. Ein haushaltsüblicher Staubsaugerroboter zeigt menschenähnliche Züge durch die Art seiner Bewegung


Gemeinsam bewohnen


schaffen diese




Raum gleichzeitig. Sie verkörpern den





umgeben uns, während sie uns wie Eindringlinge fühlen lassen. Die Präsenz jenes Anderen – sogar wenn jenes Andere nicht lebend oder nicht mal physisch ist – verändert




anlasst uns, uns zu treffen, uns damit






Lautsprecher unsere Emails verlesen, unsere Türen sich selbst abschließen und unsere Waschmaschinen uns darüber informieren, wie dreckig oder sauber wir sind, ist bewusste Architektur im Kommen. Ob physisch




oder imaginiert, fragen wir uns welche Form sie annehmen, wie sie kommunizieren und wie eng unsere Verbindung mit ihr sein wird.

H o w


W i t h

H o m e :

O u t

Whether if physical or virtual, actual or imagined, we

A n t h r o p o m o r p h i c

wonder what will it look like, how will it communicate

S t a r t e d

A r c h i t e c t u r e A r t i f i c i a l

H a n g i n g

i n

t h e

A g e

o f

with us and how close will our bond be.

I n t e l l i g e n c e Space Popular

If buildings become robots and robots become humans, how human will our buildings be? Buildings already

is directed by founders Lara Lesmes and Fredrik

move and speak to us, they make decisions based on input

Hellberg, who are both graduates from the Architectural

data. With artificial intelligence at our doorstep and ever

Association in London. The practice, founded in Bangkok

more efficient and affordable technology, will buildings

in 2013, works on different scales of intervention: from

soon be conscious entities? What will their minds and

furniture and interior design to architecture and

bodies be like? How will we relate to them? Will they be

urbanism. The duo has extensive teaching experience

our companion? Will they look or talk like us? How will

at INDA, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and at

anthropomorphism influence architecture?

the Architectural Association in London, where they questions

launched Tools for Architecture: a studio that explores

through a series architectural elements, such as a

experience-driven design methods, using immersive

portal and a column carrying formal and behavioral

digital simulations to describe the unique atmospheric

anthropomorphic features; and a domestic vacuum

conditions and psychological effects of architecture.

cleaning robot displaying human-like behavior through

According to Space Popular these simulations serve as

motion andjudgement. Together they create and inhabit

blueprints for a project that develops from the inside out,

space at once. They embody the room they are in,

translating a narrative for emotion and perception into

surrounding us whilst making us feel we are intruding.

geometry and built elements. Beyond their academic

The presence of another -even if that other is not a

experience, Space Popular has realized several built

living or even a physical thing- changes our behavior,

projects in Europe and Asia, such as the widely published

leading us to meet, engage and exchange.

Infinity Spa, which reinterprets the Thai shophouse





As our speakers read our emails, our doors

generic typology into a fully embodied and immersive

lock themselves and or washing machines tell us how

experience. Space Popular also exhibited at the Venice

dirty or clean we are, concious architecture is coming.

Biennale and at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.

Conversation with Space Popular

domestic appliances and the evolving virtual potential of architecture, where human forms as we would see

In May, members of the curatorial team sat down with

them in architecture before would necessarily not need

Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg (Space Popular) to

to be physical in the future, which means that they

have a conversation about the motifs behind and their

could actually take on animated form as well. When

interpretation on the new installation in Vienna.

that links together with the things that most people actually already have, especially in the United Kingdom,

Matthias Moroder

a little talking speaker in the corner of the room, which

We were thinking about starting this interview with the

does not have any anthropomorphic features, but they

evident shift in your work, where the exhibition at the

have names – people speak to these things, give them

MAGAZIN is the first manifestation of your new focus

names, attributing gender to them, Alexa is a female, Siri

on anthropomorphic architecture. This seems to be its

is a female – especially in the case of Alexa, an entity of

main theme; it would be interesting to know how this

some kind that is sharing the home with you, clearly at

shift came about, if you agree that this is a shift towards

the mercy of your will. We basically see it as an inevitable

anthropomorphism in architecture.

step – as these things get more and more clever and take over more and more functions in our homes, offices –

Fredrik Hellberg

that we will desire anthropomorphic features, we will

There are perhaps two lines of thinking where this

want it to have a face and that we do not just speak out

interest comes from. One side is a deep interest in the

into the nothingness. It already has a physical form, but

time of architecture, where buildings actually had

we think it will have more of those anthropomorphic

symbols and ornamentation and Vienna being one of

attributes in the future.

the centres of the world where human figures were prominent in the facades of buildings. Because they

Lara Lesmes

are so incredibly common they are rarely thought of

As you were saying, it also depends on what they can do.

as human figures. Almost every single door has a face,

If Alexa can speak, maybe it does not need to have a face

a torso, an atlas or a caryatid of some form. But then

- in the same way as the vacuum robot in the exhibition

the engine of the thinking of the exhibition comes

can move and that gives it life. So perhaps what is put

from the evolving world of domestic machinery, or

into question in the exhibition is if the peripheral world,

namely architecture – columns, doors, etc. –, does not


move, if it is relatively static- and it does not necessarily

Regarding the question of product design and architecture,

speak, perhaps it should have anthropomorphic features

the question that follows up is: Can you perceive as a

for one to strongly relate to it. Architecture, the thing

creature something that surrounds you? Something that

that is static, might be the thing that will need to have

you cannot perceive as an object? I think this is what

visual anthropomorphic features.

we actually would be interested in trying:


something that you are within, you can relate with as Matthias

a creature. When we were developing Infinity Spa in

One interesting point that opens up here is the difference

Bangkok in 2016, we were discussing with the clients the

between product design and architecture. One of you

possibility of designing a spa with parts that speak to you,

gave an interpretation of anthropomorphism which comes

or that provide visual augmentations of treatments. We

more from a point of view of product design, the other one

were thinking that the whole experience of going into

more from architecture – I am not sure if they merge.

the spa would be delivered to you through the building itself, and that, in that way, the building would become

Fredrik At


a person for you – even if you are inside of it. We are so home-

used to understanding creatures as something that we

monitoring devices – that literally have eyes and






can see as an object, but if it is peripheral, surrounding you,

anthropomorphic features – are clearly a very small

if it is an enclosure, can that be understood as a being?

thing in a space. But what they do is in fact monitor or control the space. In some cases they are a camera or

Eva Sommeregger

a monitoring device, which is keeping control of the

The question of appearance is a really interesting

space, of whatever intruder – so that your children

one: How does this peripheral envelope, as you call it,

are not eating laundry detergent; or as in the case of

appear around us? Going back to the notion of product

Alexa, controlling the sound or, let’s say, increasing

design, there exists the so-called MAYA-threshold. It

domains of the space, not necessarily the physical

is the question of the ‘most-advanced, yet acceptable’:

fabric of the space. We think that, as the network

will customers accept new technology it it also looks

starts to control more and more appliances, it might

new? Right at the moment, we are sitting in front of a

even 3D-scan the spaces live, so it even knows exactly

laptop – this advanced device that still looks like a TV

where you are and what you are doing.

and a typewriter combination. In that sense, it has a reactionary appearance. So it is good to challenge that, and to bring in anthropomorphism. Fredrik To elaborate on that, we actually think that it will be almost necessary at some point. Let’s say my logical wiring or pattern recognition in perceiving living objects will not change, but when things in architecture are literally conceivably alive to some level, we will crave anthropomorphic features. So when our laptop, if it ever gets loaded on a commercial level as a product that we begin to think of as an entity, you will begin to look for its eyes. Lara In the same way, smart cars – what is the TV show called in English with the fantastic car? Fredrik Knight Rider!


the desire for abstraction. Obviously, the elements that

The car in Knight Rider for instance is a being and it

we see in the exhibition are highly abstract and are sort

has a voice. When smart cars or homes speak to you, this

of, let’s say, a speculation on an evolved version. Maybe

issue of the voice, if it could be transferable?, if you get a

the first desire would be beyond the sort of cartoon for

new car, can they then put in the voice?

how real can it be? And obviously, the human body, as it is referring to, is incredibly limited. In this series, in


the scenes of the AI hotel, the narrative is even greatly

This is something the car industry has been working on

suffering from the fact that this has to be manifested in

for over a decade. It would need to have some kind of soul

a realistic human body.

so it can be transferred from object to object. So of course that you do not try to keep the decaying object of your


old car alive forever with its personality intact, because


you have an emotional attachment to it as a living thing. Jerome Becker Lara

I do not know this series, but could we maybe describe the

So in a home - I am branching out between different

difference between these two models with the difference

things - you have Alexa: it is that little box that starts being a part of your home; in which case do those become irreplaceable? Or do those become more meaningful? And then, who is the voice? I guess then, that is the other question; the more we start having this presence mainly through voice: Who embodies that presence? Matthias Did you see the recent Netflix series ‘Altered Carbon’? Fredrik I have seen a little bit, with these Artificial Intelligence hotels... Matthias The AI hotel is quite absurd, because it does exactly the opposite of what you are talking about. There is the hotel, an old and slightly shabby hotel, and then there is the hotel owner inside the hotel, that is a being, which is systematically also the AI hotel, but represents it for the guests. So it is split up in this very classical notion of the hotel owner on one side and the hotel infrastructure

that Venturi and Scott Brown made between the ‘decorated

on the other, despite there being no need at all for this

shed’ and the ‘duck’? And how close is your exhibition to

split. That seems to be the totally opposite conception of

this notion of the ‘duck’ in the postmodern context?

what you are talking about and that also seems how the film industry broadly deals with it at the moment.

Fredrik That is a very interesting question. I do not actually think


it is applicable to the digital and the virtual, because

It is a super-interesting example. I think our response to

what Venturi and Scott Brown were working with is

that would be that – with speculating on these future

a notion that architecture is signifying one thing: one

scenarios – architects or designers or futurists often

corporation has one piece of architecture, or one piece

underestimate humans’ capacity for abstraction, or even

of architecture is one person’s home. It signifies one

thing. And that was the kind of symbolic, ornamental,


linguistic understanding that the ‘duck’ and the

Yes, I know which one it is. It’s called electric something…

‘decorated shed’ are implying. I think that the future is

But indeed, it is not something new, buildings are

much more complex when these things don’t need to be

increasingly covered with screens, of course what the

static or costly. If you look at the ‘duck’ itself, obviously

building signifies changes with how fast we can perceive

it is a nightmare to build and a quite impressive thing.

LED lights changing their colour, their light. Obviously

If we instead imagine that those features are just light

those sorts of pre-digital ideas of the way we visually

or sound or something that you perceive only through

or linguistically understand buildings they have to be

a device that you are wearing, then obviously it can

re-written. There has to be a sort of new ‘Learning from

change within seconds and signify fluid things, not just:

Las Vegas’!

“We are selling duck!” And in that sense it is much more like the way we might attribute identity to ourselves,

Clemens Nocker

which changes with every moment. Potentially, we need

But concerning the exhibition, why did you choose

a third option. We are not sure what that would be, the

digital printing on cotton instead of putting screens? I

‘decorated shed’, the ‘duck’ and then the …

mean ok, it is also a budget question, but I think if you do projections on screens it is much more related to the


idea of the future than doing digital printing on cotton,

The gender fluid dragon!

no? The material way is very old school.



Yeah, the gender fluid dragon!

This is a really good point. I think one side of that is obviously that it is speculative, because the sort of world


that we would imagine this sort of things to happen

Venturi himself even wrote a book in the 1990s about

in is really not here yet and a projector or a screen is

changing facades and thereby tried to somehow address

nowhere near what these things might be like. Projectors

this. That seems interesting…

and screens are also so well known in an exhibition context. I think our prediction is that it would be read as something else…


shapes, they can wrap stuff ... So I think, than yes. But

As a video! I mean, it is just a matter of communication.

the problem is the rectangle! With the rectangle it is not

If you imagine the exhibition with a series of projected

going to work.

rectangles – because in the end you cannot really even get rid of that shape– it wouldn’t be perceived in the same


way. But that’s why we usually do, like in the exhibition

And obviously also the future of the interface to the

‘The Glass Chain’ we had last year in London at Sto

digital or the virtual will be through...

Werkstatt, the mixed reality experience, so that you can have another format to understand the dynamism. But


then the static version is mainly because of limitations,

It will be 360°. It will be all around yourself. But I agree

if we could have headsets for everybody.

that screens are going to continue to be around, a lot! But I think more and more they are starting to wrap


around and to take on volume, which I think is the big

Yes, the headset is another thing. But I think it’s interesting

difference: it is surface and volume, and also shade.

that the screen or the projection is conceived as the sort of window into the digital. It is our only interface at the


moment. And because it’s so ubiquitous we look at these

One other thing to add to this is economy, not just in a

things every single day. We thought, if we do something

local sense, but in a larger sense, where the economy or

like cotton fabrics, which we have done before, then it

value of the purely virtual is completely shifted. Like

changes the mentality of people that see it. There is then

the effort or economy that goes into creating something

another level of perceptive investigation.

virtual and then how it is interfaced to us. Screens or physical things that emit light have a certain economy and


they are therefore perceived in a certain way. But if you

The screen as a format I think is also similar to the

perceive a sort of virtual space through a device that you

difference between seeing a perspective framed –

are wearing, than that is completely shifted, because it can

a painting – as opposed to seeing a trompe l’oeil

make almost anything possible. In the future of wearables,

painted dome actually where the dome would’ve been.

when they are no longer this pieces of furniture we put

The format has such a strong effect on the level of

on our face, but something much more non intrusive, the

immersion and how much your mind constructs. If you

economy and value systems will completely change.

enter Sant’Ignazio in Rome and you see the fake dome, since it is in the place where the dome is supposed to be, even though it is not dynamic and you eventually figure out the trick, you are still willing to believe! It has much more of the placebo effect as opposed to looking at a painting of a forest on your wall, even if the painting is incredibly amazing it is not immersive in the same way. So I think it is a matter of the format and in that sense screens or projectors have the same limitations. Eva Yes, they are totally loaded with being associated with something that is represented rather than being space itself. And I am really wondering whether we will ever be able to challenge that, to actually think of screens as space. Lara I mean it depends on what the screen can be. Now you can do also such



Before your shift towards anthropomorphism how

Honestly we were just trying to do something that looks

would you frame your work? Because what I find very

architecturally enough to be perceived as architecture.

interesting is that this anthropomorphic exhibition

So the column, the arcade... And taking references

stylistically obviously has a lot from Space Popular’s

of what an arcade looks like or what a tiered column

previous work and that body of work, or more precisely,

looks like and then trying to shift some of the parts into

the methodology developed through it, leads you to

parts that could have anthropomorphic features. Then

abstract and represent the human and animal body in

usually our taste somehow leads us to a certain colour

a very specific way – it has an implication on the very

and material palette and things happen ... And – am I

method of abstraction and representation.

allowed to say this? We still don’t fully understand how it comes to be, actually.

Fredrik Yes absolutely! I guess what you are saying is very true, that


if you just take the brief for what the exhibition is and

But not only colour or the material palette, but

you give it to someone else, then it would look incredibly


different. If you speculate on what anthropomorphism








Lara It is like a simplification. Matthias Yes, but highly specific and very abstract in the way that now we have the exhibition show for almost two





of visitors showed that it is not evident for an observer, who is not precisely observing, that it has anthropomorphic features. Fredrik Yes, which is kind of the point. We tried to create it so that it would be ideally just in the threshold, that it would really require a certain level of scrutiny and inspection. A space, or a piece of architecture might be on the peripheral level just pleasant or interesting to have around you, but on closer inspection let’s say, that there is more things to discover. Especially if you are working with anthropomorphism. If there is one thing that the human mind is trained to recognise, it is other might be in the future of a semi-virtual AI architecture

human faces. So if you place human faces our eyes will

then yes, it might look completely different. Obviously the

be drawn to that immediately. And if you somehow, as we

actual creation of the exhbition, is quite intuitive, based on

tried to do, obscure them enough that maybe you will even

the way that we work and the sort of qualities that we are

miss them, then if you start to recognise them, the sort of

interested in. In certain types of architecture of the 1980s and

curiosity to hunt for the rest of them might kick in and

90s you might see things that have similar qualities, let’s say.

therefore an interest for or a kind of curiosity and a desire

There are also certain references to classical architecture.

to keep looking might emerge.

However, our aim in terms of how they are just perceived is hoping that there would be a certain level of surprise in


the kind of awkwardness of how some of this shapes and

And also something that is really exiting with pareidolia

colours come together, and some of the materiality.

– seeing faces or recognizing patterns – is that you can

go for a long time without seeing it but once you see it, maybe because someone tells you or it just clicks, you can never un-see it! It is the fact that you could have a long relationship with a part of a building as one thing and then suddenly something clicks and it is another. That was something we were very keen on! And that it just might have to do something with the angles from which you look at it or how close you are to it and suddenly you see it and you cannot see anything else. That’s something that you find a lot in Moorish architecture, which doesn’t have any anthropomorphic features, but works with levels of resolution depending on how far or how close you are. As you see it at the Alhambra, where you see one pattern and then maybe you get closer and you completely see another one and then you are totally locked with that and it is really hard to shift and see the one you saw before. That means the relationship or the way you actually break down what you are perceiving can

exhibition: the column. Because in a way the column -

actually change even if you have seen the same thing

that is called a column by you - for example, can also

many times.

be read as a totem. A lot of visitors told me that this is clearly a totem and not a column - probably because of


its strange shape and the bird faces. So the ambiguity

And there is one other interesting kind of component to

already starts with this column, which cannot clearly

this, the level of abstraction or let’s say the design of how

be defined as a column, before continuing on the other

they come about in the exhibition. If we think about

scales and layers of the exhibition. Itis a column, but also

human’s ability or even interest for pattern recognition

at least a bit not a column, therefore we were laughing

and indeed what’s in the subtitle of the exhibition of

a lot and asking ourselves what it is, right after its

Artificial Intelligence and its relation to the future of

assembly was finished! So the ambiguity concerns also

labour and what types of profession might be taken over

entire architectural objects and then is in interplay with it

by algorithms: the ones that require the highest level

or goes on to the different levels of figures, patterns, and

of pattern recognition will be the last ones to go. One

other architectural elements.

example based on a study is archaeology, which requires an incredibly high level of pattern recognition which


is incredibly difficult for a computer to do. So that’s

Yeah, I guess it’s also the case with anthropomorphism,

also an interesting kind of component that actually for

but also generally this level of ornamentation in

computers it is the hardest thing to learn to recognize

architecture, that we don’t really see much anymore,

really complex sets of patterns, so the more complex

leads us to project meaning onto it. These days whenever

they are, the more it is for us and less for the computer.

there is ornamentation, there must be a sort of purpose or meaning behind it and obviously when you have an


object like that – which is potentially holding something

So we will be the last ones standing!

up, but likely not – it has the sort of shape of the column, but because of its level of ornamentation I guess it’s kind of natural to project some other type of purpose or meaning.

Matthias This







interesting also on the level of a whole element of the

If you take the totem it’s somehow either virtually based or some other type of non-practical purpose.


a very different way of seeing! That’s why it doesn’t mean

This links back to the discussion before of Venturi’s

anything, because we think much more from a cognitive



approach: if it has features that make it rich enough, then

Postmodern notion of a single message you were talking

you will want to store stuff on it, on the image of it. Then

about to a level of architectural objects, because one of

it is whatever it is for each one of us and that’s why I am

the failures of Postmodernism would again be exactly

thinking of this as a comparison to mnemonics, where

the opposite of what you are talking about also on that

you actually construct the space just to store very personal

level, where for Rossi for example the window can only

memories, which is a much more interesting comparison

and anymore be the square window, because that is THE

perhaps than some of Postmodern Architecture, which

window. So this revival of a kind of, I don`t know how

was much more concerned with communicating a very

we want to call it, new Postmodern on the axis Milano to

particular message.







London and thereby crossing Switzerland and Belgium really also seems to have to do with this ambiguity of


the architectural elements and a shifted system of

Obviously in Vienna you are probably read by a lot of

reference, where not only highly symbolic elements are

architects and students as just Postmodernists and they

worth quoting.

probably don’t really understand how someone could ever do this kind of work now, which is also very funny


and makes it interesting for us to exhibit you here. To

There is no wrong way of reading them. We are not going

have an exhibition in a city, where Postmodernism was

to tell you the meaning they have, in that sense people

killed in the mid-90s and there has been almost no

keep bringing up Postmodernism and it is really not! It has

debate about it ever since.

nothing to do with that, although I completely understand, with Modernism being the only thing that separates us


from Postmodernism, that people are obviously going to

Yeah mid 90s, I don’t know about Vienna specifically.

relate us to Postmodernism, but it has much more to do with a mnemonic approach in a way that if things are rich


enough you can use them to store meaning, but they don’t

You told us before about the archaeological side and

have a meaning per se. That is interesting. So I think it’s

about the history of stories on columns or on facades,

when for example there was a war or monuments of


kings we could say that there was no media to preserve

Because it’s up to us who project! So there are these

it otherwise, so they had to put it in stone, but now

sorts of added levels, so it’s even a layer that is added

you have Facebook and Instagram and maybe the most

by us interfering with it, like bringing all this features

memories of somebody are on his or her Facebook-

into the patterns by recognizing them. Therefore I was

account or on the Instagram-account ... What is the need

wondering, because before you were talking about the

then to put it on a facade of a building or on the interior

notion of resolution and the Alhambra, I just could not

of a flat?

stop thinking about whether the model of the layer would maybe make more sense in that context, because


we add a layer by projecting these things onto them. It is

That’s super interesting and something that we

also about an architect’s everyday’s life, where we open

want to get to! If you compare with

the way the

softwares and all of these softwares contain layers, such

Postmodernists were doing things, the way that

as AutoCAD, Photoshop and so on ... I was wondering

our generation works is more like the logic of the

whether that could maybe be the way to update Las

Internet and applying it quite directly to the logic of

Vegas. So it might need learning from layered spaces


rather then, I don’t know, from the single layered ones. Lara I think it is not something that necessary needs to be explained, but to be experienced. Umberto Eco in the ‘The Open Work’ talks about how an artwork can be constructed by the viewer, by the person who is experiencing it and, in that sense, you are projecting so much of you into it. For that to happen it needs a series of features that act as triggers and that help you construct narrative or project emotion onto it. We are intuitively working with the idea that a certain level of intricacy and a certain amount of abstracted references need to be there for you to start seeing patterns, seeing things, seeing faces. He or she who is experiencing is actively constructing this thing. Fredrik And that leads to our interest in a cognitive approach to architecture and





Going back to the question ‘does Lara

it make sense to build these things’, the answer is

But it has much more to do with developing a cognitive

maybe not, we can now allow ourselves to really be

and emotional attachment than reading into it and,

free in reconsidering what should be carved in stone

in that way, it is so different from the way a cathedral

and what should be numbers in a graphic card, and

would work. The cathedral was meant to be an open

of course we will never be able to judge or to value

book, yes, and it was meant to teach even people

these things as equal, if something is carved in stone

who could not read and to communicate a particular

or if something is a rendering or an animation. The

message, but here there is no message. It is only creating

meaning we project onto it will be different, but

the opportunity to develop an attachment to this thing,

we are trying to be as fluent as possible and to not

because it is reminding you of so many things that you

discriminate any format of reality.

end up building a character.

Lara The virtual, at the moment, still doesn’t exist. We really want the virtual






Augmented Reality to be here, but it is really not and we don’t know how soon in our career it’s going to be there, so maybe we will have to do some more of these things. Right, if we really think about today it is not quite clear, even if it might be very soon. Then there is also the aspect that virtual experiences would not be as intense as they are, if it wasn’t for our very rich experience of the world. When you are seeing the printed materials in those fabrics your understanding of how terrazzo feels or how granite feels, or plastic, is informing what you are projecting onto those forms. You need to have the experience of those materials in order to gain the virtual experience, so certain things are relying on the physical world and always make us think that we will still need a very rich physical reality to enhance our Fredrik

virtual experiences.

Absolutely. It was interesting to see Zumthor’s models on Fredrik

show at the Venice Biennale and how they are almost

Matthias, I will come back very quickly to the point

perverse. They are so loaded and shocking in their



materiality. They are dripping with a sort of exuberance,

difference is that the Postmodern way of doing this was

all covered in wax or models made solidly in marble.

almost purely through linguistics: the using of symbols;

They seem to somehow go against perhaps the common

whereas in our case we are interested in experiential

understanding of what that type of modernism has

symbols – not knowledge that you need to have acquired

meant to be, not necessarily exuberant.






–, where the kind of semiotics are not relying on your knowledge, but just on your experience.

Jerome There’s another important feature in your exhibition


at MAGAZIN, which is a robot vacuum cleaner that is

If we for example look at a career like the one of Zumthor,

driving autonomously through the exhibition spaces.

which starts as a kind of classic Postmodernist directly

And it is really interesting to observe how visitors are

quoting Kahn and all these things and then radically

reacting to it as soon as we switch it on and how it

goes off in the mid 1980s and becomes, I don’t know if you

affects their spatial behaviour, especially for children.

want to call him a Minimalist or a Phenomenological

This little robot thus clearly tackles the question of how

architect, where it is really about things like his own

these ‘smart machines’ will more and more interact with

personal memories as an author and your personal

us in our homes. Luciano Floridi wrote about it in an

experience of the spaces and the materials as a visitor and

interesting way. He is speaking about a sort of revolution

so on... This, obviously done on different levels of quality

we are experiencing right now. And this revolution is

and stringency, has in a way become the new general

happening on a spatial level in the way that ‘smart

architectural style of almost everything. In that sense,

machines’, he writes, have already been part of our lives

it seems that your architecture and your emphasis on

for quite a long time, but they have always been acting

experience and on being fully embedded in a space are

only within a very restricted area of space. He gives

also very influenced by the experiential shift instigated

the example of a dishwasher. The dishwasher can be

through Phenomenological architecture.

considered as a kind of smart machine but enclosed in a

container. The space in which it can act autonomously is

comfortable’ – what can perhaps start dealing with the

restricted to that box. And then the mentioned revolution

home, this sort of agency that the robot exemplifies

is starting at the point where the container disappears

in the exhibition. I think it is inside that, that you can

and the machine is leaving its hermetic envelope. In the

understand that this decision making is what will come,

case of your interpretation of a future home, I would

and that we will probably really have to accelerate that

not necessarily say that the box is disappearing, but it

relationship that we are talking about with the home:

is brought to another scale. It becomes bigger and kind

the building being a creature.

of swallows us. So the box is not anymore a dishwasher but it is our house or apartment and we suddenly


enter these boxes and live inside, together with smart

It is super interesting, this analogy of the compartment or

machines. Respectively, the box is kind of a machine and

the container that the little agent is in, not just spatially,

at the same time our home.

but also I guess kind of in the realm of possibilities what it can do. Obviously we wouldn’t expect the robot


to start dancing or to go up the wall. We understand the

The robot in the exhibition really is a little creature and

parameters... But of course the level that they are now,

what makes it different from a washing machine is, that

even this cheap little vacuum robot, is still a little bit

it has agency. You don’t press a button,it starts doing

shocking to most people, because they step from outside

things on its own. And it seems to be making decisions -

of the washing machine box, as you were saying. Just

based on some sort of parameters. So that agency is what

experientially it is kind of shocking. I guess, the next

triggers this extreme understanding of it as a being. But

step will be when it actually leaves the home or the

referring to your comment, I was thinking about Tim

architecture and goes to do the shopping or whatever

and his relation to his automated curtain at home. A

it might be.

friend of us, who has this enormous window, which is, I don’t know, five metres high. And he has this enormous


curtain, which at some point of the day opens or closes

Now the level of shock is when you leave the architecture.

depending on the lighting. It is that sort of feature that

When you have Alexa playing super loud music and then

is making a decision – it is making the judgement ‘It

the police comes, but no human is inside the flat. This

is too bright so I am going to close for you to be more

happened in Germany. You leave the architecture and…

Eva And it misbehaves! Matthias Yes, it misbehaves. And it also misbehaves in the exhibition. At the bottom of the column there is this very small step, where the column is fixed and the robot obviously doesn’t get the step and then instead of cleaning, all the dust falls out, when it tries to drive over it. It is quite amazing that it reverses the result when it is misbehaving. Fredrik Actually I think we project more anthropomorphism onto these objects when they have shortcomings. And when they can’t see your feet and then they go up a bit on your shoes and sniff a bit. Lara Mistakes make you human. Everyone wants to see you break. Fredrick Which is why at the opening, people were stepping on it, putting their beer on it. Testing their own limits by testing the ones of the robot. Lara You always expect a kind of perfection within robotics, right? An inhumane perfection. Fredrik There is obviously something in the difference between the way adults and children interact with animals and their different ability to perceive abstraction, where there is some barrier, where it is very ambiguous and where it is not quite understandable where the boundaries go... And I guess, as the technology gets more and more evolved, we become more and more like children..

M A G A Z I N . Ausstellungsraum für zeitgenössische Architektur. Weyringergasse 27/i A- 1040 Wien



ist ein Ausstellungsraum für zeit-

genössische Architektur in Wien, den der Verein für zeitgenössische Architektur betreibt und der 2018 von Jerome Becker, Matthias Moroder, Clemens Nocker, Florian Schafschetzy und Eva Sommeregger gegründet wurde. Das MAGAZIN fördert vor allem junge Architektinnen und Architekten aus dem In- und Ausland, die dabei sind




zeitgenössischen zu


Architekturdiskurs und



Architekturprojekten bereits ein eigenes Arbeitsprojekt abzulesen ist. Das MAGAZIN präsentiert die Arbeit dieser vor allem jungen Architektinnen und Architekten in eigens für den Ausstellungsraum konzipierten Einzelausstellungen und rundet diese mit dazugehörigen Publikationen sowie Vorträgen ab.

Alle Photos: Moritz Ellmann Schriftarten: modum, RNS Miles Breite Gasse Publishing Wien 7,. Breite Gasse 3/2 ISBN 978-3-9504111-2-6

Für Ihre Unterstützung möchten wir vor allem dem 4. Wiener Gemeindebezirk und dem österreichischen Bundeskanzleramt danken.

Magazin in conversation with Space Popular  

In May, members of the curatorial team at Magazin sat down with Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg from Space Popular to have a conversation a...

Magazin in conversation with Space Popular  

In May, members of the curatorial team at Magazin sat down with Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg from Space Popular to have a conversation a...