City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.


Matt Clark: “Architects are no longer the master builder.”

It’s hot today. Hotter than Tuesday. The Storefront fills up earlier than it did yesterday – we hope each day builds momentum, and this is an early sign that it might. But with that comes a very hot space. It’s perfect weather, but a sticky Storefront, even with as many panels open as the lighting and sound conditions will allow. By 6pm, Paul Seletsky of SOM notes that as well as giving a presentation, he gets to have a workout too. The end-of-day beer and wine is particularly welcome. The sound problems persist today; it’s the most dissonant aspect of our scenario. But the Storefront staff work diligently to alter the sound throughout the day, in response to the changing conditions in the room, and the city around us.


On the way to the gallery, I walk past Annie Liebowitz, waiting to cross the street in SoHo. Later I wonder whether I should’ve handed her my camera, and pretended to be an innocent tourist asking her to take my picture in front of a subway sign or something. I could then claim to have had a Liebowitz portrait done. Can you sell Liebowitz in jpeg?


Day two, and some themes are definitely beginning to emerge. Today we see Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch explain how code both enables collaboration but also a form of out-of-control design practice. We hear Matt Clark of Arup talk about how parametric modeling enables collaboration, and how architects are becoming more like managers of multiple disciplines. We hear Scott Marble talk about how design is increasingly about management and coordination of numerous stakeholders and disciplines. We see Paul Seletsky of SOM demonstrate that building information systems are no longer just about the performance aspects of materials, but exploring the range of all possible answers. Lot-ek suggest the creative challenge of working with existing objects and scenarios, rather than having a blank canvas. In between all this we see the contemporary practice of designers being challenged in our panel on sustainability, and finally Mitchell Joachim closes with a visionary flourish of organic cities inhabited by flocking wheels.



For me, these ideas of nurturing and shaping design processes and systems, rather than the outdated idea of the master builder, are reminiscent of some of the writing about adaptive design, and of re-thinking the “the designer’s stance”. It’s fascinating to hear these ideas being explored in actual projects, and so creatively. The roles of architect, designer, engineer are as powerful as ever but they’re changing radically. It wasn’t through any particularly prescient curation and sequencing on our part that many of these talks ended up exploring these ideas, but that they did.


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