This conversation is the fifth of 6 conversations. The series will stage conversations around the different areas of the Waterloo Architecture curriculum with one broad ambition: “Questioning the canon: In a world of unprecedented possibilities and unforeseen brutalities, what can architectural education do?”
This particular conversation will feature Charles Walker and Theodora Vardouli and will consider the following sub-question: "How can digital technology qualitatively engage the complex material, economic and social realities of the world?"
Charles Walker is an architect, structural engineer and industry leader on the effects of contemporary digital technology on modern architectural design and construction. He studied architecture at the University of Waterloo and structural engineering at the Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine. Over 25 years Charles has worked as both an architect and as consultant structural engineer to many of the worlds leading architects. While at Ove Arup and Partners he co-founded, with Cecil Balmond, the Advance Geometry Unit a multi disciplinary group, specializing in formally complex structures. Since 2007 Charles has been at Zaha Hadid Architects, where he became Director in 2014. Charles has been active teaching architecture between 2003 and 2010 at the Architectural Association where he founded the annual student pavilion program. In 2011 he was Visiting International Professor in Emergent Technologies at TU Munich, and form 2011 to 2014 he was Head of Program in Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London.
Theodora Vardouli (PhD, SMArchS MIT; PGDip, Dip Arch Eng NTUA; Lic TEE-TCG) is Assistant Professor at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University. Her research examines the effects of computation and computational technologies on discourse about design and making, with particular focus on techniques of calculating, modeling, and representing that underlie contemporary digital media, their symbolic meanings for architectural cultures, and operational implications for creative design. Vardouli's recent scholarship has examined transitions and transactions between architectural and mathematical modernism in the 1960s through the lens of graph theory — a mathematical technique that she followed across disparate contexts of architectural theory production in Europe and North America. Her current work revolves around extending and expanding biographies of technical practices that catalyzed architects’ early experiments with computers and computation. Alongside this critical historical project, she is actively investigating collisions between perceptual shape, material things, and structural abstraction while designing and making with digital tools. Before joining McGill, Vardouli was a Presidential Fellow for doctoral studies at MIT, and a member of the MIT Computational Making Research Group. Vardouli is co-editor of Computational Making (Design Studies, 2015) and Computer Architectures: Constructing the Common Ground (Routledge, forthcoming), a collection of essays that rethinks the history and historiography of architecture and the computer.