Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smart Geometry 2012 – part 1 an overview

press row

Started this post several days ago sitting in the Albany, NY airport waiting for my flight home from the 2012 SmartGeometry Conference (SG2012).  I was attending the conference for the first time as a member of the “Computer/CADD press” thanks to an opportunity afforded to me by Roopinder Tara and  Now I’m sitting in a hotel room in Raleigh, NC trying to finish it.   Not only did I get a chance to attend a conference that I had be keeping tabs on for the past several years, but I also got to meet and talk to people whose articles I have been reading first in print and  now on the web for the past 20 some years (as the commercial says “priceless”).

Though having followed past Smart Geometry conferences via the web and twitter I wasn’t really sure what to expect at an “architectural computer design” conference.  After having spent 2 ½ days sitting, listening, watching and even asking a few questions, I still really can’t describe it.  The best description that I can come up with is that “Smart Geometry is an ongoing Community located at the Intersection of Design, Technology and the Arts.”  If you want to dive into it in more detail just check the Smart Geometry website at

EMPAC center

SG2012 was held this year on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) which itself is an interesting blend of architecture, engineering and the arts. The conference is broken into three parts –Workshops (or clusters) ,  Talkshop and the Symposium.  The workshops are four continuous day of interaction and work for the hand selected group of participants in each of 11 specific clusters.  This year’s overall conference topic was MATERIAL INTENSITIES. 

cluster description

The 10 clusters were: 

  • Micro Synergetics
  • Composite Territories
  • Bioresponsive Building Envelopes
  • Material Conflicts
  • Gridshell Digital Tectonics
  • Beyond Mechanics
  • Reactive Acoustic Environments
  • Transgranular Perspiration
  • Form Follows Flow
  • Ceramics 2.0
  • Kids Cluster: Building Manhattan

 While I didn't get to participate in any of the clusters (to tell you the truth, I’m  not sure I could have contributed much if I had) I did get to visit each cluster in the work areas set up in the EMPAC and talk to the participants about their work.  While most of them were tired from a week of continuous activity they all were excited about the projects they were working on and the chance to be part of the SG2012.  If you think about it one can’t ask for much more than that from a conference.  

We (the press) attended the more traditional TalkShop and Symposium parts of the conference.  The Talkshop (Friday) was a series of four 90 minute round table discussions

Material Flows and Practice Round Table

(they actually  had round tables) on the following topics:

  • Shifting Attitudes
  • Energy, Environments and Conflicts
  • Matter of Scale
  • Material Flows and Practice

While I found all of the sessions very interesting, it was the last one -  Material Flows and Practice that seemed to stir things up the most. This was  thanks to a presentation by Zoe Coombes and the discussion that followed (not to mention a picture of a pigs head on a Coombes designed butcher block displayed during her presentation).   One thing I found interesting was the number of architects who make a living designing things other than houses and buildings.  Who would of thought that architects design things like lamps, furniture and even butcher blocks?  
The Symposium format was a traditional conference setting where a series of speakers gave presentations under the general topics of:

  • Particle Architecture
  • Material Science
  • Engineering Material
  • Intensities in Art
  • Generating Material

While all the speakers gave what I considered interesting talks,  the two stand out presentations were given by Enric Ruiz-Geli, an architect and visual artist, whose firm Cloud 9 has created some amazing buildings.  Ruiz-Geli talked about a “Focus on Reality” and attacking the problems that plague the world.  The second presentation was by Perry Hall, a visual artist and musician,, who creates amazing images from mundane things.  Perry talked about “Painting Far from Equilibrium” which was, for me, the most thought provoking presentation of the conference.  All the presentations, round table discussions, and cluster videos will eventually be posted to SmartGeometry Website.  Check it out over  the course of the next few months as they get the information posted.  

That’s my quick overview of SmartGeometry 2012.  In my next post, I’ll look at what set the world a “twitter” during #sg2012.