BIOPHILIA + TECHNOPHILIA
THROUGHOUT the course of human evolution our lives have become intrinsically tied to the evolution of technology to the point where our trajectories have become one of an interwoven existence as they continue to become interconnected through the progression of time. Infatuations with biology and technology spurred by the Industrial Revolution and propelled by “modernity” have created a society infatuated with biology and technology as they seep into nearly every facet of our culture. As our technology advances our knowledge of biology increases along with our ability to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular scales, each propelling the other into further innovation, discovery, and implementation. Already today we see the infiltration of biological processes into nearly every facet of human existence, from swarm algorithms predicting efficient shipping routes to genetic algorithms in the process of form finding. As we have become increasingly comfortable with these technologies they have begun to augment the human body. This interconnected existence between man and technology is said to bring about the next evolution in the human, the Posthuman era, where we are able to manipulate biology at the scale of matter, thus transforming the molecular structure of the human itself. In this time of posthumanity where biology and technology are fully enmeshed, what will become of the human habitat as biotechnologies begin to influence architecture?
BIOPHILIA + TECHNOPHILIA, refers to the deep connections humans share with the rest of biology and our ever-increasing infatuations with technology. As our knowledge increases due to biological discoveries they become increasingly interwoven with our technologies and our habitat. As human technology becomes increasingly biological and with architecture being dependently bound to the innovations in technology, our habitat too shall become more biological, both in materiality and design processes. In fact, this convergence within architecture can be traced back through the course of visionary architectural projects since the 1970s as the discourse began to theorize on bottom-up processes and networked assemblages, from Buckminster Fuller, Archigram and the Metabolists to Phillip Beasley, Marcos Cruz and Francois Roche.
SET within a Posthuman culture, this project envisions an architecture that is grown, designed and manipulated at the genomic sequence and molecular structure, infused with a meshwork of technological apparatus aimed at connecting human physiological systems to ecological environments – the architecture becomes a palpable interface through which mental and physiological processes are connected to ecological environments. Atmospheres are augmented, manipulated and controlled, where visual projections are overlaid on top of physical space and the spatial “void” is now designed. Like biological cognitive processes and engineered synthetic organs, scaffolds are constructed allowing for genetically altered cell cultures to adhere and cultivate. As physical labor is further traded off for mental capacities to perform tasks, autonomous robots secreting a calcium-carbonate substrate print the scaffolding for which this genetically modified biological growth will adhere. Site is perceived as a datascape as flows of information, such as environmental stimuli and human flows and aggregations, are processed within the existing context of proposed growth. As information is no longer processed through silicon and metal chips but through vats of bacteria and water, agent-based simulations projected and simulated in real-time into the atmosphere react to these flows of information as they determine spatial organization and structural trajectories throughout the city. Following flows of information the robots flock around these paths, acquisitioning minerals from the lake to biomineralize the structure, coagulating the structural matrices as they seek to augment space.
USING synthetically designed in-vitro cell cultures injected into the scaffolding, a biological growth adheres to the scaffolding, as thick fibrous root-like networks begin to grow out of the printed structure as the organism searches for contact with disparate scaffolding systems, creating a matrix of web-like growth. Bacterial computers become an integral part of the mature growth, processing data within the context to both simulate the datascape and perform the necessary functions allowing the scaffolding to respond to environmental stimuli through electrical impulses sent through the fibrous microstructure of the scaffolding. Together, the fiber-optic-like rooting system, bacterial computers, and bionic mesh act as a network processing information as the architecture becomes a literal computational network. Just as in animal species, the skeletal system remains homogeneous throughout, while geodetic specific environmental stimuli and geographic isolation lead to a diverse heterogeneous epidermis. The architecture becomes a semi-living organism; adapting, emerging, evolving, mutating, and growing. Grafting, injecting, infusing, and fertilization become processes involved in the construction and regulation of the organism as pressures are placed adjusting and manipulating flows of matter through space-time.
SENSORS on the body in conversation with a meshwork of sensors and plants grown within the epidermal layer begin to respond to human physiology through the two-way transaction of chemical and neural processes. Responsive to collective and individual physiological processes the growth of the epidermal layer begins to augment the trajectory of the scaffolding as it weaves through the city and augment atmospheric conditions. Architecture becomes an extension of human cognition as our mental processes are offloaded to manipulate the environment around us-a physical interface through which we interact with the world. Responses become articulated through ecological environment and human mental and physiological feedback loops.
WHAT becomes important for architecture is how we view our relationship between technology, our body, and surrounding ecology. Like our image of the body moving away from the body as a shell for the mind and into an interconnected relationship between mind and body, our architecture is becoming less a shell which encapsulates a body toward one that is part of an interconnected system between mind, body and ecology. In the Posthuman context biology, ecologies and atmospheres come into play as they become another interconnected system which becomes in conversation with the human nervous system. Architecture becomes responsive at the level of the micro and the macro, from the bacterial processes of e. coli to the atmospheric augmentation of weather patterns. Perhaps as a visionary architectural project it becomes a summation of the discipline and our cultures deepest fears; changing atmospheric conditions, lack of a building identifiable with current construction methods, autonomously constructed architecture and a re-envisioning of the human body
BIOLOGY and Technology, since the dawn of the first tool and construction of the first human shelter, have played critical roles in the development of society and architecture. The results have led society on a quest to understand our biological selves and the world around us and through the use of tools has created a social culture of biophilia and technophilia. As our culture has evolved we have grown increasingly comfortable with our technological constructions, and subsequently the desire to merge that of biological matter and technological machine. Whether these trajectories have been to understand the biological world around us or to understand our cognitive selves, the role of these paths is palpable, arguably more-so today, as our technology brings us ever closer to these mergers. Available technologies, since the conception of the first tool, have influenced human habitats through form, materials, and use; both landscape and architecture alike. Early architectural constructions, during nomadic and transient cultures, were composed of readily available materials found within the local context, comprised of composite structures utilizing natural materials; wood, clay, tendon, bone, hair and skin. Although among the first architectural examples known, these constructions of once living biological matter become the precursor for biotechnical architectures. As transient cultures began to settle along with the rise of agriculture, materiality in architectural constructs prior to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution were primarily of wood, clay, or stone, each being sensitive to material and climate contexts. As populations settled and melting technologies were refined metal became the newest materiality. With the introduction of all-metal machine tools, assembly lines, mass production, and standardized interchangeable parts drastically altered the ecological landscape, even biological processes of agriculture and society were treated as cogs in a factory; mass produced, standardized and interchangeable. This Fordist logic, along with “modern” materials of steel, glass, and concrete, began our bifurcation from biological nature and imposed a new aesthetic—that of the machine. At this point, for better or worse, architecture became viewed as a machine, produced by a machine, and arguably spaces suitable only for machines. Architectural influences ranging from modernist pop culture (of easily replicable/recognizable cubist paintings) to machine aesthetics began to transform architecture straying further away from biology as architects looked towards abstract art, the industrial machine, and inward towards architectural classicism. Architecture and landscapes of the 20th century became overly-scaled edifices, banal and brutal, alien to the context in which these constructs were imposed.
WITH modernism having been cultivated through the duration of two world wars, one must not dismiss the influence of military research when considering the technological advancements achieved to-date. The need to out-produce rival governments and their militaries has long fuelled the advancements in technology, eventually trickling down to public consumers. Increased activities in war along with newfound infatuations with the machine created enormous support for advancements in technologies and discoveries in science. With the introduction of Fordism and cheaper interchangeable parts, many of the technologies as we are most familiar with them today became available to the masses within a “domestic” context. Throughout the evolution of modern technologies in a capitalist driven media market, desire and anticipation for modern technologies transfixed the “modern” citizen into an increased state of technophilia. It has been shown by technologans, such as Kevin Kelly, that the desire for technological achievement may not be a recent product of modernity, but rather technology and the use of tools becomes an innate part of our being and fulfils a subconscious need to extend our cognitive selves into the environment. The human mind has historically been one to seek an escape from reality and extend its potentials through prosthetic devices; historical technological lineages have suggested this. Since the dawn of printed media dramatic theatrical performances and film technology have created a route to escape physical reality and connect on another level with the virtual. Technologies pushing the prosthetics of the mind are now aimed at the advancement of fully immersive environments, an escape from reality, where the virtual manifests itself within the physical world. Alongside advancements in tactile tools, this technological trajectory suggests humans are moving towards a more integrated reality, not only in physical terms of mind but of the body as well, aimed at connecting our brains to a multi-faceted world outside of our biological skin bags. Augmented reality and tangible media interfaces have become fields devoted towards the blending of the virtual and physical worlds, and may perhaps hold insight into a new integration between humans and the environment (both architectural and ecological).
MAN’S connections and infatuations with technology and scientific discovery have in turn led to an increased understanding of our universe and our selves. With our improved knowledge in biology through science and technology we have gained the ability to visualize matter at its molecular and atomic scales. Further technological advancements have not only given us a visual glimpse into this realm, but have allowed us to manipulate matter and create entirely new organisms. Modern computational technology has given us the processing power capable of accurately computing and simulating biological processes leading to developments in artificial intelligence, evolution, fractal geometry, morphological variation, and metabolic processes (to name a few). With increased knowledge in biology, its chemical processes and molecular composition, interest has increased among other professions, allowing biological precedents to filter into nearly every facet of developing technology. Presently, the proliferation of biological precedents has ushered in a newfound since of biophilia within society, where biology is seen as the precedent and major influence in most technological projects. Although modernist architectural designs are among the most prevalent form of building typology to date, there have always been those who have sought more “organic” forms and biological ornament, suggesting that architecture has a deep connection with biological form and processes. Either through non-rectilinear forms or complex ornamentation depicting biological organisms, the yearning for biological precedent in architecture has continued throughout centuries of changes in technology and canon. In fact, in his 1984 book, The Biophilia Hypothesis, Harvard biologist Edward Wilson alludes to this very claim; that the deep affiliations humans have with nature are rooted in our biology.
THE nonlinear feedback between nature, technology, and scientific discovery has continually fuelled the other, where a discovery in biology leads to a greater advancement in technology, and visa versa- where the advancement in technology leads to new discoveries in biology, allowing us to peer at ever decreasing scales of matter. These innovations have allowed us to go beyond formal mimicry to the understanding of processes. Through the evolution of human technologies, from sun-dials to scanning electron microscopes, we have been continually advancing our understanding of the universe. With each new discovery and increased understanding, in a continuous feedback loop, our technology grows increasingly more biological while simultaneously allowing us to manipulate matter at the scale of the atom and the molecule. As our technological advancements and biological discoveries become more enmeshed the distinction in many instances becomes less clear; where it is not an entity comprised solely of one or the other (synthetic or organic), but a physical merger between biological matter and technological infusion. At this point human technology will represent that of our current understanding of biology so closely that the two will be rendered indistinguishable. As our technologies become more biological in their composition so to will our human habitat; architecture being clearly defined by the technology available during its conception and technology increasingly falling under the design influence of complex biological systems, it would appear that our architecture shall too follow suit. Professions such as computer science, cybernetics, and bioengineering are among a wide audience adopting terminology and biomimetic applications to their advantages. Visionary architects, especially those within the time of advanced computational processing capabilities, have begun to infiltrate the world of biology, holding it as precedent for architectural design. Biological terminologies have inundated the architectural language among academia, and increasingly into the profession, where computational simulations of biological processes become key elements in the design processes. As our knowledge of materiality through chemical engineering advances, so to shall we begin to see our physical constructs become more biological, in the sense that they may even be considered semi-living. Visionary projects have gone beyond the formal mimicking and pastiche ornamentation of biology, and are adopting the terms quite literally, anticipating the use of biological molecular processes as the creation for architectural form from a bottom-up assemblage, even going so far as to create architectures composed of living biological and organic matter. Responsive environments and adaptive constructs have become a normal occurrence in architectural representation, aimed at a reality where our architecture becomes more than a static indifferent structure.
IN the networked age of information, through our continued support of science and technology we are discovering that habitats have functional roles both within the physical and mental capacities, and our habitats have deeper more intrinsic effects on our behaviour than traditionally believed. Thinking of architecture through a stronger scientific perspective, than seen prior, seeks to dismantle current pedagogical and practical modes of operations; reaching beyond our current architectural canon to learn about the nature of ourselves from the bottom-up to produce a new sustainable environment conducive to human activities. Scientific in this sense refers not only to technological precision as it was used in modernism, but of psychological and physiological quantitative and qualitative analyses. How can a new habitat be created without truly understanding human nature and the science behind the way in which we are? The lack of understanding has driven the canon for the past one hundred and eighty years; supporting an architype which relies solely on its contextual economic basis.
WHAT is the human habitat which inhabits the spectrum somewhere between the ephemeral, atmospheric and the physically palpable? Many visionary architects and scientists have hinted at a realm which to date remains only in our dreams, that lucid and ephemeral realm where our subconscious creates it’s existential realm of habitation; this becomes the basis for the proclamation that we have not yet in fact reached the pinnacle in human habitation. In humanities short life span and evolution on Earth we cannot possibly hope to surpass biological evolution without precedent, and we cannot be so careless as to think of our habitat as an egotistical artistic expression on a stark-white blank canvas. Life on Earth has evolved for millions of years and is flourishing in every crevice and precipice on Earth. By studying the millions of years of evolution nature has endured to achieve its state of complexity we can save ourselves from millions of years of evolution.
WHAT will be the human habitat in lieu of new biological understanding and technologies alongside information ubiquitously overlaid in reality? Architecture and the subsequent human habitat will likely take more cues from biology in the sense of organization, structure, materiality, complexity, etc. Coupled alongside our increased desire for information (or information’s desire for us) we will also become ubiquitously tied to the technology and our environment, where information and matter, become intertwined. The biophilic and technophilic time line collapses; technologies become more biological, each feeding off the other.
PROJECTS noted as visionary (as well as all architecture for that matter) within the architectural realm are explicitly linked to the machine and the technologies that embody it, whether they are conceptual, mechanized, cabalistic, or virtual constructions. Architecture fully embodies the technology of a culture, and visionary architects’ pursuing projects of representation often shed light into a glimpse of what still remains ephemeral; forms of biological descent and technology not yet imagined. These seemingly science fiction visionary projects often influence technological trajectories and inspire professionals within the scientific community to work towards making them a reality. In this subliminal quest of biophilic innuendos, we have created mechanized representations of biologically inspired forms in our attempt to create living machines; organisms in which we live. These are performative spaces which learn from their environments, adapt to become a sustainable part of the biosphere, and create symbiotic relationships.
THE direction of architectural design towards biologically inspired forms reveals subconscious trends towards biophilic tendencies, and may prelude to a habitat more conducive to human life. In his 1984 book Biophilic Hypothesis, Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson elaborates on the hypothesis of the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life. We are currently at a time where our technology is increasingly becoming more biological while simultaneously we are learning how to reverse engineer biology with machine infused components, a precursor being the experimentation into autonomous building modules by John Frazer in the early 90s. The visionary projects chronologically ordered in Neil Spiller’s text, Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination, represent an evolution of experimentation into mechanized and biological processes aimed at the creation of a “living machine”, a term first coined by Le Corbusier. Through the representation of this timeline one can see the movements within visionary architecture aimed at the implementation of current technology to achieve “biological” form and/or function. I would argue that this reoccurring movement seen throughout architectural history reveals an architecture which may be more true to a human habitat that is conducive to life, more so than the traditional forms within the built environment we now call architecture. Architecture to-date has made tremendous progress in the quest for innovative works that advance the human environment, but it has been blinded by the lens of the technology evolved from the industrial revolution. The revolution created by the computer has given us insight into the creation of artificial life, biological systems, neural networks, and explanations into the biological world which remained hidden to man-kind until recently. With the introduction of new technologies architecture may become a design-science oriented field, as opposed to an artistic endeavour, critically rethinking what the built environment is and should be. Aesthetics and artistic creation will become a by-product of systems at work within the architecture, and if the biophilic hypothesis remains true we will incur a deeper relationship with the built environment.
SIMILAR to biophilia, humans share a rich history with technology, as Kevin Kelly proclaims is part of our being and even predates our species (See Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants). Whether this has been a strong enthusiasm since the invention of the first tool, or it has become a modern obsession driven by capitalism, it is apparent we are developing into a more technologically driven society. With technology catching up to both biological and technological aspirations, two seemingly polar opposites, this homogenization will likely increase in momentum arriving at a synthesis of the two within the foreseeable future–a time when biological matter and technological origin are indistinguishable. This process represents a shift or evolution on the precipice of occurrence within human society, where our mechanized achievements of the past three centuries are being superseded by Moore’s Law, where biological approaches are now replacing past mechanized technologies. Architects must be willing to respond to these changing conditions and learn how they may be adopted through the use of these revolutionary techniques of biological manipulation. Architects in both professional practice and academia are already adopting terms and processes from both the biological and scientific realms and have been doing so for some time now. Combined with new modelling capabilities and mathematical models designers and scientists are closer than ever to bridging the gap between biology and technology.
AESHETICS of the biophilic mind alludes to one which is composed of innate cognitive relationships to fractal scaling, aesthetics found in the biomedical profession, and to those which state that the biophilic hypothesis is inherently a part of biological organisms. In relation to these trends and discoveries in biological sciences, aesthetics in visionary architecture have often and lately drifted towards “organic” aesthetics in form, and most recently process, which quite possibly reveals ones biophilic subconscious opposing the modern landscape. The current built environment, predominately arising out of the modernist canon and industrial technologies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, materializes in stark opposition to the molecular processes of the natural environment; aesthetically, structurally, formally, and materially. The trend in recent visionary architecture opposing these landscapes shows one possible position in the revolt against modern aesthetics in society, where the people are left psychologically alienated in their environment. With the canon and institutions of modernism came a greater cultural focus on science and technology and their integration into architecture and society, where it has continued to remain a priority moving into the twenty-first century. With modern societies investment in science a shift is occurring in architecture through our greater understandings of biology, preluding to a time which will ultimately affect our technological constructions through a strengthened integration of biological material into our human technology. Already discoveries made in biotechnology and genome sequencing has given us new insight into the molecular composition of materials and has influenced and increased sciences vigour in material exploration. Along with advancements in cognitive psychology, such as learning to understand human connections with the environment, we are learning more about the human species and biology from bottom-up assemblages and the connections to our nervous systems through evolution and genetics. This has led to studies which reveal a fractal connection between human brains and the environment; how we have evolved over thousands of centuries to prefer fractally scaled geometries, connecting to our basic instincts found in nature to survive, finding shelter or food based on visual information within the context, entering into the retina and the networked structure of the brain. It has also been discovered that the rapid movement of the human eye moves in a fractally scaled manner, which will one day affect graphic user interfaces and the way objects in the environment are positioned in space. In so rendering these phenomena a reality, our landscapes and technologies are becoming more biological through multiple perspectives. Historically and presently architectural constructs have manifested as a by-product of the technology employed within a society and particular era at the time of conception. As our technologies grow further bionic, so will remain true of our architecture as technologies evolve towards more biological apparatuses and discoveries brought forth. The result of biological precedents may coalesce as architectural constructs which are psychology more appeasing, or draw upon a deeper connection between humans and the environment, through fractal composition and our connection with biological nature.
IN opposition to modernity’s aesthetic of overly scaled rectilinear planar surfaces, which contrast nature, fractal scaling will become integrated from the molecular to macular construction processes where materials, structure, and aesthetic qualities synthesize to create coherent relationships to the human cognition as a by-product of the processes by which they were created. “One of the stated aims of modernism was to eliminate any architectural interface with fractal dimension. These were replaced by long, straight roads, and reinforced with the strict alignment of buildings. The reason given was to clean up the perceived messiness of older cities; yet that messiness was really the organized complexity that made them alive.” (Salingaros, 2008) These chemical processes will influence form at the molecular composition of the material, texture and visual connectivity at the scale of the human, and the overall dense networks of the urban fabric. Nikos Salingaros describes our connection to fractal objects in nature through our interaction with environmental phenomena, whereby fractal mathematics can be found nearly everywhere in nature, from molecular to geological, where ‘material fractures due to stresses and strains create a discrete scaling hierarchy in solids (approximately 2.7). Even in fluids, homogeneity is not possible, as moving fluids generate a hierarchy of substructures due to turbulence. Life is the result of complicated chemical and physical connections occurring at many different scales simultaneously. Metabolic and mechanical processes characteristic of living forms require a nested hierarchy of different structures on many different scales. Biological forms therefore exhibit a discrete hierarchy of interconnected scales from the macroscopic into the microscopic level of structure.” (Salingaros, 2008) These universal patterns can be seen from dark matter mapping of the cosmos to the microstructure of radiolarian. Through these examples of psychological analysis and mathematical laws of the universe, it is apparent that fractal geometries are inherently important in the physical order of matter, yet “modern” architects oppose these orders in lieu of artistic expressionism. In fact many great artworks have been found to be fractal, which alludes to the possibility of their popularity, and thus survival. Exploration in the biotechnological merger and its consequences for architecture may hold critical answers in the development of the human habitat, and remains a futuristic guide to the possibility of an environment which is inherently more “human” than our current environment.
FRACTAL geometries hold significant importance within our universe and the relationships of fractal scaling in geometry found in biology and throughout the universe. Fractals were discovered from studying natural structures of organisms, and became popularized in the work of Benoit Mandelbrot (The Fractal Geometry of Nature) and later introduced comprehensively in architectural theory by Dr. Nikos Salingaros (A Theory of Architecture), which proclaims that our universe holds intrinsic mathematical similarities. Prior to Mandelbrot classical mathematicians, architects, and engineers recognized this fractal phenomenon in the golden mean (1.618), that number which is fractally scaled and a geometric common denominator to all aggregated matter. The fractal scaling in which they employed from the material selection to the urban fabric created a living condition which is still sought after today as a contrast to the modern grid. The bifurcation in the architectural timeline from these fractal geometries was a result of the Industrial Revolution, which took us down a pathway that relied on machine aesthetics and capitalist agendas. Contrasting nature, materials were fabricated in mass quantities controlled by capital means; capitalist and formalist agendas producing standardized interchangeable parts which did not take biological chemical processes as precedent in manufacturing, and thus a loss of fractal scaling in materiality. Coupled with the modernist artwork of the time, such as cubism, an architectural aesthetic was created which belies any relation to nature, and in fact was the agenda of the modernist movement to contrast that of nature, feeling that modern man was above and at battle with nature and therefore had the power to control and oppose it. Introspectively turning inwards towards the profession as precedent and indoctrinating these aesthetics as canon, “Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe intentionally ignored this rule in their buildings, in an attempt to distinguish them both from natural forms, and from traditional building styles.” (Salingaros 2008). This has brought us to our current status in architecture, where material production and aesthetics are predominately of the Industrial Revolution and modernist era. We have become conditioned to these reductionist states within urban environments, and for the most part are only beginning to explore the possibilities of what our built environment may be.
HUMANS are of the bios, ourselves being of biological origin, and thus the human brain has evolved over time, roughly 200,000 years, to subconsciously prefer and feel a strong connection towards biology and the laws of scaling found in nature. To oppose these laws cognitively leaves the human with a psychological disconnect and uneasy within the environment. Aesthetics of biological origin arise from the processes inherent in their molecular assemblage giving visual clues which react with human cognition (see Nikos Salingaros). In a time of Biophilia + Technophilia, aesthetics of the architectural will be derived through the chemical processes of its biological metabolic creation, the technology inherent in its biotechnical creation, and our innate subconscious connection to the biological world and enthusiasm for technological advancement.
TO achieve a built environment with structures as complex as those found in biology new construction and fabrication technologies need to be materialized in order to conceive of such habitats. New fabrication technologies, which operate on the molecular scale similar to biological entities, will allow us to build with greater efficiency and precision. The ability to reach a high level of precision would allow us to build cohesive structures composed of multiple materials simultaneously, with capillary-like arteries running through the solids, negating the use of traditional ducts which operate separately from the actual structure. As seen in the human technological timeline, the evolution of technologies is increasingly becoming more biological in their complexity, computational processes, and materiality. In some cases our mechanical complexity has exceeded that which is found in biology, but with diminished efficiency and information capacities. So, to model our processing technologies from that of biological microorganisms will only increase our transition creating the next revolution in human-made tools. Increased processing capabilities will create both ubiquitous computing throughout our environment and invisible information imbedded into nearly every artifact we create, which to-date has never had such an impact on our daily lives and built environment as it will at that point. This is not modelled after biological precedents, but satisfies our human need to extend our cognition into our environment while seeking to establish a stronger symbiotic feedback loop between our cognitive selves and the built environment. With the introduction of multi-material additive rapid prototyping (fig 20), and as the digital culture progresses, it will likely be that electronic agents are printed simultaneously into composite wall structures, where every wall becomes a tangible “smart” surface, and information is ubiquitously displayed throughout the space. The introduction of electronic systems into these composite structures may on some levels give them the ability to react and sense their environment on a scale similar to that of the human nervous system.
RAPID prototyping offers us our greatest insight into new material complexities and construction techniques, particularly those which express the ability to construct layers of multiple materials. Presently, ballistics models are being 3d printed with a two-part mix of silicone and plastics which reconstruct both the soft and hard matter relative to an animal body. Likewise, several start-up companies are now beginning to show up which offer commercial services for customized 3d printed artifacts such as prosthetic limbs. These prosthetic limbs are cheaper than their counterparts and offers the ability to print with plastics and metals, which are then wrapped in a custom embroidered leather membrane. It has long been foreseen that within the near future every household, like those which now have inkjet printing capabilities, will have the ability to download digital files online that are then printed. Until recently the technology has remained costly, and only now are personal in-home printers making their presence known. These printers, like today’s inkjet printer, will have the ability to print in multiple colors and materials, creating integrated electronic circuit boards, etc. through the instructive digital file at the push of a button. In the biomedical field, three-dimensional models are being printed of human organs which act as a scaffolding for stem-cells to adhere to and cultivate into an actual contracting organ. It is not a leap to say that skin cells could then be grafted onto scaffolding at home in the same way, and a biological organism created from a printer. Together the coupling of both information transmission and organic matter, this type of rapid prototyping fabrication breaks the mold of traditional building elements, bringing a generalized expertise to the masses.
THE advent of printing biological matter via rapid prototyping technologies has ushered in the next revolution in this technology, especially with the recent discovery of Craig Venter to create artificial cells (fig 21) where the DNA is manipulated digitally and then realized. In the future every household may have these capabilities, where there are hackers manipulating not just HTML and XML, but DNA and RNA, where the codes are actually manifested within their digital construct to take form in actual space. Seen as a precursor to this movement, the Rep Rap is an open-source 3d printer where the information to build the device is available online, making it easily accessible for average peoples to own such technology. Given the simplicity of such a device, each piece of this Rep Rap could then be reproduced to create a massive network of individual rapid prototyping devices creating components for a larger construction. Project: OPEN by Archimorph, envisioned an architecture where an online community openly shares 3-D digital files of architectural constructs which are able to be printed by personal 3D printers. The self-replicating printers would replicate, creating enough copies of itself to adequately construct the amount of pieces needed for the specific job. Recycled polymers were then melted down and reprinted into new construction pieces from the digital file. As the building neared completion, printers could be melted down and used for the remaining pieces of the construction. At a larger scale, D-Shape and Contour Crafting are both start-up companies which are developing full-scale rapid prototyping capabilities, where we can move beyond the individual user artifacts to actual fully inhabitable structures. Once material efficiency is achieved a large-scale construction processes such as robotic additive processes may soon replace contemporary construction practices.
AS our technologies lead us to a materiality constructed from the bottom-up, which is able to transmit, receive, and respond to data in the environment and interpret it as usable information: Is it more biological or technological? Will we be able to decipher that which is machine and that of biological matter? Currently we reside on the spectrum of extreme mechanical capacities neglecting that of biological matter. Will biological matter clad our structures which are infused with human technology? Will we be able to decipher between the two? We are now able to grow organs, self-replicating cells, manipulate the genetics of plants and animals, and recreate biological life. To what extent will our habitat become a coherent living organism?
AT this point in time, architectural constructions may be considered semi-living, where actual biological cells create the surfaces which surround and protect us. The digital culture of recent visionary architectures has been increasingly moving towards modelling biological systems, and with the physical capabilities to create and manipulate such biological processes will undoubtedly become a reality. Circulatory, respiratory, nervous and immune systems may all become imbedded within the structures of the future. “Perhaps most relevant for the work presented is that which the author Kevin Kelly called ‘neo-biological’. His commentary, although more than a decade old, is still important because it offers a broader picture of how our physical surroundings will become indistinguishable.’ Kelly envisaged that ‘in the coming neobiological era … there might be a world of mutating buildings, living silicon polymers, software programs evolving offline, adaptable cars, rooms stuffed with coevolutionary furniture, gnatbots for cleaning, manufactured biological viruses that cure your illnesses, neural jacks, cyborgian body parts, designer food crops, simulated personalities, and a vast ecology of computing devices in constant flux.’ But however plausible such descriptions may be, Neoplasmatic Design does not purport to put forward a complete vision of the future wherein architecture is fully replaced by neobiological conditions, but rather an evolving scenario in which pre-existent, more traditional surroundings will be infiltrated by it, creating new hybrids and composite living environments.” (AD: Neoplasmatic, 2009). Through genetic engineering, convergent assembly, and electron microscopy we will gain the ability to manipulate materiality at the level of the molecule or atom. To this extent our structures may be referred to as a new taxonomy of organism altogether. The bionic qualities of the material arise through the technological manipulation of the genetic sequencing and scaffolding, where biological cells, manicured from personalized data, begin to culture around the scaffolding, cohering into an actual biological organism where they form a unique relationship with the human technology they interact with. “In order to deliver influence upon the behaviour of the living material, to partially design the result, the design and fabrication of its environment must be addressed. It is here that the hand of the designer is most apparent, in the realisation of the necessary apparatus, vessels, and support structures. The aesthetic language of laboratory equipment is introduced to the vocabulary of the designer.” (AD;Neoplasmatic, 2009). The use of advanced visualisation and 3-D modelling software will control biological processes within a virtual environment, simulating that which would occur in its physical manifestation.
AS these systems begin to merge, biological and technological, it becomes important to the conversation at this point to introduce posthuman theory and the relationship between technology and the body. The posthuman by definition is a “speculative being that represents or seeks to enact a re-writing of what is generally conceived of as human, where human nature becomes a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. The post-human, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the post-human is not a singular, defined individual, but rather who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.” (Nichols)
TRANSHUMANISM looks at Posthumanism through a slightly more technological discourse, where technologies are seen to evolve along with the human and cannot be separated from our evolution as they have become a part of defining being human; often associated with cyborgs, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as creature of fiction.” (Haraway) According to transhumanist theologians, a Posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.” (Dougal) This definition, however, becomes less clear as the bar for what is considered “human” is constantly shifting and we may never therefore feel other than ourselves being human, but this does fulfill the claim to some posthumanist theorists that we are in fact already in a state of posthumanity where our current state is different from previous generations of human ancestors.
IN describing the Posthuman habitat we must first look at what it means to be Posthuman and the coevolution of humans with technology. I’m sure that most people think of Terminator, but what about someone using a cell phone? Or a person writing on paper with a pencil? Or checking the time? Some psychologists, anthropologists, and other Posthuman theorists would claim that by these examples we are in fact already cyborgs and have been since our biological neural processes began to be offloaded onto non-biological props and aids, what Andy Clark [a psychologist from Washington University] calls scaffolds (Andy Clark). “Scaffolding may include assistance with planning, organizing, doing matched to the learning needs and interests of the learner.” (Clark)
AS seen with these technologies, however, they need not be skin-deep, for what is special about the human brain is its “ability to enter into deep and complex relationships with non-biological constructs, props, and aids” (Clark). This ability does not depend on physical wire-and-implant-mergers; such mergers may be consummated without the intrusion of silicon and wire into flesh and blood. What matters is not the physical merger between flesh and machine (our traditional image of the cyborg), but the ubiquitous and invisible connection between mental processes which are offloaded onto non-biological scaffolds. Tools and technologies become extensions of our brains through ubiquitous feedback between the two. Similar is the act of writing using pen and paper which reveals another instance where our brain is offloading mental tasks through pen and paper which could not otherwise be solves without assistance. For most of us, to solve complex mathematical equations, or even long division, we write down the steps to store and formulate the answer—an answer which could probably not have been found otherwise without the use of the scaffolding systems to accompany the mental processes occurring. The brain is not necessarily good at performing these sorts of tasks, but our computational tools are, so it uses these non-biological scaffolds to break down and offload the tasks which we are not so good at. “It is expert at recognizing patterns, at perception, and at controlling physical actions, but it is not so well designed for complex planning and long, intricate, derivations of consequences” (Clark) In other words we may only be as capable at some activities as our ability to offload these mental tasks to periphery devices, thus showing that we have a greater connection to our technologies than previously imagined. Tools which become ubiquitous, where processes can fluidly exchange from scaffold to neural processes are those which we see fully taking over human culture; watches, cell phones, writing, etc.; where this interconnectedness between technology and mental processes are spreading out into every day objects and environments.
SO with our understanding of the cyborg moving away from bodily appendages of industrial technologies to a new perception of what a cyborg is, one that sees technologies evolution with humanity, where the way we interact with technologies isn’t only through their depth within the body, but rather the ubiquitous connections between tools and neural functions, where offloading processes onto these non-biological props becomes essential to our being human. This concept of cyborg sees us not as separate entities, man or machine, but rather the interconnectedness between these entities—the relationship between systems becomes important. Posthumanity becomes interconnected, as brain and body begin to be viewed as an interconnected system (conversely to humanism which sees our body as a shell for the mind; i.e. two separate systems, polarities of mind and body); an assemblage of multiple parts. The human is no longer a unique being (a totality), but rather part of the interconnected network of living species and of the geological cycle of matter (an assemblage).
LIKE our image of the body moving away from the body as a shell for the mind and into an interconnected relationship, our architecture is becoming less viewed as a shell which encapsulates a body toward one that is part of a system interconnected with the body and ecology. In Posthuman context; biology, ecologies, and atmospheres come into play as they become another interconnected system which can be connected to the human body and subsequent habitat. Architecture becomes a translator of information, a user interface, where mental and physiological processes become interconnected with the environment.
CURRENTLY our architecture, like our vision of the cyborg, is seen as a separate entity from our bodies—it is the machine, we are the separated body. Similar dualities such as these separations and polarities filter through our culture toward our spatial definitions and relationships within our habitat. Within a Posthuman context dualities such are these are not seen, and architecture, technology and ecologies become an extension of the mind and body. Responsive feedback systems, artificial environments, and augmented atmospheres begins to represent the level of interconnected systems surrounding Posthuman theory, and may prelude to a time when architecture is seen as a scaffolding system, where like the MIT Media house the architecture becomes the computer and is able to process and relay information through multiple systems. These environments may interact with the human through neural physiological connections which mentally link humans to their habitat. New waves of user-sensitive technologies will bring this age-old process of user-tools to a climax when our mind and identities become ever more deeply enmeshed in a non-biological matrix of machines, tools, props, codes, and semi-intelligent daily objects.
ALREADY we see technologies which are becoming more ubiquitously connected to our mental processes where cell phones contain hundreds or thousands of scaffolding systems for our brains to offload and perform complex tasks. Technologies and relationships such as these will continue to evolve and exert influence over the future of our habitat. These technologies are becoming more biological as we peer ever deeper at scales of matter, manipulating these systems at the nano and atomic scales. This influence of biology into technology further shows the human evolving toward a more interconnected relationship with technology, where now technology and biology are becoming interwoven—the beginnings to a time when neither may be able to be separated. In a Posthuman existence this is not a mimicking of biological form or even systems, but rather a re-creation of the biological systems—an augmentation of the biological nature towards our own visions and functions; a fourth nature. It is believed the Posthuman will seek continual improvement, improving upon natures “mindless” design, where individuals seek morphological freedom in shaping fundamentally better futures. This goes for the body as well as the subsequent habitat.
OUR relationship to technology becomes critical in understanding our future habitat and our place within it. With architecture being clearly defined by our technology, as it evolves and changes so too will its influence over our ideologies and habitat. As our technology advances it allows us to see biological systems which remained unbeknownst to us, and as a consequence has began to seep into both our cultural society and technologies—which will further propel our discoveries in biological systems. As our culture becomes more interconnected to both biological systems and non-biological tools, so too will the human habitat as well as the culture surrounding it.
IN the Posthuman era, the human habitat becomes both a physical and mental integration between that which is biological and that which is technological. Architecture becomes not a creation of a utopia or dystopia, but of perpetual “progress”-an extropia-a never ending movement toward the ever-distant goal of extropia. Architecture becomes an extension of human cognition as our mental processes are offloaded onto semi-intelligent non-biological props toward the manipulation of the environment around us-a physical interface through which we view and interact with our ecology. These technological progressions carry significant consequences for the creation of space and matter, as objects become semi-intelligent and we are able to interact with materials and objects through mental and physiological feedback loops.
PRESENTLY there lies a technology on the precipice of human technological development which may have consequences and benefits alike for the built environment unlike any which has been seen in the past, rivalled only by that of the printed word. It has the ability to enrich our interaction with the environment or drowned it in an abysmal sea of information, known as Augmented Reality. This technology becomes a duel edged sword, where on one hand it bypasses the large existence of the population whom tune out of reality daily gazing into a box plugged into a wall, and on the other has the capacity to create a physically manifested information gluttony within our physical environment. Glimpses of such technology have been with us since the rise of the computer-age through popular science films such as Star Wars, where holographic images were projected from a droid robot into space, and most recently Minority Report and Iron Man. The cultural phenomena of these technologies in film acts as an escape from reality for viewers. Often these visionary projects may supplant inside someone with the capabilities and insight, influenced into pursuing the manifestation of such technologies. To us what may seem science fiction is among one of the most sought after technologies in the scientific and military research community. The Aurora Borealis gives us insight into how such a technology may be physically possible within our environment, as the photons shoot through the Earths gases and magnetic field. As with most technologies that have become prevalent throughout our society, one only needs to look at the interest of the military research agencies and their long term agendas for warfare. Already the United States military has shown vast interest in Augmented Reality, where information is overlaid on top of the physical environment and relaying important battlefield data to the soldiers in an instant. Together, the combination of military funding, pop culture media interest, and the move towards ever-more realistic film techniques, lays forth the groundwork for such technology to become the next level of information display and reality escape. So the question becomes not if this technology will surface, but when, and how, if at all, architecture will address such ubiquitous displays of information flowing throughout the environment? Will architecture work to achieve a balance, where augmented reality compliments the architecture? Or will architecture neglect the existence of such technology, where the technology ultimately takes over architecture?
AUGMENTED reality will likely come in two forms, or rather two forms of how information will be overlaid on top of our physical environment. It may develop in the form of a user-specific interface, only visible to a certain user through the use of a personal interface, i.e. glasses, handhelds, contacts, or retinal cortical implants. The second will come in the form of direct overlays of visual information and images over the physical environment through the use of holographics or the manipulation of light waves using electromagnetic fields to manipulate the length of light waves in a given space. The latter is of most interest on this topic, where immersive imagery would be visible without the use of display devices, viewable by anyone with biological vision capabilities. This technology has the largest capacity to change our built environment. This typology of visual overlay may be interacted with physically, responding to various cues within the environment and the objects coming within proximity. The urban reality will thus become a combination of the two augmented technologies, which will link the user (agent) to the environment through readily accessible information retrieval. This technology relies on the invention of pure holographic, 3d projection visuals without a screen or interface. Over 75% of the space in which one inhabits is never experienced as tactile, and thus has the capacity of being projected. If your only interaction with this environment is visual, then why does it need to be “physically” tactile? To what degree does our environment need to be materially constructed in order to gain recognition as architectural? What will be the difference between the physically constructed and the digitally manifested? Augmented reality technologies thus pose a potential shift for architecture that has not been seen through media outlets in the past, having immense spatial consequences through manipulating the spatial environment we inhabit. Digital form may be projected into physical space, radically transforming an existing flat planar ceiling into a complex networked formal language. I use the ceiling as an example because this is the most prevalent and palpable example to any one person. Many rarely come into physical contact with their ceiling, thus if the visual field is manipulated the brain may interpret this as being physically real-virtual models are projects to simulate natural occurrences of light, shade, and shadow tricking the eye into believability. Advertisements, even entire buildings, may be projected into the atmosphere, fighting for the public’s attention. To what extent will buildings and their detail be projected? At this point when will we be able to decipher between the physically constructed architecture and one that is virtually manifested?
THE network culture we inhabit is marked by the individual entrenched in e-reading, conversing electronically, surfing the internet, and watching television, all of which are deeply embedded in the virtual. Individuals now use space as a common meeting place, mainly to share information, often initiated through the various electronic mediums. Within these social gatherings information is being shared, processed, and packaged; rapid on-the-fly, unfiltered, informational input. How much of this constantly streaming flow of information to one’s nervous system is inundated by outside influences with agendas. In this, it can be said that our subjective nervous systems are perpetually under the influence of the virtual, which leads one to the question; what is the substance of reality? Without our minds we are non-existent, not “real”; if our cerebrums are plugged into the virtual, does this not become the real? Our bodies remain within the architectonic space of the physical as our minds engage a virtual space existing nowhere and everywhere simultaneously.
OUR collective trepidation of a wired future wherein the modes of information collection and dispersal have been aggregated into the totalitarian grasp of some nefarious corporation or government has been reflected in the literature and film of the past century. This trend has grown in recent decades, along with the accelerated pace of digitization and network distribution, exampled in the growing popularity of movies such as Blade Runner, Renaissance, and Minority Report. In these films of a dystopian future, the individual submits to constant surveillance in exchange for safety and personal longevity. This dissociative negotiation between self and technology, however, is not historically unique. The end of the nineteenth century has been viewed as “modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions. There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience.” It can be said that the cyberspace phenomenon of an environment located neither in the physical nor in the digital, arose alongside the advent of rapid long-distance telecommunication, and mechanized transportation. As existential reality becomes further enhanced and augmented through virtual technology, the individual and their relationship to the sensorial environment get distributed over an artificial network of information. A result of this process “is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realization. De-realization affects both the subject and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved. “(Heidigger, 1982) The crisis inherent in this evolution of perception becomes compounded with the addition of a fear that these networks have become systems of outside control. But this fear presupposes that the individual has acted as a free agent prior to an engagement with these virtual systems. Heidegger suggests that the substance of our being is not grounded in a fabric of our own development. “As this being, delivered over to which it can exist uniquely as the being which it is, it is, existing, the ground of its potentiality-of-being. Because it has not laid the ground itself, it rests in the weight of it, which mood reveals to it as a burden.” Concepts of masculinity and femininity, western and eastern, rural and urban, begin to shape our being prior to our ability to choose, they form the ground for our potential to be. Our concern over the inability to choose the fundamental characteristics of our own subjectivity is reflected in the fear of outside influence. We easily identify with Neo trapped in a matrix of external origin.
BUT what if we had the ability to reshape and exert influence over the matrix, over these systems of information distribution and collection? The conglomerate news and entertainment organizations which have made a phantom of the public are now being supplanted by the decentralized broadcast of information from individually controlled blogs which provide unfiltered news, deliver music from the artist directly to the public, and provide forums for the free exchange of art and ideas. Proprietary information is rapidly becoming an antiquated mode of product delivery that not only encompasses entertainment but also the tools that shape our environment. Software developers such as GNU/Linux have developed manifestos that ensure the users right to access to source code. In this sense “information is less the product of [externally controlled] discrete processing units than the outcome of the networked relations between them, links between people, between machines, and between machines and people”. The individual is reasserted as an individual in a network of individuals, no longer merely the receiver of a one-way flow of information. With the advent of network culture we can now receive raw unfiltered information directly, replacing the directed flow of information from conglomerate to end user with the power of serendipitous information and intuitive knowledge.
AS network technology continues to advance, information may become virtually overlaid on top of reality. Immersive environments will intertwine with real objects, further blurring the line between the physical and the digital. The perception of tangible objects is simply the visual stimulation of the nervous system. What we perceive to be space is an excitement to our sensory nervous system of sight, sound, and smell, all of which is intangible information. The architectonic spaces of formed masses can be augmented and mimicked through advanced projection technology and advancements in the areas of holographic visualization (where visual layers are superimposed on top of the physical world). Combined with other sensorial overlays, environments can become fully explorative, interactive, and totally immersive. Virtual objects may be interacted with, become capable of “sensing” touch and responding according to your requested action. These projections may become so well enmeshed as to be rendered indistinguishable from the physical, driving augmented reality into an integrated reality. Like information, the environmental source code may be adapted and customized, reconfigured, deleted, refreshed, and repackaged to fit the user’s preference. Environments, both interior and exterior, will become interactive, almost alive, as previously static confines become ephemeral projections of digital constructs. An entire group may get to interact in real time with events of information occurring all around them in a fully immersive environment as image is overlaid with sound and smell, generating new experiential environments.
IN considering the scope of program for this project, I would first like to explore the notion of program through its spatial hierarchies; how program has been traditionally defined in spatial terms and perhaps, how nature might give some clues as to an alternative programmatic spatiality. Traditionally program is defined within an articulated zone, or space, for a set of actions to be carried out (or what the designer perceives how the space shall be used). The process through modern canon has traditionally been a top down approach, where spaces were specified within the building and then program was to fit within this rectilinear volume. In trying to create a discourse around the spatiality of program, like biology, how can program be re-imagined through a bottom-up process? The possible combinations, or iterations, of bottom-up assemblages, interrelationships and typologies are infinite in an environment where new influences constantly interact (either directly or indirectly), exert their influence, and redefine the way in which we inhabit, enhance, and utilize space. It is architectures traditional canon which seeks to encapsulate and define static flows of human flesh through a space and social typology, especially after the rise of modernization where spaces became polarized and broken down into constituent “programmatic” modules, analogous to the mass-production of standardized factory parts. Rooms, spaces, and activities became categorized as taxonomy and homogenized into lump “standard” components. But, what if the non-static flows of human flesh through space itself, the interactions that occur within them, defines the boundaries for enclosing such complex interactions taking place within that moment in space and time?
TODAY, the modernist ideology can be felt throughout the whole of society, inundating multiple typologies, including programmatic affiliations within architecture, where peoples are treated as if they are machines and the spaces in which they inhabit are cut and dry, binary, and able to be broken down into their black and white constituent parts. “The chilling presence of engineering could be discerned virtually everywhere, controlling not just the spaces but even their syntax of use: from the freeways, to the office buildings, to the suburbs. Munitions factories and the full-employment way economy of which they were a part were now also turned inside out: the women who laboured in them were the subject of the most intensive technological reengineering putsch of all time as the new workplace concept of rational, or numerical, ergonomics was projected onto the domestic household and backed up by a hard-sold panoply of “labour-saving” domestic appliances. Reality was increasingly carved up, processed and filtered, then repackaged and delivered in controlled envelopes of remarkable persuasiveness, primarily because there was no longer anything more real (less engineered) against which such synthetic constructs could be checked.” (Kwinter, 1996)
UPON breaking free of the axiomatic modern ideologies and recognizing that social interactions and assemblages, which delegate program, are not binary top-down totalities, or even static for that matter; how then do we begin to envision program as an ever-shifting assemblage, while simultaneously acknowledging our biophilic and technophilic nature? Perhaps by looking towards nature as a precedent we can begin to re-envision program, rather than introvertedly looking towards modernist canon and previous failed social attempts at constructing programmatic relationships throughout our environment. Program, as well as space, within modern architecture is typically controlled through a top-down formulation, fitting preconceived occupations for a space into an arbitrary space that is clearly delineated and abruptly polarized in its relationship to the rest of the construct. In biological ecosystems, borders become not polarized homogeneous zones with clearly delineated spaces, but gradient to form an ecotone, where chemical signals from the merging ecosystems form an in-between space giving rise to a greater than usual diversity of species. Without any experiential relationship in the transition of spaces we are forced into the abrupt altercation, or lack there of, when moving from one delineated space to the next, neglecting the interconnectivity of other serendipitous activities which may arise at these critical moments. Furthermore, is it possible to impose spatial constraints on such fluid interconnected relationships as human interactivity? Program is traditionally imposed within a fixed volume, clearly delineating volumetric space which encloses the projective, and often stereotypical, typology of culturally-stereotyped activities and interactions. Even more repulsive, is the fact that many programmatic entities are defined not by inhabitants, but by capitalist or developer-driven market. “Perhaps our life is still governed by a certain number of oppositions that remain inviolable, that our institutions and practices have not yet dared to break down. These are oppositions that we regard as simple givens: for examples between private space and public space, between family space and social space, between cultural space and useful space, between the space of leisure and that of work. All these are still nurtured by the hidden presence of the sacred.” (Foucault, 1967) In an attempt to control formal constraints “architects, however, confuse patterns with their representation, i.e., what an arrangement looks like. The pattern is fundamentally human, whereas its physical realization (representation) can occur in myriads of slightly different ways.” (Salingaros, 2008) Therefore, we should not be concerned with a programs formal characteristics as it relates to the whole, but rather by capturing the interactions and relationships between constituents (humans) moving through a given space at a particular time, whereby the space enhances propinquity (as an example).
WHEN considering the possibilities of programmatic spatiality through this assemblage, the lineage of modernist ideology must not be neglected as to its critical role played in the development of the human mind to date. Continuing the lineage of modernism through a lens of biophilia and technophilia, and searching for useful bits, the modernist canon brought forth the notion that “form follows function”. It is proven that in biology form follows function, however, in the modern sense function was imposed into a form that followed a particular design aesthetic, preconceived typological use, or modular ideology. In breaking down the form which encloses a programmatic volume, overall form in architecture, breaks down into three necessary parts; exterior form, interstitial, and interior form. The formal logic for all of these components relies each upon a network of information, each developing a new topology as it responds to this data. The resulting formal configuration composing exterior and interior form respond to different stimuli thus comprising different formal logics. Exterior form responds to environmental conditions in the surrounding context, interior form responds to a complex network of human activities, patterns and behaviours, while the interstitial space regulates the two with a vast network of arterial networks and structural systems. As the encapsulating bodies become more bionic; biological and technological systems becomes integrated, and the construct becomes semi-living, exhibiting the ability to read, interpret, and send information ubiquitously, transforming and manipulating form as it responds to a complex web of informational stimuli. Like their interior counterparts, the exterior form seeks symbiosis with forms of information, however, they each specifically deal with different sets of data (some data is shared, but other data is specific to that typology). The function of the exterior form is thus to regulate and protect the internal organs via optimizing its form to combat climate and contextual conditions by regulating solar angle, wind circulation, heat loss/gain, urban connectivity, and exterior human circulation (to name a few). Separate to the function of the exterior form, the interior membrane serves its function through performing the dynamic role of enclosing the fluctuating programmatic occurrences (flows and interactions of human flesh through space and time), whereby the encapsulating space around these activities or flows becomes a malleable, reacting, and stimulating body enclosing the social interactions and activities. Thus, the program becomes not a predetermined entity as described by canon, ideology, or the architect’s conceptual vision, but by the actual occurrences unfolding within the space-time, adapting to the changing flows as they occur in real-time.
WITHIN these volumes program is defined by the intersecting flows in space-time of person to person, person to artifact, and person to information flows through space. Here, the program is in flux, constantly adapting to specific criteria; open to social, economic, and technological trends. Circulation patterns of the agents moving throughout the space close the flows, whereby impromptu occurrences of propinquity occur within the interstitial space of circulation paths. As the circulation patterns shift to confront changing economic and social patterns, the interior form encapsulates the critical intersections within the circulatory flows (node), the point at which social interactions are more likely to occur-the nexus of human circulation paths (propinquity). Energy, in the form of human flesh moving through a space, induced into the programmatic volume reacts to information flows in the form of; intensity, duration and number of connections which pass through a given node. In this instance, form encapsulates, responds, and interacts with the programs being defined by their bottom-up assemblages, with the human-to-human interaction as the basic assemblage (although this may not necessarily be the smallest social assemblage). As opposed to taking a traditionally passive role, as do static modern constructions, the activities taking place within this space envelope the interactions taking place in an active participatory role, seeking to adjust to the programmatic events, whereby it cultivates and enriches the experiences through interaction. Program then is seen as a series of attractors, repulsers, and the flows which connect and link these nodes. Program, thus develops as two distinct typologies; form which encapsulates major attractors of activity inherent within the urban typology and those which occur at the nexus of paths linked between attractors, creating new nodes and a denser network. The connection points of these networked circulation paths become new nodes where informal and impromptu social interaction occurs and may be further influenced within these spaces which enhance social interaction and participation in activities or subjects.
SIMILAR to the biophilic trajectory of program, the technophilic aspiration for our buildings ability to display data, which we interpret as meaningful information, seeks to create an environment of active participation rather than a static background to the activities taking place within the environment. At this point does culture, like the internet, become a society of pure arrival, constantly searching in anticipation for the next source of information? In a time where ubiquitous information exerts increasing influence over program; program becomes ephemeral as inhabitants increasingly interact with others through a virtual connection within a limitless range. The inhabitant may physically be within the space, or program, enveloping them, but internally the mind is transfixed on visualizing a conversation which unfolds before them in cyberspace. “Cyberspace, of course, as the now-classic adage goes, ‘is where we are when we are talking on the telephone.’ It is, in other words, neither in a here nor a there, but is a continual articulation process, relentlessly boring through us. In more precise terms, however, it is not where “we” are at all, but where our attention is within a promiscuous, multidimensional electromagnetic matrix, even when our bodies (for which there seems to be, yet again, not limit of Protestant capitalist contempt) are hopelessly fixed in viscous Euclidean “real” space.” (Kwinter, 1993) “They are, temporarily at least, jacked into a web of personal and business communications, which deliberately disrespects current physical location. Draw the lines of proximity and distance according to the criterion of effective action, and a virtual neighbourhood emerges; in which the speakers are more proximal to their colleagues or loved ones than to the strangers on the platform. Our sense of our own location, like our sense of our body limits us. It too is a construct: this time, one formed by our implicit awareness of our current set of potentials for action, social engagement, and intervention. Imagine yourself confined to a hospital bed. You cannot walk, but you can move your arms and hands. Your world seems to shrink to the radius of action and control. Add a buzzer to summon a nurse and you feel a tad more liberated. Add a phone link to your stockbroker and/or your family, and the claustrophobia recedes even more. But action, of the kind that seems most important for our sense of our own location, is a complex thing. The mere provision of telecommunication links, though it goes some way toward a freeing us from the bonds of physical space and proximity, is not really enough to alter our bedrock sense of where we are.” (Clark, 2008)
CHALLENGING cultural trends towards technological evolution the project and program become a projective futurist glimpse at architectural perspectives set amidst a society of the biophilic and technophilic -coevolved through the advancements of human science and technology. Through what we may consider today the Age of Networks, we realize that with the advancement of information exchange our networks grow increasingly interconnected into a globalized distributed network. Architecture will both formally and functionally operate on the terms of the networked society, as the network exerts influence over our daily lives, our programmatic developments will subsequently evolve with our technological capacity. As technology creates new ways of connecting these disparate social networks, program evolves due to technological advances, like the wrist watch described by Andy Clark, where the invention of the wrist watch allowed peoples to completely alter their daily activities to a strict regiment of time management, as opposed to the previous natural cycles which occur at sunrise and sunset, hindering both the time and types of activities which could occur within space and time. With the advent of the wrist-watch and electricity, program became increasingly more complex, where new activities were opened up for alternative opportunities through time management and illuminated space. Evolving through technologies timeline, augmented reality (in our immediate future) becomes another technological impact which will further alter our programmatic functions, which allow people yet another layer of information to be overlaid on top of our environment; from time, electricity, to entertainment media and now ubiquitous information interacting with our surroundings. The tangibility of this new technology allows for new programmatic relationships to occur and other activities to emerge which require new programmatic functions.
PROGRAM, becomes a theoretical exploration into the possibilities of future human habitats through the re-imagination of programmatic ideologies, influenced by biophilic and technophilic trajectories, where the lineage of modernist ideologies have led us to a culture where biology and technology have become enmeshed. Program is no longer envisioned as a top down hierarchy, or comprehensively envisioned at all for that matter, as it becomes a transient, ephemeral, and adaptive space encapsulating social assemblages, flows and interactions of humans occurring within space and time. For this thesis, Biophilia + Technophilia, the program will be set within the context of a dense urban hive (the city) inhabiting cultural assemblages where augmented reality technologies have been developed and biotechnology is widely accepted as a viable option towards “progressing” the “modern” human’s vitality and longevity on Earth. Biology and technology during this time have fused where cyborgian upgrades allow for humans to exceed their natural abilities, and where the mind becomes fully integrated with the surrounding environment. Likewise, architecture has become an integration of biology and technology, where the architectonic spaces respond and interact with inhabitants, becoming semi-living organisms. Within the urban context a multiplicity of multi-faceted assemblages are created from the network of interactions occurring within any given space at any given time, creating a heterogeneous network of programmatic affiliations, created from the bottom-up. Interactions, attractors, relationships, and connections of the network created are simulated within the virtual, substituting the physical manipulations the architectural organism would conform to throughout a series of given conditions within it’s physical context. Program becomes an assemblage of informational flows in space-time, where it is merely the occurrences already taking place within a certain time, whereby the architecture enhances, enriches, and shelters these experiences. There is no definitive programmatic typology, but rather an assemblage of the multiple interactions which are dispersed throughout the system into one heterogeneous programmatic entity. Site and program becomes not one modulated zone within the capitalist urban grid, but rather “the complex interpenetration and integration of technical, architectural, biological, and social structures into one single, multilevel fluid.” (Kwinter, 1993)
HISTORICALLY the usefulness of data and information within the architectural realm in any state seems to have been overlooked, neglecting the potentials it holds towards informing the internal condition of the site. The canonical theories in modernist site planning do little to go further than their attributed aesthetic properties, and even then primarily relying on such conceptual ideas as regulating lines determined by the pre-existing context to regulate the masses which create the building. This concept is rudimentary at best when considering the complexities understood to arise within a given site, whether they are economical, sociological, or spatial. As in most instances, modernism seems to pick up on key biological or cognitive processes, but then misconstrue their potentials, failing to link phenomenon such as regulating lines (coherent visual relationships) to biological or psychological processes. As mentioned, the need to create coherent visual relationships has precedent within psychology (or biology, depending on the perspective taken) where the brain seeks visual coherence between objects, often filling in the missing gaps between objects with visual alignment, etc. However, modernist canon has reduced this to a set of architectonic processes which negate other fields; the reductionist philosophies of modernists,” by which one reduces complex phenomena to simpler isolated systems that can be fully controlled and understood” (Kwinter, 1993) were clearly misconstrued having little to no external influences (whether contextual, psychological, biological) informing the internal states of sites. Likewise, modernist edifices have been historically placed to create a continuous “urban edge”, however, these constructions became out-of-scale with the human inhabitants of the city, towering over the streets below where the structures hug the sidewalks and choke the pedestrian whilst denying the ground of any light. Urban space became cold and devoid of life. Furthermore, urban spaces conformed to political ideologies of security and surveillance, leaving spaces stark and devoid of thoughtful design which connects at the human level, instead vying for a form of urban control. Nikos Salingaros describes in length modernity’s alienation of the human inhabitant from the urban fabric, describing how “urban spaces that conform to the contemporary design canon tend to be dead, because they fail to establish a positive emotional connection with the user. If a space looks cold and austere because it lacks organized visual complexity, then we feel it as the absence of comfort and security.” (Salingaros, 2008) Until post-modernisms backlash for lack of integrating context, modernist canon did little to include biological ecologies or external influences into their site, creating super-blocks where the building footprint claimed the entire block for itself. The city became a standardized grid, whereby entire blocks could be replaced interchangeably with similar edifices, neglecting historical or ecological context. Only recently are architectural designs and urban landscapes tending to see voids cutting through the grid–that capitalist-driven international-conformist-style of planning which creates a mechanized existence out of the populace. In fact, landscape urbanism itself is a relatively new phenomena arising out of the need for a reconnection to the biological environment.
TO break free from this cycle of austere and banal environments, the processes of site must be studied from the bottom-up rather than coalescing from the top down, where interactions of the smallest-scale social assemblage, the level of the individual, are modelled and taken into account within the design process to coherently analyze their emergent conditions which may arise as “site”; a collection of programmatically defined events in time as the result of flows of matter-energy induced into the site. Therefore, “entities ranging from atoms and molecules to biological organisms, species and ecosystems may be usefully treated as assemblages and therefore as entities that are products of historical processes.” (De Landa, 2009) Within the site, unlike program, contextual processes and entities from the molecular to the macular must be considered when designing site. These bottom-up assemblages, with internalized historical significance, create the context for “site” which the organism (architecture) aggregates itself as within that particular moment in time. To concentrate on these ideologies of bottom-up processes one must also recognize these dynamical states of fluctuations in matter-energy that occur within these systems, negating the historically disconnected static-interface we currently reside within.
CONCEIVING of such dynamic states acting on a site requires a more active approach to contextual interactions, where presently the increased use of digital tools in architecture has given architects the tools and the ability to gather data from any given site and analyze their designs within the virtual before construction ever takes place within the physical environment. Through the enthusiastic optimism of modernism in technology (the coevolution of science and technology since the decline of the Industrial Revolution) has created a technology more biological, where operations within the architecture are able to sense and regulate themselves. The ability gained through the use of computational processing power allows for complex relationships found within an ecosystem to be algorithmically modelled whereby interconnected relationships are found linking them to a particular context. This information can be utilized in defining the relationship between the architectural construct and the site in which it is located within the geosphere and biosphere (and quite possibly the noosphere). Most recently sensors, and not only thermostats (which are the quintessential negative-feedback mechanism), have been added to a multiplicity of advanced building components, creating negative feedback loops where components within the building have the ability to sense alterations in light, temperature, and occupancy which then inform the building systems of their operability, and likewise the operability informs the sensors in a continuous feedback loop. Thus, the system is self-optimizing. In the context of this project, as the organism is able to sense acuities within the environment, it is able to respond by adaptation or morphological variation to the changing conditions as it interprets data being injected into site. Adding to these sensory mechanisms, what I shall call sensory organs, designers and architects now have the capabilities of analyzing conceptual structures before their construction and in addition the ability to optimize their internal and external conditions after construction. This has led visionary architects aimed at architectural constructions which optimize their structural geometry for a given set of circumstances. In the time of post-human design, the process whereby an analyses or optimization of anything will be a complete computation or mechanical process, where the building itself is given the technology and ability to control, adapt, and optimize to fluctuating conditions within the environment. These sensorial technologies, coupled with responsive building systems within the architectural design allow for an organism (the building) to develop within it’s embryonic stages (the virtual) whereby it is genetically manipulated through cues in the environment (the physical), and throughout the coarse of its life, continually seeking levels of optimization through fluctuating fitness criteria within an ever-changing dynamic environment, where the optimal goal is to reach a level of internal homeostasis for it’s internal organs (the inhabitants) and the larger context of the world wide urban hive. Environmental, political, and sociological trends may all be quantified and therefore analyzed and responded to quantitatively through both virtual and real-time environments. Flows of information such as this into the given context will create an architectural entity in a constant state of fluctuation as it seeks homeostasis.
IN an analogous relationship, our cities are like ecosystems, and as no system or network within our ecosystem is static, no organism may be fully developed within its embryonic stages and therefore must continuously search for its homeostatic state outside of the womb by involuntarily sensing the environment and responding to its continuous changes throughout the course of its life, whether through formal or molecular morphological adaptations. Therefore the site, specific to its geodetic address and cultural significance in society, becomes an attractor for flows of human matter-energy, data, and information where the edge condition within which this site exists, confronts its neighbouring entity, becoming a matrix in which more specialized structures are embedded and data passes through its bounds transferring external data into usable information directly influencing the organisms within. What historically was a mineralized exoskeletal system bounding and controlling the fleshy matter that resided within now becomes a connective gelatinous soft body, as organism, site and context amalgamate, extending outwards into the distributed network of disparate entities creating a heterogeneous urban fabric as it responds to highly specific contextual information.
VITAL to employing the techniques of biotechnically inspired design in architectural representation and technique is the use of digital methodologies, specifically algorithmic design approaches and current fabrication technologies. Biological processes may be quantitatively analyzed and mathematically modelled, thus this thesis will explore, both in processes and representation, the mathematical basis for these processes on an architectonic scale. Within the last two decades, since the advent of the computer and increased computational power, architectural visionaries such as John Frazier have employed mathematical processes, which are modelled after biological processes, for architectural design. Outside of the architectural profession, and creating a potential global shift in the digital revolution is the work by Craig Venteer, where digital code was created to produce the first artificial life—where DNA was coded entirely in the computer to create a unique self-replicating cellular organism. The alternative to this approach is explored within the medical fields and architecturally by Peter Yeadon, where biological cells are given a purely technological embodiment in the form of self-replicating nanorobotics. These developments in bio-technical processes create the groundwork research for the thesis proposal and approach to the construction of biologically influenced technologies supplementing the work. Therefore, in exploring the potentials of current technological trends in computational design, inspired by biology and actual biological processes found in nature, techniques of representation, form, and fabrication will be guided by these bases. Borrowing from the biomedical professions and the proliferation of digital fabrication technologies (such as rapid prototyping) physical constructions will be created representing the scaffolding for such biological organisms to adhere to and grow around. With the availability of multi-material rapid prototyping constructions may show the relationship between a crystalline structure creating the skeleton and the gelatinous soft-bodies that adhere to it. The use of this technology may also allow for representational models to be constructed of molecular or macular compositions of matter as they aggregate to form geometric structure and biological skin.
EVOLVING from the time of John Frazer, such digital modelling tools as Rhinoceros, primarily speaking of the Rhinoscript plug-in, has allowed for architectural designers to manipulate the architectural design processes at the binary level, manipulating code within the base modelling platform to perform processes akin to biology, as we understand these processes to date. This new tool at the designers hand allows for a “molecular” manipulation of digital code, where the architectonic processes taking place within the computer are controlled from the bottom-up (as opposed to previous modelling software which works from the top-down through geometric form-finding). Using this digital software as a generative tool, biological processes may be manifested within this “black box”, where the architectural processes undergoes similar states as those found in the development of organisms. When considering site and program through this current technology, information and quantitative analysis may be input into an algorithmic model influencing the formal language of the project. This information will simulate within a virtual environment the development of the architectural organisms within the physical environment as it may respond to such contextual conditions of inhabitation.
CENTRAL to the formation of the architectural proposal for this thesis are the processes modelled after biology and the languages being adopted or infiltrated into other professions; evolutionary genetic algorithms, morphological variation (morphogenesis), speciation, adaptation, and mutation (to name a few). Likewise, leaders (DARPA, NASA, MIT, etc.) at the forefront in the computational technological revolution have generated physical manifestations in robotics, adopting biological processes such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, swarm theory, and cybernetics. For the construct to gain relevancy within the profession, technological agendas by external forces must be analyzed in order to fully comprehend the possibilities of future biotechnical mergers, and thus represent their possible manifestations. These biological processes have become an increasingly significant factor in the language adopted by architectural visionaries and is currently proliferating into the practice as society becomes more accustomed to this language. International firms, such as Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), have already taken note of the advantages and growing interest in these processes and potential benefits to architectural design, creating their own research and development wing, Black Box. The term black box itself has origins primarily within the implementation of the genetic algorithm, where the system is viewed as the informational ‘input and output without any knowledge of its internal workings’ (Wikipedia, Black box). The implementation of such biologically inspired modelling capabilities have yet to be explored, but the growing interest by such large corporate firms, founded on modern principles, shows a societal shift in the acceptance of such processes as well as the lineage of modernisms infatuation and acceptance of technology and science. As the biological terminology becomes an increasing part of architectonic development so to shall the architecture become more biological within the physical environment. Thus, it is imperative that the resulting fabrication alluding to such a merger becomes a responsive and adaptive organism exuding qualities of the biological materiality through the means of micro, nano, and atomic manipulations.
ARCHITECTONIC form within architecture will be bred, like an organism, refined to specific informational inputs within its “embryonic development” within the virtual computer space. Surpassing a thousands years (or more) of evolution, these processes may be modelled within hours, searching for optimization within the organism’s virtual context as it would unfold within the physical environment. The evolutionary leap within architecture will occur at the moment where these biological processes transcend the digital environment, and the biological processes begin to take form within the physical realm, adapting and responding in real-time to environmental and contextual variations.