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    failure and some questions

    By Sir Arthur Braagadocio
    Oct 26, '06 8:57 AM EST

    Just had mid-term reviews. I am sure I could have done alright had I not called my project a failure. Explanation of studio assignment: we were asked to study a component and then basically repeat it in an algorithmic fashion to achieve some new overall emerging form or to find the limits of the component. I chose first the filaments of a biological cell, then it turned into an analysis of the cytoskeleton and all the other parts including the membrane of a cell. Guess what the failure in my study was...Guess...I was studying scientific objects, not the objects themselves. You can not study cells without proper scientific equipment and even then it's intuitive shots in the dark. I was basically studying a system invented my scientists that could describe the behavior of cells to a certain degree, general concepts that nearly defined all behavior of cells. If a scientific theory does not predict everything in an object's study, then the scientist must re-think his theory or add some new ones. What scientists and engineers do is simple, they dumb everything down. Like Piet Mondrian's paintings they abstract a graspable concept from nature that seems to cover all of nature's behavior. If it looks like a cube it surely must be a cube and behave like a cube. (I am describing traditional scientists here, there is a new movement under the heading “Complexity Theory”, Santa Fe Institute)

    The leading cytoskeleton biologist thinks the cytoskeleton is a tensegrity structure. The cytoskeleton is made up 3 types of filaments that change length continually by a process called polymerization and provide a structure for the organelles' motility and point connection for the cell membrane and are connected to other protein devices on the membrane (for more look it up on Either way, guess what inspired the biologist to look at the cytoskeleton as a tensegrity structure, an art class he took in his undergraduate studies. So what was I studying? Have you ever wondered why all cells and molecules are always presented as a bunch of spheres in 3D models? I was studying biologist's geometrical conceptions of nature, not nature itself. Because I was studying concepts made for flexibility of predictions my component included all possible objects that could predict any outcome based on its genetic geometry. I knew the answer to my own problem before I began the problem.

    This leads me to a subject in architecture that essentially divides the profession into two camps, and let me know what side you're on and why: Vision vs. Versioning


    You have an image of the final product, like a dream. You know what it looks like, feels like spatially, and intuitively know what decisions to make when designing it to achieve the image. The only thing left to do after you have the vision is sell it to the client and draw construction drawings. The vision answers all if not most questions and problems posed by your research.


    You start with a simple concept based on information given. Through various inputs including consultants, etc... you develop a product that changes with each question and research point. In the end you have something that evolved through various versioning responses to various influences, in the end you have something you could not envision... something emerges.

    Now two major philosophical points:


    - geometrical abstraction of reality - reductionist thinking finds finite number of geometrical limit shapes capable of describing reality - limit shapes become abstract geometrical models - geometrical models become applied geometry - the art of measurement objectifies the applied geometry - thus geometry and magnitude become the two factors necessary for understanding reality objectively (paraphrasing Part II-sections 8 & 9 of Edmund Husserl's “The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology”)


    Emergence “At each level of complexity, entirely new properties appear. [And] at each stage, entirely new laws, concepts, and generalizations are necessary, requiring inspiration and creativity to just as great a degree as in the previous one.” (Anderson, Philip W. More Is Different. Science. 1972)

    Let me know what side you're on and why.




    • i hate picking sides. i don't think this is/should be an either/or question.

      if you've got a vision, you owe it to yourself to play it out and see where it takes you. invariably (for me) this ends up being the first step in sort of versioning.

      if you don't have an idea, just do something anyway. this something then becomes something to which you can respond ( > versioning).

      why try to predetermine which approach will be more useful for any given problem?

      i don't even necessarily agree that what you've done is failure. so you're not correctly using the metaphor of cell biology. you're using the best scientific description of cell biology available. adjust your terms and push forward. it's no less interesting an exercise. is it? saying that what you're doing is somehow deficient can set you up for a domino effect of responsibility to the 'true'ness of your research. do you gotta do the cell observation yourself?

      Oct 26, 06 9:34 am
      Arnaud M.

      Life is about choices, so I'd pick versioning.
      Very interesting post indeed. Have you looked up "On growth and form" written by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson? That might help you.

      Oct 26, 06 10:50 am

      vision v. versioning.
      what is annoying to me is that those who understand versioning understand vision. those who understand vision alone call versioning science or just cad.

      i consider both just forms of sketching. each have there limits. versioning tends to be more fragmented less about space more about surface.

      why are we so focused on these processes / methods all the time? the first word should be the idea[s]

      Oct 26, 06 11:29 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      thanks Steven, all good points.

      Arnua I am aware of D'Arcy's work but have yet to check to book out, probably will.

      TED - very good point and I feel this is the downside of recent theoretical approached, because if it were about the idea I wouldn't have to show or explain via models, I arrived at the Idea? Why can't someone just say this is my idea and who cares about the process in jury? granted you could present it backwards, but I have never seen someone get up and go "This was my idea. I like it because of this and no I do not need to justify it by some terms we can agree on."

      Oct 26, 06 12:18 pm

      Boy, talk about dumbing things down even more.

      Oct 26, 06 4:30 pm

      meta, i have to say i've been enjoying your posts here....and i think that is rather apt that you've brought up this issue. the question i would still like you to answer (before i answer anything) is why you are looking at what you're looking at...i hear a lot about certainties within the writing, but little about criteria. what constitutes the definition of your concept, how will you test it, why will this field/emergent condition/array fail/succeed?
      now to answer with my view on the questions you've stated with both/and...imagine sitting down at your computer and typing something into google to find the sources that will allow you to begin researching a topic. if you enter too general a term you will search through a million potential hits, very few will be valuable...this is bad as it wastes time. now imagine that you type in a very specific series of words, you even know the wording you are looking for and place it all in quotations...then you may encounter a single source hit or a total bust. you went too narrow. so what does this all mean? versioning is only valuable with vision to narrow the criteria being tested and exercised, and vision is only valuable when it allows change/uncertainty into the equation to allow objectivity. as for you last words, abstraction and emergence....these are two points along a timeline. you cannot move to emergence without first developing within abstraction.
      well that's all for now. hope you're having fun down there.

      Oct 26, 06 11:11 pm

      i say throw them both out...or both in...never could decide which...does it really matter?

      no answers for you, but daniel dennett does a good job of critiquing reductionism (its pros and its cons) in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. he also has a great deal to say about algorithms. great book if your interests include science in general and change in particular.

      Oct 27, 06 12:12 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      thanks futurebooy and jump...especially futureboy, your google analysis to versioning and vision, probably the best description i have ever heard for architectural process.

      futureboy you also hit the nail on the head as far as my failure...i set up a concept that predicted all possible applications of it within an rational application as per its system (i.e. i won't let you test it in way i do not find appropriate). i began studying biology because i was into biomimcry, but i should of been actually studying nature itself. one of the jurors said something like, you have created your own closed system and does it matter. well not really if i was attempting to have something emerge from an arrayed use of my component, or if i was designing a system from the ground up. but instead, and this is my usual practice, from vision down, i design the anwer and twist the criteria to match my certainties and leave out the uncertainties as irrelevant commentary. so that is why i asked the vision and versioning question.

      the studio criteria was to study a component and then design your own component with 3 specific human interaction programs and eventually array it in variations throughout a field as a wall, ceiling, or floor as per some algorithm with this compenont then eventually being used for a new school of design building. so i just figured out what objects and combination as per the cell as basis were best for a final design, and i by all means would not design something that caused by component to fail in application. so that was my problem...

      so does that make sense?

      Oct 27, 06 9:50 am

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