Plethora Studio
Plethora Studio



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Design as Play as Design

Throughout the year we have developed 3 research games with students teams. This experimental titles look at how design can become play, and play become design. The ‘rules’ of the game give a general guideline for administration of resources or evaluation of the formations done. Ultimately, decision making defines what goes and what doesn’t. Creativity in association with data visualization and algorithmic intelligence as the means to develop intelligence augmentation, potentially, a man-computer symbiosis.

Gamescapes Research from Jose Sanchez on Vimeo.






Plethora Studio -Cluster 07 – The Bartlet, UCL

Course Master : Jose Sanchez –
Consultants: Sergio Irigoyen

“Decisions are singular and unrepeatable; they cannot be generalized into rules. But all this also means that we cannot say that decision simply “emerges” out of a chaotic background, or pops out thanks to the movement from one “basin of attraction” to another. No self-organizing system can obviate the need for such a decision, or dictate what it will be. And decision always implies novelty or difference — in this way it is absolutely incompatible with notions of autopoiesis, homeostasis, or Spinoza’s conatus. What we need is an aesthetics of decision, instead of our current metaphysics of emergence.”
Steven Shaviro

Architecture stuck with itself / Critique:
The role of computation and digital design practices in the past 20 years has focused on ideas of form generation and manufacturing emphasizing the empirical performance of design and leading towards a convergent notion of optimum. The increasing use of computer simulation software grows towards a megalomania of forecasting, anticipating spatial and formal outcomes. It is precisely in this context in which totalizing discourses of architecture could emerge, overarching and overriding the different approaches and design strategies still present in our design milieu. The proliferation of computational virtuosity in the realm of design has been in the service of the few starchitects that can profit and exploit these alienated models of knowledge. The continuous training of new proletarians, armed with robotic arms and laser scanners, can only reach an inevitable collapse. While the study of complexity in different fields has led to replace a reductionist model, the embrace of complexity studies in architecture has been paradoxical. For the most part, it seems to imply direct relation with form; Complex system = Complex formal answer. The use of biological analogies and references to nature seem to redeem the architect from all responsibility of judgment and decision making, providing the ultimate alibi for the exploration of form. Cluster 7 seeks to break a tradition of obscure tools alienated from architectural sense. Through an open source methodology and an public integration to the thesis projects, we would not validate projects through their process but through public exposure as catalysts of contingency. The studio will formulate a resistance by speculating in new architectural outputs.

Open Architecture models as a form of research:
In May 2008, David Baker and his team released FOLD-IT. A computer game based on real scientific models that allows players to engage with protein folding solutions. The game, within days achieved
solutions to puzzles at the edge of scientific knowledge. The crowdsource approach to problem solving prove to be smarter than state of the art algorithms. Fold-it has been recognized as a canonical example of the potential of the use of video games for research, but the puzzle model of fold-it still still persists on an idea of a ‘solution’ or ‘optimum’. In May 2009, Markus Persson released Minecraft, an open sandbox game. The unexpected response to Persson’s system of digital permutations and open game mechanics has become a paradigm shift in the world of game design. The user search space is infinitely vast, described by very simple discrete rules. The economy of relations and permutations of objects is a constant drive for design and creation.

Rigorous Engines and Gameplay:
Cluster 7 will embark in the design of procedural sandbox games. Where the systems of relations establish a rigorous understanding of architectural variables yet allowing for an intuitive gameplay or ‘search-space’ of different configurations. The cluster will use a theoretical framework of Object Oriented Ontology, looking at authors like Ian Bogost and Timothy Morton, in the speculation of a flat ontological status between humans and objects, both physical and conceptual. The game design agenda will require the study of game theory and interface design, as well as the collection of data sets from players experience. The cluster aims to produce an operational game by the end of the year, where the design agenda could be understood through gameplay. Games will be made available online for data collection and research analysis. Based on a model of Human-Computer cooperation, we would seek to bring back intuition to the world of algorithmic design.

Heterotopias – New outcomes for architecture
The game medium seeks to develop a non-unified framework for design, where difference is celebrated not equalized. Replace notions of parametric search with crowd computing. Engaging design space as a form of research. It also seeks to find a economical framework for the production of architectural thought outside the constraints of fabrication, encouraging notions of entrepreneurialism speculating of new architectural outputs.

Year structure;

TERM 1 – Computer / Human Interface – Generative Models
In term 1 the cluster will study the relation between generative models and human interaction. Looking at discrete geometrical models like Conaway’s ‘Game of Life’ students will learn the use of neighbor calculations to establish a system of transactions. The outcomes will be delivered as a simple applet with basic notions of interactivity and decision making.

TERM 2 – Architecture in conflict – Game Theory
In term 2 the cluster will look at an architectural scenario in terms of conflict. von Neumann’s notions of game theory will be the framework to understand the conflict of form in a larger socio-political context. In this terms the cluster will engage with notions of value and ‘panchromatic scoring’ presenting the information in a ‘prisoners dilemma’ format.

TERM 3 – SandBox – Gamescapes – Social Computing
Term 3 will allow students to flesh out their game proposal as a thesis. Developing in detail the tuning of rule systems and notions of values explored in past terms. Early prototypes of the game should be released in order to develop data collection as a feedback mechanism of the core game mechanics. The architectural objects present in the game will be designed and presented in detail, explaining the data and rules that govern them in a larger object choreography.