In the age of knowledge, architecture is the storyteller.
The year was 1969. In what he called an “Unwarranted Apology” for the discipline, architectural theorist Reyner Banham argued that while technological advances have often dictated innovation, architecture has often been late to adapt. His revelation, so obvious today by 21st century standards, was that mechanical engineering and architectural design cannot be separated.
Banham sited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Administration Building as the country’s first example of an hermetically sealed “air-conditioned” building. It successfully created a “well-tempered” environment by collapsing technology and architecture, making it impossible to separate the mechanical operations from its design.
If the Larkin Building serves as the 20th century model of architecture—a smart, conditioned space largely controlled and programmatically predefined through the design of its systems—then 21st century architecture has the potential to become more like Transformers robots. By allowing technology to evolve naturally, it replaces static forms that are set and stable with living, interactive spaces that can be many different things to many different people. Instead of being just the venue for storytelling (whether in libraries, churches, theaters, offices, homes, or sports arenas), this intelligent, kinetic architecture itself becomes the storyteller.
Experience Design is the process of creating these interactive spaces. And this is an unwarranted request for architects and designers to embrace and engage in the design of such spaces that integrate the electronic into the fabric of
Architecture as media: the evolution
By tracking the evolution of media and architecture—or architecture as media—it is possible to frame the discipline of Experience Design. The tracing is not entirely chronological because innovation does not always move at the pace of time. But it is possible to clearly define three categories of architectural behavior: the prescribed. the responsive. and the interactive .
The model of the prescribed is a film. It is a particular kind of pre-conceived story, performance, or event unfolding over time. With a clear beginning and end that are made, packaged, and then received, it is entirely pre -scripted.
An historical example was the amazing Film Guild Cinema created by architect Fredrick Kiesler. It no longer exists, but remains one of the most progressive film theater designs to this day. The film screen was a lens that functioned like the pupil of an eye, expanding and contracting to fit the different shapes and sizes of screens and eliminating the need for curtains. Synchronized with it was a multiple projection system that extended across the walls and ceiling. More sophisticated than the IMAX theater, this interesting model was still a totally prescribed experience in that it eliminated any sense of engagement. Keisler himself spoke of the cinema as “the house of silence.”
More contemporary examples of prescribed environments include the Beijing National Aquatics Center, which seamlessly integrates projection into its architectural fa