Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti and Romy El Sayah


Since the Renaissance and the birth of modern architecture, from the definitive writing of Alberti to contemporary Starchitect production, the architect has been the individual, authorial agent of the built form that hosts our lives together.

As we move into an era of machine intelligence, authorship is unstable, driven by immediate digital access to the cultural history of humanity and the capacity for a new mode of machine-augmented creative production. This project opens up creative architectural production to imagine a new era of design of the built environment in which any individual may have an authorial stake in the imagination and production of their built context. In this project, anybody may be cast as building; collectively, the production of this work will make up a new type of urbanism, a neighbourhood and place that is imagined as a direct translation of the accumulative identity of its inhabitants. The identity, role, and agency of the designer are scrambled into a new set of horizontal relationships, having slipped out of its historical top-down orientation. In this new form of design production, the architect produces a (machine learning) model rather than a maquette, radically transforming the identity and role of “the designer” in relation to society and enabling many open-ended outcomes rather than a single predetermined work. Authorship of any individual work is hybrid–a collaboration between architect, machine, and the stakeholder body. The home is an extension of the body and the work of architecture is a gestalt grouping of bodies, a scalable system of augmented creativity, identity, and physicality. The project, Body as Building, reveals itself as a changing set of body-home “neighbourhoods”. A fixed centre will receive and transfer visitor visages into unique body-homes, which will continuously accumulate into a growing and flexible collective identity processed by artificial intelligence.

Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti (1978) is the founding principal at Supernormal, a design and research practice based in Cambridge, MA. Supernormal’s work focuses on the design of form and processes that balance contextual and cultural relevance with the contemporary imperative to scale beyond a single instance, and to reach more people and urban places. She is also Assistant Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she is a principal investigator within the Laboratory for Design Technologies. Her work in both academia and practice explores the deep cultural, typological, and process-based implications of large data sets and scalable systems in the design of the built environment; recent and ongoing work focuses these potentials in relationship to innovations in housing design and the future of architectural design practice.

Romy El Sayah (1993) is a designer, artist and technologist based in Boston, MA. Her work involves experimenting with new media to bridge the space between the physical and the digital. She recently graduated with a Master in “Design Studies in Technology” from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she learnt computational design, machine learning tools and interactive media. Passionate about participatory futures and collective creativity, she loves to explore these fields through speculation and computation. Since graduating, she has held a research position at the Laboratory for Design Technologies and a design position at MathWorks where she is developing educational tools around the topic of bias in Data Science models.

PHOTO CAPTION: Elizabeth Christoforetti and Romy El Sayah, Body as Building, 2021

Go Back

Subscribe to our newsletter