Responsive Environments and Artifacts: DISAPPEARANCE

REA:Disappearance focuses on creating digitally driven interactive experiences in our built environment derived from technological advances in embedded technologies, smart materials, and body-centric interactive media, with a strong emphasis on digital/analog inversions. The theme to be explored is DISAPPEARANCE, which covers the conception, design, development, representation, and prototypical implementation of digitally driven responsive environments, architectures, and artifacts that disappear, fade, disintegrate, vanish over time, either from existence or from our faculties of sensory perception.

DISAPPEARANCE examines time as a generative component of spatial design. Throughout history, mankind has shown an obsessive concern with the fixity of its constructed environments. This has logically resulted in a definition of architecture as the practice of designing spaces enclosed by massive, durable structures, and the only way to configure places that can accommodate the habitual needs of the individual on one hand (domestic spaces), and the societal needs of the multitude on the other (publicly shared spaces and cities).[1]

The question is, what if we could get past the belief in time’s degenerative effects to think of it as generative, as the cradle of an ongoing process of creation and re-creation, configuration and re-configuration? Then those engaged in spatial practices of any sort could shift their attention from durability, or designing against time, to fluidity, or designing for temporality. Under these circumstances, environments, architecture, and artifacts are not entities that need to resist the tyranny of time, but spatial settings that accommodate a dynamic flow of temporalities, events, ideas, and ongoing productive processes. The architecture of disappearance is actually the architecture of generative temporalities, quite conveniently accommodating the ephemeral within the concept of space as non-substantial, non-durable, or not-inert.

This graduate seminar is taught in conjunction with Harvard Graduate School of Design Responsive Environments and Artifacts (Information+Interaction+Infrastructure) Lab. For more information on the lab please visit REA(I+I+I) website

Instructors:Allen Sayegh & Nashid Nabian

Graduate Investigators (Alphabetical Order):

[1] In The Architecture of Well-Tempered Environment, Reyner Banham criticizes this tendency, locating its genesis in the fact that cultures have “theorized” architecture to organize their environments into inhabitable spaces by means of such enduring, “massive structures.” Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 9-24.
Allen Sayegh (