As a result of the increased productivity of the industrial revolution, our society has become increasingly more centred around consumption. In order to support the consumerist society, communication in the form of advertisement and images has increased. We are constantly surrounded by information encouraging us to purchase some new product, service or object. This increased distribution of advertisement and images has, according scientists anesthetised architects to the point where the visual representation of architecture has been separated from its physical content. According to researchers such as Andrew Leech and John May, architecture is now a product that needs to be sold through high resolution renders representing a possible reality.
Through the use of Photogrammetry, this thesis challenges the value of the image and explores the possibilities of the image as a design tool. The explorations depart from the theoretical work of the late French theorist Jean Baudrillard who suggests that we live in a time of hyperreality. This background and theoretical framework has constituted the foundation to help me answer the questions:
What architectural qualities can be discovered through the
manipulation of digital space and images?
How can photogrammetry be utilised as a tool in conceptual design
How can the glitches associated with data processing be used as tools to foster a design process?
Baudrillard was a postmodernist theorist who recognised a connection between consumption, advertisement and reality. He is regarded one of the most influential and controversial postmodernist theorists, and he was active in a time when consumption habits were culminating. More than thirty years has past since his book Simulacra and Simulation was first published, but the ideas presented are still relevant today. Since his theories are not specifically concerning architecture his work has informed my process concerning images associated with architectural practice.
In his book Simulation and Simulacra, Baudrillard suggests that we live in a time of hyperreality. According to Baudrillard, hyperreality is when the copy surpasses the real, making it more real than the original (Baudrillard, 1994). Baudrillard’s theory predominately concerns mass media and the image, both of which are applicable to architecture, however the aim of this thesis is to explore the possibilities of Baudrillard’s theory applied to the mass that lies beyond the image.
The four orders of the image:
1. It is the reflection of a profound reality.
2 It masks and perverts a profound reality.
3. It masks the absence of a profound reality.
4. It has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum. (Baudrillard, 1994)
The project is divided into seven phases where each phase has been informed by one of Baudrillard’s principles. The process allows the image to evolve from a representation of reality to what can be described as hyperreality. Once the process has reached hyperreality in phase four of the project, the process is then reversed. The design proposal (phase four) is transitioned back to its purest form – a representation of reality (phase seven). Through carrying out this process, a comparison between the original building (phase 1) and the final design proposal (phase 7) can be made.
It [the image] is the reflection of a profound realityJean Baudrillard
On a clear sky morning in January the building was captured in 380 photographs. For the process to be successful the photographs needed to achieve 80 percent overlapping. The complexity of the exercise was to maintain a clear curvilinear track between the interception of vehicles and pedestrians. Aspiring to produce a model without any distractions yet documenting it fast enough to avoid any potential shifts in the weather meant that the photographs have a varying amount of detail and proximity. One clear consistence throughout the photos however is the height at which the images have been taken. Since the documentation was carried out using a mobile phone the height from which the photos are taken never exceed the first floor of the building. Images were taken from various angles to cover as much of the building’s facades as possible. This was done both in order to avoid misinterpretations by the software as well as to ensure a high level of detailing of the building’s material.
It [the image] masks and denatures a profound realityJean Baudrillard
After processing the images and producing point clouds in Metashape, a rough model presented itself. The number of images proved to complicate the process by combining the model in unexpected ways. For this reason, multiple small models were produced and later compounded. The exercise meant that the model is no longer a faithful representation of reality thus aligning it with Baudrillard’s theory of the image.
Areas of the model where insufficient data has prohibited the production of a surface has either been left in its original state, or it has been patched using the mesh tools available in Rhino. These patches are based on estimations made by the software causing discrepancies in texture and form. Instead of dismissing the areas that were insufficient they have been preserved in the model, marking an important part of the process.
It [the image] masks the absence of a profound realityJean Baudrillard
In the third step of the process, four details from the model were selected for further experimentation. The details were selected based on their characteristic qualities. Considering the building design originates from an Art Deco variety (Places, 2015), it seemed fitting to explore the digital qualities of the building’s rounded forms and materiality, both of which are characteristic for the Art Deco style. The process gave rise to questions regarding legitimacy, originality and how far removed from the original the representation can be before it becomes its own entity with no obvious traces of its originator.
The explorations of step 3 included modifications of the mesh and the mass, as well as image tracing as a form generator. The modifications generated a multitude of representations of the 3D model, all offering a new and exciting perspective on their originator.
It [the image] has no relation to reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrumJean Baudrillard
It is here, in the fourth step of the process, that a design proposal is formed. The components developed in the last phase are combined in new formations to explore their inherent qualities. In the first instance, individual components’ spatial qualities are studied as isolated objects to later be combined with other components. Here, objects are assigned into categories such as walls, roofs, floors and other known building components, thus transforming abstracted forms into relatable objects. The second part of the process included developing a hyper realistic representation of the site and its surrounding area. In the hyper realistic model buildings are portraited as clear-cut geometries positioned on flat land. And although the trees are shedding their leaves according to a perfectly simulated northern wind, the denseness of the tree’s crown will forever remain the same.
It [the image] masks the absence of a profound realityJean Baudrillard
It is in this phase of the project that the process is reversed. The upcoming chapters will now study the inherent qualities of the components that have derived from the hyper-realistic model that was presented in phase 4. The reason for this is to study the possibilities of integrating the newfound qualities of the hyper realistic into the real. Through carrying out the first three phases in reverse this thesis will challenge the idea that there is no value in the hyperreal.
Step 5 of the process refers back to phase 3 of the image according to Baudrillard (‘‘It [the image] masks the absence of a basic reality’’), and examines the gap between what appears to be real and what appears to be exaggerated and false. In this step the process elements from the hyperreal model (step 4) is combined with the compounded 3D model from step 2. The juxtaposition between the elements makes us question the legibility of the hyperreal elements, concealing the fact that the glitched three-dimensional model from stage 2 is in fact the deceptive image.
It [the image] masks and denatures a profound realityJean Baudrillard, 1994
After completing the previous step of combining elements from the hyper-realistic model and the photogrammetry model it was time to apply the newfound knowledge to the integration of the hyperreal and the real. In this phase elements from phase 4 were applied to serve four different purposes in the model. In the first instance elements were applied to places where reparation was needed, secondly elements were used as a design option to an existing part of the building. Lastly elements of the hyper-realistic model were used as an addition to the building. This category includes sunshades, façade details and other elements that may not have been needed at the time of construction but could complement the contemporary building’s functionality.
It [the image] is the reflection of a profound realityBaudrillard, 1994
In this last step of the process the model resumes it initial form – the photograph. By doing this the process has reverted back to its purest form (referred to by Baudrillard as ‘‘a reflection of a basic reality’’ (Baudrillard, 1994)) and the process is concluded. By completing the process in reverse we are now able to study the end result in comparison to the model we started off with.