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The Effects of Calm Technology within Environments

By

Maria Lorena Lehman

|

Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

In the above image you can see technology disappearing and getting calmer in the evolution of lighting from a candle, to a tungsten bulb, to a fluorescent bulb, to a halogen bulb, to LED. Image Credit: © chones | Fotolia

As evolutionary trends continue, emerging technologies are getting smaller, cheaper, and smarter — all of which push technology to become evermore ubiquitous. And as technologies continue to integrate into our daily lives through architectural environments, such innovations evolve to not only become more flexible, interactive and adaptable; but to eventually disappear.

This notion of “disappearing technology” is not a new one. In fact, during a recent seminar, Alvin Huang pointed out that the Father of Ubiquitous Computing, Mark D. Weiser, taught that “technology is at its most powerful when it disappears”. (1)

“Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives.” (2) — Mark D. Weiser

This idea of “calm technology” is an interesting one as we consider how architectural technology is evolving into the future. And as such technology gets increasingly embedded in daily activities, it becomes important to ask:

What happens to environments once technology disappears?

Five Effects of “Calm” Architectural Technology

As innovations in technology evolve, they will have definite effect on environments and the occupants whom they serve. But just what effects can we expect? And how will these change the way people live? The following are five key outcomes of calmer environmental technology.

  • Less resistance toward comfort: As technologies advance, they will be better able to sense (and make sense of that incoming data) to actuate better, more comfortable, environments for occupants in real-time.
  • Increasingly fluid experience: Technologies will be better able to synchronize with each other to yield more fluid architectural experiences for occupants.
  • More natural interfacing: The language by which occupants and architectural technology communicate will become more natural for occupants. By which a new “language” will hardly exist at all. For example, as the computer keyboard and mouse give way to hand gestures — the evolution of interfacing is showing how they physical manipulation of technology is disappearing.
  • Better synergy in design integration: Technology will be more seamlessly fused with architectural design, where technology will no longer be tacked on as an afterthought during the design process.
  • Easier maintenance: As technology evolves, it will become easier to maintain. Again, this is another way in which it will “disappear”.

The Architectural Technology Fusion

Finding the boundary between architecture and technology will become increasingly difficult as the two continue to merge. Each relies upon the other to yield built form that aims toward increased comfort, more fluid experience, more natural interfacing, better design integration, and easier maintenance.

So, what happens to environments when technology disappears?

Hopefully, architectural space will become more about the designer’s intended vision. It will be increasingly possible to realize the complex (1), and it will be equally possible to make it experientially meaningful. Technology for architecture is not going away, it is simply becoming a given — where space can become transient, comfortable and poetic in entirely new ways.

References:

(1) Gerber, David and Huang, Alvin. How to Succeed in Architecture: New Trends in Computing that will Change the Architecture Profession. Novedge Webinar. Streamed live: October 2, 2014. Accessed from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWrVvlDIixU#t=815

(2) Wikipedia. Mark D. Weiser. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Weiser

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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