Ryota Matsumoto’s work epitomises both the past and the future of creativity. His hybrid design techniques are gaining him a huge following around the world. Durtti wants to know more about how he effortlessly blends art and algorithms.
Your art often reflects the spatio temporal conditions of the ever changing urban, natural, and ecological environments around us. You combine a hybrid of techniques by using both digital algorithms and traditional media such as ink, acrylic, and graphite in your art. Talk us briefly through the key steps in this process, from blank canvas to finished work. Is the process order always the same, Ryota?
My cross-disciplinary background in architecture and visual art allows me to explore a hybrid approach and combine traditional media with digital media.
Hybrid media represents the collective recognition of a multiplicity of epistemological and methodological viewpoints in all cognitive dimensions of spatiality.
In my drawing process, I use base images, composed by 3D modeling software, and incorporate generative and recursive algorithms.
In some of my work, I employ multi-agent morphological computation systems, including swarm intelligence, evolutionary optimization, and data transcoding algorithms. I use these algorithms widely for optimization problems and machine learning, combining and expanding the range of possibilities in fusing design and biology.
These computational processes generate, evaluate, and multiply design permutations based on intrinsic environmental behaviors and evolutionary processes that are immanent in nature.
After the initial phase described above, I merge these draft drawings with traditional media, such as acrylic, ink, graphite, and photo collages.
To process these further, I loop them through a series of arithmetic and stochastic operations or agent-based algorithms by applying custom image editing programs to generate further possible combinations and permutations.
Alternatively, I transform my paintings into variable data sets that are reassembled or merged into different visual configurations based on the recursive and iterative processes with multivalent results.
How do you decide what type of algorithms to use in your art?
When designing with digital media, I like to relinquish direct control on the precise shaping of form and order that one has with traditional drawing tools. Instead, I orchestrate and supervise overall strategic relationships, code-based rules, and sets of mathematically driven parameters to regulate the metaheuristic computation systems.
Digital tools allow me to design bio-based complex systems with a certain degree of uncertainty that is reliant on a feedback loop of recursive generations.
These procedures aren’t practical to generate and recreate with more traditional media.
So those factors influence my selection criteria for particular algorithms.
As a designer, do you draw upon many of the above ‘hybrid’ techniques when you are designing a building?
I regard the hybrid technique as the driving force behind my design process in my recent projects.
Overall, I believe that a complex interplay and symbiotic relationship between materiality, structural system, spatial syntax and tectonics associated with architectural design are, first and foremost, the source of my inspiration in establishing my regular techniques.
It goes without saying that the experimental design-oriented explorations of spatial configurations are manifested profoundly in both my architecture and art practices.
What effect do you think the implementation of AI practices within both the architecture and construction industries will have upon our urban environments in the next decade?
The exponential population growth and global-scale development of the past few decades has promoted dislocation, fragmentation, and uncertainty among the current population.
We need to seek an optimal design strategy to reflect the dynamics of urban growth and utopian models.
In my view, we have to look beyond the entangled network of urban informatics and incorporate AI practices, which create new patterns in socio-technical relations.
Moreover, designers, architects, and scientists alike will likely use the speculative approach to hybrid urban space and integrate organic and AI constructs.
Our future cities may transform into a matrix of self-generative entities of intricate consciousness in the post-human age.
To be more specific, the current cloud computing based smart grid platforms will be more successful if they attain further cognitive flexibility by merging with various symbiotic innovations, such as biosynthetic materials, additive manufacturing, bacterial manufacturing, and swarm robotics, relating to fields like molecular biology, particle physics, and neuroscience.
I anticipate the emergence of sentiment urban infrastructural systems that are configured by semi-living biosynthetic tissues, with their ubiquitously embedded hybrid artificial intelligence.
Past urban development can be leveraged to incorporate and apply evolutionary algorithms for selecting optimized genetic designs.
Consequently, the semi-living urban aggregates will synchronize the whole socio-technical urban assemblage within the context of climate and ecological phenomena at both global and local scales.
I am certain the symbiotic convergence of AI and synthetic biology will inevitably align us with more adaptable and resilient cities in the age of accelerating environmental flux.
As a lecturer as well, what do you most learn from teaching others?
I learn as much from my students as they do from me.
I believe teaching others and working with them helps to keep my knowledge fresh and have learned new socio-epistemological issues and research agendas in contemporary aesthetic culture through the teaching process.
My students and I always have vigorous dialogues and exchanges on topics of art, design, and science in both theory and praxis.
I believe that open and flexible collaborative learning environments allow and encourage both students and teachers to develop innovative multidisciplinary approaches in their academic work.
In brief, I view an ideal pedagogical structure as a collective socio-cultural entity of students and teachers, who nurture and inspire each other in tandem with today’s networked, multiplex, and pluralistic society.
We are all human and we all deal with obstacles in our life in our own unique way. How do you try to overcome yours when they occur?
As a designer, I have been trained to play a bridging role among various disciplines.
From my formative years, I have learned to gather knowledge from different fields and apply this knowledge to resolve any issues in my design projects.
Therefore, interdisciplinary thinking comes naturally to me and that mindset of critical thinking is indispensable to me for overcoming any obstacles in my life.
What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?
From my mentors and colleagues, I have been encouraged to go off the beaten path before settling and achieving any career goals.
My experience as an architectural designer and urban planner certainly have helped me to try new things and approach my work with a broader perspective.
I still firmly believe that acquiring a wider window of knowledge and building skills in other fields can open one’s mind to new ideas.
It has certainly allowed me to discover my own creative path.
Finally, Ryota, if you were asked to set a challenge to a brand new class of architecture students, what challenge would you set them and why?
I’ve always been interested in the conjectural process and the search to eliminate the conventional notion of how research is conducted in a typical academic setting.
I am imagining a wholesale reconfiguration of design as research aimed specifically at prioritizing the projective act of creativity and innovation.
This is opposed to the more reflective and formalistic counterpart that is largely dependent on the predominant effect of current pedagogical isomorphism.
I feel that an increased focus on the conjectural and fictive logics of design will move us towards altering future urban and ecological environment.
In my view, the new challenge for architecture students is to engage in vibrant dialogues and experimentations with experts, scientists and non-human actants from a broad spectrum of disciplines within an open and non-deterministic context.
With regards to the future direction of a design studio, the current design practice endorses redundant image productions, with a special emphasis on CAD applications.
I sometimes see this as a regressive trend toward superficiality in design visualization and representation.
I would encourage my students to facilitate an effective and refined integration of diverse pieces of thought-provoking knowledge construction based on open-source collaborative research network as a final outcome of a semester.
More at www.ryotamatsumoto.com
Ryota is a member of The Artificial Intelligence Group on LinkedIn.