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Conference: Tools of Design

TOOLS OF DESIGN Final conference of the Research fellow program "Tools of Drafting" at the IKKM, Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (15-16 November 2012)

Since its founding in spring 2010 the Research fellow program has been concerned with the history and theory of design tools in architecture, art, technology and the sciences. Its work and discussions concern not only the mediality and functionality of instruments, but especially the procedures that are developed in the use of these instruments. As Robin Evans and Bernhard Siegert have pointed out, the modern definition of drafting as a method of dealing with the unknown is based on the early modern identification of the medium of drawing with various projection techniques. The projection of spaces, images or objects was manifestly bound up with a variety of techniques of drawing in the early modern era. Some of these, like central perspective, were invented in the Renaissance; others, like parallel projection, were described for the first time during this period. Ever since then the term “drafting”, like the Romance word family of “disegno” and “dessin”, has been used to designate not only the technical or artistic process, but also a cognitive process (in the sense of “designing conceptually” or “drawing up plans”). For many years the literature on art and architectural theory tended to undervalue the impact of design tools, expressing them as mere auxiliary instruments for the mind. The Research fellow program is attempting to counter this “cerebralisation” of tools by looking in greater detail at the question – most recently posed by actor-network theory – of the power of non-human agents to act, and, accordingly, of the exteriority of drafting, forming and thinking.

The final conference will thus pick up on the discussion about the history and theory of projection techniques and investigate the complex relations between subjects and objects upon which these techniques are based. When addressing processes of developing designs for three-dimensional objects like buildings, sculptures and machines, the first question that arises is the one that presented the point of departure for Robin Evans’s study of projection techniques in the history of architecture: “How architectural spaces arose out of the deployment of depthless designs, and how architectural space was drawn into depthless designs.” It can be presumed that projection techniques in the strict sense play just as great a role in the translation from flat figures into geometric solids (and vice versa), as did the methods of indexical tracing and imprinting, of geometric or pictorial equivalence, and of notation. The degree to which these techniques contributed to the genesis of spaces, images and objects is to be investigated, as well as the importance of three-dimensional and digital models for design processes.