Friday, December 4, 2009

the insult machine - electronic brick version

how it works:
on the first “insult machine”, using the potentiometer (Analog 5), the user scrolls through a list of potential 2-line insults on the 16*2 LCD (BUS 2).
the button (Analog 4) is pressed once to choose an insult.
“You have chosen insult x!”
“Tilt to send”
the button (Analog 4) is pressed again and the insult is “sent” (Digital 9 - comOut) to the 2nd “insult machine” (Digital 8 - comIn)…
“INCOMING INSULT!” flashes on the LCD (BUS 2) of the second machine, interrupting the 2nd user.
the chosen insult is then displayed on the LCD (BUS 2) of 2nd machine followed by computer laughter (HA HA HA HA in random positions alternating between the first and second row of the LCD).
both users return to scrolling through their respective insults using the potentiometers (Analog 5).
i uploaded a slight variation to each machine: machine one has 10 possible send insults and ten possible receive insults, machine 2’s libraries are reversed so the insult you receive is not in the list you have been scrolling through). i change the comebackStrings[] called up in the code and upload to the 2nd machine.
two "insult machines" connectedone "insult machine"
// include the lcd library code:

// initialize the library with the numbers of the interface pins
LiquidCrystal lcd(10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16);

int tilt = 4;
int button = 4;

int comOut = 9; //initiates comunication ports at pins 8(Out) and 9(In)
int comIn = 8;

int Rot = 5;

int valRot = 0;
int valTilt = 0;
int valButton = 0;
int valNewButton = 0;
int valComeback = 0;
int valInsult = 1;
int valIn = LOW;
int comebackIn = 0;

// these constants won’t change.  But you can change the size of
// your LCD using them:
const int numRows = 2;
const int numCols = 16;

char* comebackStrings[]={“”, “Wheel turning…”, “Your village is”,
“You stand close”, “Are your parents”, “You MUST use…”, “No vaccine…”,
“Useless as…”, “No prejudice…”, “Bus leaving…”, “May your soul…”};

char* comebackStrings2[]={“”, “…hamster dead!”, “missing an idiot”,
“I hear the ocean”, “…siblings?!?”, “…birth control”, “..against stupid”,
“Popes testicles”, “…hate everyone”, “pls be under it”, “…rest in piss”};

char* comebackStrings3[]={“”, “Boring as a…”, “I dont date…”,
“Brains of 3 men”, “Does fuzzy logic”, “A closed mouth”, “Assasins do it”,
“Your gene pool”, “Death is…”, “Laugh last…”, “NO shampoo!”};

char* comebackStrings4[]={“”, “pneumatic drill”, “…other species”,
”..the 3 stooges!”, “…tickle?”, “gathers no foot”, “…from behind”,
“could use Cl2”, “hereditary”, “…think slowest”, “REAL POO!”};

void setup()
pinMode(comOut, OUTPUT); 
digitalWrite(comOut, LOW);
pinMode(comIn, INPUT);
lcd.begin(numRows, numCols);

void loop()

void readRot(){
valRot = analogRead(Rot);
valRot = map(valRot, 0, 1023, 1, 10);

void checkButton(){
if (valButton != 1){
valButton = analogRead(button);
valButton = map(valButton, 0, 1023, 0, 1);
if (valButton == HIGH){

void checkTilt(){
while (valTilt != 1){
valTilt = analogRead(tilt);
valTilt = map(valTilt, 0, 1023, 0, 1);

void checkValIn(){
valIn = digitalRead(comIn);
if (valIn == HIGH){
Serial.println(“ValIn HIGH”);
valIn = LOW;
Serial.println(“ValIn LOW”);

void recValIn(){ 
valIn = LOW;
while (valIn == LOW){
valIn = digitalRead(comIn);
comebackIn = 0;
while (valIn != LOW){
valIn = digitalRead(comIn);
comebackIn = (comebackIn - 1);

void printComeback(){
while (valComeback == 0){
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);

void choseComeback(){
valComeback = valRot;
lcd.print(“You chose…”);
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
lcd.print(“Insult “);
lcd.print(“TILT to send”);
valTilt = 0;

void tiltComeback(){
digitalWrite(comOut, HIGH);
while (valIn != HIGH){
valIn = digitalRead(comIn);
Serial.println(“ValIn HIGH”);
digitalWrite(comOut, LOW);
Serial.println(“ComOut LOW”);
digitalWrite(comOut, HIGH);
Serial.println(“ComOut HIGH”);
for (int a=0; a <= valComeback; a++){
digitalWrite(comOut, LOW);
Serial.println(“ComOut LOW”);
valTilt = 0;
valComeback = 0;
valButton = 0;

void insulted(){
digitalWrite(comOut, HIGH);
Serial.println(“ComOut HIGH”);
digitalWrite(comOut, LOW);
Serial.println(“ComOut LOW”);
valIn = LOW;
Serial.println(“ValIn LOW”);
valInsult = constrain(comebackIn, 1, 10);
lcd.print(“INCOMING INSULT!”);
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
lcd.print(“INCOMING INSULT!”);
lcd.print(“INCOMING INSULT!”);
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
lcd.print(“INCOMING INSULT!”);
lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
for (int count = 0; count <= 5; count++){
lcd.setCursor(random(15), 0);
lcd.setCursor(random(15), 1);

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

playing with the arduino

so i took the responsive architectures workshops offered here a couple of weeks back.  i bought a couple of arduinos and electronic brick starter kits.  i am in the process of developing an "insult machine" (more to come...) and found myself short of pins (pins can each control something, like a button, a switch, a potentiometer (the rotary dial), etc.).  so i went to toronto and bought something called a multiplexer ($2.80), which, using 5 pins from the arduino, allows you to control up to 16 pins (basically, you can do MORE with one arduino)
to use the multiplexer i must move from the safety of the electronic bricks to the wilds of the breadboard (what is a breadboard?). ($4.95 - $9.80 depending on the size, plus $0.35 per wire - i spent about $20 on wire)

the multiplexers details are: 16ch analog, #4607 from creatron
i got one working (after about two days, some help from Brandon DeHart and Phillip Beesley)
here is a diagram, a picture and the code to blink an LED on pin y8 (pin 23 on the multiplexer).

the only downside so far is that light doesn’t blink very brightly…any suggestions?

here is a diagram and a pic and the code:

16 Channel Analog Extender for Arduino

// Set Analog I/O pin to use for reading channel values from multiplexer.
int ComIOpin = 6;  // HEF4067BP(X)(ICpin-01)

// Set which pins tell the multiplexer which input to read from.
int DpinA0 = 10;  // HEF4067BP Address Input A0 (A)(ICpin-10)
int DpinA1 = 11;  // HEF4067BP Address Input A1 (B)(ICpin-11)
int DpinA2 = 12;  // HEF4067BP Address Input A2 (C)(ICpin-14)
int DpinA3 = 13;  // HEF4067BP Address Input A3 (D)(ICpin-13)

void setup() {

// Set the digital pins to outputs.
pinMode(DpinA0, OUTPUT);  // HEF4067BP Address Input A = pin10
pinMode(DpinA1, OUTPUT);  // HEF4067BP Address Input B = pin11
pinMode(DpinA2, OUTPUT);  // HEF4067BP Address Input C = pin12
pinMode(DpinA3, OUTPUT);  // HEF4067BP Address Input D = pin13
Serial.begin(9600); // Set Serial COM

void loop() {
digitalWrite(DpinA0, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA1, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA2, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA3, HIGH);
analogWrite(ComIOpin, HIGH);
digitalWrite(DpinA0, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA1, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA2, LOW);
digitalWrite(DpinA3, HIGH);
analogWrite(ComIOpin, LOW);

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moral Judgement v. Social Breach

Thought du jour
I step over to his table and give him a medium hello, and he looks up and gives me a medium hello right back, for, to tell the truth, Maury and I are never bosom friends.
– Damon Runyon

From today's Social Studies (Globe and Mail):

Our inappropriate age

“No words are more typical of our moral culture than ‘inappropriate' and ‘unacceptable,'” Edward Skidelsky writes for Prospect magazine. “They seem bland, gentle even, yet they carry the full force of official power. When you hear them, you feel that you are being tied up with little pieces of soft string. Inappropriate and unacceptable began their modern careers in the 1980s as part of the jargon of political correctness. They have more or less replaced a number of older, more exact terms: coarse, tactless, vulgar, lewd. They encompass most of what would formerly have been called ‘improper' or ‘indecent.' An affair between a teacher and a pupil that was once improper is now inappropriate; a once indecent joke is now unacceptable. This linguistic shift is revealing. Improper and indecent express moral judgments, whereas inappropriate and unacceptable suggest breaches of some purely social or professional convention. … Calling your action indecent appeals to you as a human being; calling it inappropriate asserts official power.”

Nixie Tubes!

More about the "ArduiNIX" here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Sketch

A sketch of possible path towards the completion of Contemporary Discourses essay "Finding Social Form": Building as complex system Role of surface Emergent material methodologies Evolutionary design: what is the role of the occupant in complex system? Design intent: capitalize on collective intelligence of occupants Bodies in space: architecture of path Define spatial-social patterns of occupation (structures in space and time) What is form/surface after design evolved incorporating spatial-social force of occupant-collective? AND materiality? Omar Khan: CO2 responsive installation and persuasive computing at Stanford. Contemplating the relationship between emergent formal properties of the material surface and (spatial-social occupation?) Sentient architecture (imagining an architecture with both a physical ability to sense and the ability to process sensations (the ability to feel) and respond)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finding Social Form? (in progress)

(A Declaration of Our Contemporary Cultural Condition)
“Just like the clock maker metaphors of the Enlightenment, or the dialectical logic of the nineteenth century, the emergent worldview belongs to this moment in time, shaping our thought habits and coloring our perception of the world.”[1]  (Steven Johnson, Emergence)
In the opening of “Surfaces of Self-Organization[2] contemporary architectural theorist Michael Weinstock presents a brief history of architectural paradigms regarding surface and form.  Classically, surface was conceived of as an expression of the structural geometry of the construction.  Modernists imagined surface as separate from structure; it’s primary purpose to construct meaning through form.  (In the modern paradigm, the role of enclosing space or “keeping the weather out” is ancillary to that primary purpose.)  Recently, Weinstock reports, some architects have begun experimenting with self-forming processes paired with evolutionary design methods to find forms with inherent potential for self-organization during fabrication (Figure 1: p_wall[3]).  He argues that these experiments are a part of a shift in thinking about the anatomy of architecture whereby a building is imagined as a complex system, the form of which is the result of generative processes and determined by the material properties of the components and their patterns of assembly.  Surface, in this new paradigm, is that part of the complex system through which energy, materials, and information are exchanged with the surrounding environment.  “This new potential for architectural surfaces is predicated on a parallel interest in territory - territory on which spaces flow into one another, and on which connectivity and integration are enhanced.  The experience of these surface territories and spaces is at once private and public, interior and exterior - a manifestation of the contemporary cultural condition.”[4]

a process of attraction and repulsion in which the internal organization of a system, normally an open system, increases in complexity without being guided or managed by an outside source. self-organizing systems typically (but not always) display emergent properties.
complex system:
a system composed of interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties (behavior being a possible property) not obvious from the properties of an individual part.
generative art (architecture):
art (architecture) that has been generated, composed, or constructed in an algorithmic manner through the use of systems defined by computer software algorithms, or similar mathematical or mechanical or randomised autonomous processes.

(by Andrew Kudless)
from top to bottom, left to right: 
1_initial pattern 
2_array of points (density correlated to greyscale value) 
3_panel distribution 
4_dowels to restrain fabric located at points from step 2 
5_plaster poured into elasticated fabric mould 
6_final surface form
Defining Emergence:
Complex behavior: a system with multiple agents dynamically interacting in multiple ways, following local rule and oblivious to any higher level instructions.[5]

Emergent behavior: a higher-level pattern arising out of parallel complex interactions between local agents.[6]

Adaptive emergent behavior: the system would use local rules between interacting agents to create higher-level behavior well suited to its environment.[7]

Adaptive Emergent Architecture: ‘Emergence’ is the scientific mode in which natural systems can be explored and explained in a contemporary context.  It provides ‘models and processes for the creation of artificial systems that are designed to produce forms and complex behavior, and perhaps even real intelligence.’[8]

(Another Declaration of Our Contemporary Cultural Condition)
“Perhaps, while we wish for more efficient, predictable systems where success is guaranteed, what we will get is an understanding of the benefit of a bit of chaos in the systems and the roll it plays in ‘progress.’”[9] (Steven Johnson, Emergence)

Self-Organization: The Biological Model
Experiments in self-forming processes emanate primarily from zoologist and mathematician D’arcy Thompson’s 1917 text On Growth and Form[10] in which he speculated than the form of biological organisms is influenced by physical laws and mechanics as much as (or more than) than by Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory.  Thompson identified similarity in the form of jellyfish and that of drops of liquid falling into a viscous fluid, for example, and in the form of the hollow bones of birds and engineering truss designs. (Around the same time as Thompson’s writings, early 20th century architect Antoni Gaudi was experimenting with catenary chain models to define the form of his Church of the Sagrada Familia.) Today, at least in part because of Thompson’s observations, biological organisms are understood as self-organizing systems: natural systems which organize material in space, over time, and under the load of gravity through the interactions of many simple components (such as sand grains, water molecules, and living cells) - a process known as morphogenesis.  It is the differences in the patterns of assembly of these simple components which result in differences in the form and performance of the organism (or system)[11]. (Siegfried Gaß, a student of Frei Otto, published an extensive analysis of typical forms resulting from self-forming processes in Form Force Mass 5: Experiments published in Institut für Leichte Flächentragwerke (IL) 25.  Of particular relevance to this paper is the section on structures in space and time - see structures in space and time[12]). Extending this model to the design of buildings shifts the Modernist paradigm of form “rationalized for realization and superimposed functions” to a new paradigm where form is derived from the capacities of materials and constructs.[13]

To derive form in this model, a process of differentiation is necessary: the process of solving the (biological or architectural) system for multiple variables, broadly defined by Achim Menges, architect and studio master for the Emergent Technologies program at the Architectural Association in London, as ecology, topography, and structure.[14]

the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape.
the part of the universe that is being studied, while the environment is the remainder of the universe that lies outside the boundaries of the system. Depending on the type of system, it may interact with the environment by exchanging mass, energy (including heat and work), linear momentum, angular momentum, electric charge, or other conserved properties. In some disciplines, such as Information theory, information may also be exchanged. The environment is ignored in analysis of the system, except in regards to these interactions.
all the relationships between human groups and their physical and social environments.
the connections between all the material elements in an environment.
organizational capabilities above and beyond load bearing.
(Achim  Menges. 2006. “Morphoecologies,” AD 76, No2, p.73)
structures in space and time
(Siegfried Gaß)
Structures in space and time have typical phenotypes, depending on whether energy or matter is transported in space by the local motion of the particles. 
Waves produce periodically recurring motions which transport energy as a function of time (left, from top, images 1 and 2).
If material particles are transported in space, motions of rotation are produced in an enclosed space which form vortexes.
Further characteristic families of forms are ring vortexes (left, image 3),  Bénard cells (right, from top, image 4), helical vortexes (right, image 5), and vortex streets (right, image 6).

Defining Differentiation:
Calculus: the study of change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of equations.15
Derivative: in calculus ... the derivative is a measure of how a function changes as its input changes. Loosely speaking, a derivative can be thought of as how much a quantity is changing at a given point. For example, the derivative of the position (or distance) of a vehicle with respect to time is the instantaneous velocity (respectively, instantaneous speed) at which the vehicle is traveling. Conversely, the integral of the velocity over time is the vehicle's position.16 

Differentiate: to obtain the mathematical derivative of.17
Differentiate: development from the one to the many, the simple to the complex, or the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.18
Differentiate: modification of body parts for performance of particular functions (the sum of the processes whereby apparently indifferent or unspecialized cells, tissues, and structures attain their adult form and function).19 
Differential Equation: a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders. Differential equations play a prominent role in engineering, physics, economics and other disciplines.20

The Mathematical Model...
D’Arcy Thompson first applied mathematics to biological form to quantify his theory of morphogenesis.  This conceptual leap paralleled mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s theory which argues that “organisms are bundles of relationships that maintain themselves by adjusting their own behavior in anticipation of changes to the patterns of activity all around them.”21 From these two theories (collectively arguing that form and behavior emerge from process)22 has emerged a rich discourse in mathematical and computational models for complex systems including cybernetics (Norman Weiner), geometrical phyllotaxis and the attraction-diffusion model (Alan Turing), systems theory, complexity theory, genetic algorithms (John H. Holland), and most recently, mathematical simulations of genes acting in Boolean networks (Stuart Kauffman - see boolean networks23).24

organises the mathematics of responsive behavior into a general theory of how machines , organisms and phenomena maintain themselves over time.  It uses digital and numerical processes in which pieces of information interact and the transmission of information is optimized. Feedback is understood as a kind of ‘steering’ device that regulates behavior, using information from the environment to measure the actual performance against a desired or optimal performance.
a hypothesis of the generation of a pattern from a smooth sheet of cells during development in the formation of buds, skin markings and limbs.  Chemicals accumulate until sufficient density is reached, then act as morphogens to generate organs.
systems theory:
the concepts and principles of organization in natural systems are independent of the domain of any one particular system.
complexity theory:
focuses on effects produced by the collective behavior of many simple units that interact with each other, such as atoms, molecules and cells.
genetic algorithms:
initiate and maintain a population of computational individuals, each of which has a genotype and a phenotype.  Sexual reproduction is simulated by random selection of two individuals to provide ‘parents’ from which ‘offspring’ are produced. By using...random allocation of genes from the parents’ genotype and mutation, varied offspring are generated until they fill the population....  The process is iterated for as many generations as are required to produce a population that has among it a range of suitable individuals to satisfy the fitness criteria.
(Achim  Menges. 2006. “Morphogenesis and the Mathematics of Emergence” AD 76, No2, p.11-15)
boolean network:
a set of boolean variables (a primitive data type having one of two values: true or false) whose state is determined by other variables in the network (through comparison operators: >, ≠, AND, &, *, OR, |, +, EQV, =, ==, XOR, NEQV, ^, NOT, ~, !). elementary cellular automata are particular cases of boolean networks, where the state of a variable is determined by its spatial neighbors.
boolean networks
(Stuart Kauffman)
boolean networks with low connectivity or with certain biases in boolean switching rules exhibit unexpected, spontaneous collective order.
sites within a network can affect one another's behavior: nearby sites communicate frequently via many small avalanches of damage; distant sites communicate less often through rare large avalanches.
networks on the boundary between order and chaos may have the flexibility to adapt rapidly and successfully through the accumulation of useful variations. applied to Architecture
These mathematical and computational models (all based on calculus, the mathematical study of change) have so far found their way into built architecture through topological surfaces functions in CAD software (which are so prolific they appear as the sandbox tools in the free and popular Google SketchUp software), time-and-force modeling attributes in animation software and parameter-based modeling.25 Architectural research and experimental design is attempting to instrumentalize the most recent mathematical advances primarily through investigations into phylogenesis, morphogenetic design techniques, and material emergence/performance.

Phylogenesis is the development of an evolutionary history of architecture within a practice, morphogenetic design is the integration of ecological, topological and structural performances using generative design strategies and material emergence is the exploration of forms with inherent potential for self-organizationduring fabrication.

Architects working within these discourses are beginning to tackle how architecture can best absorb a shift in thinking actualized by our contemporary cultural condition; the shift from top-down to bottom-up.

These three approaches differ principally in their application to architecture: morpho-ecologies are formal, structural and programmatic solutions to architectural problems, while phylogenesis is used to generate diagrams for architectural design, and material emergence develops the architect’s intuition for animate forms (Greg Lynn - see animate form26). In Animate Form, architectural theorist Greg Lynn argues that “even in the most scientific applications of computer simulations ... first an intuition must be developed in order to recognize the non-linear behavior of computer simulations.”27

a major area of mathematics concerned with spatial properties that are preserved under continuous deformations of objects (deformations that involve stretching, but no tearing or gluing).
triangulated irregular network (TIN):
a vector based representation of a surface, made up of irregularly distributed nodes and lines with three dimensional coordinates (x,y, and z) that are arranged in a network of non-overlapping triangles.
sandbox tool (google sketchup):
use the Sandbox From Contours tool to create a TIN from contour lines.
parametric modeling:
using the computer to design objects by modeling their components with real-world behaviors and attributes. A parametric modeler is aware of the characteristics of components and the interactions between them. It maintains consistent relationships between elements as the model is manipulated.
animate form:
animation is a term that differs from, but is often confused with, motion.  While motion implies movement and action, animation implies the evolution of a form and its shaping forces; it suggests animalism, animism, growth, actuation, vitality and virtuality.
(Greg Lynn. 1999. Animate form. Princeton Architectural Press. New York.)
animate form
(Greg Lynn)
“If there is a single concept that must be engaged due to the proliferation of topological shapes and computer-aided tools, it is that in their structure as abstract machines, these technologies are animate.”
a keyboard is an actual machine, it is technological therefore it is a concrete assemblage.
the distribution of letters on keys in space is an abstract machine, it is a virtual diagram designed to limit the speed of typing; no particular test word or sentence exists, and it applies to an indefinite series of existing and future words.
On Walking
Francesco Careri, Italian architect and member of the Stalker urban art workshop, writes at length about the history of walking as a form of architecture and as an aesthetic practice in Walkscapes, defining the path as the first architecture, a creation of nomadic world rather than the sedentary, settled world.  “The act of crossing space stems from the natural necessity to move to find the food and information required for survival.  But once these basic needs have been satisfied, walking takes on a symbolic form that has enabled man to dwell in the world.  By modifying the sense of the space crossed, walking becomes man’s first aesthetic act, penetrating the territories of chaos, constructing an order on which to develop the architecture of situated objects. ... This simple action has given rise to the most important relationships man has established with the land, the territory.”28

the behavior exhibited when a group of birds, called a flock, are foraging or in flight. There are parallels with the shoaling behavior of fish, or the swarming behavior of insects.
From the perceptive of the mathematical modeler, "flocking" is the collective motion of a large number of self-propelled entities and is a collective animal behavior exhibited by many living beings such as birds, fish, bacteria, and insects. It is considered an emergent behavior arising from simple rules that are followed by individuals and does not involve any central coordination.

“The term ‘path’ simultaneously indicates the act of crossing (the path as the action of crossing), the line that crosses the space (the path as architectural object) and the table of the space crossed (the path as narrative structure). ... In this century the rediscovery of the path happened first inliterature (Tristan Tzara, Andre Bréton, and Guy Debord are writers), then in sculpture (Carl Andre, Richard Long, and Robert Smithson are sculptors), while in the field of architecture the path has led to the pursuit of the historical foundations of radical anti-architecture in nomadism, and has not yet led to a positive development.”
(Process Philosophy)
“If you abolish my consciousness … matter resolves itself into numberless vibrations, all linked together in uninterrupted continuity, all bound up with each other, and traveling in every direction like shivers. In short, try first to connect together the discontinuous objects of daily experience; then, resolve the motionless continuity of these qualities into vibrations, which are moving in place; finally, attach yourself to these movements, by freeing yourself from the divisible space that underlies them in order to consider only their mobility – this undivided act that your consciousness grasps in the movement that you yourself execute. You will obtain a vision of matter that is perhaps fatiguing for your imagination, but pure and stripped of what the requirements of life make you add to it in external perception. Reestablish now my consciousness, and with it, the requirements of life: farther and farther, and by crossing over each time enormous periods of the internal history of things, quasi-instantaneous views are going to be taken, views this time pictorial, of which the most vivid colors condense an infinity of repetitions and elementary changes. In just the same way the thousands of successive positions of a runner are contracted into one sole symbolic attitude, which our eye perceives, which art reproduces, and which becomes for everyone the image of a man who runs.“
(Henri Berson, Matter and Memory)

To permit a material experiment which incorporates occupation as a generating force in the form (and gradient of performances) of an architectural surface, I propose broadening this discourse to include two more primary references: Greg Lynn’s Animate Form and Leon van Schaik’s Spatial Intelligence.
Weinstock cites Antoni Gaudi (tangentially) and Frei Otto (substantially) as the progenitors of this new area of material experimentation and credits “new mathematical models”
 as providing the experimental framework for next-generation investigation into self-organizing systems.

1 Steven Johnson. 2002. Emergence : The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. 1st Touchstone ed. New York. p.66
2 Michael Weinstock. ‘Surfaces of Self-organization: Andrew Kudless’ Material Explorations’, PRAXIS 9: Expanding Surface, Praxis Inc. (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Johnson 2002. p.18
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Achim Menges. “Emergence in Architecture,” Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD 74 No. 3 (May/June 2004): 6.)  (Castle, Helen. “Editorial,” Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD 74 No. 3 (May/June 2004): 4
9 Johnson. 2002.
10 D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. 1942. On growth and form. New ed ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
11 Michael Weinstock. 2006.
12 Siegfried Gaß. “Preface,” Form Force Mass 5: Experiments, Institut für Leichte Flächentragwerke (IL) 25, (1990): 0.17
13 Hensel, Michael. 2006. “Polymorphism” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.86
14 Achim Menges. 2006. “Morphoecologies” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.73
21 Achim Menges. 2006. “Morphogenesis and the Mathematics of Emergence” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.13
22 Ibid.
23 Images: (top to bottom) 1:, 2, 3:, 4, 5, 6:
24 Menges. 2006.
25 Greg Lynn. 1999. Animate form. Princeton Architectural Press. New York.
27 Ibid.
28 Francesco Careri. 2002. Walkscapes. Editorial Gustavo Gili. Barcelona. p. 20.
29 Ibid. p.25
30 Henri Bergson. 1911. Matter and Memory. G. Allen & Unwin. London.
31 Ibid.


is a place

generated form
i've exasperated don
(which somehow secretly satisfys me)
i know i spelled that wrong
i'm somehow actively resisting form
and desperately trying to figure out how to get it back
it's not that i can't put pen to's that i wont

to dwell

i'm mystified...i admit...i'm trying to understand achim menges' postagriculture project

(thisisn'tit) this is a dead baby bird everyday i walk to school when it's spring there is a wall just before i get to school it is framed almost an alley (but not quite) and birds nest in the holes in the wall holes from beams (it's an old building) and from the nests fall baby birds who couldn't quite fly or who were blown out by cruel winds truely cruel not metaphorically really cruel

they lie. small. featherless. or featherlittle. on the grey pavingstones that are the necessary and natural ground plane on which sits our red school.

the domain of the school is marked by those pavers. stepping off them is leaving...

achim menges is much smarter than me

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Graduation, Procrastination, and Humility

"triumph" seems too meek a word to describe the accomplishments of this woman!

 i wish for the optimism and tenacity of  dr. tererai trent.

From the New York Times
November 15, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

Triumph of a Dreamer

Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent.

Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai (pronounced TEH-reh-rye), a middle-aged woman who is one of my heroes. She is celebrating a personal triumph, but she’s also a monument to the aid organizations and individuals who helped her. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember that by all odds Tererai should be an illiterate, battered cattle-herd in Zimbabwe and instead — ah, but I’m getting ahead of my story.

Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. She seemed destined to be one more squandered African asset.

A dozen years passed. Jo Luck, the head of an aid group called Heifer International, passed through the village and told the women there that they should stand up, nurture dreams, change their lives.

Inspired, Tererai scribbled down four absurd goals based on accomplishments she had vaguely heard of among famous Africans. She wrote that she wanted to study abroad, and to earn a B.A., a master’s and a doctorate.

Tererai began to work for Heifer and several Christian organizations as a community organizer. She used the income to take correspondence courses, while saving every penny she could.

In 1998 she was accepted to Oklahoma State University, but she insisted on taking all five of her children with her rather than leave them with her husband. “I couldn’t abandon my kids,” she recalled. “I knew that they might end up getting married off.”

Tererai’s husband eventually agreed that she could take the children to America — as long as he went too. Heifer helped with the plane tickets, Tererai’s mother sold a cow, and neighbors sold goats to help raise money. With $4,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking and tied around her waist, Tererai set off for Oklahoma.

An impossible dream had come true, but it soon looked like a nightmare. Tererai and her family had little money and lived in a ramshackle trailer, shivering and hungry. Her husband refused to do any housework — he was a man! — and coped by beating her.

“There was very little food,” she said. “The kids would come home from school, and they would be hungry.” Tererai found herself eating from trash cans, and she thought about quitting — but felt that doing so would let down other African women.

“I knew that I was getting an opportunity that other women were dying to get,” she recalled. So she struggled on, holding several jobs, taking every class she could, washing and scrubbing, enduring beatings, barely sleeping.

At one point the university tried to expel Tererai for falling behind on tuition payments. A university official, Ron Beer, intervened on her behalf and rallied the faculty and community behind her with donations and support.

“I saw that she had enormous talent,” Dr. Beer said. His church helped with food, Habitat for Humanity provided housing, and a friend at Wal-Mart carefully put expired fruits and vegetables in boxes beside the Dumpster and tipped her off.

Soon afterward, Tererai had her husband deported back to Zimbabwe for beating her, and she earned her B.A. — and started on her M.A. Then her husband returned, now frail and sick with a disease that turned out to be AIDS. Tererai tested negative for H.I.V., and then — feeling sorry for her husband — she took in her former tormentor and nursed him as he grew sicker and eventually died.

Through all this blur of pressures, Tererai excelled at school, pursuing a Ph.D at Western Michigan University and writing a dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa even as she began working for Heifer as a program evaluator. On top of all that, she was remarried, to Mark Trent, a plant pathologist she had met at Oklahoma State.

Tererai is a reminder of the adage that talent is universal, while opportunity is not. There are still 75 million children who are not attending primary school around the world. We could educate them all for far less than the cost of the proposed military “surge” in Afghanistan.

Each time Tererai accomplished one of those goals that she had written long ago, she checked it off on that old, worn paper. Last month, she ticked off the very last goal, after successfully defending her dissertation. She’ll receive her Ph.D next month, and so a one-time impoverished cattle-herd from Zimbabwe with less than a year of elementary school education will don academic robes and become Dr. Tererai Trent.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


i'm paralyzed...or nearly so...moving slower than a snail, than a sloth...progressing at about the rate of fingernails growing or continents shifting (that's about the same, i hear) i'm writing a paper for contemporary discourses in architecture and every word and sentence seems so important... and i'm paralyzed with self-criticism. i think something or write something and then can't decided if it's right or not so it gets erased...or never even written not written no paper more stress...panic...deadline long past it's only 2000 words!!! the gist is this: an argument for an experiment in material emergence. an experiment which includes as a force the occupation of a space. people moving through, or lingering in, a space is translated through a computer into vibrations which in turn translates into density of material and thus transparency, acoustic absorbency, and insulation value. the gist is easier than the paper.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

experimental felt making

at mill race festival galt, ontario august 1, 2009 2:28pm

Sunday, July 26, 2009

architectural felt

i'm working on my paper for kathy's contemporary discourses in architecture. the gist of it is that i would like to do a kudless/kolarevic-type emergent material experiment. so i thought of an exhibit which i saw at the mexican pavilion (venice biennale 2008) called wavefunction. 50 eames molded plastic chairs were mounted on pistons which raised or lowered the chairs based on a wave pattern generated by movement around the room. (in the next room was the computer which calculated the response to movement and showed the waves radiating out from people in proportion to the intensity of their movement. i love that exhibit in was curious and inviting and a little bit magical and it made children and adults alike run around the room, stop dead suddenly, whirl around and run back the other way - just to see and here these chairs rise and fall in waves. and then i thought of felt...i don't know much about felt. there is a felt-making workshop at the art gallery in the school, if i remember correctly. i googled it and found this among other fabulously whimsical creations:but before i even got that far, i googled felt-making and the first two video hits are of architectural felt - mongolians use felt to clad their buildings! the process of felt-making is fantastically visceral - beating the wool and rolling it to make and shape it. so my thought is to try and combine these two ideas to create a felt shape which is the result of a digital translation of movement in a space into variable forces applied to the wool.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Dangerous Thesis - Thesis Group Assignment

Just like the clock maker metaphors of the Enlightenment, or the dialectical logic of the nineteenth century, the emergent worldview belongs to this moment in time, shaping our thought habits and colouring our perception of the world. (Steven Johnson. 2002. Emergence : The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. 1st Touchstone ed. New York. p.66)
Emergence as a theory is philosophically challenging to many people. The shift in thinking from top-down to bottom-up requires new cultural narratives which reimagine human agency and fundamentally challenge existing narratives. A design rooted within an emergent worldview risks knee-jerk dismissal not only because of it's new-ness but because of it's implicit challenge to the reviewer to reimagine their own place in the world as both individual agent and member of the emergent collective both acting-upon and affected-by the group. In mapping public space, hegemony, social interactions, and social/cultural response to interventions in public places and advocating for further interventions which support adaptive emergence in the citizens of the downtown core, I risk initiating a process with a highly uncertain outcome. Not only will Galt naturally resist change, but it may also revolt against its role as the subject of my thesis experiments.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Contemporary Discourses Seminar Notes

Emergent Material Methodologies:
Genetics, Biomimesis and Performative Structures


“Just like the clock maker metaphors of the Enlightenment, or the dialectical logic of the nineteenth century, the emergent worldview belongs to this moment in time, shaping our thought habits and colouring our perception of the world.”1

If we accept Steven Johnson’s2 analysis of our current cultural circumstance, that “the emergent worldview belongs to this moment in time” then the question for us is: what happens to architecture if we think and design from the bottom-up?

Johnson shows us what natural urban emergence looks like in his analysis of Engels’ writing on Manchester (Figure 1):
...what Engels observed are patterns in the urban landscape, visible because they have a repeated structure that distinguishes them from the pure noise you might naturally associate with an unplanned city. They are patterns of human movement and decision-making that have been etched into the texture of city blocks, patterns that are then fed back to the Manchester residents themselves, altering their subsequent decisions. (In that sense, they are the very opposite of the traditional sense of urban complexity - they are signals emerging where you would otherwise only expect noise.) A city is a kind of pattern amplifying machine: its neighbourhoods are a way of measuring and expressing the repeated behavior of larger collectivities - capturing information about group behavior, and sharing that information with the group. Because those patterns are fed back to the community, small shifts in behavior can quickly escalate into larger movements: upscale shops dominate the main boulevards, while the working class remains clustered invisibly in the alleys and side streets; the artists live on the Left Bank, the investment bankers in the Eighth Arrondissement. You don’t need regulations and city planners deliberately creating these structures. All you need are thousands of individuals and a few simple rules of interaction. The bright shop windows attract more bright shop windows and drive the impoverished toward the hidden core. There’s no need for a Baron Haussmann in this world, just a few repeating patterns of movement, amplified into larger shapes that last for lifetimes: clusters, slums, neighbourhoods.3
What architects are wrestling with today is the proliferation of artificial emergence, eg. amazon’s “you might also consider...” (Figure 2), which means not only recognizing emergence in architecture and the city, but tackling how architecture can best absorb and instrumentalise a shift in thinking as drastic as top-down to bottom-up.

Figure 2: “you might also consider...”

As thesis for this week’s discussion is the Architectural Association’s Emergent Architecture Programme run by the Emergence and Design Group (Michael Weinstock, Achim Menges, and Michael Hensel).

First, some definitions.

Defining the phenomenon:
Complex behavior: a system with multiple agents dynamically interacting in multiple ways, following local rule and oblivious to any higher level instructions.4

Emergent behavior: a higher-level pattern arising out of parallel complex interactions between local agents.5

Adaptive emergent behavior: the system would use local rules between interacting agents to create higher-level behavior well suited to its environment.6

Adaptive Emergent Architecture: ‘Emergence’ is the scientific mode in which natural systems can be explored and explained in a contemporary context. It provides ‘models and processes for the creation of artificial systems that are designed to produce forms and complex behavior, and perhaps even real intelligence’.7

Defining the Methods:
Biomimesis: bionics is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.8

Generative modeling: a shape is described by a sequence of processing steps, rather than just the end result of applying these operations. Shape design becomes rule design.9

Performative Structure: (as defined in Integrating Knowledge Modeling and Multi-Agent Systems by Mario G´omez and Enric Plaza from the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute and the Spanish Scientific Research Council) a network of connected scenes that captures the relationships among scenes. A performative structure constrains the paths agents can traverse to move from one scene to another, depending on the roles they are playing.10

Other Definitions:
Derivative: in calculus ... the derivative is a measure of how a function changes as its input changes. Loosely speaking, a derivative can be thought of as how much a quantity is changing at a given point. For example, the derivative of the position (or distance) of a vehicle with respect to time is the instantaneous velocity (respectively, instantaneous speed) at which the vehicle is traveling. Conversely, the integral of the velocity over time is the vehicle's position.11

Differentiate: to obtain the mathematical derivative of.12

Differential: a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders. Differential equations play a prominent role in engineering, physics, economics and other disciplines.13

Operation: in its simplest meaning in mathematics and logic, an operation is an action or procedure which produces a new value from one or more input values.14

Parametric Model: It maintains consistent relationships between elements as the model is manipulated. For example, in a parametric building modeler, if the pitch of the roof is changed, the walls automatically follow the revised roof line.”15

Phenotype: is any observable characteristic or trait of an organism: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, or behavior. Phenotypes result from the expression of an organism's genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and possible interactions between the two. The genotype of an organism is the inherited instructions it carries within its genetic code. Not all organisms with the same genotype look or act the same way, because appearance and behavior are modified by environmental and developmental conditions. Similarly, not all organisms that look alike necessarily have the same genotype.16

Proliferation: the growth or production of cells by multiplication of parts or a rapid and often excessive spread or increase: nuclear proliferation.17

Emergent Architecture Programme
Architecture Association School of Architecture: EmTech MSc/MArch

The Emergent Technologies and Design programme (Figure 3) is open to graduates in architecture, engineering and industrial design who wish to pursue design research that proceeds from innovative technologies.

The programme focuses on the development of skills and knowledge located in new production paradigms. Phase 1 of the programme is structured around seminar courses, the core studio and supervised research. Phase 2 consists of further supervised research, culminating in the design dissertation. Seminar courses provide the theoretical context, setting out the origins, theories, instruments and practices of Emergent Technologies and exploring their relation to contemporary architectural debate.18
AA Programme Thesis: “Through its advocacy of emergence, the Emergence and Design Group (Achim Menges, Michael Weinstock, Michael Hensel) is intentionally setting out to produce a new research-based model for architectural enquiry....The research that has been undertaken is as important for its redefinition of architectural working relationships as the iterative techniques and new material models it proposes.”19
(here is the complete EmTech programme outline)

EmTech Directors:

Michael U Hensel (Dipl Ing Grad Dipl Des AA Architekt AKNW) is an architect, researcher and writer. He is a member of the independent, interdisciplinary and international research network OCEAN, professor for research by design at AHO – the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, innovation fellow at the University of Technology in Sydney, board member of BIONIS – the Biomimetics Network for Industrial Sustainability, editorial board member of AD Wiley and JBE – Journal of Bionic Engineering, Elsevier Scientific Press. (Figure 4)

Figure 5: Michael Weinstock with a student (above left), and
a Yale Architecture student project (above right)

Michael Weinstock is an architect. Born in Germany, lived as a child in the Far East and then West Africa, attended an English public school. Ran away to sea at age 17 after reading Conrad. Years at sea in traditional sailing ships, with shipyard and shipbuilding experience. Studied architecture at the AA, where he has also taught since 1989. Founder and Director of Emergent Technologies Masters Programme, Master of Technical Studies since 1997, and Academic Head of the AA since 2006. He has lectured and published widely, and been Visiting Professor at Rome, Barcelona and Yale. He is currently International Advisor to the Delft School of Design PhD programme and editorial board member of AD Wiley. (Figure 5)

EmTech Studio Master:

Figure 5: Achim Menges (above left), and
an image from OCEAN’s Computational Morphogenesis (above right)

Achim Menges (AA Dipl (Hons) RIBA II) is an architect and partner in OCEAN NORTH, the Emergence and Design Group and the Differentiated Structures Research Group. He studied at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany and graduated from the AA School of Architecture with Honours. He has been a visiting professor at Rice University School of Architecture, Houston and is currently Unit Master of Diploma Unit 4 and Studio Master of the Emergent Technologies and Design Master Programme at the AA. Achim Menges recently received the FEIDAD (Far Eastern International Digital Architectural Design) Outstanding Design Award in 2002, the FEIDAD Design Merit Award in 2003, the Archiprix International Award 2003, RIBA Tutor Price 2004 and the International Bentley Educator of the Year Award 2005.

Professional Research:

Figure 6: Jväskylä Music and Arts Center by OCEAN NORTH 2004-05

OCEAN20 is an international, interdisciplinary and independent research network that conducts research by design in the intersection between architecture, urban, regional and landscape design, industrial and product design, computational science, biology, music, engineering, climatology and other disciplines and fields of inquiry. (Figure 6)

Applied Principles of Emergence: Summary
A new generator of diagrams or a synthesised process of formation and materialisation?

Two general methods of applying the principles of emergence to architecture drawn from this week’s readings:

The evolutionary history of architecture (within a practice)

Phylogram (or Phylogenetic tree): a device of classification in biology which is used for systematic study of evolutionary history and the relationships among organisms that have common ancestors.21

Morpho-ecologies(biomimesis/performative structures):
The integration of ecological, topological and structural performances (using generative design strategies)

Morphology (biology): the form, structure and configuration of an organism. This includes aspects of the outward appearance (shape, structure, colour, pattern) as well as the form and structure of the internal parts like bones and organs. This is in contrast to physiology, which deals primarily with function.22

Ecology: the interdisciplinary scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interactions with their environment. The environment of an organism includes all external factors, including abiotic ones such as climate and geology, and biotic factors, including members of the same species (conspecifics) and other species that share a habitat. If the general life science of biology is viewed as a hierarchy of levels of organization, from molecular processes, to cells, tissues and organs, and finally to the individual, the population and the ecosystem, then the study of the latter three levels belongs within the purview of ecology.23
Applied Principles of Emergence: Phylogram
“The phylogram operates to identify consistency across the different design processes, projects, and the overall body of the architects’ work”24

FOA’s Phylogenetic Tree
(the categories, descriptions and diagrams below are all quoted/copied directly from foa’s Phylogenesis)25
“Typology provides raw material, a kind of “genetic pool” that we carry with us. We regard type not as fixed structures but as open organization structures we can proliferate and modify.”26

“We don’t think that one can solve all architectural problems by using these generative systems. It would be completely mad; neither pragmatic nor efficient. You have to rely on your experience as an architect, on your acquired knowledge to focus the experiment, and then in some areas of the project these methods will be viable.”27

This first differentiation divides the projects into two major lineages that relate obviously with the particular nature of our work. The manipulation of surface is a crucial trait of our work and therefore the first division relates to the predominant function of the surface. Projects are here classified into those which relate to the formation of enveloping surfaces, or surface whose primary function is the enclosure of space, and those surfaces whose primary function is the construction of a connective ground.

(single face - multiple face)
A surface will have at least one face depending on how many of its surfaces are inhabited. For example, a monolith or a ground are experienced only on one of their faces, while usually a slab or a facade have an outside and an inside, or a floor and a ceiling. Depending on the number of layers into which the surface slices spaces, the order of faciality increases.

(constant: parallel/perpendicular - shifting)
This discriminator classifies surfaces in reference to the force of gravity, which becomes critical in establishing the relationship between the surface and the structure and drainage systems. This classification determines, in the first instance, whether the surface remains constant in the alignment to gravity, or whether it alternates orientation within the project. If the surface remains constantly perpendicular to gravitational force, it will become mostly a ground or a roof. If it is constantly in parallel, it will mainly be a wall or a facade.

If the surface shifts between parallel and perpendicular to gravitational force, the building will be a blob or a shed, where the roof and the walls are continuous. Depending on this alignment the quality of the surface will vary substantially, in both its geometrical definition and its material qualities.

(planar - rippled - pinched - perforated - bifurcated)
This attribute of the species describes the typology of singularity that determines discontinuities on the surface, and is classified in a gradation depending on the intensity of the surface singularities. If the surface of is continuous, does not have interruptions excepts in its limits, and does not have any surface singularities, it is planar. If it has some local deformation but no interruptions, it becomes rippled; if the singularities are more accentuated to the point where the tangent varies more than 90°, it is pinched. If it is locally interrupted, the surface is perforated. If it is locally interrupted but is continuous on a different level, layer or space, simultaneously establishing continuity and discontinuity, then the surface is bifurcated. Pierced organisations usually correspond to the resolution of specific connections between well-demarcated spatial segmentations, while bifurcations tend to be more common in projects that require loose spatial segmentations.

(oriented: striated/polar - non-oriented)
This category divides surfaces with respect to the spatial ordering of their singularities. Independent of their nature, surface singularities can be organised following a consistent law, or they can be entirely contingent. The second category tends to correspond to organisations more dependent upon pre-existing traces or local singularities, responding to pre-existing focalisations of parameters in certain zones of space, while the first category corresponds to organisations with a weak relationship to pre-existing fields and a more self-supporting scale or quality. Among those surface singularity fields that are oriented, they can be oriented following a striated distribution - that is, following a parallel order - or to respond to centres or poles. The striated variety is usually related to fields with a prevailing flow direction, while polar structures relate to either strong focal pre-existences or central or polycentric organisations of the project.

(continuous - discontinuous)
The geometrical discriminator refers to the geometrical continuity of the surface. It classifies the projects between those which have a continuous variation of the tangent, and therefore produce a smooth surface, and those which have points of indeterminate tangent to the surface at certain moments, producing breaks in the geometrical continuity of the surface. Those projects produce edges or ridges rather than seamless discontinuities.

(patterned - contingent)
Every branch of the phylogenetic tree is split between those projects where a patterned system of discontinuities, accidents or shift in orientation occur on a regular basis across the surface, and those where they appear contingently based on local specificity. Contingent diversification responds usually to organisations constructed from the bottom-up or that are highly responsive to local specificities, while patterned textures correspond to organisations deployed from the top-down, or where the scale of the organisations is such that the capacity of self-determination is stronger than the local singularities.

Applied Principles of Emergence: Morpho-Ecologies
“The increasing complexity of space-use cycles requires an understanding of the built environment as ecological, topological, and structural provisions that facilitate human activities. Ecology refers to all the relationships between human groups and their physical and social environments. Topology is ... the connections between all the material elements in an environment. Structure refers to organisational capacities above and beyond load bearing.”28

The morpho-ecological approach to design is more difficult for me to understand than phylogenesis, because of the differential math and computer programming necessary for design. The emTech program solicits students from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, computer sciences, math, biology and more to research and develop design strategies and tools. Without these experts at hand, I grasp the concepts but fail utterly at comprehending the particular application of those concepts.

One of the keys to understanding this approach is an acute awareness of the shift from geometric to differential mathematics in architectural design: that is to say the shift from static to dynamic forms in architecture.29 Parametric modeling is one of the tools architects can use to design using differential mathematics. “Parametric Model: It maintains consistent relationships between elements as the model is manipulated. For example, in a parametric building modeler, if the pitch of the roof is changed, the walls automatically follow the revised roof line.”30

“The Postagriculture project begins with the recognition of the importance of environmentally and socially sustainable food production. The project needed to negotiate multiple programmatic claims on a limited space.... (The) location needs to facilitate both time-intensive agricultural production ... and extensive public leisure activities.... The aim is to articulate an inclusive and responsive strategy, one that enables a mode of agricultural production that is a highly integrated, mutable and vital urban programme. The project promotes a local hybridisation of intensified agroproduction with public recreation. This in turn demands an architecture that is capable of negotiating and adapting to different system requirements.”31

Postagriculture, one of Achim Menges’ designs using a morpho-ecological approach, is designed through multiple acts of differentiation. (A differential equation is a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders. Differential equations play a prominent role in engineering, physics, economics and other disciplines.)32 For example, the light level within the structure is a function of available light and transparency of material, the transparency of the material is a function of its density, the structural capacity of the material is also a function of its density and so on. If particular light levels are required within a building, a differential equation will be necessary to solve the relationship between light, material thickness, and structural capacity.(Figures 7 and 8).

Figure 7: Organisational model of differential intersystemic relations (above left)
derived by a digital-mapping technique of system-specific light and climatic conditions
(above right).

Figure 8: Component evolution based on parametric variations of the boundary definition points, the seam layout, the pressure of the compressed air volume and the consequent geometry and prestressing of the membranes.34

(here is a detailed description of the postagriculture project)

Re-imagining architecture from the bottom up
I agree with Steven Johnson’s assertion that the emergent worldview belongs to this moment in time and that it represents a fundamental shift in thinking from the clockmaker metaphor of the enlightenment. I think this week’s authors have been tackling how architecture can best absorb this shift in thinking: from top-down to bottom-up.

Two broad methods of instrumentalising emergent thinking in architecture have been investigated in this paper: phylogenesis, the development of an evolutionary history of architecture within a practice, and morpho-ecologies, the integration of ecological, topological and structural performances using generative design strategies.

The phylogenesis approach has been developed by foreign office architects (foa) while the morpho-ecological approach has been developed by the Emergence and Design Group, which is composed of the three men who run the EmTech programme at the Architectural Association.

These two approaches differ principally in their application to architecture: phylogenesis is used to generate diagrams for architectural design, while morpho-ecologies are formal, structural and programmatic solutions to architectural problems.

Can/will emergent design make it out of the research studio?

foa is up front about the fact that their phylogenesis experiment, while interesting, has yet to be instrumentalised. Despite that fact, their approach is the most accessible method for immediate application by practising architects because it uses a tool most architects already use - diagramming.

The EmTech programme’s morpho-ecological approach is more complex, requiring specialists that architects are not accustomed to working with: mathematicians, biologists, computer scientists and more. That being said, it presents, in my opinion, the more exciting of the two approaches because it proposes a significant shift in the role of architects - from form-maker to rule-maker - which would fundamentally change architecture. Because this method requires such significant changes to the role of architects, the organization of architectural practices and, ultimately, to the construction of buildings, it can only be considered to be in a nascent phase which will be unlikely to leave the studio for quite some time.

There are many questions about the validity of emergent design (is it effective? what is the goal? is there a benefit to responsive architecture? does it impede free-will? does it make a architecture for the “lowest-common-denominator”?) which i will not tackle here, but which are being and will continue to be discussed in contemporary architectural discourse. I am personally intrigued by the work done by the Emergent Design Group and OCEAN and I hope to contribute to that discourse through analysis of existing “emergent” architectures.

Theses from this week’s readings
Mertins, Bioconstructivisms:
“Art need no longer dedicate itself to the production of wholeness, since it is inherently part of the cosmos, whatever limited understanding of it we humans may believe.”35

Zaera-Polo, Breeding Architecture:
“A coherent Practice might emerge from a phylo genetic process in which a few seeds proliferate across different environments over time, generating distinct yet consistent results.”36

Menges, Polymorphism:
“A design approach using (morphogenetic design techniques and technologies) enables architects to define specific material systems through the combined logics of formation and materialisation.”37

Hensel, Material Performance Part 1: “The integral relationship between formalisation and materialisation processes based on the interaction between material and environment will have the most profound impact on the discipline of architecture and our human environment by providing exciting, performative and beautiful settings for human inhabitation.”38

Menges, Material Performance Part 2:
“This high level of integration of form, structure, and material performance enables a direct response to environmental influences without the need for additional electronic or mechanical control.”39

Lynn, Animate Form: “If there is a single concept that must be engaged due to the proliferation of topological shapes and computer-aided tools it is that in their structure as abstract machines, these technologies are animate.”40

Zaera-Polo, Types, Style and Phylogenesis: “The working techniques of FOA over many years indicate a strong interest in methods based on incremental development. It seemes logical to suggest that a more explicit use of evolutionary computational techniques could be part of the architects’ future research for the practice.”41

1 Johnson, Steven. 2002. Emergence : The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. 1st Touchstone ed. New York. p.66
2 Steven Berlin Johnson is an American popular science author who has worked as a columnist for magazines such as Discover Magazine, Slate, and Wired. He is also a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.( accessed June 10, 2009, 11:49pm) He is a condenser of cultural phenomena much like Malcolm Gladwell or Stephen J. Dubner, blending science and pop culture to make accessible transformative ideas in academic work.
3 Johnson 2002. p.40
4 Johnson 2002. p.18
5 Johnson 2002. p.19
6 Johnson 2002. p.19
7 Menges, Achim. “Emergence in Architecture,” Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD 74 No. 3 (May/June 2004): 6.) (Castle, Helen. “Editorial,” Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD 74 No. 3 (May/June 2004): 4
19 Castle, Helen. “Editorial,” Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies, AD 74 No. 3 (May/June 2004): 4
20 The mission of the network is to initiate, develop, promote and host collaboration in research by design with the aim to improve the current built environment and anthropobiosphere, by means of delivering new paradigms to the design of a human environment that is post-conflict, heterogeneous, stimulating, performative, context-specific, and socially and environmentally sustainable. The OCEAN network was founded in 1994 and registered in Norway as a not-for-profit organisation in 2008. Research groups are located in Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Oslo, Sydney and Tel Aviv with currently 20 members and principal researchers.
21 Zaera Polo, Alejandro. 2006. “Types, Style and Phylogenesis” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.36
24 Zaera Polo 2006. p.36
25 Foreign Office Architects. 2004. Phylogenesis: foa’s ark. Barcelona, Spain : Actar. p.12 - 15
26 Zaera Polo 2006. p.36
27 Zaera Polo 2006. p.39
28 Menges, Achim. 2006. “Morphoecologies” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.73
29 Lynn,Greg. 1999. Animate form. Princeton Architectural Press. New York.
31 Menges 2006. p.75
33 Menges 2006. p.73
34 Menges 2006. p.73
35 Mertins, Detlef. 2004. “Bioconstructivisms” NOX: Machining Architecture, Lars Spruybroek. Thames and Hidson. London. p.369
36 Zaera-Polo, Alejandro. 2003. “Breeding Architecture” The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. Monacelli Press. New York. p.56
37 Hensel, Michael. 2006. “Polymorphism” Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design, AD 76, No2 (March/April 2006). p.86
38 Menges, Achim. 2008. “Material Performance” Performance Design AD 78, No 2 (March/April 2008). p.38
39 Menges 2008. p.41
40 Lynn 1999. p.41
41 Zaera Polo 2006. p.39