School of Architecture
Dean, School of Architecture – Adrian Lahoud
Degree shows are many things. They are rituals of transition. Completion ceremonies. Technologies of enchantment. Catharsis machines. Chaos operas. We normally use the exhibition and a curator to understand ourselves, to see ourselves from an external vantage point. This exhibition is unlike any other we have experienced. Staff and students are distributed across hundreds of living rooms and bedrooms here in the UK and overseas. As a result, the school is invisible to itself. Therefore, we have had to rely on screen-based media to try to reconstruct a sense of ourselves, intellectually, emotionally, aesthetically, politically.
This years’ degree show is a meditation on this new online state of existence and its dependence on screen based and information technologies. In response the School of Architecture has decided to conduct an experiment. It marks the first time that every element of every student project is digitized, tagged and organised into a database. Working with Farzin Lofti-Jam and a team of developers, we saw this as an opportunity to re-invent conventional curatorial approaches grounded in individual subjectivity. Instead, we are deploying AI and machine learning API’s available through Amazon Web Services to dynamically sort and re-organise every element of every student project according to different object and language recognition strategies.
Rather than ask curators to select student work, we asked curators to critically reflect on these technologies in collaboration with the machinic selection of student work by the API’s.
Critical self-reflection is a crucial part of institutional practice. The studio environment is a dense, information rich setting that encourages experimentation and the circulation of forms, images, techniques, and colours. Absent of the studio, what new patterns and common tropes might be revealed by treating student work as a machine-readable data set? What new insights into differences between individuals, studios, and programmes become visible? This is the task that we have set ourselves this year.
It is no exaggeration to say that this has been an unimaginably difficult year for many of us. In conclusion I want to take this opportunity to thank students and staff in the School of Architecture for the way you have supported each other through this crisis. The compassion, care and trust you have shown is a source of great pride for all of us and is what gives us courage to experiment in the way that we have.
Degree shows are mirrors held up to catch the reflection of your work and yourselves in motion. I hope you are a bit unrecognisable to yourself.
Especially, I hope you are very proud of how far you have come.