Mark Goulthorpe Hyposurface project records

Mark Goulthorpe Hyposurface project records

Part of


  • Mark Goulthorpe (archive creator)
  • Mark Goulthorpe (architect)
  • dECOi Architects (architectural firm)
  • Xavier Robitaille (software developer)
  • Paul Steenhuisen (artist)


Mark Goulthorpe Hyposurface project records

Dates of creation

1990 - 2014


  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • approximately 62,700 digital files (391 GB)
  • 3 folders of textual documents (.1 l.m.)
  • 1 Hyposurface wall module
  • 44 prototype pieces

Scope and Content

The Mark Goulthorpe HypoSurface project records, 1990-2014, document the design development, technical implementation, exhibition, and marketing of various iterations of the HypoSurface wall. The majority of the records date from 1996 to 2007.

Goulthorpe’s HypoSurface shares much of the spatial character of digitally modeled polygonal surfaces, or NURBS surfaces, that are deformed by images applied to them, and commonly referred to as “bump” or “displacement” maps. The wall’s “skin” is divided up into pixel-like metallic facets manipulated by a network of actuating pistons in order to create images, texts and patterns in dynamic relief. In addition to a number of pre-programmed visual effects, sensors allow people near the wall to influence its movement; this interactivity then generates the imagery displayed on the wall.

The project’s development was conducted iteratively by various teams of collaborators consisting of an international group of computer programmers, architects, engineers, composers, mathematicians, and manufacturers. These teams developed a custom software program (named ACDC, then Aegis HypoSurface) to operate the physical wall in real space using a virtual simulacrum on a computer screen, in parallel to the design, engineering, and prototyping of the wall itself.

The born-digital component of the archive consists of material that arrived at CCA via transfers from Mark Goulthorpe, Xavier Robitaille (project software developer), and Paul Steenhuisen (artist and composer). According to Goulthorpe, these files together comprise a near-total digital archive for HypoSurface 1 and 2, and additionally document some of the development of HypoSurface 3 and other related projects. A small amount of physical materials are also present, notably more than forty prototype pieces including a three-square metre working HypoSurface wall module.

The materials document four major activities by the project team: prototype design; software development; installations, including exhibitions and other projects; and promotion of the Hyposurface project.

Reference Number


Physical Description

This fonds contains a number of born-digital files in CAD, 3D modeling and obsolete formats. Due to the complex and often proprietary nature of CAD formats, proper rendering and use of these files may require highly specific software. CCA’s dedicated Study Room CAD workstation is loaded with a wide but incomplete range of such software. For further information about services and software available for interacting with obsolete or niche file formats, please contact Collection Reference (ref@cca.qc.ca) and ask to speak with the Digital Archivist. This fonds also contains several thousand Aegis pattern files, which are identifiable by their file extension (.aeg). This file format was developed by the programmers for the HypoSurface project, and the files seem to be used by various HypoSurface software to create patterns on the surface of the wall.


The materials in this fonds were arranged topically into four series:

Series 1, Design, prototypes, and related documentation, 1996 - 2006, documents the conceptualization, design, and testing of the HypoSurface project. This series is chiefly born-digital, and it also contains textual records and forty-five HypoSurface prototype pieces, including the working HypoSurface wall. These files were all received from Goulthorpe.

Series 2, Software and related documentation, 1990 – 2014, contains unique iterations of the ACDC, Aegis, and HypoSurface software, as received from Goulthorpe and Robitaille. It also contains a disk image of Steenhuisen’s Mac G5 computer, which was retained in case future emulation of his working environment was necessary.

Series 3, Projects and events, 1992 – 2014, documents each major installation of the Hyposurface project, and includes exhibition layout planning. It includes files from Goulthorpe, as well as files from Steenhuisen’s Mac G5 computer. The files also include a DOS-based software interface to control the HypoSurface wall at CeBIT 2002 developed by Robitaille.

Series 4, Promotional materials, 1998 – 2007, documents how the firm presented and marketed Hyposurface. These born-digital files were chiefly received from Goulthorpe, and also include a small number of files from Steenhuisen’s G5 computer.

This fonds was arranged topically into series, meaning each series contains files from each of the creators and donors. The accession numbers can be used to identify the creator or donor of the material.

Biographical notes

Mark Goulthorpe is an Associate Professor at MIT Department of Architecture, where he teaches and conducts research in digital design and fabrication. Goulthorpe is also a practicing architect, acting as creative and technical director of 3 groups of networked inter-disciplinary teams: dECOi Architects, HypoSurface, and Zero+.

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of Mark Goulthorpe, 14 August 2013 and 3 March 2014.

Custodial history

Physical materials and many of the digital files in the archive were kept in the personal possession by Mark Goulthorpe in Massachusetts prior to their transfer to CCA, including the clone of Paul Steenhuisen’s G4 computer. Other digital files were in the personal possession of Xavier Robitaille and sent to CCA via network transfer. These records were acquired by CCA as part of the Archaeology of the Digital project. Selected items were displayed in the show Archaeology of the Digital: Media and Machines, May-October 2014.

Archivist's note

  • A single-level record for this archive was created by Digital Archivist Tim Walsh in July 2016. Processing and description was completed by Digital Archivist Stefana Breitwieser in July - December 2018.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:
Mark Goulthorpe Hyposurface project records,
Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.
When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Related units of description

  • Aiello, Carlo. Digital & parametric architecture. Los Angeles, New York: EVolo, 2014. Lynn, Greg. HypoSurface: Mark Goulthorpe. Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2015. Spiller, Neil. Digital architecture now: a global survey of emerging talent. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2009.

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