Meet A Member: Nadja

“In trying to assess the impact of digital tools on our societies and how to design accordingly, I started questioning myself on how the philosophy of techniques is to be updated in light of these transformations…”

– Paris-based architect, Nadja Gaudillière shares the topics that are motivating her research right now.

Please provide some background on your studies & career.
After high school, I entered the ENSA Paris-Malaquais School of Architecture (ENSAPM). I graduated in 2016, after a bachelor [degree], a year off  (half of the time spent in architectural practice and half in a material science research lab) and masters.

During my last two years at school, I joined a research group developing a large-scale 3D concrete printing system. The members of this research group, including me, eventually founded a company called XtreeE. I currently work on specific research projects there, such as evaluating the environmental impact of the printing process (in partnership with ENPC) or developing clay printing (in partnership with ENSAPM).

In parallel, I started my PhD (ongoing), which focuses on a historical and epistemological study of algorithmic design tools used in architecture and the trade-off between tacit knowledge and instructions formalisation they necessitate.

Finally, I also currently hold a position as a research and teaching assistant at ENSAPM, where I work with students on various aspects of the different research areas I mentioned.

In short, I might be a bit hyperactive, and I share my time between practical and theoretical researches on the Digital Turn in architecture.

What is the thr34d5 project you’ve most enjoyed working on so far?
As a quite recent member of thr34d5 (I joined in July 2019), I’ve been working on only a few finished projects, but both the collective writing of the Connecting Terroirs paper and the latest kombucha Applied Research Program (kARP) productions have been very exciting.

The paper was the occasion to dig into design theory and how to promote values that I share with thr34d5; reflecting on openness, care and inclusion – all very close to my heart, but too rarely confronted.
I also had to learn a bit about kombucha pellicule and how to grow and treat large pieces of it for the kARP, and, as an architect, it has been particularly fascinating to experiment with biomaterials and growing one’s own material!


thr34d5 - Meet a member - Nadja Gaudilliere.

What problem, question or theme has been stuck in your head recently?
The novel appreciation of time and the synchronicities we develop through the relationship we maintain with the digital layers of our world is a topic we’ve recently been discussing many other members of thr34d5,

In trying to assess the impact of digital tools on our societies and how to design accordingly, I started questioning myself on how the philosophy of techniques is to be updated in light of these transformations – in particular how our relation to technical digital objects is to be understood.

While digging into this, I stumbled upon the work of the AI Now Institute that focuses on the social impact algorithms have, which led me to take into account the political dimension of digital tools in a new way. While it is not fully clear to me yet, I am trying to articulate individuation, politics of the digital and my technical understanding of algorithms and their interfaces into a coherent train of thought that I could rely on as an architect and a designer to develop relevant projects.

Who would you love to have as a mentor & what would you ask them?
A most difficult question! A number of names have crossed my mind, but I think I would choose Benjamin Bratton.

I would certainly ask him a number of questions related to the politics of digital and the aforementioned topics in the previous question. His book, The Stack, has been an amazing read in particular. The notions he develops in his work have been instrumental to me to grasp new aspects of this – the stack is, “an accidental megastructure that is both a computational infrastructure and a new governing architecture”.

Finally, he is one of the rare people to articulate theorising the digital to a design brief, which seems particularly relevant to me.

What challenge or research should we all be paying more attention to?
I mentioned the AI Now Institute work on assessing the social impacts and biases of algorithmic tools we rely on. As a complement, the work of the Digital Structures MIT Research group on automating algorithmic architectural design is also important. Put together, those two research threads underline something that appears extremely important to me: how we design our interfaces.
While the democratisation of complex algorithmic simulations and tools by developing easy-going interfaces for designers is a good thing, in the sense that it provides a larger design space to a larger number of people, the tools currently available also convey a de-responsibilisation of their users. In order to diminish social biases, to stop conveying dominant models of relations to others, to objects and to nature, to foster actual – rather than fake  – inclusion, in short, to enable a sustainable and caring impact over the world, we have to pay attention to this and change the way we develop interfaces and tools.
What’s your favourite way to relax?
🥊 boxing 🥊
Tell us, Best song to mark your students’ papers to?

It might change tomorrow, but for today it’s Midnight Orchestra by Petar Dundov.

Which future project are you motivated to work on in the coming months?
I’m looking very much forward to kARP developments on repairing everyday objects with kombucha, in particular, the chair repair workshop we’ll be conducting.

I’d also like to develop an Architecture Applied Research Program, and I’ve been working on a couple projects for this… Can’t say more about it for now, but it’s definitely motivating me!