Monday, June 15, 2009

Designing Emergent Architecture: Methods and Tools

Final Paper Abstract/Proposal: Contemporary Discourses in Architecture Abstract “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.” (Johnson, Steven. 2002. Emergence : The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. 1st Touchstone ed. New York. p.66) The emergent worldview presents a challenge to architects: to effectively integrate this new way of thinking into architectural design, the architect must shift roles from form-maker to rule-maker. To be the rule-maker, the architect must first analyze existing circumstances and identify the rules already affecting material, social, and cultural form within the context of the proposed design. Next, she must select which parameters which will be applied to the design. These first two “phases” of emergent design are relatively traditional architectural endeavors, though the novel application of the information will require some finessing of the methods of research and parameter definition. The biggest challenge of this method of design, as I see it, is that the application of these parameters necessitates advanced computation not normally within the expertise of the architect. I propose two parts to this paper: First, I will identify the methods of analysis and rule development used by architects working in emergent design (I will start with those who contributed to Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies). Second, I will identify and test software which has been developed, or has been co-opted, for the purposes of emergent design while summarizing the computational theory behind these programs (I propose Rhino/Grasshopper/Monkey, Space Syntax, and L-Systems, for starters).

thesis ad

a test "ad" for my thesis

Sunday, June 7, 2009

thesis as debate topic

Be it resolved that... Architects should bring the phenomenon of spatial intelligence back to the conscious mind of the building user through an applied understanding of the universal aspects of the phenomenon and a close analysis of place-specific spatial intelligence.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

on spatial intelligence

"Aalto('s) are readily shown to be the result of putting together a locally developed spatial intelligence to work....In part this is because so many of Aalto's buildings seem to be sensing out a boundary between internal and external spatial forces or needs...It is not that he ever 'shrink-wraps' the skin of his buildings to a definition of the programme to be housed within it....Rather, it is as if he were working in a third term, neither carving or moulding, nor assembing or draping, but sensing a boundary between inside and outside that makes both spatial realms beautiful to inhabit." (van Schaik, Leon; Spatial Intelligence; p.17-18)
In the first chapter of Spatial Intelligence, van Schaik talks about Aboriginal art in Australia as an example of distribute intelligence at work. He draws attention to the topographic representation of Aboriginal lands in 'dot' paintings, absent any physical method of viewing the land from that perspective. He supposes that through walking barefoot over their lands and know the spaces physically, the people develop a complex spatial knowledge of the area, and the local Aboriginals have been able to resolve that knowledge into paintings which appear to represent that land as viewed from the air. (van Schaik, Leon; Spatial Intelligence; p.26)
Interestingly, when I went looking for such a representation for this blogpost, the only images I found were from a 1970s movement to translate traditional aboriginal art (found on rocks, bark, and inscribed into the ground) into a commercial form in order to bring it to the world at large (Papunya Tula). I wish I could find some more historical examples predating the invention of airplanes to better demonstrate van Schaik's theory. (The World Through Maps is on its way, van Schaik is not alone in his belief!) While I haven't finished reading it yet, Spatial Intelligence seems to be meditating on the question I posed at SciBarCamp: "Is there a spatial component to collective intelligence? How can architecture enhance/address this phenomenon?" Van Schaik proposes that the role of the architect ought not to be as "Master Builder" (as the profession of architecture defined itself at its inception in the 1840s), or as master organizers of human activity in plan (systems design, derived from NASA engineering research, prioritizes the efficiency of relationship in large complexes), but rather as professionals "acutely aware of the architectural capability to think spatially and to create space that awakens the spatial intelligence of clients and users" (van Schaik, Leon; Spatial Intelligence; p.11-14) Spatial intelligence is one of seven types of intelligence human beings posess: Linguistic, Mathematical, Kinetic, Natural, Musical, Personal (inter- and intra-personal), and Spatial (as defined by Howard Gardner in Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century). Van Schaik invokes Henri Levebvre, the "lonely observer", in his argument that in the post-industrial world we are suffering from a flattening of our spatial awareness caused by the proliferation of cars, screens, and personal audio devices which separate us from the 'aurality' (or time dimension) of space. what if there was... "architecture...forged from our ideas about space, our histories in space, our communal mental space, all built upon that combination of inherited capabilities that have evolved into us over millenia, and the unfolding of those capabilites in specific environments," (van Schaik; p.9).

on observation

"observers need to account for the position from which they are observing if their observation is to be more than an unconscious projection of internalised assumptions" (van Schaik, Leon; Spatial Intelligence; p. 50)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

perceived boundaries of downtown core - a drawing

another drawing: i am trying to identify here the perceived spatial and narrative boundaries of the downtown core narrative: walking distance, live/work and visit/work (denoting commonly used buildings/urban space depending on whether one lives in or visits the downtown); spatial: elevational (hills), planar (large parking lots past which there is less density and busy/multiple-lane streets)