Compressing Naturalness

Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss

SJW, Digital RND map, 1993

The problem of architecture's reference towards nature probably lies in the relation between the innumerable characteristics of the two. Following classical thought, countable characteristics of architecture - architectonics - were depicted as the stability opposed to the instabilities of innumerable natural characteristics - naturalness'. The controversy of almost dramatic entanglement of 'embracing the unembraceable' is not abating, even in situations of the postrevolutionary state in architecture, art and technology. Whether we like it or not, hyper-developed relations produced by the media among the social conditions on the borders resulted in a peculiar interstate between the time and space continuums. The saturation of spatial and time data impaired our ability to differentiate clearly among the referential systems in their original states. It could be concluded that the domination of 'uncanny' situations caused the necessity for compressing the characteristics of nature so that they become comprehensible. If the consciousness of indispensable compression of naturalness has been sufficiently developed, where could now the corresponding artificial model for nature itself be?

Let us mention the computer media as the information media that is unstable enough to represent the model for controlling nature in its 'ideal changing'. These media, owing to the interaction of innumerable users (the virtual ones are not countable), provide conditions of artificial naturalness. The technological and computable possibilities of 'self-recounting' give them a chance to associate 'hyper-realistically' and then direct the flow of naturalness in the human environment. After them one could artificially create and control 'ideally unstable' situations. Isn't that what we need?

The unbearable speed of computing great numbers of operations provided by the computer media is today generating a bearable sense of freedom while choosing an architectonic association. The point is not in architectural control of the masses, but in a powerful individual self-control guided by external architectural entities. If one uses associative instead of descriptive models for the creation of plans, the determinism of structural meaning could be avoided elegantly. It counts on the human ability to feel free when choosing a meaning for each architectural entity, and also counts on the sense that enables them to use it for attaining their personal comfort.

What are the main characteristics of the compressing process?

The process of compressing 'digital naturalnesses' cancels their artificial shades and brings them down to point, line and surface. Carries their 'uncountable associative features' to a state of an easy legibility.

Associative 'digital naturalnesses' that were created by breaking up the black or white digital square and by introducing nuances into it are again taken back to the state of the black-and-white key, but now with the emphasis on the most important features of the previously shaded 'naturalness'. 
However, regardless of their exact position on the drawing, they are not at all closer to the description of the possible reality. The dots, lines and surfaces are continuing only to associate to some possible spatial organization, representing nothing by themselves (without the presence of the reader).

By digital compression it is possible to make a quick jump from an association of naturalness to another association of architectonics. Will the space that is to be read from the digital drawing have the possibilities to provide quick changes of sensations too? The enigma of the problem of provoking variable sensations by a stable architectural structure probably lies in the instability of nature itself. Therefore, one of the most difficult problems architecture has to face is the control of environmental instability. The media that would control the informational instability could have the possibility to transform very quickly previously created artificial cases of naturalness into the compressed memories of the artificial 'nature'. Purifying and compressing previously shaded digital images is the way to control unpredictable processes for an instant of time. Lines on the surface become of the same value, but depending on their position they represent either the object or the meaning on the compressed drawing. The power of both the architectural and the media act of strategy depends on the position of the act. The geometry of the act, nevertheless associatively readable, emerges as the result and not as the initiation of the image. However, it is a matter of an artificial process that would use geometry as a tool in the classical sense, and it is also a matter of an artificially controlled process of 'naturally flowing' digital image genesis. (We must not forget that the surfaces and lines on digital images are made of dots, which means that they communicate between themselves only over some higher system of coordinates or some order of fast linear geometry.)

What is all this for? Associations to some digital images could have the role of 'freezing' the sense of space for a while. Architecture in that sense would be treated as an object of constant changes without tendencies towards a perfect form. Weakness? In the classical sense the unstability of form, erosion and decomposition is in fact the weakness itself. However, in a time of great media density, identification with the form should not represent a major problem. In the figurative meaning, it would be enough just to 'choose another channel' so the structure could gain the characteristics of 'seductively organized space'. The problem is architectural organization of the medium itself, and the ideal solution is a structure that does not obstruct any of the levels of freedom. Architecture is acquiring the meaning of a system that is above the situation and that produces 'ideally temporary' meanings. Its power is in directing and controlling the great number of unconnected cases, artificial cases - 'randoms' and in purifying the artificial error that appeared during their formation.

Architecture has so far been frozen in its definition of the object between nature and the human being. The constant impetus towards architectural progress, by its predictions of an architectural stability in the future, could bring up only the monumentalization of the hopeless and ever repeated error. The accumulation of the digital error as 'virtual garbage' follows the process of the accumulation of garbage of civilization. As the quantity of compressed material garbage is a measure of the humans' self-control in an environment, so the quantity of the compressed digital error could become an authentic characteristic of the new architectural adventure.

The inability to predict was always the most difficult, and inescapable, error of any rational model of existence. By relying on the principles of physical indefiniteness, the only thing that architecture could do is to incorporate this indefiniteness as a natural characteristic in its process of genesis and duration. The computer media seem to be just ideal for bypassing the problem through the already mentioned possibilities of controlling the shift from the ambiguously great number of natural characteristics to their compressed architectonic images.

The problem of spatial and temporal density surely is not a new problem. Only the scale is new. Architecture must progressively organize the densities of uncountable events. Does that mean that it also has to have innumerable meanings? Following the relativistic conception of space and time, organized and useful space should represent only a referential system. The medium between seeming repose and fast movement.

vidi: SJW, Digital Naturalness