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NATURAL SYSTEMS STUDIO ALBUM

Scripting and architectural design

MICHAEL YANG


PREFACE

// Exploration of architecture through natural systems

Nature has always inspired architects, from the many ratio’s derived from the human form to the materials used to support and construct the intricate forms that architects design. We have always been fascinated with how to replicate the complex patterns and structures that natural forms take. They provide us with huge sources of inspiration that we have yet to out innovate. However, with the introduction of modern computers that are capable of processing significantly more complex data, architects, engineers and visual effects artists alike are able to begin scripting with outcomes that verge on the intricacy of mother nature. With the rapid pace of development experienced by the 21st century, it may not be long before we may finally break through the final frontier of design and begin anticipating and scripting for a truly tailored end result. This journal follows my introduction to the world of scripting and the design thought and techniques involved, what scripting can offer the fluctuous world of architectural design and what may come next if these potentials are realised. Scripting is still a very young ‘movement’ (if you could even call it that) and its utility has not yet been fully realised. It is my hope that through taking Natural Systems Studio, I may come to a better understanding of what computational design may offer to design and how we as designers, if find utility in scripting, better engage with the benefits it may provide. - Michael Yang BACKGROUND ART BY MATHIAS Müller (MATHIASM.DE)


01. CULTURE

// Scripting and ideology

[Scripting] provides a range of possiblities for creative speculation that is simply not possible using the software only as the manufacturers intended it to be used. Because Scripting is effectively a computer program overlay, the tool user (designer) becomes the new toolmaker... - Mark Burry, Scripting Cultures (2011)

IMAGE: FEDERATION SQUARE, MELBOURNE

Here we are advancing to an age beyond historic architecture tools of pen and paper, what implications does this have on the way we design? How have we been influenced or our creativity constrained by what we can technically achieve through our design tools? Arguably pencil and paper and possibly even scripting will always have constraints, the only difference is the level of freedom given to the designer. Which is where it seems being in ultimate control, down to the very bottom, will technically allow for the greatest level of creative utility.

We are in a time when anything goes and there is no basis for a manifesto - post modern has come to, ultimately, no meaning. ...the seduction with objecthood and architecture as art is perpetuated. Geometry is not invoked; no one peers within and asks questions about the archetypes of form. These are forgotten. - Cecil Balmond, Informal

Architecture is widely regarded as an art form, though may really be closer to graphic design, a communication orientated profession. Where art may stand on the whim of the artist, architecture is commonly politically, culturally and economically loaded, always with an agenda. Perhaps some introspection to what the purpose of geometry serves to architecture. Scripting has a tendency to create a generic complexity, swarming towards a particular aesthetic. Abstract parametric patterns and forms dominate the 21st century with only hints of what their core form or idea stems from. As technically amazing as these designs they may be now, their message can often be lost among the myriad of triangles and joinery. The novelty of the spacial experience seems to take precedence. What happens when these designs become ubiquitous? The novelty quickly deteriorates into apathy and possibly even hostility. What will come next to combat this?


02.EMERGENCE

// Accidental complexity

Think about an ant colony, they’re trying to build a nest. If you look at any individual ant, it’s just moving along and its antennas are wiggling and its smelling pheremones and it has no idea what it’s doing. It doesn’t know it’s trying to build a nest... and yet out of this, you see a coordinated group that looks like everybody knows what they’re doing, but in fact nobody knows what they’re doing... It’s the same thing with your brain. No single cell out of the some hundred billion in your brain is having a thought, but together they are; they’re falling in love or wanting to writing music, so who’s in there? - Steve Strogatz: Radiolab, Emergence (2007)

Emergence is said to be the architecture of accidence; how out of layers of seemingly nothing build up to form something and it happens all the time in nature. Fireflies who, without any discernable communication, all glow in synchronisation, swarms of fish that are capable of cooperating to survive, the fact that life even evolved at all. This is such a wonderful concept to think about philosophically. The possibility that all our thoughts are possibly just a ‘random’ firing of single neurons in a highly copmlex pattern thats has, in combination, formed something coherent. It is an interesting Sorites paradox where we have to understand that no single element forms the whole, we cannot seem to identify a clear moment where ‘something’ has emerged, yet undeniably there it is. These ideas are directly related to scripting. We can script simple elements which perform basic tasks and layer them in multiple layers of complexity to the point that we may not even be able to perceive what each element is doing. If mothernature can achieve so much by accident, it is amazing to think of what could be possible if it is designed specifically for a function. However, there is some debate that the reason nature has been so successful is that it is not perfect at anything, but this means that it is able to survive in many circumstances.

Natural selection will gradually tend to produce a generalised response of adaptation to specific environmental stresses, and this will occur across many species. - Emergent technologies and design (2010)


In general, self-organised patterns can be regarded as a kind of computation performed by interactions of physical particles. This is made most apparent in models based on cellular automata: discrete elements (cells) organised on a regular grid, which interact via simple, local rules that depend o the state of neighbouring cells. - Emergent technologies and design (2010)

Performing Arts Centre in Abu Dhabi Illustrated by Zaha Hadid

So far, we have generally only been able to replicate the visual characteristics of nature. Organic-like forms and patterns are used aesthetically, with little functional purpose and require significant economical investment. Though sometimes beautiful and technically amazing it seems in contrast with nature, whose patterns and forms are as efficient and require as little effort as possible. Many of the structural and adaptive properties have mainly been explored in engineering for structural inspiration in materials. Buildings that adapt, without significant mechanical intervention to their surroundings, are few and still reliant on historic architectural principles.

In the living world, pattern formation seems both to constrain adaptive change and to offer new adaptive opportunities - to operate, in other words, in parallel and sometimes in sympathy with Darwinian evolution. The technological and aesthetic possibilties of spontaneous pattern formation, for example in materials science, architecture and the production of structurally and dynamically complex chemical systems, is only just beginning to be explored. - Stephen Morris, Pattern formation in nature


Natural Systems Systems Studio album