Realtime Environments: The Architecture of Packets, Pixels, and Neurons

Fall 2022 Design Studio | Arch 4101/4102/5101/5115/7112 (6 CR.)

Compilation of student work from Realtime Environments, Option Studio, Fall 2022, Cornell University AAP (please see below for author credits).

Realtime Environments: The Architecture of Packets, Pixels, and Neurons explores the spatial systems at the heart of advanced communication, computation, and immersive media. Drawing from a wide array of fields, including critical computation, media theory, critical race theory, systems engineering, urban planning, and more, this interdisciplinary course immerses students in the political dimensions of architecture and media environments. It provides an analysis of how these constructs both reflect and influence social structures.

The course concentrates on the emerging concept of 'realtime,' where the convergence of algorithms, models, and constant data flows guide our daily existence, directing urban rhythms from the glistening surface of electronic screens. We will uncover how vestiges of the past are leveraged to predict future occurrences, thereby managing the perpetual present.

The studio characterizes 'realtime' as both a promise of total omniscience in technocratic management and a representation of consumer and institutional demands for instantaneous information. We trace its historical origins through shifts in spatial practices associated with virtual modeling, urban simulations, and military activities. Our course locates concepts like latency, resolution, and prediction within tangible entities such as data centers, control rooms, and sensor networks. This method ensures that our examination of 'realtime' goes beyond the simple pursuit of speed and efficiency, and instead includes the design of novel experiences.

We will scrutinize emerging human-to-machine interfaces that enable intuitive interactions with digital processes, investigating their implications from smart cities to optimized homes and beyond. The course traverses the crossroads of architecture, planning, and virtual world creation, challenging students to wrestle with the potential and hurdles therein.

To support our research, the first half of the semester will showcase talks by experts outside the field of architecture. This offers students a vibrant dialogue between our interest in realtime environments and external research endeavors, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of this frontier field.


Realtime Fashion Show by Adam Lingjia Wang and Steven Xianxing Liu.

Realtime Fashion Show. Video frames of realtime fashion show  Adam Lingjia Wang and Steven Xianxing Liu.

The Archive of Realness by Nancy Niu and Frank Zhang.

The Archive of Realness. Section render image from the archive of realness. Nancy Niu and Frank Zhang.

Realtime Agriculture by Andy Lei

Realtime Agriculture. Process analysis image of realtime agriculture. Andy Lei

Realtime Asset Management: Whole Foods Market Product & Consumer by Evan Levy and Eastwood Liu

Realtime Asset Management: Whole Foods Market Product & Consumer. Evan Levy and Eastwood Liu.

Realtime Amazon Logistics by Jocelyn Pang

Realtime Amazon Logistics. Jocelyn Pang.

Flotilla: Boatlife Urbanism by Kyrie Graham

Flotilla: Boatlife Urbanism. Section image of Flotilla: Boatlife Urbanism. Kyrie Graham.

Casino as Machine by Nahall Ghodsi

Casino as Machine. Video frames of Casino as Machine. Nahall Ghodsi.

Employee Land at the Magic Kingdom by ShaniaLei Bravo

Employee Land at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Video frame of a day in the life at the magic kingdom. Shania Lei Bravo

Police Accountability by Qingfeng Tian

Police Accountability. Video frame of police accountability. Qingfeng Tian.

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