Inorganic Speciation


Inorganic Speciation
by Iain Maxwell + Dave Pigram (supermanoueuvre)

Form is the primary instrument through which architecture engages with the world. It is this firmly held position that motivates supermanoeuvre to develop custom methodologies of formation that allow for the explicit and open-ended negotiation between multiple architectural intentions and the complex milieux within which they will operate. These methodologies are algorithmic in nature, primarily digitally enacted, and extend the capacities of the form-finding tradition within architecture through a decoupling of its processes from the limits of physics, enabling a broader examination of the number and nature of negotiable inputs. The abstract notation underlying these algorithms enables a meta-analysis of the formational processes, which has an accelerating influence on their evolution, as experienced within other fields of intellectual and artistic endeavour. Through the application of algorithmic notation, the conception of form-production within design shifts from object-centric applications of typology, to the speciation of mutable architectural models.

Architectural form is concerned with organisation across multiple scales (programmatic, material and structural) enmeshed in a complex feedback loop with the forces, events and behaviours that simultaneously drive and are driven by them. The description of ‘formation’ through causal processes (morphogenesis) has been convincingly articulated by D’Arcy Thompson. He posited that ‘form’ could no longer be understood as an isolated, inert, or solely genetic event; but rather a generative process of transformation negotiated through an organism’s internal constitution (DNA) and its adaption to situation via the sampling of environmental, physical or material forces (feedback). The gift of form is both a “diagram of the forces” that gave rise to it, and a critical, selective and adaptive process through which morphology sheds its ‘generic’ nature and attains a higher order of specialisation. The more stable or recurrent of these specialisations can be understood to have achieved the level of ‘speciation’.

Matter, like architecture, is traditionally conceived of as benign, an underestimation that generally extends to all things lacking the motivations for life. In accordance with the contemporary understanding of formation as exhibited in soap-film aggregations, snowflake crystals, and bee-cell morphologies, the property of ‘body’ is in fact driven by the action, or ‘agency’, of one molecule upon another while simultaneously negotiating internally produced (surface tension) and externally imposed (surface pressure) influences. Formalness is therefore not a latent property of the single molecule, but a collective and intelligent behavioural event. Thus, “matter can no longer be seen as passive and ‘dead.’ it can sense and respond, in unpredictable ways, to its own condition and to external influence. The intimacy of the interaction of material with these fields is forcing a revision of the conception of matter and form as a separable duality.” Supplant the term ‘matter’ with ‘architecture’ to yield a framework for supermanoeuvre’s approach to design.

Collaboration with matter’s computational abilities is a well-established trajectory within architecture; Gothic Cathedrals, Antonio Gaudi’s hanging-nets and Frei Otto’s seminal work on minimal surfaces all serve as preeminent examples. Similarly, traditional design methodologies frequently take advantage of the positive formal constraints of specific design mediums. Charcoal sketches, clay models and procedural methods such as folding, cutting or weaving, all provide a consistency of character via a delimited ‘phase-space of possibility’. However, the limitation of analogue modes of computation in relation to broader architectural speculation is precisely their fixed relationship to immutable physical laws and material properties. Without the ability to expand, intervene-in or tune the parameters of form-finding techniques, architects are either forced into subservience to imperfect analogies between these factors and a larger set of extrinsic design intentions, or, must remain content to limit themselves to structural and material investigations. When executed digitally however, form-finding processes enable a greater incorporation of architectural constituency; programmatic as well as material design goals in negotiation toward the elaboration of architectural affect, spatial experience, ornament and performance.

Digital techniques, specifically algorithmic as opposed to parametric (associative) processes, allow for the non-hierarchical and non-linear (feedback) negotiation between multiple factors; the topology of the system, its network of connections (physical, virtual or both), remains open and is able to self-organise. The conception of architecture as a collective organisation driven through multiple agencies is more akin to the dynamics of complex natural systems than to conventional modes of design. For this reason, supermanoeuvre is consciously drawn to the modelling of the algorithmic processes that underlie biological and chemical phenomena, as opposed to the emulation of pre-existing geometries found within nature. Such fixed references, serve only to limit the capacity of the design process before it has even begun. Our interest therefore, rests firmly in the description of behaviours such as growth and change, mechanisms of feedback, and the transformative agencies such entirely syntactical models elaborate. This is a critical and conscious departure from graphical systems of representation, toward an active engagement with the protocols of ‘making’ that exist deep within all complex behavioural systems. The algorithm becomes the operative medium (descriptive environment) through which intentions are first encoded, then negotiated and ultimately enacted.

The application of algorithmic processes presents architecture with a set of descriptive and accelerating possibilities akin to those embedded within mathematics via its systems of abstract notation. Similarly, music enjoys rapidly enhanced evolution with each successive creation of new symbolic notational systems. As John Holland has observed, “anyone with a bit of effort can appreciate quite complicated music, but there are musical subtleties that are difficult to convey without notation. The sophisticated compositions of Bach, Beethoven, and Prokofiev depend on the discipline that produces that musical notation. To know musical notation is to enrich one’s understanding of the music and of the process of composition.” Here the delimiting frame of syntactical protocols, enables rather than inhibits the space of formal possibility. The ‘fugue’, “a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition” , famously adopted by Bach, is a prime example of cultural production literally inconceivable without symbolic grammar. Thus, notation enables a medium for the systematic meta-analyses not only of the artefact (theorem, composition or building), but also of the processes that have brought it into being. In short, it enables the creation of theories of making, which can then form a foundation for the elaboration of a design methodology. Within architecture, it is our precise ability to relay, quantify and query design speculation and aspiration through computable terms, that allows “architectural concepts [to be] expressed as generative rules so that their evolution may be accelerated and tested.”

Advocating architectural form as a synthesis of internal motivations and their response to situation requires an expansion of the framework through which it is theorized. Analysis of commonalities across and between architectural forms is critical to their generation, evaluation and positioning. Historically, typology has been both a practical and theoretical apparatus to this end. Premising architectural organisation upon established typologies, however, can be a reductive and external practice that unnecessarily pre-conditions and limits the act of design. The difficulty is that established typologies have conventionally been viewed as fixed, and are primarily articulated in programmatic and/or semantic terms without explicit reference to the forces and processes that generated them. There are exceptions; Zaero-Polo, Tschumi, Kipnis and Frampton have each articulated models of typology that are active to various degrees. What such models do not provide however, is an adequate meta-analysis or operative grammar through which a productive and empowering design methodology could be structured.

It is within this context that we advocate the adoption of an alternate conceptual framework, speciation: “the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise.” When applied to architecture, speciation offers a series of analytical tools and terms that redress the aforementioned deficiencies of typology and as such it presents a more open and robust vehicle through which to qualify architectural formation. Of particular value is the conceptual distinction between genotypical and phenotypical variation. Analysing formational processes and internal motivations separately to formal characteristics and context sensitive behaviours enables the discernment of a much larger and richer set of affiliations between projects. This in turn allows for more sophisticated systems of evaluations of fitness, both for purpose (the traditional domain of type), and of adaptability to a host environment. Fitness is here measured not against assumed global orders, but is evidenced through the realisation of a persistent, entirely local, and specialised instantiation of the genome. By advocating speciation over typology we do not seek to abandon the organisational diagrams of type, rather to enrich and elaborate them through their exposure to additional influence and the establishment of operative meta-models.

As a design practice, supermanoeuvre implicitly values richness and diversity and privileges complex and aperiodic forms of order; the heterogeneity and flux of the outside world are welcomed collaborators in the design process. Organizational, spatial and material characteristics arise from a synthesis of their own network of internal logics and their environmental, social, political, cultural and technical contexts (both existent and desired). Architecture, seen in this way, is neither a neutral substrate, mapping external influence without resistance, nor is it an inert exercise in the explicit production of shapes without reference to their environment. Instead it is an active participant with agency across multiple domains. Algorithmic techniques enable non-hierarchical, non-linear and explicit negotiations between an enlarged set of architectural intentions. Computation is employed to extend the form-finding traditions of architecture beyond the limitations of material substrates, while abstract notational systems enable a meta-analysis of the processes of form generation allowing them to be better understood, tuned and deployed, thus accelerating their evolution. Through the conceptual apparatus of speciation, fitness can be qualified through the persistence of specific formal differences, attained through the mutability of deeply embedded architectural logics. supermanoeuvre’s work is dedicated to the critical exploration and invention of strategies, methodologies and grammars of architectural formation.

Maxwell, I.J., Pigram, D.A. 2010, ‘Supermanoeuvre – Inorganic Speciation: Matter, Behaviour and Formation in Architecture’, Contemporary Digital Architecture: Design and Techniques, Links International, Barcelona, pp. 208-227.



Categories: Theory


studying: architecture design


Connect with archimorph and help grow the network.

29 Comments on “Inorganic Speciation”

  1. February 13, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Typologies and the languaje of patterns, as in Christopher Alexander, show cultural speciation of spatial forms and patterns in humankind, eversince. Random included as central guest.

  2. March 17, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Hey. Very cool internet site!! Man .. Beautiful .. Very good .. I’ll bookmark your internet site and take the feeds additionally…I’m satisfied to locate numerous useful data right here in the article. Thanks for sharing.

  3. June 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    You made some good points there. I looked on the internet for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  4. June 29, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your website.

    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable
    for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?
    Outstanding work!

  5. June 30, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    When the hot summer months are over, setting the ceiling fan to move
    air toward the ceiling can reduce your heating costs and keep
    the house more comfortable. If there are industrial
    fans that can be mounted on the ceiling, there are those that can be mounted on the
    wall. When it comes to building your romance feng shui,
    TV in the bedroom becomes just that: TV in the bedroom — and nothing else.

  6. July 1, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but
    great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more
    or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic information I was
    looking for this info for my mission.

  7. July 1, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team
    of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work
    on. You have done a wonderful job!

  8. July 5, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    hello!,I really like your writing very so much! percentage
    we keep in touch more approximately your post on AOL? I require an expert in this house to solve my problem.
    May be that is you! Having a look forward to look you.

  9. July 5, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    Superb blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew
    of any forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get advice from other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Kudos!

  10. July 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Just desire to say your article is as amazing. The clearness for your put up is simply nice and i can think you
    are an expert in this subject. Fine along with your permission allow me to take hold of your RSS
    feed to stay up to date with coming near near
    post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  11. July 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    Hi there Dear, are you in fact visiting this site on a regular basis, if so then you will
    without doubt take pleasant experience.

  12. July 10, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding
    blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed
    to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this
    blog with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  13. July 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Thanks for finally writing about >Inorganic Speciation |
    archimorph <Liked it!

  14. July 11, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say
    that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  15. July 11, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Hello there, I think your website may be having
    internet browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it
    looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads
    up! Apart from that, excellent website!

  16. July 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Someone necessarily help to make severely posts I’d state.
    This is the first time I frequented your web page and
    to this point? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this actual
    submit extraordinary. Great activity!

  17. July 15, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Now I am going away to do my breakfast, once having my breakfast coming yet again to
    read further news.

  18. July 19, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of.

    I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they
    just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail
    upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects ,
    people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.

  19. Thank you, I have just been searching for info about this topic for a while
    and yours is the best I’ve found out so far.
    However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you sure
    concerning the source?

  20. This paragraph presents clear idea designed for the new
    viewers of blogging, that truly how to do blogging and site-building.

  21. July 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it
    from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.

    Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks

  22. July 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    I think that what you composed was very reasonable.
    But, think on this, what if you added a little content?
    I am not suggesting your content isn’t good., but suppose you added something that makes people
    desire more? I mean Inorganic Speciation | archimorph
    is kinda plain. You should peek at Yahoo’s home page and watch how they create news titles to grab
    viewers interested. You might add a related video or a picture or two to get people interested about what you’ve got to say.
    In my opinion, it could make your posts a little livelier.

  23. July 22, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d like to find out more details.

  24. July 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

    Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for
    your weblog. You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some content for your blog
    in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an email if interested.

  25. July 27, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    We stumbled over here from a different website and thought I might as well check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to finding out
    about your web page again.

  26. July 28, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create
    my own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  27. July 29, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I recieve 4
    emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you
    are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

  28. July 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you really understand what you’re talking approximately!
    Bookmarked. Kindly additionally seek advice from my site =).
    We may have a link trade agreement among us

  29. July 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 173 other followers

%d bloggers like this: