A Critical Inquiry into the ‘Problem’ of Stopping in Architecture
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“Self-driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Where Robots Roam,” reads a New York Times article of March 19th, 2018, one day after the accident. The fundamental problem of artificial intelligence has always been how the robot stops; not how to make the robot walk, say “Hello!” or “Good Morning!”; do things so complicated as to make us mumble in awe: “Wow!”, but rather how not to act, how not to say “Hello!” at the right, or rather wrong moment. What is this moment? How can it be found? This paper asks such questions in the context of design and architecture: How does architecture stop? How do we close a design process, or choose among different design variations? Such concern for stopping has persisted in history, even if it has been eclipsed by what could be called, perhaps redundantly, the ideology of self-generation. Architects are always busy discoursing about generation, how architecture should come about, by itself, NOW! Upon close inspection, however, we find that the desire for stopping has been there all along, creeping from between the building blocks of architecture, undermining the absolutism of self-generation. From the projectiles of Vitruvius foundering in mud to the ‘hermaphrodite’ forms of Ronchamp, and today, in our deceptively fluid digital age, there are architects who have paid as much attention to stopping as they have to generation. The paper highlights instances of stopping in history, from Perrault to Paul Valéry and the digital.