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Jeffrey Huang and Muriel Waldvogel:
"Convergent Architectures: The Design of Future Spaces"

Judith Donath

Tuesday, October 22, 2002, 4:00 PM EST

Bartos Theatre, MIT Media Lab (E15)

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As networking and computing become ubiquitous and increasingly part of our built environments, physical and virtual components start to merge in many ways, leading to radically new typologies in architecture: interconnected environments for learning, praying, courting, playing, working and diplomacy. Two case studies are discussed: the Swisshouse in Cambridge, a building-size interface built for the Swiss government to foster a new kind of diplomacy between Switzerland and the USA (in operation since October, 2001); and Digital Agora, an advanced architectural interface for connecting a global community of Classics scholars for Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC (currently under construction). Using these case studies and other examples, Huang and Waldvogel will present their research and design approach, and review the challenges in designing physical and virtual spaces in conjunction with each other in order to transform the practice and perception of everyday life. What happens when communications media, instead of walls, begin to define the spaces our bodies inhabit? How can we use those media in architecture beyond mere functionality, and facilitate more subtle and poetic ranges of remote human interactions? How can the sensory properties inherent in materials, light, and proportions be used to blur the sharp boundary between the online and offline worlds?

Professor Jeffrey Huang
Associate Professor, Harvard University
Partner, Convergeo

Jeffrey Huang is associate professor of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, in the area of digital media and information technology. Huang's research explores the vision of combining physical architecture and information structures to support integrated offline and online processes for business and everyday social activities, and the design of knowledge and learning communities.

A native of Rome and a Swiss citizen, Huang received his DiplArch from the ETH Zurich and his masters and doctoral degrees (on inter-organizational information systems) from Harvard, where he was awarded the Gerald McCue Medal.

Muriel H. Waldvogel, PhD
Co-Founder and Principal, Convergeo

Muriel Waldvogel is an architect and specialist on the senses of perception as they relate to design. Her design and research explores the nature of multi-sensory experiencing and communication, with a particular focus on the feelings, emotions, and thoughts evoked by the sense of touch that are hidden in images and spaces. Waldvogel has taught and lectured at a variety of universities and research institutions, including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab, MIT, and the Boston Architectural Center, where she is currently directing a new architectural program.

Waldvogel received her BA from Barnard College, and her masters and PhD in technical sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. She was the recipient of an IKEA Design/Innovation Grant and the Build Massachusetts 2001 Award for architectural excellence, and has been a visiting scientist at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, and a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School, in the Mind and Market Group.

Huang and Waldvogel, in partnership, created and head the firm Convergeo, based in Concord, Massachusetts. Convergeo helps innovative clients develop and implement new architectures, by combining physical space and digital technologies in the creation of compelling multi-sensory experiences. Recent Convergeo projects include the Digital Agora in Washington, DC for Harvard, the EPA Knowrooms in North Carolina, and the Swisshouse, a prototype physical/virtual consulate for the government of Switzerland. The physical building of the Swisshouse is a an advanced interface building located in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the building is used for knowledge exchange between Switzerland and the US, and serves as a test-bed for researching issues related to telepresence, remote brainstorming, and distance learning.

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