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URBAN CONTRAVENTION_WARSAW: Emergent relationship between virtual and Physical

Part 1 Project 2009
Richard Brown
University for the Creative Arts, UK

The virtual (Open Source Academy) hosts space to learn open source software scripting within a society becoming more and more ‘literate’ in source code syntax. The space consists of a network of users sharing, writing and teaching information which is subject to open authorship.

The central feature of the Scripting Academy is the array of scripting platforms and hanging workstations which are constantly re-calibrated on a daily basis. The platforms adjust in height forming a contracting open space defined by the human interactions of dating from the adjacent edifice.

The Academy is roofed by sets of work space armatures which are ‘summoned’ down by the users. The space frame ceiling itself is a web of connection between the workstations, the outer skin is pierced to allow only diffuse bursts of light so as not to create glare on the computer screens. The platforms and armatures sculpt the space to mimic the effect of a deep forest.


The physical counter balance is a dating agency. As a public group meeting based on the pretense of finding a potential mate, naturally a diverse group would begin to cluster into smaller groups instinctively, based on observations such as age, sexuality, Professional, student, various cultural differences. Dating agencies always function with a neutral ground where the ‘punters’ can feel safe in public and can quickly discontinue the date if needs be.

The agency is a courtyard space spanned by a hexagonal grid of contracting light devices. This grid is equal in number to that of the moving floor panels of the Scripting Academy. These devices sense the movement of those dating below, they respond by ‘puckering’ and glowing more intensely, then defining areas of intensity with in the courtyard space.


The outward landscape is gridded with ‘sound nodes’, these devices are furniture and interactive instruments. The devices are rigged with either recording or playing equipment, they are linked to nodes on opposite parts of the site, these cause ones awareness to expand across the site, defying vast space.

Richard Brown

With restless commitment and a healthy quantity of self-criticism, Richard tackled the project with sensibilities far beyond his years. A visiting critic likened aspects of the scheme (such as a roofscape which actively 'puckers' in time to the movement of the occupants below) to the writing of William S. Burroughs in his novel Naked Lunch, albeit minus the narcotics.

The proposal is sited alongside the monumental Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Stalin¹s contentious 1955 'gift' to the people of the city (long seen as a symbol of resented pre-1989 soviet rule). Richard sought to develop a program that would fiscally empower the people of Warsaw, or, to put it crudely, enhance the economic potential of any given occupant in the
Polish late-capitalist economy. The proposal is refreshingly utilitarian compared to recent iconic development in the city, whose foremost concern is the economic potential of itself.

The unit was instigated with the word literature. Richard makes the bold claim that illiteracy is still rife in the developed world, merely in a more abstracted form. He makes the sweeping historical analogy between the pre-industrial, when the general population was illiterate and the power of the written word was under the governance of the religious establishment, to the post-industrial, where the scripting skills of Information Technologies
(arguably the primary communicative tool of our age) are known to relatively few. Richard proposes an academy for IT programming, subsidised by a dating agency active within an adjacent building: an educational facility effectively funded by lust.

The behavioural/movement patterns of IT programming students (in competition for open-source knowledge) and daters (in competition for the carnal pleasures) are tracked via motion sensors as they traverse various internal and external areas of the proposal. These sensors trigger a landscape of kinetic elements (an undulating piston-driven latticework of floorplates, the aforementioned puckering pneumatic roof which manages light levels, and retractable furniture that doubles-up as an armature of the building), which in turn accommodates the users depending on their density throughout the building. The project is expertly represented through time-based media, primarily a soliloquized short animated film exploring the nature of the architecture: one that reacts not simply to human movement, but an architecture responsive to human desire.


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