Notating not knowing: The oceanic challenge to format and medium

Rachel Armstrong, Simone Ferracina, Rolf Hughes, Christos Kakalis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is situated within the field of experimental architectural practices and accordingly embodies experiments in notation that span a range of architectural design fields, namely: life, circus, music and waste/dynamic matter. Generating design languages, notational systems and choreographic scores, these explorations enable designers to initiate, orientate and improvise their designs within agreed constraints.While format is usually related to visuality, precision and instrumentality, medium disentangles matter in ways that encourage the emergence of a plasticity beyond recognizable, visible or predictable modes of being and making. The paper explores the tension between the notions of “format” and “medium,” and seeks to unfold the boundaries of the liminal area that simultaneously divides and connects them –an area characterized by fluidity and openness, by a sense of liquidity and by an oceanic understanding of reality that raises questions and begs for a symbolic and ethical reconsideration of embodied/performative design studies [Steinberg, P. & Peters, K. (2015). Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking, Environment & Planning D: Society & Space, 33, pp.247-264].Designing with oceanic practices invokes ontologies that exceed the classical tropes of abstraction and reduction to achieve closed, unchanging, and deterministic blueprints that delineate associated making processes. In an age of hyper-complexity and constant change, new forms of graphical notation emerge that are contingent on their context, distributed, responsive and capable of phase changes or collapse. Scoring experiential spatialities, the paper outlines a series of hybrid oceanic choreographies as prototypes for further experimentations on design realities taking place within thedissolution of former polarities such as: formattable/unformattable, known/unknown, certain/uncertain, alive/inert, linear/non-linear.By deploying an oceanic approach to drawing and subjective encounters, a syntheticplatform arises on which experimental formats and mediums emerge in a condition of constant change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-34
JournalEdinburgh Architecture Research
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2020


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