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    Science, Architecture, Form, Space

    By Sir Arthur Braagadocio
    Nov 9, '06 7:01 PM EST

    Two questions first:

    1. In the worlds of Physics and Architecture: If solid matter is to form as gas is to space, then what is liquid in architecture?

    2. If social science is considered a mushy science and physics exact science than where does architecture fall? and can architects or will architects ever be considered scientists?

    I say this because I am spending more time in the Math/Physics library at Penn than the fine arts. It also seems if I want to go deep intellectually in architecture I have to look elsewhere, just think about the whole deconstruction phase of architecture, it was all french philosophy and situationism...architects borrow soooo much from other sciences and here is my explanation why.

    Form and Space are dead. (I am emulating Nietzsche here)

    Forms and Algorithms is a pre-requisite to Cecil Balmonds studio. We are learning how to intuitively understand extremely complex forms through rigorous mathematical programming of geometrical shapes. For those of you who are totally out of the loop, Cecil Balmond is the head guy at the leading engineering firm in the world: Ove Arup. Does this seem odd to anyone? why are architect students learning VB and C# in the realm of SmartGeometry, Generative Components, and Rhino scripting, why so rigourous? Well its the end of this Form and Space obsession of architecture. I am sure this isn't Balmonds intention, but thanks to the rebels against the cube, Form and Space are done. Here is the quick history:

    1. Modern architecture oblished ornament and abstracted the basics forms for us (Adolf Loos, De Stijl)

    2. Space became free flowing (FLW, Mies)

    3. Then all the straight forward basic principles failed on many levels, urban planning, meaning, etc...

    4. Po-mo, Italian Rationalism but within a context of the varnacular, Michael Graves, Corb's brutalism and Ronchamp, Robert A.M. Stern historical crap, Archigrams fun overly technolical conceptions, Archizooms presentation of full force modernity as an apocalyptic situation

    5. Semiotics, writing cities, etc...importing linguistics and social sciences (Henri Lefebvre, Roland Barthes, etc...) so that architecture may form a language

    6. Deconstruction...importing a philosophy to deconstruct the language of architecture (Derrida, Deleuze)

    7. Situationism and Events...importing hedonistic temporal duration cinematic experience architecture crap (Debord, cinematic application of Bergson)

    8. Existenialism, Power, and Dwellin...Heideger, Foucalt, etc...

    9. Blobs....

    10. Ribbons...

    11. High-Tech as style and justified by Sustainability

    12. Gehry Technoligies....capable of making extremely complicated forms affordable and buildable via Catia platform based Digital Project

    13. Forms and Algorithms...I know you're saying how can you end it with a class you're taking. trust me its the end, and Forms and Algorithms is just another Brick in the Wall.

    see the cycle. clarity via scientific analysis rebelled against via artistic concepts, just to become scientific again... you're thinking, won't architects resort to rebelling again....what do you propose? I have one answer for you...

    CAS's and Emergence....complex adaptive systems and emergence, a combo of phase transititions in physics, cellular automata, economics realization that their objects of study are agents of irrational behavior. in the world of architecture this means our forms and spaces evolve themselves via genetic rules and the enviroment.

    So why would Form and Space be dead?

    well, emergence and CAS's exclude the designer from the design of forms and space. the designer designs the rules and lets it fly.

    Conclusion: the study of form and space in itself is dead, we've covered all the bases so let us move on to more important things...please!

    Form and Space should be taught like English 101: i.e. this is a cube, cubes are useful for this, this is a blob, historically applicable as this...but no need in wasting hours of studio time justify Form and Space...

    with that said I love my Forms and Algorithms class, i intend to use to exclude me from design decisions unless of course I want to make one, but I really don't feel like justifing form and space anymore, its so damn elementary.


    • Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      I forgot one...

      the horrific and grotesque - Xieferotecture

      Nov 9, 06 7:16 pm

      & this one: nothing is sacred

      Nov 9, 06 8:08 pm

      OMFG that sounds like my dream studio.
      programming in studio = a dream.
      you'll see how it will come in really handy later on. it always does. even if it's just to understand a million other things.

      liquid... liquids are maleable solids that cling between space and form.

      Nov 9, 06 9:16 pm


      are (depending on the scale and politics of the project)

      1.inhabitants which change states over the course of and within space
      2.users which change states of being when exposed to space flow which somehow gains a material vitality when filtered through space; the loss of abstraction?

      nice post . . . I wonder about CAs, as i'm also in an algorithmic design course here at columbia (looking forward to balmond talking here next weeK)
      we are very obviously in the early stages of CAs and emergence, similar to the early blob phase, whereby simply using them and explaining them in any fashion attains a kind of relevance for the project. It seems that the complexity is kind of stuck, however, reworking the same exact formulas over and over again without a whole lot of innovation. I have a sneaking suspicion that we're stuck in this embryonic stage simply because this kind of research is relatively removed from immediate visual gratification, and is only attacked for short periods of time by architects/students (i.e. during one or two years of grad school)
      maybe generative components has part of the answer? I haven't touched it yet, but what i've seen seems a little more workable. I'm dealing with processing now, which has a ton of potential, but is hard for programming newbies like me to attack with any level of rigor in the short 11 months of grad school!

      Nov 9, 06 11:42 pm

      interesting post and sounds like a cool studio.

      it doesn't sound like much has happened in terms of attitude since pete eisenmann started with philosophy as a justification for removing himself (so he said) from the process of form making as a deliberate act, with all the rules and values of correctness that somehow seemed to bother him.

      I rather like pete and his work in that vein. On the other hand the idea that he has removed the rules and values from the equation is clearly not so, otherwise his buildings would not look the same all the time. So as a philosophical stance i think it is all a bit of rubbish, ennit.

      As exploration of technology it is very fascinating though. One of my profs back in canada, a very smart and unusual man (studied under hedjuk) mentioned to me once that he liked the work coming from computers and algorithms, but felt they mostly made life and architecture complicated, cuz the assembly of all those little pieces was clearly a bitch, and how do you scale the experiments up with so much waste and so much labor involved? his answer was that you can get complex shapes by pouring concrete into fabric formwork and use nature the easy way (with gravity and ropes) instead of the brute-force methods of the computer. And I tend to agree with him.

      so i wonder, how much do you think the computer is forcing an aesthetic and direction of building/buildability?

      Nov 10, 06 1:12 am

      set up the rules and back away? john cage did it, and he was following the lead of taoists. a way to make art, yes. a way to make a practical art that will take its place as part of the construction economy? hmm.

      jump, i love the 'chance' that comes from testing real materials out in the world like your prof describes. seeing the real physical properties of the stuff do what it does when subject to other materials and conditions.

      john cage introduced chance to musical composition, but the realization, the performance, was still a controlled reenactment (as superimpose would say) of the compositional process. similar with computer-generated 'chance' design: the realization of it is a recreation rather than a product of chance.

      love the liquid question, meta. and some of mistertt's potential answers.

      Nov 10, 06 7:14 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      misterTT great liquid responses and I feel ya on the programming. I have a little background but can't seem to get anything interesting to work so far this year.

      jump - excellent question - and my problem withit even though I love it - the computer seems to have given license to architects to just complicate things and curve them for the sake of complicating things and curving them. Gehry's Strata Center is horrific, maybe if he had done a box it would of turned out better. as far as buildability goes, I a think this should point architects back into the study of materials themselves and hopefully very scientificly, I hope, but for now it seems the guys that care about building don't do transparent computer blobs.

      John Cage, glad you brought that up Steven. whenever someone explaind John Cage to me as a very intellectual musician I want to slice my write, just like when I listen to Eisenman talk or write. Frederic Jameson argued that post-modernism and all this deconstrution bull shit is still part of the world historical teleology, designed purpose. I second that. You can not justify irregurality and non-design as a counterpoint to design but merely re-designing the rules of design (I think that is what you are saying Steven). this whole anit-conventional architecture approach is really just as conventional as that of which they oppose.

      Cellular Automata and Emergence

      Can architecture really be an agent that emerges and learns like CA?

      well if we define architecture as a building, I would say no, but as a group of practioners, well obviously yes.

      or here is another scenario.

      are buildings CA in the urban environment?
      are interior spaces CA in buildings?
      are people CA in interior spaces?

      what am I getting at here is --

      "Where there is architecture nothing is possible." Koolhaas
      Mies van der Rohe architecture and the empty box

      is architecture that allows emergence within its framework right? (situationism within the structure of buildgins)

      or how do you build emergence and CA? that is my biggest question

      thanks for the responses, all very helpful

      Nov 10, 06 8:55 am

      great discussion. i think liquid has been used as an analogous way of describing architecture in terms of fluidity, limited only to the computer screen.

      i think what we are seeing now is the translation of this way of thinking to material and matter.

      for example

      this guy lectured at my school a few weeks ago. interesting stuff.

      Nov 10, 06 1:04 pm

      Fascinating. Glad to see you guys looking at the issue critically. In terms of CAs, is anyone currently making "buildings" (using the term loosely) that are actively reactive to their environments? And I mean beyond just at a systems level (like a thermostat), but at a formal level. I'm thinking of Totyo Ito's tower of winds, for instance. It seems like the static structure is the next idea to go. More architects should design mobile homes...

      Nov 10, 06 1:37 pm

      I saw the Tower of Winds and was very unimpressed. Some lights changed or something. I just remember watching it waiting for something to happen and it never did. Long camera exposures are a wonderful thing haha. It was neat, but if that's what reactive building entails, then...great? I just wonder, are people ACTUALLY proposing buildings that physcially move and change over time? What is the true value of that other than the "neat" factor which typically wears off pretty quick? A gimmick. I was talking to a friend who has done some work with GC and he was very interested in the implications for unique skins, but was not too impressed with the things that "it should do." I think that is why we see a lot of geimanj's lizardtecture. I just don't understand how a self-replicating dodecahedron system really improves any aspect of anyone's life (that was acutally a scheme proposed at the first NLSO conference). Interestingly, at the same conference, someone asked a robot guy about emergence, and his respnse was that emergence is typically a bad thing as far as robots go. Similarly, a friend brought her bioengineering friend to the conference and he also said emergence in biology is stuff like cancer and mutation. I've said it before, I think the jargon is just an attempt to latch on to cool words. Sometime I will post an annotated version of my admissions essay showing what I meant, and what Penn thought I meant.

      Nov 10, 06 1:52 pm

      someday i should post some of the L-systems stuff i did in a studio with karl chu back in '00 at sciarc.
      as for the thoughts that you are dealing with, i think that you might also want to look at the concepts within scott lash's writing such as in reflexive modernization and at concept of L-systems. the thing that i think was cool about it is that it was developed to study plants and is based on very simple lines of code that through recursion create complex form and you could place in barriers, etc that would control how the structure grew. the neat thing is that it was very simple parametrics and recursion to create a complex thing rather than starting with complex stuff......

      Nov 10, 06 3:00 pm
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      Hasselhoff you sound like me my senior, one angry bastard...don't worry the profession is nothing like what you are experiencing now, except Malkawi's class. you will be lucky if the firm that hires you even does 3D renderings on a regular basis.

      its not all jargon, its just that only 10% actually understand it, the rest are trying to be cool. I am pretty sure I understand it, and that is pretty much why I am very critical of it...and you will find I usually argue - yeah its great philosophy but what the hell does it have to do with buildings.

      as far a CA's go, I am not sure why we would our buildings to learn more than being sustainable, the last thing we need is architecture taking over the world without architects...wait, that sounds familiar...

      L-Systems, that would be cool, as long as there is an explanation...don't want Hasselhoff to think its all jargon.

      geimanj - you sure you need to go to architecture school, you sound ready for the profession.

      Nov 10, 06 3:13 pm
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      thanks futureboy

      Nov 10, 06 3:14 pm

      Intelligent Kinetic Structures

      Nov 10, 06 3:48 pm

      well, if you listen to karl chu it will sound like all jargon..but the basics of the program are pretty powerful in terms of the tool versus the effect and understanding. basically it reorients how you think about objects and space...especially along with reading reflexive modernization and neil stephenson's "the diamond age"

      Nov 10, 06 5:05 pm
      vado retro

      first distinguish between the kinds of knowing. an aesthetic knowing from other kinds of knowing. wehereas scientific knowing, for example, is concerned with attaining concepts and tracing relationships, sestgetuc knowing is concerned with eternal objects, platonic idias, which transcend rational concepts and relationships. the task of genius is to know these ideas through the use of pure contemplation and to give them material embodiment in works of art...

      Nov 10, 06 6:31 pm

      interesting comments on fashionable lingo, hasselhoff and others. i agree completely that there is definitely a jargon going on about emergence, complexity etc with possibly even less than 10% (as stated by metamechanic) of the involved people actually understanding what it all means.

      however i think it would truly be a shame if these concepts were to be slain by the jargon-busting community and so never presented to many an intelligent architect or designer or whoever. hasselhoff: emergence in biology is indeed also stuff like cancer or mutations, as it can be the creation of slums in cities or the overtaking of a biological habitat by pest creatures as well as a great number of other bad things. emergence and self-organization are by no means processes intended to be left on their own in order for good things to materialize; on the contrary emergent systems "left on their own" are often prone to create disaster at different scales. this however does not mean that the mechanism is inherently evil or that its underlying principles are not worthy of further exploration, in architecture or design as well as in any other field.
      actually you could even argue that the disastrous aspect makes the whole thing even more interesting as a study object, in that it doesn't "know" what it's doing or for what "purpose", but merely following a simple algorithm. it's the person's task to see to it that the beneficial sides of it are strengthened and not the malicious ones. but then again isn't that the case with almost everything..?

      stay critical!

      Nov 22, 06 5:46 am

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