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Introduction to Computational Design (2019)


    This is the Fall 2019 lecture series for the course GSD-6338: Introduction to Computational Design, taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.


    Instructor: Jose Luis García del Castillo y López

    Teaching Fellow: Daniel Tish

    Teaching Assistants:

    Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Fall 2019. https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/course/in…



    Fear and Wonder 3: Futures of AI Symposium (2019)


      This November 20, SCI-Arc is proud to present the third installment of its Fear and Wonder symposium. Curated by Liam Young, SCI-Arc faculty and Coordinator of the EDGE MS Fiction and Entertainment program, Fear and Wonder 3: Futures of AI joins an ensemble of directors, concept artists, video game designers, and storytellers for an expedition through an atlas of imaginary worlds, fictional cities, and speculative geographies.

      On the occasion of November 2019, the date Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was originally set, this symposium will explore contemporary representations of artificial intelligence in film, television, and global culture. Long after the flickering Japanese neon illuminating the streets of Blade Runner’s world has faded, narratives of human-like AI spiraling out of control still permeate all forms of popular culture. Guests from science fiction-adjacent productions such as West WorldBlade Runner 2049, and Her will be in dialogue with theorists and technologists to investigate where the science ends and fiction takes over.

      This edition of Fear and Wonder is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and is in media collaboration with KRCW’s DnA program.


      George Hull

      Concept artist for Blade Runner 2049

      George Hull is one of Hollywood’s leading film conceptual designers, specializing in creating unique and imaginative worlds including the cinematography, settings, and vehicles that live within them. Most recently Hull worked as Senior Conceptual Designer on Blade Runner 2049 and the highly anticipated film DUNE. Other film projects include Star Wars: Episode 8Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2ElysiumThe Cloud AtlasWall-E, and the science fiction epic The Matrix: Reloaded & Revolutions, and many more.

      Dominic Polcino

      Animation Director for Rick and Morty

      Dominic Polcino has been a driving force on three of the most popular prime-time animated shows of all time: The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Family Guy, all garnering him a series of Emmy nominations. Polcino also directs for the award winning animated series Rick and Morty for Adult Swim including the episode “The Ricks Must be Crazy,” in which Rick’s self-aware, artificially intelligent spaceship attempts to keep its occupant Summer safe at all costs.

      Deborah Harrison

      Architect of the personality for Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana

      Deborah Harrison is one of the original architects of the personality for Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana. She crafted the core principles that define Cortana’s approach to communication and helps teach deep neural networks to manifest distinct personalities. Today, she leads a team that brings same expertise in conversational UI, inclusive design, and machine learning to other intelligent products and features. She believes that while the field of AI is still in adolescence, those in the industry stand in a brilliant position to shape not only technological innovation but also the culture of communication between humans and machines.

      Jon Carlos

      Westworld Supervising Art Director

      Jon Carlos is the Supervising Art Director for HBO’s series Westworld. Westworld is a fictional amusement park populated by artificially intelligent android hosts. The park caters to high-paying guests who indulge their wildest fantasies without fear of retaliation from the hosts, who are prevented by their programming from harming humans. Other films art directed by Carlos include Fast and the Furious 7 & 8 and Hotel Artemis.

      Kenric McDowell

      Director of Google’s Artist and Machine Intelligence Group

      Kenric McDowell leads the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google Research, facilitating collaboration between Google AI researchers, artists, and cultural institutions. In addition to twenty years of experience in software design and engineering, McDowell has an MFA in photography and regularly performs acoustic and electronic music.

      Jessica Brillhart

      Director of USC’s Mixed Reality Lab, founder of Vrai Pictures and former principal filmmaker for VR at Google

      Jessica Brillhart is an immersive director, writer, and theorist. She is the new director of USC’s Mixed Reality Lab and founder of the independent studio, Vrai Pictures. Previously, Brillhart was the principal filmmaker for VR at Google where she worked with engineers to develop Google Jump, a virtual reality live-action capture ecosystem. Since then, Brillhart has made a range of highly acclaimed VR experiences, working with such entities as NASA, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence program, the Montreal Canadiens, and (unofficially) the Weather Channel.

      Lauren McCarthy

      Artist and computer programmer

      Lauren McCarthy is an artist and programmer examining social relationships in the midst of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living. In her project LAUREN, McCarthy became a human version of Amazon Alexa, a smart home intelligence system for people in their own homes. LAUREN is a meditation on the smart home, the tensions between intimacy vs privacy, convenience vs agency they present, and the role of human labor in the future of automation. She is an Associate Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts and co-directs the Processing Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote software literacy within the visual arts, and visual literacy within technology-related fields—and to make these fields accessible to diverse communities.

      Siddharth Suri

      Computational scientist with the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group of Microsoft Research–AI and co-author of Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass

      Siddharth Suri is a computational social scientist whose research interests lie at the intersection of computer science, behavioral economics, and crowdsourcing. His early work analyzed the relationship between network topology and human behavior. More recently, Suri has studied the crowd workers who power many modern apps, websites, and artificial intelligence (AI) systems. This work culminated in a book he co-authored with Mary L. Gray titled Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass. He was also was a founding member of Microsoft Research–New York City and recently joined the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group of Microsoft Research–AI.

      Ingrid Burrington

      Artist and Writer

      Ingrid Burrington is an artist who writes, makes maps, and tells jokes about places, politics, and the weird feelings people have about both. She’s the author of Networks of New York, an illustrated field guide to urban internet infrastructure, and has previously written for The AtlanticThe NationThe Verge, and other outlets. Her work has previously been supported by Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Rhizome. She also runs the Data and Society speculative fiction reading group.

      Veronica So

      Producer of Ian Cheng’s Emissaries Trilogy and the artificial lifeform BOB

      Veronica So is the producer and co-parent of fine artist Ian Cheng’s trilogy of digital ecological simulations of infinite duration and an AI-driven virtual lifeform called BOB (Bag of Beliefs). Over the course of its lifetime, BOB’s body, mind, and personality evolve to better confront the continuous stream of life’s surprises and metabolize them into familiar routines. An accompanying app called BOB Shrine allows viewers to assert a tutoring influence on BOB to help offset BOB‘s temptation to only satisfy its immediate impulses and childhood biases. Veronica is currently producing an animated miniseries called Life After BOB by Ian Cheng exploring the transformation of human life scripts in an era of artificial intelligence.

      Victor Martinez

      Concept designer for Terminator GenisysTerminator SalvationBlade Runner 2049 and Real Steel

      Victor Martinez is a Los Angeles based Concept Designer dedicated to Visual Development and World Building for the Entertainment Industry. Victor’s early love of film led him to start making animated shorts at the age of 9, winning various film festivals in the US and abroad. He then went on to study painting at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and later obtained a BA in Art at the UCLA School of Art and Architecture as well as a Masters of Architecture degree at SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture). Having worked for over 20 years in the film and entertainment industry, such work includes the design of sets and environments, props, characters, and vehicles – both in the Art Department and in Visual Effects. With over 50 credits to his name, some of the projects he’s contributed to include Minority ReportAvatarWestworld, and Blade Runner 2049.

      Ross Goodwin

      Creative technologist a co-creator of Sunspring, a science fiction film written by AI

      Ross Goodwin is a creative technologist, artist, hacker, data scientist, and former White House ghostwriter. Ross helped conceive Sunspring, a 2016 experimental science fiction short film entirely written by an artificial intelligence bot using neural networks. He employs machine learning, natural language processing, and other computational tools to realize new forms and interfaces for written language.

      See also:

      The Digital Urbanisms Conference (2019)


        The development of urban digital technologies and the deployment of digital information have evolved into a mutually reinforcing feedback loop between distributed sites of data production and extraction, and the planning and design of data-driven and evidence-based landscapes. Mobile social media, networks of sensors, and the ecology of connected devices termed the “Internet of Things,” among others, constitute infrastructures that harvest information, while advancing techniques of analysis and visualization have begun to describe and design sociopolitical and built environments in their image.

        Digital Urbanisms is a one-day symposium bringing together urban researchers and practitioners – planners, architects, geographers, organizers, and entrepreneurs – to take stock of the digital processes and products shaping cities, their promises, and problems, and discuss alternatives and approaches for operating within and against the uneven spaces they characterize.


        Part 1:

        • Nerissa Moray, Associate Director, Planning & Development, Sidewalk Labs
        • Vinhcent Le, Technology Equity Council, The Greenlining Institute
        • Tara Pham, Founder and CEO, Numina Co
        • Mimi Sheller, Director, Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, Professor of Sociology, Drexel University
        • Moderated by Malo Hutson

        Part 2:

        • Laura Bliss, West Coast Bureau Chief, CityLab
        • Justin Hollander, Professor and Director Urban Attitudes Lab, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
        • Taylor Shelton, Assistant Professor, Geography and GIS, Mississippi State University
        • Moderated by Mark Wasiuta

        Part 3:

        • Keynote by Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University. Response by Leah Meisterlin.

        Part 4:

        • Greta Byrum, Co-Director, Digital Equity Laboratory, The New School
        • Renee Sieber, Associate Professor, Geography, McGill University
        • Moderated by Susan McGregor.

        Part 5:

        • Craig Dalton, Assistant Professor of Global Studies and Geography, Hofstra University
        • Annette Kim, Associate Professor and Director Spatial Analysis Lab, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California
        • Mark Shepard, Associate Professor and Director of Media Arts and Architecture Program, University at Buffalo
        • Moderated by Laura Kurgan

        2019 Fitch Colloquium: Record/Replay


          Can digital technologies for capturing and reproducing reality deepen our understanding and enrich our experience of built heritage? Can these new technologies not only improve the daily practice of preservation but effectively inform a new paradigm of cultural heritage? The 2019 Fitch Colloquium will explore the future of Historic Preservation through the lens of experimental approaches to digital documentation, analysis, interpretation, archiving, sharing, visualization and re-materialization of data.

          The symposium will examine cutting-edge processes involving the development and application of digital tools to projects of all scales, including high-resolution 3D scanning, gaming, computer-based visual pattern recognition, blockchain encryption, behavioral geo-tracking or interactive projection mapping among others. Internationally recognized experts from a varied range of disciplines will unpack their work and speculate on the conceptual changes that might emerge in response to the current upheaval in technology.


          • David Gissen, PhD, Professor & Associate Chair, Graduate Programs Division of Architecture, The California College of the Arts
          • Dr. Pilar Bosch Roig, Associate Professor and Researcher at the University Polytechnic of Valencia, Spain
          • Dr. Frédéric Kaplan, Assistant Professor, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
          • Dr. Hannah Lewi, Professor of Architecture, University of Melbourne
          • Ian Bogost, Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies, Professor of Interactive Computing Professor, Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology
          • Carlos Bayod, Factum Foundation, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
          • Arnaud Baernhoft, Digital Producer, Alchemy VR
          • Carlos Benaïm, Perfumer, International Flavors and Fragrances
          • Yves Ubelmann, Digital Architect for Cultural Heritage, ICONEM
          • Emily L. Spratt, PhD Candidate, Princeton University
          • Chance Coughenour, Digital Archaeologist, Google Arts & Culture
          • Farzin Lotfi-Jam, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture, Columbia GSAPP
          • Caitlin Blanchfield, PhD Candidate, Columbia GSAPP


          • Erica Avrami, PhD, James Marston Fitch Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
          • David Benjamin, Founding Principal of The Living, Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
          • Organized by Jorge Otero-Pailos and the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia GSAPP.

          Ways of Knowing Cities (2018)


            Technology increasingly mediates the way that knowledge, power, and culture interact to create and transform the cities we live in. Ways of Knowing Cities is a one-day conference which brings together leading scholars and practitioners from across multiple disciplines to consider the role that technologies have played in changing how urban spaces and social life are structured and understood – both historically and in the present moment.

            From John Snow’s cholera maps of London and the design of the radio network in Colonial Nigeria to NASA’s composite images of global night lights, the way the city and its inhabitants have been comprehended in moments of technological change has always been deeply political. Representations of the urban have been sites of contestation and violence, but have also enabled spaces of resistance and delight. Our cities have been built and transformed through conflict, and the struggle is as much informational and representational as it is physical and bodily.

            Today, the generation and deployment of data is at the forefront of projects to reshape our cities, for better and for worse. As a consequence, responding to urban change demands critical literacy in technology, and particularly data technologies.

            The conference addresses itself to the deep ambivalence of interventions in the urban, as it explores the ways that knowledge regimes have impacted the built world. In this sense, it seeks to catalyze more robust, creative, and far-reaching ways to think about the relationship between the urban and the information systems that enable, engage and express the city.

            Panel 1

            • Orit Halpern, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University
            • Shannon Mattern, School of Media Studies, The New School
            • Anita Say Chan, Department of Media and Cinema Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
            • with Felicity Scott, Columbia University

            Panel 2

            • Mitch McEwen ’06 M.Arch, School of Architecture, Princeton University
            • Dietmar Offenhuber, Departments of Art + Design and Public Policy, Northeastern University
            • with Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, Columbia University

            Panel 3

            • Keynote: Wendy Chun, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

            Panel 4:

            • Robert Pietrusko, Departments of Landscape Architecture and Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design
            • Nontsikelelo Mutiti, New Media, State University of New York at Purchase
            • Simone Brown, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin
            • with Anupama Rao, Columbia University

            Panel 5:

            • Leah Meisterlin ’06 MSUP / ’09 M.Arch, Department of Urban Planning, Columbia GSAPP
            • Matthew Wilson, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky
            • with Dare Brawley, Columbia University

            Panel 6:

            • Lorenzo Pezzani, Forensic Oceanography, Goldsmiths, University of London
            • Sebastian Cobarrubias, International Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
            • with Manan Ahmed, Columbia University

            Panel 7:

            • Keynote: Trevor Paglen, Visual Artist


            Machines of Loving Grace: A Symposium on AI, Architecture and Virtual Worlds (2017)


              Popularly labeled as the 4th Industrial Revolution, the proliferation of artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and virtual reality is transforming the socioeconomic structure of our society and consequently revolutionizing the way we design and experience spaces. These emerging technological paradigms promise a heightened sense of interaction between humans and their environment. In these new scenarios, the software and hardware ecosystems are exceedingly gaining autonomy. Virtual worlds are no longer limited to be interfaces that merely enhance the physical environment but are becoming spaces in their own right; blurring the distinction between the physical and the digital in our constructed reality. The Symposium: Machines of Loving Grace expands the contemporary discussion on the evolution of human-machine society into the domain of architectural discourse.

              Focusing on these new design ecosystems that shape our contemporary reality, the presenters will explore the particular themes of artificial intelligence, interaction design, and virtual/ augmented reality. Some of the main discussion points will include:

              -AI and intelligent environments

              -Interactive spaces and cyberphysical systems

              – Virtual worlds and architecture of interfaces

              – Robotics, autonomy, and automation

              By engaging some of the greatest minds from the fields of art, architecture, philosophy, industrial design, literature and engineering, the symposium will theorize and situate a new agenda for the intersection of technology and the environments we occupy and socialize in; both digitally and physically.

              Detailed schedule & presenters

              1:00 PM-1:30 PM
              Check in + Exhibition

              1:30 PM- 1:55 PM
              Welcome by Neil Denari, Interim Chair and Professor UCLA A.UD
              Intro by Guvenc Ozel, Faculty UCLA Suprastudio

              SESSION 1:
              AI: Interfaces and Objects
              1:55 PM- 2:20 PM

              Nora Khan, Writer, Rhizome, Eyebeam
              2:20 PM- 2:45 PM

              Kenric McDowell, Senior UX Designer, Google Research, Art and Machine Intelligence
              2:45 PM- 3:10 PM

              Tim Wantland, Senior Interaction Designer, Google Research Machine Intelligence
              3:10 PM- 3:30 PM

              SESSION 2:
              Form, Data and Intelligence

              3:30 PM- 3:55 PM
              Jason Kelly Johnson, Design Principal, Future Cities Lab & Associate Professor, CCA San Francisco

              3:55 PM- 4:20 PM
              Casey Reas, Professor, UCLA Design Media Arts
              4:20 PM- 4:45 PM

              Nick Cote, Researcher, Applied Research & Innovation, Autodesk
              4:45- 5:05

              SESSION 3:
              Cyberphysical Systems: The Virtual and the Physical

              5:05 PM- 5:30 PM
              Benjamin Bratton, Professor, University of California, San Diego, Program Director, Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow

              5:30 PM- 5:55 PM
              Jose Sanchez, Assistant Professor University of Southern California, School of Architecture, Director at Plethora Project llc.

              5:55 PM- 6:20 PM
              Rebecca Allen, Professor, UCLA Design Media Arts

              6:20 PM- 6:40 PM

              6:40 PM- 7:00 PM
              ALL SPEAKERS, Audience Q&A

              The Symposium is hosted by Ozel SUPRASTUDIO.


              Ozel SUPRASTUDIO at UCLA IDEAS is focused on investigating the intersection of the digital and the physical worlds, looking at the cusp of living in mixed realities where interactive environments challenge traditional fabrication techniques and spatial assemblies. Current research objectives include virtual and augmented reality, robotics, cyberphysical systems and smart space applications. Automation, interaction, autonomous transportation, space travel, robotic fabrication, virtual spaces and interface design are recurring themes of exploration, aiming to find meaningful design applications while navigating through the ever-changing world of technology. Some of the current and former industry collaborations include Autodesk and Microsoft, among others. Studio is led by Guvenc Ozel with the assistance of lecturers Benjamin Ennemoser and Mertcan Buyuksandalyaci.

              Architecture + Technology: Pedagogy in an age of disruption (2017)


                Architecture + Technology: Pedagogy in an Age of Disruption examines technology’s impact on the field of architecture beyond building-centric technology and evidence-based design. Specifically, how advancements are changing ways in which we perceive value, with human efficiency and well-being taking precedence over resource performance. How might architects more effectively measure and act upon both quantitative and qualitative data with greater consideration for the effects on human performance? How might we respond to the increasing urgency within architectural education to adapt to meet industry demands?

                The symposium seeks to evaluate the current role and potential of technology, while interrogating the strategies by which it is being taught, in order to arrive at relevant modes of practice that are in tune with the disruptions that are now emerging.


                Panel 1: Integration

                • Ben Gilmartin, DS+R
                • Forrest Meggers, Princeton
                • Ingeborg Rocker, Dassault Systèmes
                • Kevin Slavin, MIT Media Lab
                • Moderated by Mimi Hoang, Columbia GSAPP

                Panel 2: Computation

                • Anna Dyson, RPI
                • Kasper Guldager Jensen, 3XN
                • Jenny Sabin, Cornell
                • Moderated by David Benjamin, Columbia GSAPP

                Panel 3: Assembly

                • Jens Dyvik, Fellesverkstedet
                • Billie Faircloth, KieranTimberlake
                • Nick Gelpi, FIU
                • Vincent Loubière, Airbus ProtoSpace
                • Moderated by Silvia Prandelli, Columbia GSAPP

                Case Studies: Pedagogy

                • Kiel Moe, Harvard GSD
                • Craig Schwitter, Columbia GSAPP
                • Meejin Yoon, MIT
                • Moderated by Hilary Sample, Columbia GSAPP

                Closing Roundtable

                • Lise Anne Couture, Columbia GSAPP
                • Scott Marble, Georgia Tech
                • Hilary Sample, Columbia GSAPP
                • Michael Ulrich Hensel, AHO
                • Moderated by Craig Schwitter, Columbia GSAPP

                DDes Conference: Data Across Scales: Reshaping Design (2015)


                  The Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Doctor of Design Studies Program hosted the international interdisciplinary conference Data Across Scales: Reshaping Design.

                  Bringing together design researchers and practitioners, the conference inquires into the role of “data” in design and how it is steering its practice across all scales.

                  The conference will comprise four panels: “Data-driven design,” “Programming the physical world,” “Urban design and big data” and “Open data and civic media.”

                  AA PhD Symposium- Algorithms & Actualisation (2014)


                    ALGORITHMS & ACTUALISATION is a one-day international conference put forth by the PhD in Architectural Design students at the Architectural Association. The symposium will explore the theoretical and design-oriented implications of computation in PhD design research at various scales. In recent decades, the role of computation in architectural research has had a profound impact in terms of empowering designers to breach into other fields including various scientific domains, infusing innovative ideas into design. As a result, algorithmic design has developed towards an interdisciplinary domain that integrates different mathematical and biological algorithms into architectural cultures. Computational design has established itself as a fundamental aspect of critical design thinking, including the simulation of physical and mathematical phenomena and their evolution as basis for information-based design approaches.

                    As such, while techniques and methods which associate computation and design research in novel ways are discussed, the effects of new design paradigms brought forward by computation on PhD research will be questioned. Over a three-session, all-day event, the symposium will be set up to discuss the current ongoing research, incorporating the interdisciplinary domains of biology, mathematics, artificial intelligence, urbanism, and other related fields. Moreover, the sessions will debate how such different domains integrate with architectural design by setting up innovative methodologies which employ computation on a multitude of levels. Throughout the day, three keynote lecturers and six current PhD. in Architectural Design students from the AA and other leading institutions will present their work and discuss the aforementioned sub-topics. Ultimately, ALGORITHMS & ACTUALISATION targets to comprehend the field of computational design in relation to ongoing PhD design research.

                    With guest speakers: Mark Burry, John Frazer, Xavier de Kestelier

                    Organised by Elif Erdine and Ali Farzaneh


                    Greig Paterson (UCL Bartlett)

                    Sina Mostafavi (TU Delft)

                    Xavier De Kestelier (Foster + Partners)

                    Mark Burry chairs discussion with Xavier De Kestelier

                    ACADIA Conference panel at SCI-Arc: Design aesthetics in the Digital Age (2014)


                      Greg Otto opens the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA)’s panel discussion of the current state of design and design tools.

                      Marcelyn Gow discusses the disconnect between exacting processes and illegible outcomes.

                      Tom Wiscombe argues for mystery, autonomy, critically breaking or misusing tools, and the exploration of architecture’s capacities.

                      Alvin Huang discusses his work in terms of an exploratory practice focused on designing with technology.

                      Roland Snooks discusses his explorations as a way of undermining the discrete reading of architectural elements.

                      The panelists respond to a question posed by Greg Otto on digital tools and architectural fundamentals.

                      The panelists respond to audience comments on issues that remain relevant or arise as new problems.