Intelligence - Nick Axel, Thomas Geisler, Nikolaus Hirsch, and Aline Lara Rezende - Editorial


Nick Axel, Thomas Geisler, Nikolaus Hirsch, and Aline Lara Rezende

Amie Siegel, The Architects, 2014, HD Video (still). © Amie Siegel. Image courtesy of the artist.

January 2020

Intelligence is an Online ↔ Offline collaboration between e-flux Architecture and BIO 26| Common Knowledge, the 26th Biennial of Design Ljubljana, Slovenia, within the context of its exhibition catalogues. It features contributions by Alessandro Bava, Erin and Ian Besler, John May, Simone Niquille, and Ippolitto Pestellini Laparelli, responding to seminal texts in the history of information by Stewart Brand, Ada Lovelace, Humberto Maturana, Marshall McLuhan, and H. G. Wells.

The past fifty years has seen a dramatic shift in the modes of architectural production. While the material demands placed on practice have remained relatively constant—a full set of plans is still just a full set of plans—the means by which those expectations are fulfilled, and the conditions they play out within, have transformed. In great contrast to the clarity and weight of modernist programs and manifestos, what ends might architecture be able to work toward today?

The introduction of technology to practice has allowed contemporary architects to work at a speed, scale, and level of complexity previously only dreamed of. Attendant to this has been a process of fragmentation within offices, contracts, and building sites. No longer is the practicing architect allowed to be the “amateur generalist” or “master builder” it once prided itself on. Instead, specialization and collaboration reign supreme.

The proliferation of expertise has been facilitated by a number of tools that render this array of knowledge operational. Architectural software increasingly encodes various realities of building trades into their technical offerings. Developed primarily for purposes of efficiency and accountability, these labor platforms obviate the need for outside thought. As a space of and for possibility, self-reflection, judgment, and even uncertainty do not, cannot belong.

Terms such as “innovation” or “progress” have become dubious within neoliberal economies. Yet they describe an important, if not vital distinction between “what is” and “what should be.” In this sense, we could recognize wisdom to have been the root of architectural intelligence all along.1 If contemporary modes of production are increasingly designed for the inevitable, the unavoidable, we should follow Franco “Bifo” Berardi in seeking out conditions necessary for the improbable, the unpredictable.2 This might mean paying closer attention to the present, even if just to escape from it.


In 1989, Russel L. Ackoff formulated structural and functional relationships between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, contributing to what is now widely known as the DIKW pyramid. According to Ackoff, data, information, and knowledge all “enable us to increase efficiency,” while “wisdom is the ability to increase effectiveness.” Russell Ackoff, “From Data to Wisdom,” Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 16 (1989): 3–9. . The DIKW Knowledge-hierarchy system served as the base to structure the central exhibition, commissions, catalogue, and public programs at BIO 26| Common Knowledge, .


Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “The Inevitable and the Unpredictable,” e-flux conversations (September 30, 2017), .

Intelligence is an Online ↔ Offline collaboration between e-flux Architecture and BIO26| Common Knowledge, the 26th Biennial of Design Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Architecture, Data & Information, Technology
Artificial intelligence, Knowledge Production
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