Architecture of Responsive Spaces

Graduate Seminar

Tuesdays 1:30 - 5:30, EV -.---

Sha Xin Wei

In this course we design environments configured of physical materials and responsive computational media as meaningful responses to our urban condition. Students will have an opportunity to work substantially on critical aspects of creating responsive installations using physical computing and realtime media synthesis. This seminar houses critical work accompanying the creation of installation-events in parallel studio courses.


Media technologies such as the radio, video and more recently, computer simulation have profoundly altered our conceptions of reality and virtuality, of our experiences of habitation and urban life. This course explores several moments in the history of hybrid architecture that question how we imagine, construct, navigate and inhabit computational and physical built spaces.

Roughly half of the course explores architects', artists' and urban designers' approaches to patterning the urban world. The other half of the course explores the construction of meaningful habitable or playful spaces by combining physical materials and responsive computational media. We explore how computational image, speech, text and gesture may be used as material in hybrid urban habitation.

In the studio class parallel to this seminar, teams of students will create small responsive installations. Students will subtly tilt a part of the built environment, based on some critical and social studies of the city.

A prerequisite for this course is some experience building installation-events as interventions in a built environment. Students without such background but who are interested in gaining such experience may contact the instructor.



This class will be run as a combination of a seminar in which students will discuss their responses to the readings or artifacts and as critiques of small prototypes of responsive media environments by teams of undergraduates.

Students will construct responses as short written texts and online journals. The term project will be a written evauation of a responsive media artifact or environment as an intervention in the built environment.

You"ll be evaluated on the basis of your seminar participation and your final document.


Readings will be drawn from this list. Boldface indicates principal texts. The WIKI contains readings, show and tell notes, and student projects

Christopher Alexander, Nature of Order, Volumes 1-4 (2000-2004), ISBN-10: 0972652914, 0972652922, 0972652930, 0972652949

Christopher Alexander, A Timeless Way of Building, Oxford University Press (1979) ISBN: 0195024028.

Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, Univ California Press (1988) ISBN: 0520061683.

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Univ of Minnesota Press (1987) ISBN: 0816614024.

Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis: An Ethicoaesthetic Paradigm. Paul Bains & Julian Pefanis (Translator). Paperback, Indiana University Press (November 1995) ISBN: 0253210046.

Patrick Harrop, Dedale Studio, University of Manitoba, School of Architecture,

Barbara E. Hendricks, Designing for Play (Design and the Built Environment Series), Ashgate Publishing, ISBN: 0754613208, 2001.

Brian Holmes, "Reverse Imagineering, Toward the New Urban Struggles,
Or: Why Smash the State When Your Neighborhood Theme Park Is So Much Closer?," 2004. ( )

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture, London: Routledge, 2000 (1949).

Intelligente Ambiente (Intelligent environment), Ars Electronica 1994 editors, Karl Gerbel, Peter Weibel ; editing, Katharina Gsöllpointner. PVS Verleger (1994).

Interactive Architecture, .

Kojin Karatani. Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money. MIT Press, 1995. ISBN-10: 0-262-61113-9.

Rem Koolhaas, Stefano Boeri, Sanford Kwinter, Nadia Tazi, Daniela Fabricius. Mutations: Harvard Project on the City, Actar Editorial (2001) ISBN: 8495273519.

Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Shambhala Pubns (1998) ISBN: 0877736421.

Lefebvre, H. Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life. London ; New York, Continuum. (2004)

Simon Sadler, Situationist City, MIT Press (1999) ISBN: 0262692252.

Sha Xin Wei, "Resistance Is Fertile: Gesture and Agency in the Field of Responsive Media."

Situationist International Anthology Edited and translated from the French by Ken Knabb 1981 (2nd printing 1989; 3rd printing 1995).

Ken Knabb (ed), Situationist International Anthology. Edited and translated from the French by Ken Knabb 1981 (2nd printing 1989; 3rd printing 1995). Web archive:

Seamon, D. and R. Mugerauer (2000). Dwelling, Place, and Environment: Towards a Phenomenology of Person and World. Malabar, Fla., Krieger Pub. Co. ISBN-10: 1575241404

Seamon, D., Editor (1993). Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing : Toward a Phenomenological Ecology. Albany, State University of New York Press. ISBN-10: 0791412784

Studio Azzurro, Milan Italy.

Brian Sutton-Smith, The Ambiguity of Play, Cambridge MA: Harvard UP 2001.

Topological Media Lab, TGarden Research Project,

William H. Whyte, ³ The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces,³ Los Angeles, CA: Direct Cinema Limited (1988, c1979) videocassette, ISSN/ISBN IS: 1559741473.

Krzysztof Wodiczko, projection artist. ,
Early work with "personal instruments" (1980's)
Art Forum article




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