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Free / Open Source City: Production Space of the Accelerated Transaction

Samuel Gendron Fortier

WINNER OF A 2019 CANADIAN ARCHITECT STUDENT AWARD OF EXCELLENCE

Samuel Gendron Fortier, Université de Montréal

Advisor: Alessandra Ponte

Exploratory models

This project explores a future where accelerated transactions, enabled by blockchain technology, bring artificial intelligence (AI) into production spaces. Ricocheting between utopia and dystopia, the project’s building constantly transforms itself, optimizing between the balance of spaces dedicated to humans, robots and artificial intelligence.

The project site is the northern sector of Pointe-Saint-Charles in Montreal, an industrial brownfield. To begin, sections of abstract images taken from photos of microchips were superimposed on the site to form an initial plan. The building is a megastructure, like a machine or a giant computer. It can be used for various types of production: from manufacturing electronic devices, to growing food, to microbiological research,
or even for a creative industry such as music recording.

The megastructure includes thickened walls that house robotic systems, and human production areas between the walls.

Inside, a modular system of gigantic internal walls of different thicknesses moves on rails. Within these walls are spaces for servers, robotic production, storage and space support equipment. In these areas, robots store and manage both the produced goods and the materials needed to operate the plant. Between the programmatic bands are human production spaces, where workers use tools prototyped by robots and collaborate with robots on production. Adjustable bridges, walls, and floors can be deployed to reconfigure these spaces.

Gigantic engines allow the whole building to shift on site. The building takes on its own life as the AI that manages it continually optimizes the spatial configuration for production needs.

Giant engines allow the building to shift on site. The building envelope is like an accordion, expanding and shrinking with market needs and production capacity. Mechanical systems and work surfaces are optimized and used at all times. As the artificial intelligence succeeds in understanding the market—and even influencing or controlling it—the plant expands and becomes increasingly profitable. The building could also be programmed to deconstruct itself.

The project raises questions about the limits and potential of AI. What happens when the building occupies the entire site dedicated to it? Will the AI seek to increase its controlled territory? Will emergency stop switches need to be installed as precautionary measures? Is the worker’s quality of life improved? Are humans aware of the full control of AI over their environment?

Jury Comments

Rami Bebawi :: I’m fascinated—I’ve never encountered someone who considers the spatial relationship between humans and robots. It’s the first time someone ever brings that subject up to me. Robots are always improving: can the architecture continuously change as the robots learn about what they are making? Part of the way the project was presented to us was through an interview with Siri. I like the guts behind this approach.

Joe Lobko :: Lou Kahn’s ‘servant’ and ‘served’ spaces meets the future of robotics and a digital world to create the ultimate ‘maker-space’.

Cindy Wilson :: This project represents the undeniable fact that robotics and AI will be a future part of our industry, and I appreciate the consideration of the challenge in this project. While data already creates space, to what extent will AI influence or expand our assumptions around data?

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