The CCA presents Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention


Curated by Greg Lynn, Complexity and Convention is the third and final exhibition of the CCA’s Archaeology of the Digital program, in which twenty-five seminal projects are collected, catalogued, preserved, and made available for research. The project constitutes a precise inquiry into the relationship between architecture and digital technologies in order to increase understanding of the design process while addressing the challenges of preserving digital archives and ensuring their future accessibility.

Event Details:
Location: Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montreal, Canada
Date: 11 May 2016 to 16 October 2016

Cloud 9, Villa Nurbs
Cloud 9, Villa Nurbs: Photograph of southwest façade by Luis Ros, 2009. Cloud 9 records, Canadian Centre for Architecture. Montreal / © Enric Ruiz Geli/Cloud 9

Archaeology of the Digital is a long-term, multifaceted project initiated by the CCA in 2012 and led by Greg Lynn that reflects on how digital technologies have progressively redefined architectural practice and reshaped architectural theory. The project is comprised of in-depth research into digital architecture and a historical reading of its trajectory from early experiments in the 1980s to the early 2000s.

COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, BMW Welt: Photograph of model, 2004. COOP HIMMELB(L)AU records, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal / © COOP HIMMELB(L)AU

The research has resulted in a new acquisition strategy for born-digital material and the formation of a digital archive composed of 25 key projects designed by some of the protagonists central to debates during the period in question. Each of the projects represents particular theoretical directions and technological experimentation that have influenced recent architectural history.

Installation view of  “Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention”,
Installation view of “Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, 2015 / © CCA, Montréal

The first two exhibitions—Archaeology of the Digital in 2013 and Media and Machines in 2014—featured projects for which entirely new technological tools were conceived and developed, such as Frank Gehry’s Lewis Residence, Peter Eisenman’s Biozentrum, Chuck Hoberman’s Expanding Sphere, Asymptote’s NYSE Virtual Trading Floor, or dECOi Architects’ Hyposurface, among others. The third and final exhibition in the series focuses on how a group of international firms active during the 1990s through 2000s adapted such new technologies and integrated them in architectural practice: this was the period during which digital technology moved from exception to norm.

Preston Scott Cohen, Eyebeam Atelier Museum (competition)
Preston Scott Cohen, Eyebeam Atelier Museum (competition): Screen capture of Rhinoceros 3D file, 2001. Preston Scott Cohen records, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal / © Preston Scott Cohen

Whereas the curatorial method of the first two exhibitions emphasized individual projects based on their distinct and clearly defined digital approaches, the organization is more synthetic in the third exhibition. Instead of isolating singular practices, Complexity and Convention shows commonalities, hybridizations, and cross-pollinations of the digital medium and methods. These shared approaches and tools are viewed through the lens of five themes:

High-Fidelity 3D, Topology and Topography, Photorealism, Data, and Structure and Cladding. Included are a range of built and unbuilt projects:

  • Erasmus Bridge (Rotterdam, The Netherlands; 1990–1996) by Van Berkel & Bos Architects
  • Chemnitz Stadium (Chemnitz, Germany;1995) by Peter Kulka with Ulrich Königs
  • O/K Apartment (New York, USA;1995–1997) by Kolatan/Mac Donald Studio
  • Yokohama International Port Terminal (Yokohama, Japan; 1995–2002) by Foreign Office Architects
  • Interrupted Projections (Tokyo, Japan; 1996) by Neil M. Denari Architects
  • Kansai National Diet Library (Kyoto, Japan; 1996) by Reiser + Umemoto
  • Hypo Alpe-Adria Center (Klagenfurt, Austria; 1996–2002) by Morphosis
  • Jyväskylä Music and Arts Center (Jyväskylä, Finland;1997) by OCEAN North
  • Witte Arts Center (Green Bay, USA; 2000) by Office dA
  • Phaeno Science Centre (Wolfsburg, Germany; 2000–2005) by Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Villa Nurbs (Empuriabrava, Spain; 2000-2015) by Cloud 9
  • Eyebeam Atelier Museum (New York, USA; 2001) by Preston Scott Cohen
  • Carbon Tower (prototype, 2001) by Testa & Weiser
  • BMW Welt (Munich, Germany; 2001–2007) by COOP HIMMELB(L)AU
  • Water Flux (Évolène, Switzerland; 2002-2010) by R&Sie(n)
Installation view of  “Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention”
Installation view of “Archaeology of the Digital: Complexity and Convention”, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, 2015 / © CCA, Montreal

These projects, alongside those of the two preceding exhibitions, are part of an ambitious acquisition strategy that establishes a cohesive history of this transformative period in architecture. These born-digital project archives are acquired as the result of the close collaboration and generous contributions of the architects involved.


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