l'ARCA magazine nr. 176 _ December 2002 - LAb[au]

Article about LAb[au] by Maurizio Vitta for:
the Italian Architecture, Design and Visual Communication magazine
publisher: l'Arca Edizioni

l'ARCA nr.176 _ December 2002
14 pages article for the Agora/Dreams and Visions section

The article has been published in the context of the article series LAb[au] has been writing for ARCA in 2003

"The word 'meta-design' has only recently been coined, but it can already boast a number of different meanings that have turned it into the kind of magic word you find in fairy tales. Its literal meaning is of course entrusted to the prefix meta-, which expresses the idea of interposing or moving beyond. It is generally now used to refer to 'discourse about and beyond' design or 'planning' in general; but for those with an apocalyptic vision of modern-day technology like Paul Virilio, it refers to the way electronic media have invaded our minds and mental schemes; on the other hand, those treating technology as a means of carrying out human projects, it provides a way of searching for new balances between the human mind and latest technical systems for controlling and acting on reality.

For LAb[au], an architecture and town-planning agency based in Brussels, set up in 1995 by M.Abendroth, J.Decock, N.Mestaoui, 'meta-design' is a discipline in its own right ' based on a combination of signs and codes - language - belonging to inFORMation processes (communication, computation, editing) and their conversion into texts, graphs, spatial patterns and multi-dimensional forms...LAb[au]'s methodological approach to investigating information and communication technologies as a set of new spatial and semantic constructs aims to transfer its activity from architecture to Meta-Design'.


LAb[au]'s underlying philosophy of design is based on the concept of 'closeness', which is to be treated in terms of time not space as regards ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). The temporal contiguity of phenomena derives from the simultaneity with which they are presented to experience in everyday relations with computer media, and the implosion of space this than entails. This new model of spatio-temporal relations acts on our perceptual and cognitive structures, altering how they are directed and opening up fresh prospects for design, both on a linguistic level of codes and styles and also in cultural-aesthetic terms. What is described as 'the transition from architecture to meta-design' takes the form of an investigation into spatial/information constructs, the exploring of new spatio-temporal structures, stimulating of new sensorial relations and developing of new cognitive approaches to reality."
"... This takes us back to architecture and the role 'metadesign' is supposed to play in this field and in lab[au's work in particular. By placing computer and communication technology at the hub of its research, lab[au] aims to transpoise them into text, graphic, three-dimensional and bio-morphic form to test their coherence and efficacy. The firm does not hide the implications of this procedure for the the relations between architecture and human behaviour, actually making this part of its design technique. In this way, 'architecture based on information can tackle the question of intelligible electronic constructs not just as perceptual and cognitive means but also as mental and psychological schemes of behaviour, ontological models, and the production of active and functional spatial environments".

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