Introduction to Computation

By Graham Rice | Mar 09, 2017


Introduction to Computation studio course open to all RISD students that explores coding, algorithms, and computational ideas. This semester, in it’s pilot run, it is taught by Architecture Department faculty member Carl Lostritto. Each Friday when the class meets, students have varied and personal work to present within strictly defined but open-ended project parameters. The pedagogical approach of the class emphasizes an artistic approach to computing. Questions of authorship, control, craft, intention, meaning, media and tools pervade even the most technical acts.

The first assignment asks students to create an “improper” software tool. Important themes in the work included originality, ownership, distinctions between tool maker and tool user, mass production, space, illusion, and too many more to list.

Christina Johnston’s tool generated discussion because of its interesting conceptual basis, allowing the class to transcend pure computation. Her tool pours streams of color onto the screen.

In her own words, “I was interested in the relationship between color and line. It seems that too often people think of code as being inherently linear, so I wanted to make something that plays with different types of boundaries and makes color essential instead of superficial.”

Moving on from tool making, the students used their newly developed computation skills to define natural phenomena such as hurricanes, wind blown grass, crystal structures, or fungal growth.
Daniel Stone’s project simulates a field of tall grass.

Daniel describes his intentions and process, “I first created a grid populated by individual blades of grass. I wrote a script in which each blade would tangentially oppose the position of the mouse cursor, bending away from its presence. Early computer artists Colette and Charles Bangert set a precedent for the assignment, in which they devised a series of codes that could create grassy landscapes. Colette wrote of the process, ‘Grass is random and random is a natural computer facility. Computer grass is natural grass.’ I wanted my grass to be random in a similar manner, operating beyond the mouse’s input. The length and orientation of each blade fluctuates randomly within certain constraints, as if the field is constantly swept by wind. The final product perhaps looks more like a head of hair.”

You can follow the work of this computation course through the class website or on instagram.

Spring 2017 Events

  • February 23, 6:30 PM Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates & RISD Architecture
  • March 2, 6:30 PM at RISD Auditorium Petra Blaisse, Inside Outside, Hosted with INTAR, Textiles, RISD Museum
  • February 27, 6:30 PM Jeanette Kuo, Karamuk*Kuo
  • March 13, 6:30 PM Allan Wexler, Allan Wexler Studio, Hosted with ID
  • March 16, 6:30 PM Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates
  • April 3, 6:30 PM Kunle Adeyemi, NLÉ, Yoder Lecture
  • April 24, 6:30 PM Nader & Katie Faulkner, NADAAA, Shoemaker Lecture
  • May 11, 6:30 PM Shumi Bose, Central Saint Martins & Architectural Association

Featured on RISD.EDU

  • AIAS presents BEAUX ARTS 2017 – MASKED BALL read more...
  • Designing a School for the Arts The idea of launching an arts high school affiliated with RISD has been in the air for decades, so when Architecture Professor Jim Barnes (BArch 69) was thinking about a theme for his advanced fall studio, he decided to resurrect it. read more...
  • Exploring Sound + Space at the RISD Museum A hush falls over the audience seated in the center of the RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as multimedia performance piece Galapagos in C gets underway. Two Architecture students silently enter as mimes, gaze at a large 18th-century family portrait by Jacques-Luc Barbier-Walbonne and then strike a pose mimicking the subjects in the painting. read more...
  • Design Like a Girl “I hope that this class has encouraged students to be curious – to constantly question the built environment around them,” said Architecture grad student Rebecca McGee MArch 16 on Wednesday. As this year’s grad student faculty leader, she welcomed friends and family to a celebration of an ongoing partnership between RISD and Lincoln School, read more...
  • Ideas Born on Paper Architecture Professor Christopher Bardt BArch 83 has a longstanding personal connection to the work included in Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association, an exhibition on view at the RISD Museum through August 2. Sharing his impressions while walking through the show, he stops at a delicate graphite, ink wash and colored pencil drawing by British architect Michael Webb... read more...