architectural encounters with ai

Ongoing research at TU Delft
in collaboration with Georg Vrachliotis, Group of History and Theory of Architecture and Digital Culture

The aim of this research platform is to systematically investigate the architectural and urban spatialization of AI technologies. Following the analysis of selected automated environments and closed systems, we will study several case studies of automated work landscapes to address issues of architectural design, energy and land consumption, labor, infrastructures and industrial networks. 

Its contribution aspires to be threefold: 1) anticipate the implications for sustainable urbanization of the digital transition in productive environments; 2) develop transdisciplinary methods to investigate the cultural and ecological significance of the digitization of the environment; and 3) make a fundamental step towards the still unwritten architectural history of artificial intelligence.

The project is embedded in a cooperation between the my research in the Department of Urbanism, with the Theory of Architecture and Digital Culture Group in the Department of Architecture.

Research Lead: Víctor Muñoz Sanz, Georg Vrachliotis
Ph.D. researcher: Gent Shehu 


Fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude (2019-2020)
As the ecological planetary crisis advances inexorably to what it seems to be a point of no return—an uninhabitable Earth—proponents of technological solutionism imagine systems to artificially sustain the utopia of continuous modernization, economic growth and endless human consumption. Automation, datascapes, labor surveillance, and microclimatic enclosures are put forward as infrastructures to safeguard capitalism of the uncertainties and risks it itself created, allowing for the reproduction of humans, ecologies and agriculture—by moving it indoors, to total, ‘sustainable’, environments.

While that proposition might sound like science fiction, the reality is that such utopia is already embodied in everyday products available all year round, anywhere, that we eat, drink, or simply desire for their ‘natural’ beauty. This research, conducted during my fellowship at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, highlighted the posthuman turn taking place in the spaces of horticulture and farming, its potentials, risks, and conflicts.

Through this work I explored different presentation formats to formulate questions and present findings, such as an installation, essays, videos, and collage.

Related publications:

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2020), “Genes, Robots, and Toxicity: the Haunted Landscapes of Milk Production”, in Solitude Journal 1, issue on ‘Collective Care and Response-ability”, pp. 58-67. ︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2020), “Best Supporting Characters,” in: Riha, T. et al., eds., Steel Cities: Architecture of Logistics in East Central Europe. Prague, Zurich: VI PER, Park Books, pp. 290_304. ︎︎︎︎


Research and publication (2018-2020)
Coordinator Jaap Bakema Study Centre / c0-editor
With: Dirk van den Heuvel and Janno Martens

Habitat: Ecology Thinking in Architecture, a new look at ecological thinking and a contribution to its historiography,  is the result of research undertaken in the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning and in various international archives. The book features a fundamental rereading of classic sources like CIAM and Team 10, supplemented by lesser-known contributions from recent history and from leading designers today. Including work by Jaap Bakema, Aldo van Eyck, Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, Arne Korsmo and Geir Grung, Pjotr Gonggrijp, RAAAF, Frits Palmboom and many others, the book, published by nai010, stems from research on Total Space and the exhibition Habitat Expanding Architecture, which took place at Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2018 and can now be visited online.

When the ecological term habitat was introduced in the 1950s in the avant-garde circles of CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) and Team 10, it became a subject of fierce debate. In addition to rethinking the housing issue, habitat brought a profoundly new way of looking at architecture and urbanism. Cities and buildings could no longer be seen as isolated objects, but instead were considered part of a larger whole, an environment or habitat.

In the light of climate change, ecological issues are receiving more attention today and are an important reason to reconsider the discipline of architecture. The book Habitat: Ecology Thinking in Architecture highlights some of the historical sources of the ecological views underlying the current reforms in architecture. There is a focus on the paradigmatic shift in thinking about the built environment as something that is inherently contextual and relational. This book describes the continuity, interruptions and transformations at stake and not only intensifies the current debate, but also offers suggestions for future research.

Habitat: Ecology Thinking in Architecture is largely based on fundamental research undertaken in the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, which is managed by Het Nieuwe Instituut. Based on selections from the collection and additional material from international archives, this book presents extensive documentation of design proposals and research projects. It provides an overview of key positions since the 1950s, when the Habitat concept was first explored in an attempt to rethink the architecture and its purpose in general.

The book contains contributions by Frits Palmboom, Erik Rietveld, Hadas Steiner, Georg Vrachliotis, and Leonardo Zuccaro Marchi, combined with generous visual documentations of the work of renowned architects Aldo van Eyck, Alison and Peter Smithson, Van den Broek & Bakema, and many more.

Related publications:

Van den Heuvel, D., Martens, J., Muñoz Sanz, V., eds. (June 2020),
Habitat: Ecology Thinking in Architecture,
Rotterdam: NAI 010 Publishers. ︎︎︎︎

Van den Heuvel, D., Muñoz Sanz, V., eds.,
Total Space.
Insert in Volume #50, December 2016. ︎︎︎︎

Wallpaper image in this page: Pjotr Gonggrijp. Morphological studies of the Dutch delta landscape, 1969. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, GONG 3

cities of making

JPI Urban Europe-funded project (2017-2020)
Postdoctoral researcher, TU Delft
Project partners: BECI, Latitude, TU Delft, RSA, ULB, VUB

Cities of Making: Resources for Activating New Urban Industry Through Technology, Spatial Design and Transition Governance (ERA-NET Co-fund Smart Urban Futures programme funded project) explored the future of urban based manufacturing in European cities in terms of technology, resources, place and application.  Following years of decline and offshoring, European cities are being confronted by a range of issues simultaneously: firstly, manufacturing jobs have shifted quickly to services and have created large gaps in the employment market, concepts such as circular economy are being taken seriously by cities and finally new technology is emerging allowing industry to be quieter and more discrete.  This may offer a raft of potential benefits, including jobs for sociodemographic groups most affected by unemployment, innovation, more efficient use of materials and urban resilience. Urban centres play an important role in nurturing new forms of green urban manufacturing, based on a clean, knowledge- and labour-intensive manufacturing sector.

Cities of Making has used a combination of strategic and action research resulting in the development of a co-creation instrument, a pattern language, for the use of public officials, designers, and entrepreneurs. Our ambition was to identify what works in supporting a resilient and innovative industrial base and to test those solutions in a real-world setting. The biggest questions we’ve touched include:
  • What technology/resources are suitable for 21st century urban industry?
  • Where can it be located in the city in terms of planning and spatial constraints?
  • How can we leverage the change?

We’ve learnt from experiences in London, Rotterdam and Brussels – each with a distinct industrial heritage. Through this project we have developed typologies, practices and policies focusing on public and private stakeholders to breathe new life into their manufacturing communities.

The project brought together a dynamic, multidisciplinary team from Brussels (BECI, Latitude, ULB and the VUB), London (UCL and the RSA) and Rotterdam (TU Delft) – each contributing to a breadth of competencies in resource and technology, industrial ecology, circular economy, urban planning, governance, strategy, social dynamics and more.

TU Delft research unit: Prof. Han Meyer, Birgit Hausleitner, and Victor Muñoz Sanz.

Related publications:

Croxford, B.,  Domenech, T., Hausleitner, B.,  Hill, A.V., Meyer, H. Orban, A., Muñoz Sanz, V. & Vanin, F. (2020), “Three Pathways to Support Urban Manufacturing” in: Hill, Adrian V ed. Foundries of the Future: a Guide to 21st Century Cities of Making.  Delft: TU Delft Open, pp. 67-100. ︎︎︎︎

Croxford, B.,  Domenech, T., Hausleitner, B.,  Hill, A.V., Meyer, H. Orban, A., Muñoz Sanz, V. & Vanin, F. (2020), “A Pattern Language” in: Hill, Adrian V ed. Foundries of the Future: a Guide to 21st Century Cities of Making.  Delft: TU Delft Open, pp. 103-207.︎︎︎︎

Croxford, B.,  Domenech, T., Hausleitner, B.,  Hill, A.V., Meyer, H. Orban, A., Muñoz Sanz, V. & Vanin, F. (2020), “A Manifesto for 21st Century Manufacturing” in: Hill, A. V. ed. Foundries of the Future: a Guide to 21st Century Cities of Making.  Delft: TU Delft Open, pp. 233-241.︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V., Hausleitner, B., Klapwijk, A., Meyer, H. (2018), “Rotterdam The Hague, NL,” in: Cities Report (technical report released by “Cities of Making,” project funded by Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe - ERA-NET Cofund Smart Urban Futures), May 2018. pp. 133-183. ︎︎︎︎

automated landscapes

Het Nieuwe Instituut, also in collaboration with TU Delft
Co-principal researcher (2016-2018)

With: Marina Otero Verzier, Marten Kuijpers, Grace Abou Jaoude, among others

Automated Landscapes emerged out of the alignment between the ongoing commitment of Het Nieuwe Instituut to address the implications of automation and artificial intelligence for architecture, design and digital culture, and 'Lights Out!: Emerging Spaces and Territories of Non-Human Labour', my proposal for research on the production of space for and by fully automated industry, which in 2016 received an honourable mention in Het Nieuwe Instituut’s 2016 International Call for Fellows.

Under the premise that automation disrupts not only labour markets, but the configuration,design and occupation of entire territories, ‘Automated Landscapes’ seeked to document and reflect upon the emerging architectures and urbanisms of fully-automated labour, looking at other actors involved in the production of spaces that remain beyond classic notions of authorship and signature.

The aims of the project were manifold, namely: to shed light on the impact of automation in various geographies and scales; to examine how the design of automated spaces challenges conventional spatial requirements and normative rules in architecture for health, safety and welfare, such as standards for light, ventilation, height, and floor areas; to reveal how these technologies bring new forms of territorial occupation, segregation and contestation; and to speculate upon the role of architects and designers in imagining and intervening in territories and spaces for non-humans.

I have presented outcomes of this project, (in collaboration with Marten Kuijpers) as research installations: #OFFICE, at the Dutch contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, and Port at the 2017 Vienna Biennale. I have been invited to write essays and present internationally on the topic. Among others, as keynote at the scientific congress Bilbao Urban Regeneration Forum 2018; in events at Het Nieuwe Instituut; lectures organized by VI PER Gallery in Prague, TU Delft, The Berlage, and Goldsmiths’ Centre for Research Architecture; and in a workshop at University of Sheffield.

Out of a collaboration with the European Post-Master of Urbanism (EMU) of TU Delft, I co-curated a Countryside Tour with students and a diverse group of experts and cultural producers. 

Related publications:

Muñoz Sanz, V., Kuijpers, M., Abou Jaoude, G. (2018),“Agricultural Platforms,” in Harvard Design Magazine #46, Winter 2018, pp. 124-31. ︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2018), “Polanyi in the Garden,” in Bartlebooth 7 “Más Allá de lo Humano.” Winter 2018, pp. 169-79. ︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2018), “Researching Automated Landscapes”, in: Otero Verzier, M., Axel, N. (eds), WORK BODY LEISURE, Berlin: Hatje Cantz, pp. 103-126. ︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2017), “Captives in FutureLand”, in Volume #51, November 2017, pp. 38-41. ︎︎︎︎

Muñoz Sanz, V. (2016), “Welcome to FutureLand: Automation Takes Command in the Port of Rotterdam”, in Volume #49, September 2016, pp. 33-38. ︎︎︎︎

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