Envisioning an Evolving Environment - The Encounters of Gordon Pask, Cedric Price and John Frazer
Gonçalo Miguel Furtado Cardoso Lopes. Supervised by Neil Spiller and Iain Borden
Bartlett School of Architecture - U.C.L. Faculty of the Built Environment
This thesis provides a history of exchanges between architecture and the fields of cybernetics, systems research and computation, throughout the period of the last half century. In particular, it focuses on the encounters of the British professionals - Gordon Pask, Cedric Price and John Frazer - and provides a complete account of two outstanding architectural projects related to systems and computation - Generator and Japan Net. It also highlights the architectural relevance of these encounters and the importance of their contemporary legacy - the genesis of the systemic and computational paradigm in architectural design and the promotion of an evolving environment. The thesis is based mainly on research of Gordon Pask’s personal archive (held by Ms. Amanda Heitler) and Cedric Price Archives (held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture).
The thesis is divided into three parts. The first part relates to early developments involving cybernetics and architecture. It includes Pask’s career and the rise of a second-order-cybernetics, as well as Price’s breakthrough posture and tireless promotion of an impermanent architecture opened to user participation. The second part provides a complete account of Price’s Generator. It focuses on the project’s diverse phases and consultancies, and highlights John and Julia Frazer’s contribution as systems consultants, which led this project to be acknowledged as the first intelligent building. The third part focuses on the rise of the information environment and the later reencounters between and achievements of Pask, Price and Frazer. It includes revisits to the Generator project, a complete account of the Japan Net competition entry, as well as pointing out outstanding ideas on evolving installations and essays of both Frazer and Pask.
It becomes clear that the current architectural agenda, focused on the new techno-cultural order of the information society and an aesthetics of emergence can benefit from these seminal exchanges, encounters and projects.