Last weekend, at Machine Project, the crowd reached back to the door. Partly, this was because those of us who came late weren’t brave enough to take the empty seats at the front of the room. Mostly, this was because a surprising number of people wanted to spend Saturday afternoon thinking about design algorithms. Garnet Hertz, Tim Durfee, and Nick Klien each contributed lectures on, respectively, skeuomorphs (“an ornament or design on an object copied from a form of the object when made from another material or by other techniques"), spandrels ("the roughly triangular space between the left or right exterior curve of an arch and the rectangular framework surrounding it”) and palimpsest (“a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible"). My favorite was the spandrels installment which focused on the not-so-simple form versus function relationship. Form, Durfee suggested, is constantly reformed by function. He gave as an example Carnegie-Mellon University, in which a main building has slanted floors because Andrew Carnegie knew that, if his venture into higher education failed, he could always convert the campus into a factory. Slanting floors, of course, accelerate assembly lines.
If you're fascinated by how objects and technology shape the way we live, Machine Project, based out of a bright red storefront on Alvarado, is a spellbinding place to spend an afternoon (or evening). Join Machine on July 4th for a folk music sing-a-long.