The Blur Building's Connectivity Metaphor by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Artists use blurriness as a way of communicating ideas linked to time, vision and consciousness. Though this posture primarily took place in the XXth century in the work of photographers like Daido Moriyama or painters like Jackson Pollock, it seems like this aesthetic has shifted to something more conceptual since our entry in the post-internet era.
Some artists are now trying to transform what can be understood as a visual obstacle into an artistic reflexion. Since the 70s, Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya is directly using fog as her artistic medium to redefine emblematic architectural work like she did with Philip Johnson’s Glass House two years ago. The interesting idea of adding an immaterial and conceptual dimension to architecture also took place in a more conventional context in 2002. Architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro realized what can now be understood as a metaphoric building, looking as if it was straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The Blur Building is an ephemeral program, conceptualized for the Swiss Expo of Yverdon-les-Bains in 2002. The building was only composed of a steel structure erected from Lake Neuchâtel, and of two superposed platform for visitors to stand and stroll.
The building questions the traditional parameters of architecture through a nearly immaterial presence, created by eliminating the walls and roof of the architectural program. The only element conceptually acting as an external partition is the mist surrounding the structure, emerging from the metal frame's 29 000 nozzles which pump the lake's water to send it back as fog in the environment. Temperature, humidity, as well as direction and wind speed are provoking, through an artificial intelligence system, real-time variations of the fog's intensity around the Blur Building.
Artificial intelligence (AI) also took an experiencial dimension in the project. Though certain aspects have not been sustained in the building's definitive version, it remains interesting to think of it as a hint on the architects' intention. Thus, if everything had been realized as planned, visitors would have had to wear a braincoat before entering the building; a computerized raincoat acting as a body extension and giving the possibility to proceed freely in the space, despite the poor visibility conditions created by the fog. The coat would have been connected to an artificial memory system capturing visitors' data through questionnaires, prior entering the pavilion.
As Diller Scofidio explained, by reacting to artificial memories through lights, the braincoat would have acted as a social radar, illuminating and shifting form hotter to colder colors, depending on the AI's affinity level. This idea of an algorithmic connexion between people is not outrageous at all. In fact, it refers to the connectivity paradigm shaping the world we live in. The Blur Building's experience was entirely generated by algorithms to which visitors had to abandon themselves. The only guide in this fuzzy space would have been artificial intelligence, directing our steps with lights in the nothingness it also creates.
Photography courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro