Austrian architect and Assistant Professor at Graz’s Institute of Architecture and Media, Alexander Grasser describes his path to computational design as “a constant journey of exploring, testing, building and reassembling various ideas with family and friends.”
Also a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute, Alexander’s exploration of the field continues with applied research both in the classroom and in the field. “My research is in exploring collaborative objects and open architecture; enabling a human-centric and computationally informed architecture. On the one hand, this research gets applied together with students in engaging, participatory design studios, workshops and seminars. On the other hand, as a freelancing architect, I’m applying my research in a variety of architectural projects in open architectural competitions.”
With his students, Alexander is working to apply various Media as design tools. “We cover everything from the basics of computational and digital design, to advanced scripting, to working with interactive sensors or industrial robots, to constructing 1:1 prototypes in various materials, to theoretical works on the digital components of architecture. I embrace switching between real, augmented and virtual environments to develop collaborative projects with students.”
Alexander views the field as an adaptive framework which embeds the current and future needs of a complex society. His work focuses on computational design, collaborative objects, sustainability and elastic architecture. “This open architecture of collaborative objects combines multi-objective information such as computational design strategies with multi-subjective input such as participatory engagement and human-centric design to provide a resilient and sustainable architecture.”
First introduced to computational design through scripting and creative coding, Alexander soon began to explore ways to integrate human interaction into that process. “This developed into my research on collaborative objects which are the shared content: discrete parts, prefabs or blocks that enable interaction, communication and collaboration with and between its users and owners. This allows for architecture as a collective project of computationally and socially augmented structures that embed variation through participation.”
He suspects that attending an elementary school in Vienna designed by renowned Austrian architect, Hans Hollein, might have brought architecture into focus for him from a young age. “A playful, rigorous and patient drive of curiosity always helped me learn any new skills or develop projects... I guess working and thinking of creative ways to do something, as well as finding strategies and tools to realize those ideas, has been a passion of mine since early on.”
It was during Alexander’s undergraduate study at the Technical University of Vienna when he built the technical foundations to underpin his creative curiosity. “I experienced a quite rational, yet solid education. But I quickly realised that I needed to follow my interest in computational architecture and find a network of like-minded people to work together and push ourselves further. So I organised regular Processing meet-ups to exchange ideas and resources and we self-organised open sessions of tutorials.
“Then, at my master studies at Innsbruck University, I was immersed in very experimental architecture and an exceptional academic setting. I enjoyed and absorbed the various architectonic positions, theories and technologies like industrial robots that we could engage with.”
In the years since, Alexander has worked internationally in Germany and China, learning a range of processes and workflows while being inspired by the culture, scale and experiences that the international industry has to offer. He has also collaborated with fellow Teulo alums at Bart/Bratke. “Over the years, I have established a few ongoing collaborations with Bart/Bratke and Quirkdee Architecture, mainly working on competitions, design research and workshops. And with my partner, Alexandra Parger, as TEAM A, we regularly work on open competition entries and academic publications, as well as teaching together at Graz and at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.”
As with everyone, Alexander felt the impacts of the pandemic over the last year and had to adapt his work accordingly. “I had just started teaching a design studio a week before the first lock-down in Austria, which mean there had to be an abrupt switch to remote education. The workflow that I prepared was designed to construct a timber prototype using AR Headsets but as it was developed as an open platform, with some adaptations, I was able to shift the focus towards a fully distributed, real-time collaboration application to design shared projects. This shift gave real-time collaboration a certain relevance and the group of students a playful feeling of distributed proximity.”
With life returning to something more like normal, Alexander is looking forward to a busy period ahead. “This summer, I have some exciting academic conferences and upcoming publications ahead of me and some interesting competitions that I want to submit. I’ve also recently started getting involved in crypto art and am looking forward to some upcoming exhibitions.”
Besides that? “Staying healthy and curious.”
To connect with Alexander and his work, visit https://alexandergrasser.com/ and follow Alexander on Instagram and Twitter.