The digital age has changed the face of social interactions, and transformed our behavior in the built environment. This has given rise to questions regarding architecture’s role in accommodating this new age of social relationships, and how it can actively uncover new ways to merge the digital and physical worlds.
Recent graduate from California College of the Arts, Carlos Serrano, who received his M.Arch in May 2019, tells us about his thesis: “Still Human: In the Age of Selfies + Surveillance”, and how it addresses this topic.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY ARCHITECTURE?
Even when applying to architecture grad school, I was pretty sure I did not want to be an architect. Designing buildings was never quite my thing. However, I strongly believe in the education. It gives you a creative and critical skill set that is highly adaptable, which can take many different forms and can open many doors. Architectural education has always been about problem-solving, systems thinking and making the world a better place.
WHY DID YOU SELECT THE SCHOOL YOU ATTEND?
After much deliberation, I decided to attend the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco for a few different reasons. First off, CCA is first and foremost an art and design school. I had the opportunity to take classes in fashion, garment structures, and performance art in addition to architecture electives like Urban Interactive Surfaces (projection mapping). Secondly, San Francisco is the home of tech and innovation! Living here is like living in the future and you can see that in the students and faculty. Lastly, CCA fully covered my tuition.
TELL US ABOUT THE PROJECT
My thesis, “Still Human: In the Age of Selfies + Surveillance” investigated the way architecture has been built without digital information and communication technologies in mind and how that has had a negative impact on our social relationships and physical abilities. Using a Kinect Sensor, TouchDesigner and projection mapping, the final result was a full-scale installation, where space and architecture became the interface for heightened social exchange and the human body became the input for interacting with technology.
WHO ALL WAS INVOLVED?
My thesis was primarily self-led, but I definitely had some major help along the way. Thom Faulders of Faulders Studio and Chris Falliers of ULA Design were my advisors. My boyfriend, Tim Carlson, and dear friends, José Meza and Shuba Shekar, helped with installation multiple times. I also couldn’t have done it without my 23 fellow thesis peers!
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THIS PROJECT?
Since the release of the iPhone 10 years ago, our world has seen immense change in the way we relate to each other and our physical environment. Although architecture has been great about embracing technology in the design process, it has not been very good about embracing our new digital identities and relationships (e.g. texting in a long-distance relationship, Instagram stalking, using LinkedIn to find a new employer, etc). Our online selves are now as valid as our physical selves. If architecture wants to continue contributing to society, it must accept this and build between the digital and the physical.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO AFTER YOU GRADUATE?
I actually planned for my last/thesis year to coincide with the direction I wanted to take my career: into the tech world. I’m now working as a Product Designer at Tradecraft between digital and physical products. I’m hoping to end up in AR/VR, wearables, or smart home products in the next year or two.
NAME A PROFESSIONAL THAT IS DOING AMAZING WORK.
I really admire the trajectory and work of Blake Hudelson. He’s been a great mentor. Along with a few others, he started Architechie, an organization based in San Francisco for architectural designers now working or looking to work in tech. He also worked on the Jacquard Jacket, a collaboration between Levi’s and Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP).
ANY ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS?
Never forget that architecture can be anything you want it to be! Architecture is about the act of building, sometimes that just happens to be an actual building. Other times, it ends up being a jacket, a piece of furniture or even an app.
For more information on the Master of Architecture program at the California College of the Arts, click here.
Follow Carlos Serrano on Instagram.