Crypto-ArchitectureJoseph Grima, Pernilla Ohrstedt
‘Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive rerouting of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering.’ Timothy C May, The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, 1992
The utopian vision of cyberspace as a place of refuge for the anonymous, instant and endless sharing of knowledge has so far proven radically unfulfilled. It is, rather, the Net that has seeped into the spaces of everyday life, becoming more full-bodied, saturating the most intimate spaces of the home with smartness. As the distinction between the spaces of labour and domesticity blurs, the idea of ‘machines for living’ morphs into a factory of data: technology is the charismatic roommate from which there is no escape.
As open-source decentralised technologies such as Bitcoin, Tor and Silk Road Marketplace become household words, the significance of cryptography and the block chain spill over into the evening news stream, and increasingly frequent and violent disruptions on the existing economic and political order rekindle the flame of social revolution. This year Intermediate 14 breaks through the wall between privacy vs security to explore the possibilities of a new crypto-architecture that reaffirms architecture’s relevance as a participant in this struggle. The unit will begin by reconsidering the architectural potential of the wall itself as a device deeply entangled in the concept of privacy. In both the physical and digital environment, the wall is a constructed element tasked with filtering, concealing and manifesting identities; mediating the relationship between the personal and the public; and, increasingly, hoarding and guarding information. Responding to this idea, Intermediate 14 will take the electromagnetic spectrum as a notional site whose geography imperfectly overlaps with the physical space of the city, reconsidering the typology of the smart home as a primitive hut and exploring the architectural expression of anonymity and trust as the organising principles of the contemporary city.
Joseph Grima is a graduate of the AA and a partner at Space Caviar, an office based in Genoa, which operates at the intersection of architecture, technology, politics and the public realm. He is currently the co-artistic director of the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial and director of the Ideas City programme at the New Museum in New York. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Domus magazine and director of Storefront for Art and Architecture.
Pernilla Ohrstedt runs a London-based design and architecture studio engaged in projects ranging from buildings to installations, exhibitions and products. Previously she worked on a number of projects at Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, and was project director for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale.