Digitalia: architecture and the environmental, the digital and the avant-garde


Susannah Hagan (2008) Digitalia: architecture and the environmental, the digital and the avant-garde, London: Routledge 

This book positions environmental design within current architectural debates on the digital, rather than on some technological fringe. Given the geometrical increase in the amount of computer/software experimentation going on in and outside environmental design, an examination was long overdue of the architectural culture that at first rewarded digital formalism and ignored digital environmentalism, and now seems unaware of emerging convergences between the two. Digitalia investigates the avant-garde antecedents of both the formalist and environmental approaches to the digital in design, and locates contemporary experimentation within an historical perspective. It assesses groups that don’t normally communicate with each other, and which tend to be ignorant of each other’s work.

Some of the ideas and practices identified and discussed in Digitalia aren’t new – for instance the degree to which the computer can take over the role of the designer – and some are very new. The simple act of bringing together perspectives that have hitherto been ‘zoned’ is intended to identify emerging synergies between an ‘autonomous’ avant-garde pursuing form-finding and innovation-in-practice, and an avant-garde that is socially and environmentally ‘engaged’, looping back from the virtual to the actual – actual urbanisation, actual climate change, actual meta-architectural problems. The book has been supported by leading figures in digital research, who have supplied much of the raw case-study material that the book works with.