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Designing for a Digital World. (Digital Daleks).

Edited by Neil Leach. Chichester: John Wiley. 2002. [pounds sterling]24.95

Conferences don't usually make good books, especially not architectural conferences, whose contributors tend to rely heavily on visual aids and rarely bother to write proper papers. Some chapters of this book, which is based on a conference held at the RIBA in June 2001, are effectively ruined by the process of translation from platform to page. The group or practice known as Robotic Research, for example, is represented by one of those lazily transcribed interviews in which the questions are almost as long as the answers. The artificiality of the form is heightened because the three people being interviewed are combined in one voice.

One imagines them speaking in unison like Daleks. It is impossible to tell how interesting their projects -- mainly exhibitions and pieces of software -- really are. But then even work that we already know is interesting -- Foreign Office Architects' Yokohama Ferry Terminal (AR January 2003), for example -- also suffers from the change of medium. A lecture which, in the version I saw, was illustrated by about 100 slides becomes impossible to follow when printed on the page with only a handful of photographs and drawings. Not that the properly written papers are always much more illuminating. The book contains a number of articles by members of the 'ever decreasing circles' school of architectural theory, which make - many references to the writings of other members of the school but few references to anything recognizable as the real world. And yet there are some interesting ideas here, and it is worth having them collected, sorted and stored in a convenient format (ie, a book).

Editor Neil Leach's own contribution entitled 'Forget Heidegger' is woefully shallow (is he being deliberately contrary?) but his introduction to the whole book is a useful summary and his sorting of its contents under four headings -- Culture, Cities, Tectonics and Realities -- is sensible and helpful. Buy this book to catch up with the latest thinking about computers and architecture, but don't expect a good read.
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Author:Davies, Colin
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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