The Network Architecture Lab is an experimental unit at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation that embraces the studio and the seminar as venues for architectural analysis and speculation, exploring new forms of research through architecture, text, new media design, film production and environment design. Specifically, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the impact of telecommunications, digital technology, and changing social demographics on architecture and urbanism.

Netlab’s Network Culture project explores networks not merely as a technology with social ramifications, but as a cultural dominant that unites change in society, economy, aesthetics, and ideology.  Just as the machine made modern industrialization possible and also acted as a model for a rationalized, compartmentalized modern society while the programmable computer served the same role for the flexible socioeconomic milieu of postmodernism, today the network not only connects the world, it reconfigures our relationship to it. We argue that many of the key tenets of culture since the Enlightenment: the subject, the novel, the public sphere, are being radically reshaped.

An important dynamic of a Network Culture within a metropolitan space is the transportation of bodies–particularly the commute.  In dense urban life involves with (mobile) technology in efficient and smooth integrations.  As Alexis Madrigal points out, “car time is wasted time, but commuting time doesn’t have to be. Look at well-heeled Silicon Valley companies. They offer their employees cushy, WiFi-enabled buses for commuting. That first hour of the day, Apple and Google employees are banging out emails and getting ready for the day, not sitting in traffic carrying out a set of repetitive, low-level, and occasionally dangerous tasks to maneuver their exoskeletons southward.”  This implies a new sort of movement that will simultaneously nurture and create the new type of human possible in a network culture.  I am not speaking on the use or dangers of this quite yet.  The latest network to overspread our country — the wireless electromagnetic one — is just not fully compatible with driving, at least for human brains.  We cannot pilot a vehicle and text with our fingers–the brain becomes unfocused.  “You can listen to Howard Stern in a car [on your commute]; you can run your business from a train or bus’s wi-fi network.  What new sort of human is possible?

The physical displacement performed by an individual on a reoccurring basis; commute, occupies the blurred territories of home and transportation. A transition of not only body but mind. Each mode of transportation in the urban environment is connected to a specific set of displacement criteria, offering its own unique environment through which one moves.  Variability of speed, flexibility, and exposure generate different scales of connectivity to these environments and the occupants within. Experiential connectivity calibrates the different moments of motion, pause, and stop in order to expand connection to one another at a multiplicity of scales from the intimate routine to the urban commute.

Netlab seems to investigate how space is reconfigured by/reconfiguring our relationship between technology and bodies.  As the contemporary city evolves, the ways in which it stimulates the human pysche and body transforms as well.

The program Simultaneous Environments experiments with representation and the real.  Our public presence becomes increasing augmented as we assimilate into technology–reshaping and reveling new relationships with material objects, places, and people we encounter while “jacked in” to a screen amidst a wireless landscape.  The real and th virtual begin to merge and transform into a new concept of space.  Simultaneous Environments “documents the invisible structures produced by data exposes moments of individual absurdity, public anonymity, false security, and collective behaviors of isolation while also underscoring the ethereal environments that increasingly surround us.”

Netlab’s program Core iii situates information (network) society into practacle navigations of space and living.


Video Lectures: