The Knowledge Box

Often we wonder how technology advancement can influence the way we learn.

Especially in an era where we are living in, knowledge comes with more compact form, and a space of knowledge may not required much of space, for instance, , when we have any inquiry, we find answers on internet, in a sense, internet has become our school, which it only needs our digital devices to access it. How schools can keep up the the fast- changing knowledge trend?

In 1962, an experimental artist Ken Issac constructed a knowledge box, a simple and compact, immersive environment contained by a cube of wood, masonite and steel . It was equipped with twenty-four slide projectors and audio-suppliers. This installation act as a pre-internet device to transmit narratives in a non-linear way, it attempt to create an immersive and interactive learning experience.

Here is an quote from the experiment:

“As the imagination of many men creates a fantastic new world, the danger is that individual man may soon find himself lost in it. He may be expert in his own special field — microbiology, perhaps — but otherwise remains an ignoramus. New teaching techniques and devices are therefore much required in order to cram as much knowledge as possible, as fast as possible, into his swimming brain.

Out of the imagination of one specialist, 32-year-old designer Ken Isaacs of the Illinois Institute of Technology, has come a machine called a “knowledge box” that he hopes will help fill this need. Isaacs, peering from inside his weird cellular contrivance, believes that the traditional classroom environment is as ill-suited for learning as a ball park. Inside the knowledge box, alone and quiet, the student would see a rapid procession of thoughts and ideas projected on walls, ceilings and floor in a panoply of pictures, words and light patterns, leaving the mid to conclude for itself. It is a machine of visual impact that could depict, for example, a history of the Civil War in a single session, or just as easily give a waiting astronaut a lesson in celestial navigation.@

(From a Life Magazine article “The Knowledge Box”. September 14, 1962 )

As seen in the images below, his experiment imagined his projection of the future, the era where we are currently living in, where technology is more accessible compared to the 60’s. This put forward two questions: with the virtual technology, can space for learning be minimized?  And if so, to what degree of control, ‘passive learning’ or active interaction the environment can offer as a learning environment?





Further Read

The Knowledge Box by Ken Isaacs (1962):

The Knowledge Box by Ken Isaacs (1962)

Enter the Matrix: An Interview with Ken Isaacs by Susan Snodgrass

The ‘Knowledge Box’: Picture an Early, Trippy, Analog, 3-D Wikipedia. By Ben Cosgrove

The Knowledge Box

Should Architecture be political? A Debate



Capitalism infiltrated every aspect in contemporary society. In November 2013, on a night Storefront for Art and Architecture hosted and event related with the book launch of Architecture and Capitalism: 1845 to the Present, edited by Peggy Deamer. The event was described as a forum, and described as follows:

“On the occasion of the book launch of ‘Architecture and Capitalism’ edited by Peggy Deamer, Storefront presented a forum where some of the book contributors and other leading figures in the discourse around politics, economy, architecture and the city presented and discussed some historical and contemporary references on how alternatives have been articulated in the past and how we might be able to articulate them today.”

“Let me tell you a wonderful, old joke from Communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “Let’s establish a code. If a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theaters show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom— war on terror and so on—falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here. You are giving all of us red ink.   – Slavoj Žižek,  Sept 17, 2010, Liberty Square, New York”

Ross Wolfe  followed up the forum and wrote a review about the book, and followed by a debate between between himself  and Quilian Riano on their respective blogs about the topic of whether architecture should be political. Architecture debates took place from a physical space to a virtual platform.

Read more about the debate:




  • /Followed response by Ross Wolfe/
  • “Is all Architecture Truly Political?” A response to Quilian Riano by Ross Wolfe”




Should Architecture be political? A Debate

“The Fall” – A Visual journey

The Fall is a very visually powerful film. It is the result of a tremendous effort from its director Tarsem Singh, who traveled around the world in order to find the right locations for each scene. The film was shot in over 20 countries. This film is a very graceful combination of architecture and imagination with a intriguing story-telling.




More info:

Films & Architecture: “The Fall”:

“The Fall” – A Visual journey

Public engagement: Performative Potential of Architecture


Haus Rucker Co., a Viennese group founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner.

They explored the performpotential of architecture through installations and happenings, using pneumatic structures to involve public with architecture, challenging the convention perception of space. In normal situation, the visitors were just passive participants of architecture, but their idea is that their architectural installations will involve participants, who will influence their own environment. Their installations were fun and also act as a form of critique, exploring the possibility for design that mediate environment and people.



Haus-Rucker-Co, Ballon für Zwei, Apollogasse, Wien, 1967. Image © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gerald Zugmann

Haus-Rucker-Co, Connexion Skin, 1967/68. Image © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gert Winkler

Haus-Rucker-Co, Environment Transformers Vienna, 1968. Image © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gerald Zugmann


Installation view, Haus am Waldsee, 2014. Image © Roman März



Haus-Rucker-Co: Architectural Utopia Reloaded:

Spatial Agency :

Rodrigo Alonso, ‘Expanded space’, Art and Technology, [accessed 14 July 2010].

Marc Dessauce (ed.), The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in ’68 (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).

Thomas Edelmann, ‘A Capsule is not Enough’, Stylepark, [accessed 14 July 2010].

Chris Salter and Peter Sellars, ‘Performative Architectures’, in Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010).

Public engagement: Performative Potential of Architecture

Unité Pédagogique d’Architecture Nantes – Forgotten Labyrinth  for education


Above: Model for UPAN, showing the metal girder structure

École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture nantes (Nantes School of Architecture), formerly known as Unité Pédagogique d’Architecture Nantes (UPAN). Its former campus was on Massenet street in Nantes, which was demolished in recent years. The image for the previous school building is rare and seemingly lost. Fortunate for our studio, courtesy from Raymond Leduc from ENSA Nantes, who provided the images giving insights of this once learning space for architectural students.

In the early 70’s , the school’s faulty worked with students on the proposal of this new school , they discussed on the functional distribution of space and programs. The discussion resulted in a complex and labyrinth like space. According to Radical Pedagogy by Jean-Louis Violeau, here is the space inside: 

defined by metallic girders: the beams featured a geometry typical of the early 1970s, a framework with a 45° angulation, creating sections of 25 square meters—each intended for work groups of 25 students

An ideal liberalized spaces for students to work in groups, the complex space allows different ambiance of space to happen all at once. and the building’s design aim to challenge the conventional architectural education space, such as Beaux-art workshop. The building was inhabited by students rather than officially inaugurated.


Above: Exterior of UPAN, Massenet street

Above: Interior of UPAN, Massenet street



Radical Pedagogy for UPAN :

All images:  courtesy of Raymond Leduc from ENSA Nantes