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Schizophrenic Machines: Design for a Corporate Organism

Part 2 Project 2008
Gurmail Virdee
Birmingham City University | UK
This design thesis project aims to test and evolve the theoretical work undertaken in my dissertation entitled; ‘desire; networks of collective intelligence and schizophrenia’. It is developed as an experiment in the tangible applications of complex system theory.

The thesis proposes the design of an intelligent corporate organism that behaves as an emergent collective.

Scripting and animation studies inform the swarming and parasitic behaviour of a designed ecology of schizophrenic robots. By responding to daily, weekly and seasonal cycles the robots aggregate to create volumes and surfaces supporting both the corporate and public life of the surrounding city. The result is a ‘strange nature’ of emergent species, a bio-artificial wilderness of interactive environments and habitable digital landscapes. Design strategies are tested in the real context of Wall Street, across three ascending scales, from the individual robot specimens and their local interactions to the generic office floor plate and ultimately the adjacent New York streetscape.

Gurmail Virdee

The studio brief called for students to wander off the map, through the speculative landscapes of science fiction, on a future safari into brave new worlds that have mutated from our own. As we trawl the wilds of genetic modification, augmented bodies and neo biological invention Gurmail’s project looks to navigate this critical space between the real and the imagined- a space where architecture can enter into new relations with the territories of science and technology.

Fashioned with the tools of speculation and projection the project re-imagines the quiet mysteries of wilderness through the design of a menagerie of engineered species and manufactured landscapes. Their actions and implications are explored spatially at a range of scales form the interrelations of individual agents to their occupation of the city that surrounds.

Gurmail grounds the project in rigorous research into market cycles, the physical and social fabric of the urban context and the tectonics of the generic office floor plate. He has written new software, hacked existing programs and technologies and turned the studio into a strange laboratory of gadgets and experiments. The project is completed as a field of made devices, hand drawings, and seductive visualizations. This breadth of research and the commitment to experiment is quite staggering considering that this is the work of a part time student.

Gurmail has reveled in the open license offered by the design thesis unit to create a response to the emerging potentials of the hybridizing of biology and technology. It is an intriguing project that poses questions and probes uncertain possibilities. It is both unfamiliar and novel but also unquestioningly relevant and architectural.


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