10th International Bauhaus-Colloquium 2007

Weimar, April 19 – 22, 2007

Die Realität des Imaginären

Architecture and the Digital Image

19.-22. April 2007

Steadily and increasingly, new digital imaging techniques are creating a world on their terms. Indisputably, images, especially digital ones, are en vogue. But with cave technology, immersion and ubiquitous design, digital images can no longer be reduced to the role of ephemeral appearances in the service of the late-capitalist culture industry. Digital imaging technologies stand for an increasing liquification of the boundaries (K. Michael Hays) between the digital and the material world.

The new reality of the imaginary has already shaken architecture in its foundations. So far, the technological-operative aspects appear to be in the foreground, whereas the cultural as well as the cognitive implications of the digital largely remain misunderstood. Contrary to the undisputed historical certainty of architecture the question arises, what the changing digital cultural force field (Bourdieu) means for architecture. The question of modernity returns. If modernity means to accept the antinomic constitution of culture, then only today, with the integration of the ontological weakness and undecidability of the digital techniques, architecture seems to perform the transition to modernity.

Architecture has always been a practice which crosses media boundaries; from the imaginary vision of the traditional drawing techniques — like hand-drawing, elevation and perspective — to their materialization in real space. In fact, the architectural practice has always moved on both sides of the image, driven by the dialectics of iconophilism and iconoclasm. If so, do the digital imaging techniques only carry on what began with the mediatization of architecture in modernism? Or, has the computer already become the real architecture machine (Negroponte)?

Anticipating McLuhan, Victor Hugo had argued that with the invention of the printing machine the textuality of architecture had been shifted into the print media. In the light of the new media facades (United:Realities, UN Studio, AMO/OMA), it seems as if today architecture had even lost its privilege of spatial imagination to the digital media and the imaginary space of the video. The latest anime production from Japan gives a glimpse of the imaginative potential of the new technologies. Does this mean that today’s adventure of space can only take place in the digital realm, on flattened and de-sensualized surfaces? Or rather, with the notion of the endless possibilities of digital manipulation, architecture may have obtained a new role as the hard, finite edge in the continuously changing digital space.

Architecture has always had its starting point from the image, regardless whether poetical (Schinkel, Semper, Wright), ironic (Stirling, Isozaki, Ishiyama) or critical (Eisenman, Koolhaas). Thus, architecture has always been the preferred medium for the visualization and implementation of social utopias. Just remember the power of the ideal cities envisioned by Leonardo, Leonidov, Taut or Le Corbusier. Sketches, diagrams, ornament and collage, allegory and montage are the classical techniques to visualize the utopian dreams. Contrary to that, today the inexhaustible image reservoir of the Internet and the manipulative power of the digital imaging techniques seem to undermine each creative act. As today’s drawing tools come from the toolbox of the computer program and digital algorithms replace sketch, hand drawing and watercolor, what does it mean for the cognitive side of architecture?

Despite their ephemerality, the digital imaging techniques possess a historical dimension. Image and ornament still seem to be suppressed in the architectural subconsciousness. Until today the traumatic experience of the modernist iconoclasm still seem to obstruct an unprejudiced view on the New Power of the Image (Burda/Maar). Obviously – idolatry, iconophily, iconoclash (Latour) and other forms of image fetishism are no simple aberrations of postmodernism. Interestingly, in the early machine age it was believed that there was no space left neither for images nor for ornaments. Today, however, digital imaging technology undoubtlessly is forced into a new unity with the digital iconicity. On the one hand this seems to call for a reconceptualization of the ornament debates of early modernism, on the other hand it sheds new light on the role of the historical Bauhaus. It was Gropius who aimed at “art and technology – a new unity” in the 1920ies. Of course, Gropius did not intend to homogenize and level out culture, but he rather opted for a mutual interplay between art and technology, with architecture as its catalyst. In the light of the cultural logic of the digital image technologies, today we may talk about the necessity of a new unity between art and technology, media art and media technology, mediated by the integrating force of architecture; as one of the essential cultural practices of image production and manifold image transfer. How is architecture epistemologically influenced by the digital image production? Which roles do architectural images play in the transformation and reflection of the architectural reality? What are their secret preferences and their hidden ideologies?

The 10th International Bauhaus Colloquium Weimar 2007 provides an interdisciplinary forum for the long overdue critical image discourse in architecture. Thematically, it carries on the themes of the preceding Bauhaus Colloquia Techno-Fiction (1996), Global Village (1999) and Medium Architecture (2003). Internationally renowned architects, architectural theorists and historians as well as media theorists, cultural scientists and philosophers will critically reflect on the nature of architecture as a cultural practice crossing the boundaries between object and image production.

The conference intends to enhance the debate between aspiring scholars, PhD candidates and academics. For that purpose, additionally to the plenary sessions, four special workshops will be held providing ample space for the presentation and discussion of shorter research papers. The workshops will address topics such as 1) the reciprocity between image and space, 2) image production in today’s digital design processes, 3) the global migration of images and 4) the moving digital images and their new spatial potentials.

The Bauhaus Colloquium is organized by the Chair for Design and Architecture Theory


Prof. Dr. Gerd Zimmermann

Dr. Jörg H. Gleiter M. S. (Deputy Professor)


Dr. Norbert Korrek

Dipl.-Ing. Sandra Schramke

Chris Dähne M. Sc.

Dipl.-Ing. Olaf Pfeifer M. A.


In cooperation with

Junior-Prof. Dr. Oliver Fahle (Geschichte und Theorie der Bildmedien)

Junior-Prof. Dr. Frank Eckardt (Stadtsoziologie)



Advisory Board


Prof. Dr. Kurt W. Forster (Yale University)

Prof. Dr. K. Michael Hays (Harvard University)

Prof. Dr. Marco De Michelis (IUAV, Venezia)

Prof. Dr. Jun Tanaka (Tokyo University)

Prof. Dr. Lambert Wiesing (Universität Jena)