Kas Oosterhuis on kinetic networked architecture
Unlike RAMTV's lecture a few months ago, Kas Oosterhuis's disquisition at the AA on networked, responsive architecture was both compelling and convincing. But, he insists, 'you have to find a reason' to do it. Strangely enough, for someone so committed to a hegemony of infinite choice in architecture, Oosterhuis revealed himself to be fundamentally functionalist in his ideology.What he hates, above all, are 'buildings which are made for a function, and the function isn't there.'
However, he also seems to be involved with a sort of democratisation of the architectural process, thanks to technology, in which the concept of individual creativity or genius becomes a thing of the past. Instead, design is reconfigured as a 'procedure', and buildings as 'running processes' or 'scripts', governed by technological data, in which 'every line' can be read. There are, as he says, 'no secrets everyone can have it'.
Ironically, this has resulted in a series of buildings produced by Oosterhuis's team, ONL, which appear to be the ultimate in architect-designed whimsy - strange, organically-shaped 'creatures' guaranteed to stop a crowd. Indeed, most of them, as showcase pavilions, are designed mainly for this function. As Oosterhuis admits, '80 to 90 per cent of the people coming into the space think it's just a movie', failing to appreciate the interactive nature of the building.
In which case, why bother? Society seems to operate perfectly well with traditional, fixed architecture, suggesting that Oosterhuis's work is of little real use other than for theoretical research.
But it is precisely on this point that he manages to be convincing. He insists that this is the future of architecture, in an increasingly networked world, where interactive technologies are making responsive environments more familiar every day. The technology which would allow architecture to follow suit exists, but it is almost unknown to conventional architectural practice. Inflatables, hydraulics and 'muscular' structures using pumped air for contraction and expansion all provide the basis, in conjunction with sensors and digital programming, for the development of kinetic buildings that could respond to changes in the environment and behavioural patterns unfolding around and within them.
Referring to the experimental 1960s architectural concept of the Walking City, Oosterhuis says: 'It can happen' - it couldn't then, but technology has caught up. If you can programme the building, and know how all the elements of the skin and structure relate to each other, it is easily done.He makes it sound so normal that one wonders why none of these structures have yet appeared, to one's knowledge, outside his native Netherlands (although his proposed redevelopment of Ground Zero as an infinitely adaptable building is perhaps still ambitious in scale). One reason must be the implication of a loss of input into the design process by architects - but that's an issue for another lecture.
Kas Oosterhuis's lecture, 'If you're Not In Real Time You're Dead', took place at the AA on 4 February