Prof. Architect Shraga Kirshner, a researcher of algorithmic design, thinks we should trust our intuition, and believes handicaps can be made into an advantage
How are innovative technologies changing retail and its future?
“The shopping experience is turning virtual. An algorithmic consultant will be part of the experience, assisting with choosing the product, learning the taste of the customer, and will include sensor and actuator haptic sensation”.
What do you do?
“Research in algorithmic design at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art”.
Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
“As a designer and researcher of creative thinking processes, my sources of inspiration are scanning and digital simulation technologies, biotech and brain research and decoding cognitive processes. People don’t influence me – I barely influence myself. When I was young and fresh, Peter Cook, who’s now a friend of mine, influenced me immensely. He’s the father of pop-architecture, published a fanzine about the subject, established architecture institutes all over Europe, and nowadays he advises companies”.
Where does your inspiration come from?
“Observing biological processes and the flow of energy in the physical environment”.
What is your professional vision?
“Creating an environment as a sustaining human ecology for personal awareness and cyclical creative life. I have a lot of knowledge. if we wanted to, we could be green and sustainable. We’re just now starting to learn the subject of cognition and there’s great deal of development in this research area. Once we will be able to combine these two subjects, our cognition will be based on reading the environment and developing awareness to it. We need to set ourselves free of people sensing people and move to fencing between people and the environment. Plus, you can’t fight with trees, it’s hard. We’re seeing this in science as well: biotech, what can be done with raw materials – We’re moving into organic chemistry, producing materials from plants, positively interfering with nature’s cycles for our benefit, like with solar energy; or the experiment Prof. Oded Shoseyov’s of HUJI’s Faculty of Agriculture is conducting, recycling paper into nano-cellulose making hardened shells that can be used as building blocks, which he displayed at the 2016 Venice Biennale”.
How do you approach a new project?
“Through curiosity and creative intuition, from designing a phenomenon to a physical creation. When we’re given a subject, we have intuition. It’s not something vague, it’s based on your perceptions and awareness, a kind of dopamine shot from our brain, because we have a world of values we built around our learning. There’s the curiosity from which you’ve learned, creative intuition of how you perceive certain subject, and you begin to design that phenomenon, produce a typology from the perception you have of the subject, and create a physical creation: a structure, a box, a tool – anything you’re designing. Our brain produces thirty-odd associations per second, we can’t process everything into thought, so that’s what we build our agenda from”.
How do you solve common problems in your field? (e.g. productivity, scheduling, marketing, networking, reducing overwhelm)
“Functional definition > Typological survey > Identifying the cyclicity of the movement > Determining formal syntax > Setting topological model> Technology for creating structure and casing > Cognitive image”
How do you keep up with new technologies and innovation?
“By searching for parameters and technologies which enable recording and measuring the parameters of a physical instance”.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Pick the right tool for the task at hand”.
What is still your biggest challenge?
“Defining applied research as an academic research and developing academia as the epicenter of innovation for research and development”.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
“That a handicap can be turned into an advantage. If you mix pink with green, I’m sure there’s something good you can do with it. Lately I’ve been working with people who suffer from ADHD, it’s part of my personal research, and I think their thinking is beautiful. they don’t see things like us but completely different. Their senses are fresher and more stimulating, so that they see things differently than you do. I think handicaps we see in others gives them an advantage. I think people with disabilities hold secrets that will give us a relative advantage in nature. Look at Da Vinci – he had acute dyslexia, he wrote in mirror letters, but thanks to that he saw things differently”.
Where do you see the future of your field, and yourself in it?
“The future, in my opinion, depends on surprising randomness which leads to different thinking”.
What’s next for you?
“The next step that will lead to a surprising coincidence”.
Please fill in the blank: The future of retail design is….
“…a chain reaction of bots. A bot is an algorithmic robot who can treat the average of our thoughts as sort of intelligent patterns. One company I know of, Bots 101, can turn word databases into geometry. The more there are kinds of bots and cloud computing at your service, you can better design. There’s a statue I designed in 14 minutes with a bot. It helped me a lot, the bot. I turned my verbal thought into geometry. I typed the words, but the bot did the job”.