Digiartefacto – Intersections of Technology, Art and Architecture

Miami is a prime symbol of what the American melting-pot can create, melding different fields of study and mediums of interest into one on an international scale. It’s important to understand how technology plays a part within this collage of culture and intellect. In response to this evolving dynamic, Jurnid Sessions presented the community at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design with Digiartefacto, a discussion panel focused on how art and architecture in Miami is utilizing technology today and in the future, featuring Franco Lodato, Leo Castaneda, Elizabeth Ann Clark (Virgo), and Cooper Copetas.

Castaneda is an artist who has recently put his efforts into using virtual and augmented reality as an art form. On display was his VR headset, transporting curious visitors into a world where the physical parameters of the room transformed into Castaneda’s personal art exhibit. To further immerse the user, a long drape decorated the headset, encompassing whoever wondered within the virtual dimension.

Clark, an artist who also goes by the name of Virgo for her projects, is excited in the possibilities of new types of experiences made possible by virtual reality and music. Coming from a musical background, Clark has been developing a hybrid video-game/music-video called Water Planet, which will incorporate VR through the HTC Vive. In response to how the music environment within Miami will be receptive to her projects, Clark states “The city that you live in should never be a limitation to what you’re doing,” but also expressed her love for Miami’s creative atmosphere.

Being one of the financial and cultural capitals of Latin America, and in essence the world, Lodato sees Miami as a unique creative environment. He plans on fulfilling his vision of making this city a center of education in creative design (similar to Orlando being a scientific education hub in relation to Cape Canaveral) through a design school he is helping to create in Wynwood. Starting small, Lodato hopes to give scholarships covering most of the costs of the program to students who make the cut. If it works out well, he hopes to expand the program as a model for other schools. Most details on the school are tight right now, but more news will be announced as construction unfolds in 2017.

A major focus in Lodato’s career is the use of bionics, offering insight from his experience as an industrial designer. He exemplified the need to preserve the human touch in modern creative processes that are increasingly dominated by technology, stating that “we have to detach from that paradigm.” Adding to Lodato’s argument, Copetas, a worldwide urban designer, expresses his disappointment in how many architects today can’t physically draw their ideas on a paper. “We’re living in star wars, it’s great, but, the sign of a great architect, and the ones that I’ve worked with, is the architect that doesn’t need the technology.”

Copetas does however greatly value how design software can help realize his ideas, such as visualizing the volumetric measurement of a building. Another big issue brought up was rising sea levels that are slowly sinking Miami, which is most apparent in the beach and down town areas. “That’s the elephant in the room right now, in every single meeting in Miami,” Copetas said, adding that, “First thing that’s gonna go is the foundations of buildings, if not that, it’s going to be the drinking water.” Ultimately Copetas wants to use this problem as the solution, displacing the water through urban infrastructure rather than preventing it from rising, and getting the world’s top scientists, architects and engineers to work on this problem.

Aside from the panel, Copetas discussed with me why technology should never be a necessity for humans to thrive, and how he envisions Miami as the template for future coastal cities and places that directly face the problems of global warming, “If we impress people, they’ll want to replicate it better, that’s the key.” As a word of advice for future generations who plan on taking the mantle of keeping Miami afloat, Copetas stresses the importance of being selfish for humanity, wanting us as a civilization to thrive and overcome our struggles together.

On the topic of A.I., Lodato dissected a Maserati project he worked on, where the human aspect of driving (hearing the engine, feeling the tires on the road, etc.) was lost in trying to make those factors transparent within the car. With autonomous transportation such as Uber and Google entering the market, a generation that doesn’t need to know how to drive as a task, but instead as an augmented sensation, could very well be on the way. Castaneda chooses to see this future virtual implementation as another way to translate our senses instead of taking them away. He believes the possibilities of instantly creating entire worlds directly from the mind using virtual reality dwarfs what can be done physically, and sees the monetization of such projects feasible through mass consumption similar to the video game and music markets today.

Copetas argues that A.I., at this point in time, can never fulfill the spiritual aspect expressed throughout humanity, humorously warning us to “Yes! Fear the machine, fear the machine.” Clark on the other hand, welcomes our future robot overlords, “Unfortunately, A.I. technology is not at the point where it’s going to take over, but I like the idea of computers having a chance.”

Each of the artists on the panel have leveraged technology to better themselves as creative forces and their communities. It’s interesting to see Castaneda fully embrace the technological possibility in creation, contrasting with Lodato’s view of keeping technology exclusively as a tool and viewing nature as prime inspiration. They aren’t arguing or disagreeing, they’re seeing the application of technology in completely different ways, and because of it, they’ll produce completely different results through their work. That’s the beauty of our world today, there is no right or wrong way to design, develop, and advance. The collisions that technology creates from meeting all these mediums of art and science has formed waves that will oscillate throughout all walks of life, and we as a city have a responsibility to take a big part in each of these unique movements and challenges.


For more information on the panelists:


As a college student majoring in engineering, I love learning how the world around us works. As a writer, I love exploring why the world around us works. My philosophy is that before we can make any change in our world, we first need to thoroughly understand it.