cyborg coasts

C Y B O R G   C O A S T S   :   R E S P O N S I V E   H Y D R O L O G I E S

Seminar, Spring 2015, Harvard GSD

Bradley Cantrell, Associate Professor in Landscape Architectural Technology, Harvard GSD

course description:
The interface between the constructed environment and ecological systems is slowly blurring strategies in urbanism, biological engineering, and technological interface. These strategies encourage the application of responsive technologies to create new relationships through sensing and feedback, developing novel ecological systems. This novel set of ecologies demand a deconstruction of settlement, infrastructure, and biological systems to frame the constructed landscape as a synthesizer of biotic and abiotic processes. The interstices of these new relationships become the medium in which this course will examine new potentials for sensing, monitoring, and automation as a starting point to reimagine coastal infrastructure. The role of responsive technologies focuses on the development of active methods for management of biological systems. This methodology spans a range of scales from micro adjustments of processes to regional management and monitoring. Primarily, responsive technologies create a new recursive or iterative relationship between computation and biology.

The course will focus on a primary method of inquiry, which will be to unpack the coastal landscape through the construction of what Levi Bryant calls, an onto-cartography. This refers to a cartographic mode that maps objects (machines) and the connections between these objects. The resultant framework will then be continually modified to test methods of sensing and feedback through mockups and prototypes. The course will engage prototyping, virtual models, and physical models as the primary modes of exploration. Participants will be expected to explore a range of tools for the prototyping of responsive systems and environmental simulations that will be required to develop infrastructural proposals for sites in the lower Mississippi river. It is necessary that all students have developed a repertoire of representation, prototyping, and modeling skills. The pedagogy expects students to engage media and technology to develop nascent approaches to site design, ecological management, and infrastructure. There will be an introduction to tools, concepts, and methodologies in robotics and sensing using tools such as arduino, grasshopper, and firefly.