We’ve previously discussed the intersection of augmented reality and architecture in these parts, but mainly in the context of giving architects unlimited power. (See also: here and here.) Those problems have yet to be fully solved or even addressed, but here’s an alternate perspective from landscape architect Bradley Cantrell in The Architect’s Newspaper:
I like the term “responsive technologies.” I use a slightly more provocative term sometimes and talk about “cyborg ecologies” or “cyborg landscapes.” It’s really that there isn’t this differentiation between natural systems and human constructed systems. Our technologies actually augment and, yes, change these, but we should celebrate that synthesis as opposed to setting up a duality. We think about nature as being bound in this one place, humans being bound in another. My take is that we should celebrate the connections between those two. It’s not my goal to put computation into everything. But my work uses computation to set up this set of interconnected relationships in a more advanced way.
Cantrell uses sensors and Microsoft Kinects (and all sorts of other things you can read about in the full article, which you really should click on) to model the behavior of different materials and forces in natural environments. Instead of experimenting on the real world, a practice which has a long and undignified history, Cantrell is using technology to be more considerate when thinking of ecosystems.
Nothing that man creates is perfectly natural, but that doesn’t mean that the most nature-friendly answer is always the most low-tech. Augmented reality — or, if you prefer, “cyborg ecologies” — can be the more respectful solution. This, as a counterbalance to some of the more omniscient AR architecture tools on the market, is a useful reminder that technological determinism is usually overstated. It really does depend who is making these tools and projects. Technology amplifies the risks of these tendencies, but it doesn’t render them inevitable. Here’s hoping the more sensitive, Cantrell-style approach to AR in architecture wins out.