BBC radio: computer generated building design

The BBC has a 5-minute radio item about computer generated architecture.

Architect Thomas Witzke (?) at Zaha Hadid‘s office talks about paralel computer modeling in building design. He says computer programs originally used for the animation industry and car design and ship building are now used by architects. So projects are now entirely conceived in the digital world and then transposed into the physical world. Next up is architect Patrick Schumacher who talks about ‘parametricism‘ as the new architectural language that is emerging now. It is a new language of design, a new “long wave of innovation”, a “new movement” or “paradigm” indeed.

The radio show also draws a historical paralel with a previous burst of creativity in building design during the medieval age of cathedral building, which started after people returned from the crusades.

Not a very deep-reaching item but interesting to see how architects are using new digital technologies as designing tools, and apparently have a sense of a new era dawning in architecture.


Zaha Hadid is guest editor at the BBC this week. There is a short audio slideshow of 1:40 about Archigram, the 1960s avant-garde architecture group. The show is narrated by one of Archigrams founding members Sir Peter Cook. As I watched this clip, some of the ideas about creating ‘plug-in cities’, which are modular and mobile, seem so apt to transpose to the current state of urban design. In 2000 Cook finally built a real building, the Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, according to Archigram principles. It has “a skin able to communicate” with its surroundings through hundreds of pixel lines. Interestingly too, I believe, is that there is a particularly ‘ludic’ quality to these ideas and proposals. E.g. an “instant city” that would bring musea to your town, brought in like a circus in wheels or even by zeppelin (“much cooler!”). Of course the context now is different: this playfulness was a reaction against the boring narrow-minded housing style of that period. Are we again witnessing the realm of play leading the way in new urban design practices which make cross-overs with digital media?

Michiel de Lange

Michiel de Lange (1976) is an Assistant Professor in New Media Studies at Utrecht University, researching mobile media and urban culture and identity. He is the co-founder of The Mobile City, an independent research group founded in 2007 that investigates the influence of digital media technologies on urban life and the implications for urban design and policy. Michiel is trained as a cultural anthropologist, and holds a PhD in philosophy (2010) with a dissertation about mobile media technologies and urban identities. He collaborated in a locative media art & science project ( He worked for  Kennisland, a Dutch think-tank that aims to strengthen the knowledge-based society. Here he worked on several projects at the intersection of ICTs and the city, e.g. co-organizing the Creative Capital conference. He also volunteered and worked for Cybersoek, a computer neighborhood center in Amsterdam. He is advisor e-culture at Mediafonds.
Michiel is on Twitter and LinkedIn.