response to crit:huron synergy


…however this system is not intended for today[the present/past], or tomorrow[near-future], but looking further into the future (say 20 years) when the phosphorus pollution is foreseen to be at its highest rates, and by this time there will be even newer unimagined technologies, some of which are already proposed and in testing. Already today there are “apps” for i-Phones and other mobile devices; it is not a stretch to say that an application could not be downloaded to a mobile device to have a real-time view of where these autonomous units are located and where they are aggregating.

This project is aimed at the investigation of a new structural system which questions what it means to be architecture, the roles of the architect/designer, and who should be the recipient of such designed spaces. It is only intended at this time to create a discussion with a focus on the exploration of how an architectonic form and/or space can adapt to information within its environment, whether they be human or environmental. The archetype thus tries and explores the parametric capabilities of a building to receive and adapt to this influx of information. To truly understand function of this system you must understand its structure, both in its material systems and structure of grammar, to which this project will take closer look at structure, and how it can become smart to its surroundings following a self-assembling entity. This project aims at opening up a discussion on the future of building technologies and the role they will play in the evolution of architecture due to the mass implementation of digital parametric modeling as a toolset in light of an ongoing paradigm shift in the field.

As young students of design and architecture have increased interest in parametric modeling and become increasingly digitally trained, they [the designers] now will aim at bringing their architecture to life as it is within in the realm of the digital. Architecture is simply a derivative of the tools available to the designer; t-squares, rulers, units of rectilinear proportioning and other rigid tools of visualization for past generations created the building block architecture we now live in and are a direct result of the tools used in their creation. Presently with new digital modeling tools our architecture becomes a result of these tools, however hidden within the virtual we lack the building techniques and systems to make a truly dynamic building system in the real world.
We are stuck with only capturing a moment frozen in time of this architectural product. Dynamic adaptable forms have many examples which can be found in nature, from its geometry to its systems that can help us to achieve this new architype.

As for the grammar of spatial and structural investigations, swarm intelligence has already been investigated by multiple researchers, most famously for the use of the traveling sales ant, whereby the digital ants find the fastest routes to the food source. This has been used to create more efficient shipping routes, traffic light networks, and telecommunication systems. Other practices have already seen this natural bottom-up approach beneficial to their problems; however most within the architectural practice have not come to grips with these realities. How can this system be beneficial to architecture? With today’s standard building methods and materials this cannot be imagined to fruition, however with materiality and systems research into the biological processes we can conceive this new archetype. Form follows function, and likewise forms follow the sum of its components, which the current arrays of modules, such as the CMU and 2×4, are unsuccessful at achieving to become a dynamic system—they remain static and unchanging, a product of the Industrial Revolution trying to break down a larger object into the sum of its parts which are more manageable and mass reproducible–we now seek dynamic adaptation and customizability.

Research has been ongoing by NASA to create autonomous robotics for Mars. Dynamic systems such as these are no longer a simulation stuck within the virtual; they are actually being created and funded. As with most commercially available products, their initial phase started within the research by heavily funded agencies such as NASA and the ARMY. Adding to the fact of this research Moore’s Law, we can imagine that within the next 10-20 years this technology will become less bulky and optimize to a formal product. Like the 2×4 and the steel-tee before it, this too can become a building component. Modular in its mass production, but adaptive and responsive to its environment with the capability of customization on a massive scale based on the simplest change at its base level. A building system such as this can begin to create a responsive architecture to its environment, and adapt to the changes surrounding it. To achieve architecture from this building unit the system would need to also be self-assembling, aggregating into a habitable structure. Most modular units lead to redundancies which occur in structure and form, ultimately leading to a sterilization and homogenization within the built environment, where architecture should actually be diverse and adaptive to its environment. This system of actuators and sensors, give the ability for large-scale change to happen to the system based on a simple change in the rule-set or stimuli being fed to the units, creating amorphous surfaces surrounding programmatic voids, which are in fact a response to its environment. Housing sensors to read both environmental and human change in the environment, these individual units can asses the situation at the local scale, ultimately affecting the regional.

Many questions are raised within this project such as; exactly where and how do people and the human factor play into this autonomous role of an external agent? How do they influence swarm, or how is the swarm influenced by the person? Where do architects and designers fit into the equation? Do we need them in certain instances? Many uses for swarm intelligence theory has been named, from shipping routes to manufacturing models, but little to no projects have posed the possibility of these models being used for architecture, even though when seeing such models as autonomous robotic swarms, they do not envision this as part of their daily lives within the built environment. Why is this? Is it because humans simply do not relate to this seemingly foreign system, especially one that would become their dwelling or a part of their created environment? Many do not believe that there is a natural ordering system that could achieve the same or better results. Humans hold similar emergent and mathematical properties which can be found in them as can be found in ant colonies, but in fact we are different, we have a much higher level of intelligence [than ants], yet while comparing building methodologies our singular “hives” are much less efficient than their [the ants] models. Some disclaim the fact that we may in any way or shape be comparable to the mathematics of nature and of insects—perhaps this could be a reason for dismissal of such approaches to building systems and design practices. Many portray this in the future as being the means to our end, the day that the robots take over and we are no longer left to think or create for ourselves. Many speculations and assumptions can be made, but we and our systems that we have created are so intertwined can we not say that now? From electricity to automobiles, we are so connected with our devices that it is hard to picture ourselves and lives without them. This however does not give cause to handing over the built environment away to robotic edifices. So what does? It is a new building system, and there is an emerging paradigm shift, so opinions are not easily shifted, but the simplest analogy is if one were to try and explain to someone the power of personal computing in the twenty-first century to someone who is looking at the invention of the Comptometer–unimaginable. People probably laughed at the man who told them one day you would be able to watch reruns of actual filmed footage on a screen in a box… or maybe they didn’t. As Albert Einstein said, ’insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, so we must challenge our current way of thinking, and explore new possibilities creating new discourses in an enlightenment of architectural practice and techniques, trying to find a more efficient system– which means we must look at all possibilities no matter how radical or mundane, not just a select few as seen fit by the select few.

Categories: Research, Theory


studying: architecture design


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