ABALANCEDARCHI TECTURE P E T E RS U E N/ / 2 0 1 3
A BALANCED ARCHITECTURE // PETER SUEN A masters research thesis presented to the U.C. Berkeley School of Architecture in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Masters of Architecture. THESIS COMMITTEE: M. Paz Gutierrez Professor of Architecture U.C. Berkeley
Lisa Iwamoto Professor of Architecture U.C. Berkeley
Kyle Steinfeld Professor of Architecture U.C. Berkeley
May 17, 2013
RESOURCES // ABSTRACT Our world is one of limited resources. This is truer today than ever. Owing to over population and unchecked consumption, we are fast depleting our most essential resource - water. The U.N. estimates that 1.2 billion people live in areas of water scarcity and another 1.6 billion people face economic water shortage. (United Nations Environment Programme, n.d.).
Architecture is not divorced from these pressing concerns. In fact, the environmental impact of buildings is well documented. â€œGreenâ€? strategies are certainly beneficial in the construction of a more sustainable built environment. But what about design itself? How do we as architects conceptualize a resource-centric design? We can add solar panels to any roof but that is only a topical treatment for a serious wound. This thesis proposes two theories on an architecture of restraint. The first is based on an understanding of ornament from a biological perspective. The second borrows other forms of natural intelligence that have a propensity for stability. The hope is that these new ways of thinking about design will help push us towards a balanced architecture.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF BUILDINGS // 65% of total U.S. electricity consumption // 40% of total U.S. primary energy use // 30% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions // 40% of raw materials used globally (3 billion tons annually) // 40% of landfill material in the U.S. (136 million tons annually) // 12% of potable water in the U.S.
Fig. 1 Satellite image of earth settlements Note the urbanization near water sources, including the Nile River and Nile Delta in Egypt. In this dry part of the world, surface-water supplies are essential for human communities. (See http://ga.water.usgs.gov/ edu/watercyclefreshstorage.html).
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE // CONTEXT How is balance achieved in other contexts? We may look to the natural world for one perspective. In nature, the conflict between a state of limited resources with the demands of population growth produces what Charles Darwin termed “the struggle for existence.” (Darwin, 1859). Darwin observed that animal and plant populations have an immense potential for growth. For example, even the elephant, one of the slowest mammalian breeders, could overrun the planet if it were allowed to reproduce unhindered. After only 500 years, one pair would leave 15 million descendants. Elephants do not run rampant, Darwin tells us, because the Doctrine of Malthus applies in manifold force. T. R. Malthus, in An Essay on the Principle of Population, states that “the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.” (Malthus, 1798). Unlike humans, animals and plants cannot artificially boost their food supply, nor can they practice restraint in breeding. Therefore, “although some species may be now increasing, more or less rapidly, in numbers, all cannot do so, for the world would not hold them.” (Darwin, 1859). This lack of resources produces an intense competition for survival, which works to keep populations and subsequent resource demands in check. This struggle for existence may be a conflict for food or a battle against the elements. No matter the form, it is ever present. “All that we can do is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction.” (Darwin, 1859).
Fig. 2 Fish from the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle Exquisite variation in nature only becomes full species through “the struggle for existence.” (Darwin, 1842).
Fig. 3 Tree of Life Darwin indicates the â€œdivergence of characterâ€? from original species into new species via a tree diagram and calculations, the only illustration in the Origin of Species.
TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS // CONTEXT Technology dampens the effect of Darwin’s “struggle for existence” in the human context. In other words, the use of technology compensates for this state of limited resources. Yet, like an over-population of elephants, humans are prone to destroying our environment and resources through an unbalanced use of this technological power. Garrett Hardin describes this phenomenon as “The Tragedy of the Commons.” According to Hardin, this dilemma arises from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen. (Hardin, 1968). This Tragedy of the Commons has been observed in many instances where water resources are devastated by human intrusion, including the diversion of water from Mono Lake and Owens Lake to feed the Los Angeles aqueducts, and the draining of the Aral Sea. In these examples, there is depletion of fresh water, over fishing, contamination and destruction of habitat.
Fig. 4 The Tufa Towers of Mono Lake (opposite) Mono Lake is a freshwater lake approximately 300 miles from Los Angeles. In 1941 the Los Angeles Aqueduct system was extended farther upriver into the Mono Basin. So much water was diverted that evaporation soon exceeded inflow and the surface level of the lake fell rapidly. By 1982, the lake had lost 31% of its surface area. As a result, alkaline sands and once-submerged tufa towers became exposed.
Fig. 5 Aerial Image of Mono Lake The shrinking water level also caused Negit Island to became landbridged, exposing the nests of gulls to predators (chiefly coyotes) and forcing the breeding colony to abandon the site. In 1974, Stanford University graduate student David Gaines studied the Mono Lake ecosystem and was instrumental in alerting the public of the effects of the lower water level. This effort helped spur the California State Water Resources Control Board into action; in 1994, it issued an order to protect the lake and its tributary streams. Since that time, the lake level has steadily risen.
TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS // CONTEXT There have been many proposed solutions to the Tragedy of the Commons. One such proposal relies on private property rights: convert common goods into private property, giving the new owner an incentive to enforce its sustainability. This is an argument often made in water rights, but many times private ownership results in worse outcomes compared to common management. This is partly because water is difficult to privatize due to its flowing nature. It is also difficult to privatize because other property components, such as fish populations, are wound up with water as a resource. This difficulty with how to privatize a common good was somewhat resolved when Ronald Coase put forward the Coase Theorem (which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1991). According to this theorem, the initial imposition of legal entitlement is irrelevant because the parties will eventually reach the same result. This is because the party able to reap the higher economic gain from a resource would have an incentive to pay the other parties not to interfere. In the absence of transaction costs, the parties would strike a mutually advantageous deal in how to use a resource. Coase, of course, pointed out that in most situatios transaction costs could not be neglected, and therefore, the initial allocation of property rights does indeed matter. If we cannot learn to share a resource, and we cannot easily allocate ownership of a resource, then we are forced to rely on renewable and sustainable technologies to help make more of a resource. Such technologies help turn a zero-sum scarce resource into more of a renewable resource, thus alleviating the individual demands. However, a renewable resource can still become de-valued because of over-exploitation. Hardin focuses on problems that he feels cannot be solved by technical means, i.e., as distinct from those with solutions that require “a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality.” Hardin contends that this class of problems includes many of those raised by human population growth and the use of the Earth’s natural resources. “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality.”
Fig. 6 Abandoned Boat in the Aral Sea Similar to Mono Lake, the Aral Sea has also seen its water levels drop dramatically. Situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the water from this lake has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea. The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.” The fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The region is also heavily polluted, causing serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with hotter, drier summers and colder, longer winters.
Fig. 7 Satellite Image of Owens Lake Owens Lake did not fare as well as Mono Lake. After almost a century of being diverted into the L.A. aqueduct system, the lake is now desiccated. This image shows the mostly dry bed of the remaining lake. Periodic winds stir up noxious alkali dust storms that carry away as much as 4 million tons of dust from the lake bed each year, causing respiratory problems in nearby residents.
ORNAMENT AND HONEST SIGNALING // THEORY As discussed above, the natural balance provided by the “struggle for existence” is weakened in the human context due to mankind’s technology and cleverness. So we habitually over consume and destroy our natural resources. This tragedy is difficult to avoid, even with legal, economic and social constructs. As Hardin suggests, we must fundamentally recognize this dilemma and actively struggle to avoid this outcome. Understanding the role of ornament in architecture can help achieve this goal. This thesis hypothesizes that ornament functions as an honest signal in the context of architecture. Wherever there are organisms, there are signals. In nature, animal calls, patterns, colors, fragrances, are all modalities by which signals are sent and received. These signals function to indicate some property of the organism, such as its overall condition or its genetic quality. If we add a cost to the production of these signals, whether it is measured in energy, time or some other externality (such as increased danger from producing the signal), then the signals will inherently tend to be honest.
ORNAMENT AS HONEST SIGNALS PEACOCK SOUTH ASIA ORNAMENT RATIO = 1:0.3
In the early 1970’s, biologist and natural historian Amotz Zahavi termed this the “handicap principle.” (Zahavi, 1997). He suggested that there is something about costly behaviors or physical features (or “handicaps”) that make for inherently reliable signals. For example, a peacock’s tail may be a signal used by prospective mates in order to estimate the individual’s overall condition and/or genetic quality.
Fig. 8 Peacock Plumage When choosing a suitor, it is difficult for peahens to judge a male’s genetic quality directly. Instead, peahen attend to signals that the males provide; namely, its bright plumage and long flamboyant tails. This 30-50" ornament is a handicap because it is energetically costly to produce, and it is dangerously conspicuous as well. This cost ensures that the signal is honest. A weak and sickly male cannot afford to divert energy from basic upkeep to the production of ornament; moreover, a long tail would make him more susceptible to predators. A strong and healthy male, by contrast, can readily afford the additional costs of producing bright colors and a long tail, and can more easily escape a predator even when burdened by the length of his tail.
MENT AS HONEST SIGNALS PEACOCK SOUTH ASIA ORNAMENT RATIO = 1:0.3
ORNAMENT AND HONEST SIGNALING // THEORY Honest signals also occur in the human context. For example, John Stuart Mill examined wealth and status and treated it as a form of social signalling. In Principles of Political Economy, Mill noted that: “a great portion of the expenses of the higher and middle classes in most countries, and the greatest in this, is not incurred for the sake of the pleasure afforded by the things on which the money is spent, but from regard to opinion, and an idea that certain expenses are expected from them, as an appendage of station.” John Stuart Mill (1848). The economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen also addressed this phenomenon in his satirical Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Veblen recognized the importance of consumption not for its own sake but what it signals about the consumer. While wealth may initially serve as a signal of efficiency, Veblen argues that over time it becomes a virtue in its own right:
ORNAMENT AND RESOURCE ASYMMETRY MOAI - EASTER ISLAND 1200-1500 AD ORNAMENT RATIO=1:1
“The possession of wealth, which was at the outset valued simply as an evidence of efficiency, becomes, in popular apprehension, itself a meritorious act. Wealth is now itself intrinsically honourable and confers honour on its possessor.” Thorstein Veblen (1899). Easter Island statuary may serve as an example of this form of signalling. Suppose there are resource asymmetries between chiefs on the island. One chief with more resources may indicate this asymmetry by using this surplus to build moai statues. This would be an honest signal, as the size and difficulty in erecting these statues may prevent other chiefs with limited resources from doing the same.
Fig. 9 Moai Statuary Interestingly, there is a debate amongst archaeologists and other researchers on whether moai building was a cause of the downfall of the island civilization. Some contend that the moai industry was a cause of environmental degradation that led to near-extinction for the prehistoric island culture. (Shepardson, 2006). Other studies suggest that the island suffered more from colonialization and even rats brought aboard ships from other countries. Certainly, the construction of statues and megalithic architecture resulted in the consumption of vast amounts of natural resources. However, these statues may also have had both short- and long-term benefits. “In the short-term, investment or pooling of resources for the construction of monuments can help to form beneficial relations that facilitate trade, ameliorate intergroup aggression, and enhance reproduction. In the long-term, construction of monuments can act as an investment to hedge risks associated with subsistence strategies in variable or unpredictable environments.” (Shepardson, 2006).
ASTER ISLAND 00 AD
PHASES OF ORNAMENT // THEORY Like the feathers of a peacock, ornament may function as an honest signal in architecture. Ornamentation is certainly costly to produce, and the ability to do so may initially indicate some sort of innovation or efficiency. Honest ornamentation may therefore induce others to select this particular form of building, leading to the further development and articulation of a type of architecture. Over time, this ornamentation may become codified. Like wealth, it may become a virtue in its own right, and no longer an accurate signal of the original benefits. This cycle of ornamental function has consequences on resource expenditures. Initial expenditures during the period when ornamentation still functions honestly is arguably a positive investment of resources. The subsequent phase of codification could be viewed as a neutral period, neither beneficial nor detrimental. However, when ornament is no longer an accurate indicator of quality, efficiency or innovation, then the further allocation of resources to it becomes an unworthy investment. The negative impact on resources during this tail phase is enhanced by the geometric nature of population growth. Population exceeding the carrying capacity of an area or environment is called overpopulation. Overpopulation exacerbates problems such as pollution and resource management. Our choices on what to build, and how to build, are all the more important given this state of overpopulation. To achieve a more balanced architecture, we must be cognizant of the role and effect of ornament and respond to situations accordingly.
ORNAMENT AS CODIFIED STYLE
EFFECT ON RESOURCE FROM EXPONENTIAL POPULATION GROWTH
ORNAMENT AS HONEST SIGNAL (STIGMERGY)
ORNAMENT AS CRIME
Fig. 10 Phases of Ornamentation During the tail phase, ornamentation may be thought of as â€œcrimeâ€? in the Loosian sense. In Ornament and Crime, it struck Loos that it was a crime to waste the effort to add ornamentation, when the ornamentation would cause the object to soon go out of style. Ornament viewed from the perspective of honest signals clarifies this position: it is not so much that ornament inherently causes an object to become unfashionable but rather that it no longer functions properly to indicate the value of the object.
SPANDREL ORNAMENTATION STIGMERGIC ITERATION STUDIES
Fig. 11 Spandrel Ornamentation Ornament may initially serve a secondary function as an honest signal. Over time, it may be strengthened for its stigmergic aspect, eventually becoming codified as a decision making shortcut.
STRESS-TO-SPANDREL OPTIMALITY POINT SPANDREL AREA
// 15 Ornament may initially serve a secondary function as an honest signal. Over time, it may be strengthened for its stigmergic aspect, evetually becoming codified as a decision making
ORNAMENT IN ARCHES // CASE STUDY An example of the phases of ornamentation can be seen in the development of the arch structure. No one knows for certain how the arch was invented. One hypothesis is that accidental discoveries (perhaps from naturally toppled stones) were amplified into simple arch-like structures. This process could have been aided by ornament. For instance, ornamentation on spandrels may have indicated a structural efficiency. Over time, this may have developed into more sophisticated arches. Similarly, ornamented keystones may have helped the transition from corbel to true masonry arches.
ORNAMENTAL STIGMERGY (EARLY PHASE) LIONS GATE - MYCENAE 13th century BC ORNAMENT RATIO=1:1.5
This type of interaction is similar to the mechanism of stigmergy found in nature. Stigmergy is a type of indirect coordination between agents or actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different 12.7' actions tend to reinforce and build on agent. â€œIn that way, subsequent each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.â€? EMERGENCE CHARACTERISTICS
Fig. 12 Early Corbel Arch (opposite) How did the transition from corbel to true masonry arch occur? Did ornament function in a stigmergic fashion to help give rise to the modern arch?
FORMS OF ORGANIZATION
Stigmergy is a form of self-organization. It produces complex, seemingly intelligent structures, without need for any planning, control, or even direct communication between the agents. As such it supports efficient collaboration between extremely simple agents, who lack any memory, intelligence or even individual awareness of each other. (Marsh and Onof, 2007).
LEADER BLUEPRINT TEMPLATE RECIPE
10' Fig. 13 Forms of organization (below)
This diagramCHARACTERISTICS illustrates various forms of coordination different from EMERGENCE self-organization. self-organization, these forms rely on some FORMS OFUnlike ORGANIZATION external component, such as a leader, template or blueprint.
ORNAMENTAL STIGMERGY (EARLY PHASE) LIONS GATE - MY 13th century BC
ORNAMENT IN ARCHES // CASE STUDY The arch is one of the most significant developments in architecture. As a structure, it is capable of spanning great distances through the elimination of tensile stresses. As monument, the triumphal arch signified the power of many civilizations. As infrastructure, it provided a means to move water for urban populations. A prime example is the Roman aqueduct, which supplied at one time enough water to sustain a population of over 1,000,000 people.
RESOURCE ASYMMETRY AQUA APPIA - ROME 312 BC ORNAMENT RATIO=1:0.7
How was the arch discovered? We know that Romans initially learned how to build arches from Etruscans, but how did Etruscans learn of this technology? Arches were also known by other civilizations, including 26' groups in Asia, the Middle East and modern-day Mexico. Furthermore, humans are not the only organisms that build arches. Termites, for example, build networked arches that support chambers, ventilation shafts and insulating cavities.
Fig. 14 Roman Aqueduct Arch (opposite) Unlike earlier arches, the Roman arch used in aqueducts is a true masonry arch.
Fig. 15 Termite Mound Interior Interior section of a termite mound showing vaulted chambers.
RESOURCE A AQ 31
ORNAMENT IN ARCHES // CASE STUDY It is likely that no one ever invented the arch in the sense of visualizing and understanding this structure before its construction. It is more likely that the arch was the outcome of localized actions motivated by much simpler goals. This idea of an emergent phenomenon may be tested directly through agent-based models. Such bottom-up techniques view the world from the perspective of â€œagentsâ€? that are programmed to follow simple, local rules not directly related to the building of an arch. Like a termite mound, the arch may have emerged as a global pattern from localized interactions.
RESOURCE ASYMMETRY TRIUMPHAL ARCH - (LATE PHASE) ARCH OF BARA - SPAIN 13 BC ORNAMENT RATIO=1:0.7
Agent-based simulation can be designed to test this theory by seeking the set of minimal, reasonable conditions required for automata (i.e., agents) 17' to acquire and retain knowledge of how and when to build an arch. If successful, such a model may also show how complex solutions can arise out of limited and myopic decisions. There is also the (faint) potential that the model might even produce something other than the arch, that humans have yet to discover, to solve the same set of problems. Through this process, we may come to a better understanding of why it was so hard for us to invent the arch.
Fig. 17 Agent Based Simulation Results of initial experiments on solving the column spacing problem through a bottom-up approach incorporating stigmergic principles and the concept of pheromones, instead of a traditional top-down approach.
Fig. 16 Roman Triumphal Arch (opposite) Late-period triumphal arch with elaborate columns and capital showing the codification phase of ornamentation.
pheromone strength = 7
avg. col. spacing = 11.5
RESOURCE A TR AR 13
ORNAMENT IN ARCHES // CASE STUDY GOTHIC ORNAMENTATION
TREFOIL GEOMETRY STUDY
Gothic architecture provides another example of the phases of ornament. One may view the trefoil arch (or “three-foiled cusped arch”) as a latephase example of ornament, where it has become pure decoration without any useful indication of innovation.
TREFOIL GEOMETRY STUDY
The great central dome of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice may serve as an example. There, the spandrel spaces formed by the intersection of two arches have such elaborate ornamentation that one wonders if the ornament has not taken complete precedence over the original architectural constraints that defined the space. But John Ruskin, in his Stones of Venice (1885), points out the difference between the curves of real Gothic ornament, which is restrained, versus other imitation, unrestrained curves: “Then observe the other example, in which, while the same idea is continually repeated, excitement and interest are sought for by means of violent and continual curvatures wholly unrestrained, and rolling hither and thither in confused wantonness. Compare the character of the separate lines in these two examples carefully, and be assured that wherever this redundant and luxurious curvature shows itself in ornamentation, it is a sign of jaded energy and failing invention. Do not confuse it with fullness or richness. Wealth is not necessarily wantonness: a Gothic moulding may be buried half a foot deep in thorns and leaves, and yet will be chaste in every line; and a late Renaissance moulding may be utterly barren and poverty-stricken, and yet will show the disposition to luxury in every line.”
Fig. 19 St. Mark’s Cathedral
Fig. 18 Gothic Ornamentation Diagram study of trefoil geometry.
GOTHIC FOLIATION LINE EXTENSION STUDY Does ornament guide stygmergy in emergent phonomena? John Ruskin believed that work and ornamental freedom, in particular Gothic foliation, leads to structure advances. Can this ornamental function be generalized?
Gothic arch-like elements found in the foliation to the left
PARALLEL SYSTEMS // THEORY As discussed above, the amplifying quality of nature has the potential to produce destructive explosions. This positive feedback is kept in check by a state limited resources. There are, however, other natural systems that have built-in mechanisms that keep positive feedback under control. Many of these are parallel systems that exhibit self-organization. A more balanced architecture can be achieved if we learn to incorporate selforganizing and parallel design concepts. A parallel system is one that is composed of many individual units that operate in parallel, using only localized information. The units can be of different complexity but they are often entities with limited perceptions of its environment “that can process information to calculate an action so as to be goal-seeking on a local scale.” (Flake, 2000) The main quality is that entities operate in a parallel, non-sequential manner. In many parallel systems, negative feedback plays a critical role in providing a brake on over amplification. Consider bluegill fish where males tend to nest near one another. Why are bluegill colonies not regularly overcrowded? Research suggests that negative feedback limits their behavior tendency to nest closely together. In other words, bluegill males follow a rule such as: “I nest where others nest, unless the area is overcrowded.” In this case, both positive and negative feedback are coded in how bluegill fish units operate. (Camazine, 2003). In fact, it is the interaction between positive and negative feedback that produce many of the striking patterns in nature. As a result of the bluegills opposing tendencies to gather together yet maintain personal spacing, the breeding ground becomes a beautiful closely packed polygonal array of nests. Camazine explains that this pattern “itself serves no function and has no adaptive significance. Instead, the regular geometric spacing of nests probably is an epiphenomenon, an incidental consequence of each individual striving to be close, but not too close, to a neighbor. Mechanistically, it arises automatically through a self-organizing process similar to the hexagonal close-packing of round marbles placed in a dish.”
Fig. 20 Tilapia Fish Nests Top view of the polygonal pattern of male Tilapia nest territories, which are similar to bluegill colonies.
Fig. 21 Tilapia Fish Nests Image of Tilapia nests from an aquaculture hatchery.
SCALABILITY AND ADAPTABILITY // THEORY
SCALABILITY // CASE STUDIES
If patterns of ones and zeros were “like” patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths? // Thomas Pynchon Parallel systems are also extremely scalable and adaptable. These two qualities are important for a balanced architecture. Systems that cannot adequately scale or adapt inevitably become obsolete. This produces waste and taxes our limited resources. Consider water scarcity, a problem faced by almost one-fifth of the world’s population. A design suitable for only one specific geographic area is not as powerful as a design that can scale across multiple regions, climates and domains. The design process must not only produce an isolated result for a single circumstance, but must be generalizable and capable of finding suitable solutions in other situations. Parallelism, much like the multiplicity alluded to by Pynchon, is one feature capable of enhancing the scalability and adaptability of architectural designs. Rather than a system with a fixed capacity, a parallel collection of similar units can tackle new problems by adding more units. Parallelism within the unit also enhances adaptability. Like a collection of ants, tasks can be performed simultaneously and via specialization, allowing each unit to tune itself under new conditions.
Today, there are many problems associated with water, from scarcity to flooding. In terms of water scarcity, the U.N. estimates that 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical scarcity and another 1.6 billion people face economic water shortage. (United Nations, n.d.). Water is also immensely powerful, and in the form of a tsunami it can destroy entire cities. As an earthquake pushes the ocean floor, billions of cubic yards of water is moved, resulting in a sea wall that weighs trillions of pounds. That amount of energy can be compared to an exploding atomic bomb. (Chang, 2011). Solutions to these problems have to be scalable given their magnitude. A large problem does not necessarily require a large scale solution, but rather a scalable solution. Scalability is defined as a system’s ability to handle and accommodate more work. Scale is one way to achieve scalability – increased scale can generate the capacity to manage more load. This can be thought of as vertical scalability. But scalability can also be achieved in a horizontal manner – a system can grow and augment itself to accommodate new demands. Parallel systems are good at horizontal scalability. “A parallel system is inherently more efficient than a sequential system, since tasks can be performed simultaneously and more readily via specialization.” (Flake, 2000). This quality enhances the scalability of parallel systems. As more of a problem is encountered, additional units can be added in parallel to accommodate the increased load. These aspects of scalability can be better understood by examining different solutions to water problems.
Fig. 22 Designing with Parallel Systems Conceptual design of an urban aqueduct based on parallel units.
AZTEC WATER WORKS // SCALABILITY The Aztec civilization has been described as one of the most remarkable civilizations in the world. Among their achievements are their hydrological works. Surrounded by enemies, the Aztecs built their city of Tenochititlán in the middle of Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico. This valley “forms a great topographic saucer, rimmed on all sides by higher ground that surrounds a central depression.” (Parsons, 2005). Although drained today, in pre-Columbian times rainfall on the surrounding slopes drained into this depression to form a series of interconnected shallow lakes and marshes. In these predominantly saline lakes, the Aztecs built a series of amazing water works, two of which include the Chapultepec aqueduct and the chinampa gardens. Although there existed fresh water springs near Tenochititlán, this supply was limited and could not keep up with the city’s growth. To feed the city’s thirst, an aqueduct was built and completed in 1466 AD to bring freshwater from the springs of Chapultepec into Tenochititlán. Named the “great aqueduct,” it was more than three miles long and approximately five feet wide. (Aguilar-Moreno, 2007). It was built from lime, stone and rubblework and included twin pipes, which allowed one pipe to be used as the other was cleaned and repaired. (Raynal-Villasenor, 1987). The aqueduct was constructed on a causeway which bridged over canals at certain points. At these bridges, containers could be filled with freshwater and transported via canoes. These same canals also formed an interconnected network with a hydroponic system of floating gardens called chinampas. Each garden was rectangular in shape, measuring approximately 8’ by 100’. They were constructed on the swampy lake bed by first staking out a long enclosure, then weaving the stakes together to “form fences which would be covered with decaying vegetation and mud.” (Aguilar-Moreno, 2012). These plots would be built in a parallel fashion, spreading across the marshy areas of the lake. The chinampas proved to be a very efficient form of agriculture, as harvested plants and extracted sediment were deposited to form a layered bed. “Abundant harvests were produced which satisfied the necessities of the inhabitants of the river basin.” (Becerril and Jimenez, 2007). These two water systems illustrate the difference between vertical and horizontal scalability. The former characterizes the Chapultepec aqueduct,
while the latter exemplifies the chinampas. The aqueduct was a major feat of engineering that took the skilled engineer Netzahualcoyotl thirteen years to build. As such, it has a finite amount of built-in capacity. With its twin pipes, it was capable of supplying water for a large and growing city. But once this capacity is reached, the system will quickly become obsolete. The chinampas, on the other hand, has a more flexible form of scalability. Each floating garden was simple in design and more could be easily added to meet the needs of the city. In fact, â€œ[d]uring the days of the Aztec Empire, the chinampa farming zone on Lake Xochimilco produced at least half of the food for TenochititlĂĄn, which may have had as many as 200,000 inhabitants.â€? (Aguilar-Moreno, 2007). This type of horizontal scalability was only limited by the amount of suitable lake bed available for farming. Thus, the Aztecs took care to develop a sophisticated lacustrine system to ensure plenty of fresh water lagoons for chinampa use. (Becerril and Jimenez, 2007).
DUTCH WATER WORKS // SCALABILITY The Netherlands is located in the delta of three major rivers including the Rhine, Meuse and Schedlt. This combination has produced a geography that is incredibly susceptible to flooding. With approximately a quarter of the Netherlands below mean sea level, about two-thirds of the urban areas of the country would be flooded every day without flood protection measures. (Horstman, 2007). This intense risk has prompted the development of sophisticated flood controls, including the historic polders system and the recently completed Oosterscheldekering surge barrier. Polders are sub-sea level (or sub-river level) areas of land that are protected (or reclaimed) from flooding. (Van Schoubroeck, n.d.). In the Netherlands, polders have been used extensively since the 12th century. Traditionally, Dutch polders were formed by draining delta swamps into nearby rivers. Although arable land was created, the process also caused oxidation of the peat, which caused further soil subsidence. Individual polders are separated from each other by surrounding dikes. The dikes protect the polder from rising river/sea levels. Each polder is equipped with independent drainage systems and pumping stations to discharge surplus water. (Schuetze, 2008). Despite this system of polders, coastal areas are still prone to severe floods. In 1953, the North Sea Flood claimed nearly 2,000 lives and triggered the â€œDelta Works.â€? (Dijkman and Villars, 1997). This massive engineering project consists of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees and storm surge barriers, all aimed at shortening the Dutch coastline and protecting the delta from the sea. The Oosterscheldekering, also known as the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier, is the largest of the Delta Works. This massive surge barrier is over five miles long, consisting of 65 concrete pillars with 62 steel doors, each approximately 140 feet wide. (Deltawerken Cooperation, n.d.). Half of these gates are normally open but can be closed under storm conditions. This allows the structure to preserve, in some measure, the saltwater marine life and ocean ecology around the barrier. These case studies, again, illustrate the different types of scalability. Polders, on the one hand, are horizontally scalable, while the Oosterscheldekering is scalable vertically. As a massive engineering
project, the surge barrier boasts that the chance of severe flooding is now reduced to once every 4,000 years. This type of capacity, however, is extremely expensive, costing not only 2.5 billion euros to construct but also 17 million euros per year to operate. Polders are smaller in scale and easier to deploy. As more arable land is needed, new polders can be added to accommodate this increased demand. Surrounded by dykes, polders form separated water systems that can be inserted as discrete units into the overall system. As individual units, polders interface with each other via pumping stations that drain surplus water from each polder to the boezemwater (canal water) system. â€œFrom this boezemwater system, the water is subsequently pumped towards one of the large rivers or directly towards the sea.â€? (Hortman, 2007). Although horizontally scalable, polders nonetheless face both pumping and discharge limitations. When these limitations are reached, whether during heavy storms or as a result of rising water levels, flooding will occur in the polder.
TOKYO WATER WORKS // SCALABILITY Tokyo, like the Netherlands, also faces severe flooding risks. Despite massive financial investments, Tokyo’s world-class water works are still being overwhelmed by natural elements. A study from 117 weather stations shows that in recent years there has been an increase in the frequency of highly localized and intense rainfall. (Sugai, n.d.). The city also experiences frequent typhoons, 31 in the last decade. All of these factors, along with rising average temperature and rapid runoff from pavement and buildings, have combined to batter the city’s weather defenses. In response, Tokyo has resorted to interventions at extreme scales. At one end of the spectrum is the “Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel” (or “G-Cans”), a massive subterranean stormwater drainage facility. The project seeks to protect Tokyo from floods during heavy rainfalls and typhoons. Over 4 miles in length, G-Cans consists of five silos connected by tunnels that channel overflow water from rivers around Tokyo to a huge storage tank. The surplus water is pumped out into the Edogawa River, which is located at a lower altitude on the outskirts of the capital. The silos are over 200’ deep and 100’ wide. The storage tank, popularly known as the “Underground Temple,” is 80’ high and 580’ long. At the other end of the spectrum, Tokyo is hoping that the Japanese chinaquapin, a native evergreen tree, can help alleviate its weather problems. The brainchild of Tadao Ando, the “Umi no Mori” project (or “Sea Forest”) seeks to plant half a million of these evergreen trees over an area of 88 hectares of reclaimed land in the middle of Tokyo Bay. The site for this forest is a reclaimed garbage disposal island. Ando’s vision sees a forest rising from the 100’ thick subsoil of compacted trash, providing relief from the heat and verdant wind passages into the city. Although both of these projects are colossal, they achieve their scale in different ways. For G-Cans, its vertical scalability is achieved through a single complex project that cost over $2 billion and took 17 years to complete. With its 14,000hp turbines and 78 pumps, the system is capable of pumping 200t of water per second. The Sea Forest is also massive in terms of their goal of planting 500,000 trees on an entire island. Yet, it approaches this goal differently. Ando, who is campaigning to raise donations $12.80 at a time (the cost per sapling), hopes to horizontally grow and scale this project into fruition.
ADAPTABILITY // THEORY, CASE STUDIES The concept of adaptability is used in many contexts. In business, it can mean efficiency and economic resiliency. In ecology, it can refer to the ability to cope with unexpected disturbances in the environment. Here, we will consider the adaptability of systems. In this context, adaptability can be understood as the ability of a system to adapt itself efficiently and quickly to changed circumstances. An adaptive system is therefore a dynamic system that is capable of changing its behavior over time to fit to changes in its environment. Interestingly, parallel systems are often quite adaptable. For example, “variation among the units of a parallel system allows for multiple problem solutions to be attempted simultaneously.” (Flake, 2000). Multiplicity also produces redundancy, allowing parallel systems to be more fault tolerant. With redundancy, parallel systems can more easily adapt to new environments without fear of complete breakdown. Multiplicity combined with time also acts as a filter. “We see this when life reproduces because it is fit, companies survive and spawn imitations because they make money, antibodies are copied because they fight infections, and synapses are reinforced because of their usefulness to the organism.” (Flake, 2000). These aspects of adaptability can be observed in the previous case studies. 1. AZTEC WATER WORKS As discussed above, it took the Aztecs more than a decade to construct the Chapultepec aqueduct. This was actually the second version of the aqueduct; the first one, constructed from mud, was destroyed by the great flood of 1449. (Becerril and Jimenez, 2007). Realizing the need for redundancy, the Aztecs built the aqueduct with twin water channels for ease of maintenance. As a centralized system, it was nevertheless prone to attack. When Hernán Cortés laid siege to the city, his armies cut off its food supplies and destroyed the aqueduct that brought water to the city. The chinampas were more flexible and functioned well as an agricultural system. Owing to their hydroponic and fertile qualities, the chinampas could be cultivated year-round, providing a vast amount of food for Tenochititlán and other surrounding cities. This meant that, when conditions were suitable, farmers could quickly and efficiently change their crops to maximize their efforts. During times of food surplus, “farmers
diverted their energies to growing crops that were not food producing; this lead to a great deal of specialized agriculture.” (Aguilar-Moreno, 2007). When flower prices were high in the markets, production could be shifted to cultivate flowers; when maguey farming was advantageous, the local people would adapt to that instead. 2. DUTCH POLDERS Adaptation and specialization can also be seen in the Dutch polders. Over the centuries, Dutch farmers adapted the polders to lowering soil levels to keep the water out. Some of these adaptations include “the building of hundreds of drainage windmills and later pumping stations to pump water from the polders into the rivers and the sea.” (Van Schoubroeck, n.d.). There are also many different polder variations. Some have two canals (a hoge/upper boezem and a lage/lower boezem), some have multiple windmills, while others have different sized dikes. Land use also varies, with some being used predominantly for the cultivation of flowers and vegetables, and others more for “greenhouses, businesses, houses and roads.” (Horstman, 2007). Polder ecology is also highly adapted. Some feature unique “field birds” including various species of ducks and waders. Others harbor “a wide variety of grass species and plants that grow in swampy areas and shallow waters.” (Van Schoubroeck, n.d.). 3. TOKYO SEA FOREST The beauty of the Umi-no-Mori is that forests are natural systems and biology is inherently adaptive. The individual units, the trees, are easy to plant and does not cost too much to purchase. They can be planted anywhere and, given the right soil and weather conditions, they will naturally grow and adapt to its environment. These qualities allow the project to utilize a grass-roots, bottom-up strategy to implement change. In fact, Ando’s own Setouchi Olive Foundation has already garnered enough public support to plant nearly 1 million trees in Japan since 2000.
Fig. 23 Chinampas Floating Farms (opposite) A flexible system of hydroponic farming consisting of individual units that aggregate.
MODELS FOR PARALLEL DESIGN // PRACTICE How can architects design balanced solutions that are scalable and adaptable? One way is to look to parallel systems that occur in nature. Governed by frugality, nature has produced many parallel systems, both physical and biological, that exhibit multiplicity and adaptive qualities. One such natural system is Physarum polycephalum, also known as slime mold. Despite being single cell organisms, slime molds exhibit several intelligent characteristics including maze-solving and network simulation. P. polycephalum is essentially an enormous single cell with thousands of nuclei. This plasmodium consists of a network of tubular veins that spread as it searches for food. This parallel process allows the slime mold to scale, as network strands grow and extend to explore new areas for potential food.  P. polycephalum can grow “to a size of several square meters, while separated segments as small as 1mm2 can survive as individuals.” (Siriwardana and Halgamuge, 2012). This multiplicity of tubes also makes slime mold highly adaptable. For example, scientists have studied how slime mold can efficiently create adaptive networks. One group of researchers used this ability to grow a network of highways for Canada, then used this network to simulate a nuclear disaster. Specifically, a crystal of sea salt – which repels slime molds – was inserted into the slime mold network of highways where a nuclear power plant existed. “The slime mold abandoned its tendrils near the salt and then grew a new highway pattern that efficiently rerouted food across Canada.” (Zimmer, 2011). P. polycephalum has also been observed to adapt and fine tune its food networks. In one study, slime mold was presented with two different kinds of food, one rich in protein and the other rich in carbohydrates. “The slime molds grew tendrils to both foods, but adjusted their sizes to get the best balance of protein and carbohydrates that allowed them to grow fastest.” (Zimmer, 2011). Again, this shows how parallel systems can easily specialize different component parts and adapt to its environment. As a biological entity, one can experiment and design with slime molds directly in its physical state. Alternatively, observations of the physical entity can also be used to create a theory of slime mold behavior to drive digital simulation.
Fig. 24 Dynamic Systems Slime mold can also be viewed as a dynamic system. Dynamic systems are systems that have motion; in other words, these systems change over time. Dynamic systems can be physical or biological. Whether it is water flowing in a stream or termites in a colony, they share several commonalities including multiplicity/parallelism and adaptability.
ARCHIGRAM PETER COOK, ET. AL.
FILIPPO MARINETTI MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM
VLADIMIR TATLIN MONUMENT TO THE THIRD INT'L
1934 VESNIN BROTHERS NARKOMTIAZHPROM
VLADIMIR TATLIN MONUMENT TO THE THIRD INT'L
VLADIMIR SHUKOV ANTONI GAUDÍ HYPERBOLOID STRUCTURES SAGRADA FAMÍLIA 1909 1900
ANALOG SIMULATION DIGITAL SIMULATION
1914 1917 1920
FELIX CANDELA THIN-SHELL STRUCTURES 1960 1960
Fig. 25 Simulation in Architecture (opposite) 1883 1896 Simulation is the simultaneous practice of theory and experimentation. As such, it has been ever present in PHYSICAL SIMULATION the field of architecture. Previously, simulation was primarily carried out in an analog and projective manner through drawing. Physical simulation by architects such as Gaudí and Fuller have also been important. Today, simulation is moving towards the digital realm, where computation 1920 is taking a more prominent1940 role. 1900
2000 PHILIP BEESLEY HYLOZOIC SERIES: SIBYL
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PETER EISENMAN FREI OTTO HOUSE IV INTSTITUTE FOR 1964 LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURES
BUCKMINSTER FULLER 1945 1950 GEODESIC DOME
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DIGITAL MORPHOGENESIS ACHIM MENGES MICHAEL WEINSTOCK NERI OXMAN
PETER EISENMAN FREI OTTO HOUSE IV INTSTITUTE FOR LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURES FELIX CANDELAARCHIGRAM PETER COOK, ET. AL. THIN-SHELL STRUCTURES 1960 1966 1975 SUPERSTUDIO A. NATALINI, C. DI FRANCIA
BUCKMINSTER FULLER GEODESIC DOME
VLADIMIR SHUKOV FILIPPO MARINETTI ANTONI GAUDÍ MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM HYPERBOLOID STRUCTURES SAGRADA FAMÍLIA 1909 1914 1917 ANTONIO SANT'ELIA FUTURIST ARCHITECTURE
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Fig. 26 The Knowledge Process and Forms of Simulation (opposite) We are familiar with experimentation and simulation in the scientific process. But for design, there is the need for simulation to interact with other design factors. Can the simulation and knowledge process be interactive in some manner to accommodate the design process?
DIGITAL SIMULATIONIST AT
PHYSICAL EXPERIMENTATION // PRACTICE The process of physical experimentation is one way to work with slime molds and other interesting natural phenomena. This process is key in developing human knowledge and illustrates how science interacts with the universe. In this process, physical experimentation is used to engage with the natural phenomenon. Observations of experimental results lead to human understanding that models the natural world. These models can then be manipulated “to see if they make accurate predictions of future observations.” (Flake, 2000). Here, slime mold experiments were conducted to explore their networking abilities. These experiments tested a variety of slime mold preferences, including: (1) distance to food; (2) amount of food; and (3) distance to food versus quantity of food. In the first experiment, slime mold was placed in the center of a petri dish. Food was then placed at nine other random points around the slime mold. Observations were then made to see what type of network the slime mold would make given these points of food. Initial results show that the slime mold connected the nine points in order of distance. First, a branch was extended to the closest food location, point A; the mold then extended a second branch to point B, the point closest to A. This process continued until all of the points were connected.
thick branch to this food source. From here, the mold again spread in search of more food, where it eventually discovered the larger food source. These experiments suggest that the slime mold searches in two distinctive modes. Initially, the slime mold branches in a uniform manner, searching in all directions for food. When food sources are found, the slime mold begins to make interesting decisions. In the case of a single source, the mold will consider the amount of food in determining how much to continue searching. Where the food source is large, the slime mold will slow or stop moving; where the food source is small, the slime mold will continue to branch and spread, looking for more food. When multiple food sources are found, the mold appears to tune its network according to the amount of food at each source. For large sources, the mold’s connecting network consolidates: branches are pruned and disappear, leaving a thicker tube with few offshoots. For smaller sources, sometimes a thin branch is maintained, while other times the entire branch is retracted and eventually eliminated.
The second experiment tested how the amount of food affects slime mold behavior. Again, slime mold was placed in the center. Two points of food were then placed equidistant to the center on the edge of the petri dish. One point had twice as much food as the other. In this context, the slime mold first branched out uniformly in all directions, searching for food. After it discovered both food sources, however, the slime mold started to adapt and tune its branches. Eventually, the mold abandoned the network to the smaller amount of food, and instead created one thick vein to the large food source. In the third experiment, the mold was placed at the edge of the petri dish. One food source was then placed at the center, and a second larger food source was placed at the edge, opposite the mold. Thus, the mold was presented with two options: (1) a smaller amount of food that was closer in distance, versus (2) a larger amount of food that was farther away. The slime mold, again, initially starts off searching in all directions. Once the smaller food source was found, the network was consolidated into one
Fig. 27 Networking Experiments (opposite) This set of 4 experiments tested the mold’s general abilities in growth and networking.
PHYSICAL EXPERIMENTATION // PRACTICE A second set of experiments were run to further test slime mold networking behavior. Here, a substrate of agar was cast into the topography of the Valley of Mexico (see cover image). Agar is a food source for P. polycephalum and allows fine streaming to be observed. Slime mold was then placed in locations corresponding to Aztec cities and urban areas, and food was placed at freshwater sources. Based on the previous observations, it was predicted that the slime mold would create a network similar to actual system of aqueducts, causeways and dikes built by the Aztecs. As expected, the slime mold quickly extended its network to connect the freshwater source at Chapultepec, corresponding to the aqueduct actually built. Over time, the mold worked its network south and discovered the freshwater lagoons that were suitable for chinampas farming. Eventually, that part of the network was strengthened and the Chapultepec branch abandoned. This appears to partially correspond with the actual Aztec network, as they eventually built a second southern aqueduct and established many chinampa gardens in that area of the valley. In conjunction, a series of experiments were run where the mold and food sources were placed in 2D according to their physical locations, but without the three dimensional topography. The results of these mapping experiments with slime mold are shown here on the right.
Fig. 28 Mapping Experiments (opposite, above) Mold and food were placed according to Aztec cities and sources of fresh water, in order to observe how the mold would connect and network these components.
PHYSICAL EXPERIMENTATION // ANALYSIS Two patterns of growth can be identified in the slime mold experiments. The first occurs where there is a large amount of food, which enables the mold to spread in a thick and web-like manner. The second type of growth occurs where there is a low amount of food, which forces the mold to concentrate its growth in highly articulated branches. This “web” versus “net” distinction can be observed in cities as well. At the urban scale, humans do resemble a parallel system similar to mold growth behavior. Where there are abundant resources, human cities can grow in a web-like manner. In desolate areas like deserts, the growth is severely limited, resulting in small settlements connected by single roads or highways. The map to the right compares these two types of urban growth. On the far right is the San Francisco Bay Area, a region with bountiful resources. On the left is the Atacama Desert, which is a harsh area with severely limited resources. In terms of the Bay Area, it has progressed from a monocentric region clustered around San Francisco to a polycentric one with contiguous growth along highway corridors and spilling over the hills to areas off the map. This region is a resource-rich area, which has permitted this “web” of growth. This rapid urbanization has even spurred proposals for filing the bay, including the Reber Plan from the 1940s. In contrast, the Chilean Atacama Desert has one of the driest climates in the world. Water is crucial to the survival of the desert cities in this region. Despite its limited resources, there are pockets of abundance such as fissures in the desert surface that carry water from the distant mountains. Small oasis towns, such as Tocano, capture that water and guide it in narrow channels through orchards and yards.
Fig. 29 Water in the Atacama Desert A fissure carrying essential water into small oasis towns in the desert of Atacama.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA “WEB” URBANIZATION 1850-1940 1940-1970 1970-2000
DIGITAL EXPERIMENTATION // PRACTICE With the advent of digital computation, designers now have digital simulation as an additional design tool. To simulate is to simultaneously engage in theory and experimentation. Through simulation, we can put our theories to immediate test, leading to more observations and understanding. Simulations also allow our models to interact with other digital processes; this effectuates an interdisciplinary environment that enables discoveries that are relevant to multiple fields. With slime mold, the observations gained through physical experimentation can be used to simulate its behavior. This digital intelligence can then be injected into other digital processes to see how slime mold behavior can interact with and affect other system components. For example, digital slime mold can be integrated with structural, thermal, sunlight and other analyses.
INITIAL TOPOGRAPHIC CONDITION AS INPUT
The screen shot images on the right are the initial attempts at simulating a slime mold that branches according to topographic variation as input.
ANALOG COMPUTATION // PRACTICE One conclusion from the physical and digital experiments conducted above is that nature is so rich and complex in its behavior that computers are incapable of answering many questions about the future. That does not mean we should avoid attempts to simulate a natural system. Yet one wonders if we are failing to utilize the full computational power of natural systems. Take the slime mold for example. The experiments above show that the mold exhibits complex behavior that is controllable to some extent. We can induce a range of growth patterns between “webs” and “nets” by modulating the amount of food. In this way, we can compute with slime mold by inputting different amounts of food, which the mold uses to generate an output of mold growth.
Much like a computer punchcard, the input for computation must be converted into gradients of food concentrations. For ease of manipulation, a layer of agar is used to grow the mold. Different amounts of food can then be mixed into the agar as a nutrient solution. Alternatively, oatmeal can be used as food and placed topically on the agar substrate. As the mold grows, it branches and spreads according to this food gradient. Over time, it leaves a network and imprints of its movement and structure.
Fig. 31 Turing Machine A slime mold computer operates similarly to other theoretical computational models. A Turing machine, for instance, is a theoretical computing machine invented by Alan Turing (1937) to serve as an idealized model for mathematical calculation. A Turing machine consists of a line of cells known as a “tape” that can be moved back and forth, an active element known as the “head” that possesses a property known as “state” and that can change the property known as “color” of the active cell underneath it, and a set of instructions for how the head should modify the active cell and move the tape (Wolfram, 2002). At each step, the machine may modify the color of the active cell, change the state of the head, and then move the tape one unit to the left or right.
ATION // TS
t into the slime mold d. This can be sugar ed with agar solution d on the agar.
MOLD INOCULATION OATMEAL
NUTRIENT AGAR NON-NUTRIENT AGAR
anches and spreads t. Over time, it leaves its movement and
ANALOG COMPUTATION // PRACTICE To use this slime mold computer, it first had to be calibrated in terms of determining how much food is exactly required to get a specific type of growth output. This was done via a third set of slime mold experiments where each discrete food concentration level was cast in agar and mold grown for observation. In total, 30 different combinations of food were used to calibrate the slime mold computer, ranging from 0 to 3% nutrient agar. Each of these percentages were cast in an individual petri dish for experimentation, and then a single casting incorporating all food combinations was cast to see how the mold would grow across these food gradients. 0 to 3g of Agar for 100ml solution: =============== -13: .11g of nutrient agar (“NA), 1.89g non-nutrient agar (“NNA”) -12: .22g NA/1.78NNA -11: 0.33g / 1.67 -10: 0.44g / 1.56 -09: 0.55g / 1.45 + -08: 0.66g / 1.34 + -07: 0.77g / 1.23 + -06: 0.88g / 1.12 + -05: 0.99g / 1.01 + -04: 1.10g / 0.90 + -03: 1.21g / 0.79 + -02: 1.32g / 0.68 + -01: 1.43g / 0.57 + 00: 1.54g / 0.46 + +01: 1.65g / 0.35 + +02: 1.76g / 0.24 + +03: 1.87g / 0.13 + +04: 1.98g / 0.02 + +05: 2.09g + +06: 2.20g + +07: 2.31g + +08: 2.42g + +09: 2.53g + +10: 2.64g + +11: 2.73g + +12: 2.84g +
Fig. 32 Calibration Experiments (above) These show 4 calibrations for 0.66NA, 1.32NA, 1.98NA and 2.42NA. Different types of growth is observed depending on the amount of nutrient used in the specific experiment.
Fig. 33 Resource Gradients (opposite) Inspired by John Hejduk’s 9 squares problem, the different percentages of nutrient were cast into nine circles, following a topographic pattern. This allowed the mold to grow and differentiate itself according to the varying amounts of food.
ANALOG COMPUTATION // DESIGN The site for the design project is Parcel A (hillside) in the Hunters Point Redevelopment Zone in San Francisco, California. This site was formally used for workers housing for the naval shipyard located there during WWII. Sitting on top of Hunters Point hill, it is surrounded by other portions of the redevelopment project that include landfills and superfund sites. Although Parcel A itself has been decontaminated, most of the surrounding areas are still heavily polluted with VOCs, heavy metals and other contaminants.
The design project is essentially to use slime mold computation to aid in the development of a water infrastructure that functions to capture and store stormwater. This would prevent runoff from the hillside areas into the surrounding superfund sites that would contaminate the water, which eventually flows directly out into the Bay or is absorbed into the underground aquifers. In conjunction, housing units would be integrated into this infrastructure, which could also take advantage of the water resource. Using the slime mold calibrations from before, a nutrient gradient was specified using the slope of Parcel A as the input design factor. The mold was then run on this input gradient to see if a water network could be developed.
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
AREAS WITH <8% GRADE
AREAS WITH >=23% AND <31% GRADE
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
AREAS WITH >=8% AND <16% GRADE
AREAS WITH >=31% AND <38% GRADE
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
HUNTERS POINT // PARCEL A
AREAS WITH >=16% AND <23% GRADE
AREAS WITH >=38% AND <47% GRADE
Fig. 34 Translating Slope into Food Drawings showing the segmentation of site topography into 6 discrete intervals. Each of these intervals were then mapped to a specific nutrient percentage.
Fig. 35 Slime Mold Computation on Site The specified nutrient gradient was then cast in agar and mold grown. The output was photographed and traced for analysis.
ANALOG COMPUTATION // DESIGN A water distribution network was first developed using the slime mold output as a source for design. This network could distribute water to different housing nodes across the site. Areas around the water network could also be used for terracing, which residents can use for urban farming. Infrastructure that combines the functions of a traditional roof that sheds water with an inverse form that collects water is utilized to capture stormwater that feeds into the network. Housing units are incorporated into this structure. The structure is situated sectionally such that residents can enter both through the roof level and the ground floor. The housing types include both studios and one-bedroom apartments. All units have access to the roof deck which allows residents to see the water collection at work, along with enjoying the views out to the San Francisco Bay. Fig. 36 Detailed Site Plan (opposite)
PARCEL A “HILLTOP” SITE PROPOSED REDEVELOPMENT AS A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD WITH MIXED HOUSING TYPES AND SIZES, WITH MODERATE DENSITY.
STORMWATER CAPTURE WITH INTEGRATED HOUSING PARCEL A “HILLSIDE” SITE A WATER DISTRIBUTION NETWORK IS CONNECTED TO HOUSING UNITS INTEGRATED WITH STORMWATER CAPTURE INFRASTRUCTURE.
TERRACED URBAN FARMING
WATER DISTRIBUTION NETWORK
Fig. 37 General Site Plan
52 // ENUE
PARCEL E SUPERFUND SITE
DETAIL SITE PLAN 1’=1/128”
Fig. 38 Ground Floor Plan The housing units benefit from the water infrastructure in many ways. Water collected can be used to offset use and demand. Urban farms can also be irrigated using this water. Any surplus can be stored for future use, or pumped back into ground aquifers.
Fig. 39 Plans and Section B The section shows the circulation of the one bedroom apartments. The roof entry for these units is shared; the internal circulation is semi-private, however, and is separated by a water wall. Residents can directly view the amount of water captured through this party wall.
Fig. 40 Section A This section shows the studio units and how they are integrated into the stormwater capture infrastructure.
ANALOG COMPUTATION // MODELS The relationship of water as a resource with architecture is further developed through physical models. The site model examines how the hillside topography could be viewed in section, which led to a method of approximating the reduction of runoff contamination resulting from the intervention. The circulation model examines all surfaces which are used for human and/or water circulation. Many of these surfaces are parallel to each other but at certain key points, including vertical circulation, they are instead perpendicular. Lastly, the sectional model shows how the housing units are tightly integrated with the water infrastructure, and show how residents could have direct interactions with water as a resource in their daily living routines.
Fig. 41 Circulation and Section Models The circulation model shows all areas that are for human and water circulation. The sectional model shows how the one-bedroom units are integrated within the system.
Fig. 42 Site Model Acrylic sections with embedded 3D-printed water infrastructure and wires representing underground water distribution network.
Fig. 43 Building Render Residents may have a different perspective of storms, as rain is gathered during these events and stored within the structure and distributed throughout the site for efficient use.
ANALOG COMPUTATION // CONCLUSION Designing with biology is a difficult process. It is uncertain how we as architects should interface with the output of an analog, biological process. The design of this thesis has sought to use the computational output of slime mold for planning and the design of infrastructure. The architect adds value through other program and designs that are integrated therein. No matter the difficulty, it is important to keep in mind that working with such systems has great potential benefits. Parallel systems utilize feedback in a manner that produces balanced, scalable and adaptable results. We must keep these qualities in mind, along with the role of ornament and potentially other mechanisms that maintain balance, to avoid a tragedy of the commons for architecture.
Fig. 44 Site Render This render shows the design situated amongst other buildings and program that existed at some point during the history of Hunters Point.
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