May 2019

The Brief and Peculiar History of the Department of Error

What constitutes an 'error' in scanned environments? To answer this question, this project started with tracing the current market and R&D work of Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technologies. Deploying strategic foresight tools, this research produced three possible scenarios. For the second phase, I scanned Flood Building (San Francisco,CA) and obtained the necessary data to conduct my research on scanning errors and glitches from manipulating point clouds of building facades in urban centers. After understanding the fundamentals of the technology and the structure of various databases, I proceeded to the final phase: the production of a science fiction story about entire cities breaking down in a fully augmented landscape.

Speculating on what architecture’s role will be in the age of an absolute virtuality had already started concerning architects from the early nineties. In 1993, in an interview conducted by Andreas Ruby, Paul Virilio expanded on the phenomena of dematerialization and deterritorialization that, according to Virilio himself, were slowly creeping up on the practice that was about to loose everything that characterized it in the past. More specifically, having the idea that a representation is more important than the entity being represented -a famous Baudrillardian idea- and that virtuality was always inherent in architecture, Virilio argued that architecture was experiencing a radical change, generated from the insides of its own guts. However, perhaps his most interesting point, was when he was asked if this change, imposed by an ever expanding virtuality, implied the disappearance of architecture overall to which he responded:

Any kind of matter is about to vanish in favor of information. To me, to disappear does not mean to become eliminated. Just like the Atlantic, which continues to be there even though you can no longer feel it as you fly over it. Or like the body that continues to exist without actually being needed-since we just switch the channel. The same happens with architecture; it will continue to exist, but in the state of disappearance.1

One decade later, the state of architecture comes to only validate Virilio’s thoughts. Hundreds of projects, designed every single day, will only exist in the absolute state of virtuality, in the form of renders, diagrams and drawings. If a proposal gets to turn into a physical building, it will enjoy actuality until the last thumb of its coffee table book or the last click to an article written about it in some architectural website. Gone are the days where the facade of a building was more than an image; if the architect was once the authority of order, operating under the belief that the ecosystem was naturally inclining towards formlessness, today’s virtual landscapes carry their own agendas of disposition. Order is not primarily imposed by building typologies, choices of site layouts and facades but is a factor exogenous to architecture, already embedded in a system that operates on abstraction.

And so facades turn into surfaces and surfaces beg for images and buildings become media - the screen is our last wall.  Architecture has no body because we have already fallen outside of ourselves and space now moves through us. As John Beckmann writes, architecture is in the state of disappearance and organizing information is referred to as architecture.2

This thesis explores this idea of architecture and its double in the age of the virtual - what it calls “Slipstream Architecture”- and the conditions that sustain and/or undermine architecture’s own state of disappearance. More specifically, it is an attempt to explore the ideas of “iconic” and “ invisible” design in the context of a visually muted urban environment and, most importantly, to examine the potential connections between the concept of the digital error, the glitch, and a new possible future for the architecture of tomorrow.


1. Ruby, Andrea. “Architecture in the Age of Its Virtual Disappearance: An Interview with Paul Virilio”, Paris, 15 October 1993. in John Beckmann’s The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and Crash Culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

2. Beckmann, John. The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and Crash Culture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

For the second phase of my Thesis, I decided to scan the Flood Building on Market St. in San Francisco. The building was chosen as it is one of the few buildings that survived the catastrophic earthquake that hit the city in 1906. After collecting a month’s volume of data and on site observations, I proceeded with analyzing, restructuring and manipulating the captured point clouds—first via automated features within Autodesk’s ReCap, and then manually. The entire process gave birth to a plethora of different forms and methodologies for breaking a facade, as well as a catalogue of all the facade elements that were causing errors and leading to broken data strings.