Event Date: 

TALK: Yanni Loukissas

Posted By: 

Yanni Loukissas, "Co-Designers: Cultures of Computer Simulation in Architecture"
26 March 5pm; Faculty room S-118

Designers employ a variety of tools and techniques for speculating about buildings before they are built. In their simplest form, these are personal thought experiments. However, embracing advanced computer simulations means engaging a network of specialized people and powerful machines. In this research, I critically examine new tools and their implications for the social distribution of design work; computer simulations are technologies for collective imagination.

Organized around the accounts of professional designers engaged in a high-stakes competition to redefine their work for the technological moment, this research explores the emerging cultures of computer simulation in architecture. Not only architects, but acousticians, fire safety engineers, and sustainability experts see themselves as co-designers in architecture, engaging new technologies for simulation in an evolving search for the roles and relationships that can bring them both professional acceptance and greater control over design. By illustrating how practices of simulation inform the social relationships and professional distinctions that define contemporary architecture, I examine the cultural transformations taking place in design practice today.


Yanni Alexander Loukissas is a designer and ethnographer. His current work confronts entangled social and technical challenges in the creation and interpretation of digital artifacts. Recent projects include tools for critically examining digital collections, solutions for reviewing perioperative data in surgery, and a data visualization of the first lunar landing. He is the author of Co-Designers: Cultures of Computer Simulation in Architecture (Routledge, 2012), a book about shifting media practices in design and accompanying concerns about the redistribution of control and responsibility. Cutting across formats and disciplines, his work reveals how digital media are reshaping perception, knowledge and identity, in contemporary life.

Loukissas is a principal and senior researcher with metaLAB (at) Harvard, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he leads explorations into digital futures for scholarship in the arts and humanities. He is also on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Originally trained as an architect at Cornell University, he subsequently pursued a Master of Science and a PhD at MIT in Design and Computation. He completed postdoctoral work at the MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society. For two years he served as a visiting lecturer at Cornell, where he co-founded Surface Cities, a research and teaching initiative established to study changing images of cities. He teaches hands-on studios and theory-based seminars on topics including data visualization, urban computing, and the anthropology of technology.