The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Last night, the School of Design presented its own take on the idea of proof.

About 170 students, mostly graduate students from PennDesign, filled the lecture hall, with some having to sit on the nearby staircase.

“How do you prove something in architecture?” asked Skylar Tibbits, a TED senior fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of three panelists at the event. “What does it mean to find a solution? What are solutions? It’s a larger architectural question revolving around proof.”

As part of the University’s theme year programming, PennDesign brought Tibbits along with Harvard University professors Mariana Ibanez and Sanford Kwinter to discuss how proof applies to architecture.

Marilyn Taylor, dean of PennDesign, said the goal of the event was to take the abstract subject of proof and “make it directly relevant to design.” The speakers more than achieved that goal, leading a discussion that ran over the proposed time.

“Architects, we don’t traffic in proof always,” said Simon Kim, a PennDesign assistant professor of architecture . “It’s not easy to say that something is going to be proven true and right all the time.” The panel agreed that it was challenging to provide a clear definition of proof within the context of architecture.

While proof was the talk’s official theme, the speakers spent significant time discussing their own projects and current trends in architecture.

Kim and Ibanez presented one of their projects, which involved a partnership with a dance troupe. The architects created bracelets that tracked the performers’ movements, using the data to generate geometric patterns.

“It’s about the cybernetics, the human and cyborg — what is our relationship to technology?” asked Andrew Gardner, a PennDesign graduate student who worked with the professors on the project. “It’s a digital translation of the movement of the dancers into geometric projections.”

Kwinter, who moderated the panel, led Tibbits, Ibanez and Kim on a debate over the proper role of collaboration in architecture. He claimed that collaboration was essential, as interdisciplinary research is often at the forefront of innovation. However, they all agreed that architects must also avoid losing the unique aspects of their discipline in an ongoing race to generalize.

“We can’t say we are a discipline if we keep giving positions away to science and engineering,” Kwinter said.

Tibbits added, “It’s not collaboration if the other researcher knows everything.”

A running theme throughout the talk was the connection between digital and physical properties. Tibbits said he wanted to combine physical and digital properties — using programming and logic to govern the behavior of materials.

Countering his point, Ibanez said, “Things are mostly discovered, not invented. We just learn to manipulate them. Things made in a computer don’t transition well to the physical world.”

As the talk drew to a close, Nathan Hammitt — a first-year PennDesign graduate student — said he was “glad to see that a lot of different viewpoints were expressed” and that he was eager to see “what the proof lecture series is going to be like at other schools in the University.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.