Page 1

Architecture & Unconventional Computing Conference_ /// Organized by Rachel Armstrong, Martin Hanczyc and Neil Spiller

_08.30 –18.00 Friday 26 February 2010 _The Building Centre 26 Store Street London WC1E 7BT

TIMETABLE 08.30 – 09.00


09.00 – 09.05

Neil Spiller


09.05 – 09.30

Neil Spiller

Communicating Vessels

09.30 – 10.00

Rachel Armstrong

Architecture & Unconventional Computing

10.00 – 10.30

Martin Hanczyc

Protocells as Architectural Agents

10.30 – 11.15

Lisa Iwamoto

Iwamoto Scott Architecture

11.15 – 12.00

Ben de Lacy Costello Chemical Computing

12.00 – 12.45

Philip Beesley

12.45 – 13.30


13.30 – 14.15

Simon Park

Material Computation and Architectural Possibilities in Simple Organisms

14.15 – 15.00

Paul Preissner

Man’s Best Friend

15.00 – 15.45

Lee Cronin

Inorganic Evolution and Life

15.45 – 16.30

Evan Douglis

Evan Douglis Studio

16.30 – 17.00

Nic Clear

Film on the ethics of unconventional computing & protocell architecture (Synthetic Space)

17.00 – 17.45

Chair, Nic Clear

Panel Discussion

17.45 – 18.00

Neil Spiller




Hylozoic Ground

The Architecture and Unconventional Computing conference brings innovative architects together with scientists working with new technologies that are capable of selfassembly and higher-order organization. These advanced technologies form the basis of a new, realizable vision of architecture underpinned by a new class of materials whose properties are familiar to the world of synthetic biology, namely programmability and self-organization. These materials are generated through a novel ‘bottom-up’ approach to both synthetic biology and the construction of materials. The outcome is the production of buildings that are connected to their environments in which they are able to make decisions and respond to them without an obligate digital intermediary. These architectures therefore possess some of the properties exhibited by living systems but are not truly ‘alive’ and can be regarded as a form of unconventional computing, which is the science & technology of materials with intrinsic properties that are suitable for solving particular kinds of problems. Unconventional computing systems differ from digital ones in that they possess mass and therefore operate within a finite timeframe, require physical inputs to generate material outputs. These systems can be robust, but also can behave unpredictably and therefore have the capacity to solve unpredictable situations (Armstrong, 2001). We will explore the possible synergies between the broad disciplines of synthetic biology and architecture through the lens of unconventional computing. A new vision of architecture is emerging that requires the reconsideration of materials in the built environment. How are materials manufactured, how are they maintained, and what properties (perhaps not yet realized) are desired? Of particular interest is the integration

of structure into both the built and natural environments with an intention towards sustainability. Research programs that bridge both synthetic biology and architecture may produce the next generation of materials needed to produce a sustainable system. We would like to begin to design this integrative interface between the built structure and the environment. The conference & workshop follow a series of novel events, publications and research created through an exploratory collaboration between Neil Spiller and Rachel Armstrong at UCL and Martin Hanczyc at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. Our initial work has been featured in Wired, London Times, Architects’ Journal and MIT’s Artificial Life Journal to name just a few publications. Our research has also attracted considerable interest and publicity having been featured as a keynote at the UK government’s Department of Science conference on Futures and Climate Change in September 2009 and also has the backing of the University College London’s Grand Challenges research team. Ultimately, we aim to encourage new, mutually beneficial, interdisciplinary research teams that can develop the technology of unconventional computing through a bottom-up approach to synthetic biology, discover its architectural applications and to generate a truly international architectural vision of architecture in the 21 century. /// Rachel Armstrong, Martin Hanczyc and Neil Spiller

Reference: Armstrong, R (2009), Living Buildings: plectic systems architecture, Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, Volume 7 Number 2, Intellect, p 86

A manifesto for protocell architecture: against biological formalism

_Rachel Armstrong _Martin Hanczyc _Neil Spiller


We want to change the world with almost nothing. It is possible to generate complex materials and architectures through 
harnessing the fundamental energetics of matter. In other words, doing 
more with less.


What we call protocell architecture is, at root, a piece of Dadaist and 
Surrealist research, in which all the lofty questions have become 
involved. The novel self-assembling material systems that arise from protocell 
architectural practice make no reference to, nor attempt to mimic 
bio-logic. As such, protocell architecture is an alien to the natural 
world, yet speaks the same fundamental languages of chemistry and physics. 
The results of these conversations and interactions constitute a parallel 
biology and second biogenesis whose aesthetics are described by Surrealist 


Architecture is dead, long live architecture. Protocells constitute a disruptive technology for architectural practice 
since they are capable of reaching a transition point when evolution 
emerges within the system, the outcome of which is unpredictable and 
therefore offer novel and surprising ways of constructing architecture 
that will succeed and replace conventional technologies.


Protocell architecture swallows contrast and all contradictions 
including the grotesquery and illogicality of life. Protocell technology is at the beginning of an evolutionary pathway that 
is connected to and dependent on the environmental conditions around it. 
The responsiveness of protocells to stimuli, means they can be regarded as 
computing units. Consequently, protocells do not seek to generate 
idealized architectural forms but reflect and interpret the full spectrum 
of the processes they encounter in the real world.


What is generally termed life is really a frothy nothing that merely 
connects. Protocell technology offers an opportunity for architects to engage with 
the evolutionary process itself. Unlike natural biological systems that 
evolve randomly according to Darwinian evolution, protocell technology 
allows deliberate and specific interventions throughout the entire course 
of its coming into being. By moving and metabolizing, protocells may form 
the basis for a synthetic surface ecology. These interventions are the 
basis of what we call protocell architecture.


We do not wish to imitate nature, we do not wish to reproduce nature, 
we want to produce architecture in the way a plant produces its fruit. We do not want to depict, we want to produce directly, not indirectly, since 
there is no trace of abstraction. We call it Protocell Architecture. Protocell Architecture embodies the principles of emergence, bottom-up 
construction techniques and self-assembly. It is equipped with design 
‘handles’ that enable the architect to persuade rather than dominate the 
outcome of the system through physical communication. As such, these 
systems are unknowable, surprising and anarchic.


We want to collage effective organic machinery that composes itself 
according to the drivers of biological design. Protocell Architecture is chemically programmable and operates in keeping 
with the organizing principles of physics and chemistry.


We want over and over again, movement and connection; we see peace only 
in dynamism. Protocell Architecture gathers its energy from the tension that resides at 
an interface between two media such as oil and water, which causes 
movement, disruption and change. Protocell Architecture resists the 
equilibrium since this constitutes death.


The head is round, so thoughts can revolve. The head of architecture is 
green, robust, synthesized and exists everywhere simultaneously, whether 
it is large or very, very small. Protocell Architecture is fashioned from ‘low tech biotech’ characterised 
by ubiquitous, durable and affordable materials.


We wish to blur the firm boundaries, which self-certain people 
delineate around all we can achieve. Protocell Technology becomes a co-author in the production of architecture 
through the possession of living properties and its ability to 


We tell you the tricks of today are the truths of tomorrow. Protocell Architecture is better adapted to the prevailing physical and 
social conditions since it is founded on a new set of

technologies that 
are not ‘alive’ but which possess some of the properties of living 
systems. As such these technologies are qualitatively different to the 
industrial and digital technologies that have become the mainstream tools 
of the twentieth century.


We will work with things that we do not want to design, things that 
already have systematic existence. Protocell Technology has the capacity to transform and modify existing 
building materials and architecture with the potential for surprise.


You know as much as we do that architecture is nothing more than 
rhythms and connections. Protocell Architecture embodies the complexity of materials in a literal, 
rather than metaphorical manner and becomes a physical part of our 


We will construct exquisite corpses not dead but alive and useful. Protocell Architecture is central to the understanding of living systems. 
It allows us to work with and enhance the unavoidable inconsistency which 
is the essence of life itself.


We deal in a second aesthetic, one that initiates beginnings and 
moulds with natural forces. Protocell Architecture is connected to the environment through constant 
conversation and energy exchange with the natural world in a series of 
chemical interactions called ‘metabolism’. This involves the conversion of 
one group of substances into another, either by absorbing or releasing energy doing more with less.

Andy Adamatzky

Andy Adamatzky is Professor in Unconventional Computing, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. His research interests include novel and emerging computing paradigms and architectures, cellular-automata theory and applications, and collective artificial intelligence. He authored Identification of Cellular Automata (Taylor & Francis, 1994), Computing in Nonlinear Media and Automata Collectives (IoP Publishing, 2001), Dynamics of Crowd-Minds (World Scientific, 2005), ReactionDiffusion Computers (Elsevier, 2005), His new book Physarum Machines is coming out late 2010. _Voronoi diagram built in hot ice computer

From Reaction-Diffusion to Physarum Computing A reaction-diffusion computing is a massively parallel computation based on interaction between propagating patterns in spatially extended non-linear chemical media. The reaction-diffusion computing is realized in experiments with excitable and precipitating chemical processors. Data are represented by spatial configuration of local disturbances of medium’s characteristics. Information is transferred by propagating patterns. Computation is implemented by interaction of the traveling waves and localizations. A stationary or dissipative structure of the medium’s states is result of the computation. We overview recent findings in the field of reaction-diffusion computing, outline perspectives of further developments in the field, and focus of deficiencies of reaction-diffusion computing. We demonstrate that some spatial problems can be solved in chemical reaction-diffusion computers but are solvable in Physarum (slime mould) machines. Physarum machine is an implementation of storage modification machine in foraging behaviour of plasmodium of acellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum. We provide comparative analysis on how various problems of computational geometry, optimization, logic and robotics are solved in reaction-diffusion computers and Physarum machines.

References Adamatzky A., De Lacy Costello B., Asai T. Reaction-Diffusion Computers (Eslevier, 2005). Adamatzky A. Physarum Machines (World Scientific, 2010).

Rachel Armstrong Dr Rachel Armstrong is an interdisciplinary practitioner with a background in medicine who has collaborated extensively with artists, scientists and architects to create a new experimental space to explore scientific concepts and re-engage with the fundamental creativity of science. She regards the discipline of architecture as holding a unique place in the cultural imagination being simultaneously iconic and personal, and which offers an ideal forum to engage with and reimagine our experience of the world so that we can reinvent our role within it. She is a Senior TED Fellow, Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett and member of Professor Neil Spiller’s AVATAR Research Group. Her research investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘Living Architecture’ that suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems. _Artificial cells (Traube Cells)

Unconventional Computing and Architecture New technologies that work with the fundamental energetic, chemistry and physics of materials have the potential to generate truly sustainable architectures that are integrated with the natural world and not separate from it. They also offer the potential to change the way that buildings are constructed and more importantly, address the current negative relationship between making a building and its impact on the environment by becoming part of complete, complex ecological systems. The new materials proposed in this conference do not yet exist for use in architectural practice but we are collaboratively making them with international architects and scientists. Our research draws from advances in scientific laboratories that investigate self-organization and self-assembly (Armstrong, online). Inspiration is derived from a cross disciplinary range of scientific fields including synthetic biology, complexity chemistry and unconventional computing where experts have been invited to share their

_ Rachel Armstrong proposes a solution to save Venice from sinking by using protocell as an architectural material in TED TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009, Oxford, UK

research findings and discuss them with architectural practitioners. The notion of an unconventional approach to computing underpins the performance of these new materials in that they are embedded in and responsive to their environment without the need for mediation using external information systems such as, conventional digital computing, yet they possess design handles through which they can be engineered and manipulated to serve useful functions. Examples of these technologies include protocells (chemically programmable agents based on the chemistry of oil and water), slime mould (primitive robust organisms), bacteria and various forms of complexity chemistry. The ability to sense and respond to the environment in a direct and unmediated way is a characteristic that is anticipated to be shared by these new technologies and uniquely enables them to act as ‘computers’, or autonomous decision makers, which can deal with unpredictability, as in the case of climate change, to which they can robustly respond and perhaps can ultimately become capable of evolution.

References: Armstrong, R., (online, 2010) Architecture that repairs itself, rachel_armstrong_architecture_that_repairs_itself.html (accessed January 2010)

_Membrane of Traube Cell

Philip Beesley Philip Beesley practices architecture in parallel with digital media art. He is the principal of the interdisciplinary Toronto design firm PBAI and a professor in the School of Architecture, University of Waterloo. Beesley is widely published and exhibited. In the last three decades Beesley’s work includes numerous public buildings, sculpture and landscape installations, exhibition and stage design. Beesley’s experimental projects have increasingly worked with immersive digitally fabricated lightweight ‘textile’ structures. The most recent generations of his work pursue environments that ‘care’, incorporating interactive kinetic systems that use dense arrays of microprocessors and sensors as well as living biological matter. Projects this past year have included major installations in Madrid, Linz, Enschede, Brussels, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Copenhagen. His work has also appeared in Barcelona, Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei and has been featured in WIRED and MARK magazine and numerous journals including the covers of LEONARDO and ARTIFICIAL LIFE. Distinctions for his work are many and include the Prix de Rome in Architecture (Canada), 1st prize at Spain’s VIDA 11.0, a Far Eastern International Digital Architectural Design Award (FEIDAD), and two Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Philip Beesley was educated in visual art at Queen’s University, in technology at Humber College, and in architecture at the University of Toronto.

_Traube Cells that are being grown as scaffolding

Hylozoic Ground Philip Beesley presents a series of recent fieldoriented installations with a post-humanist context. Using a series of illustrated projects Beesley suggests new interactive paradigms drawing from the specific behaviours and interactive affects of these installations. These pursue the qualities of sentiment and empathy that are commonly associated with nineteenth-century aesthetics. Examples include, the recent 2009 Sargasso Field installation, produced in collaboration with CITA, AVATAR and the FLinT group in the UK and Denmark which includes an overhead cloudlike layer composed of many hundreds of light mylar pores, controlled by proximity sensors and arrays of microprocessors. The sculpture acts in the tradition of the marginalized midcentury American medical doctor Wilhelm Reich, who said “all plasmatic matter perceives, with or without sensory nerves. The amoeba has no sensory or motor nerves, and still it perceives. … The terror of the total convulsion, of involuntary movement and spontaneous excitation is joined to the splitting up of organs and organ sensations. This terror is the real stumbling block...”

The structure breathes and shivers in response to occupants. It also responds to signals received from a ground-oriented layer positioned on the ground below. This lower layer is an automated geotextile, a lightweight sculptural field housing arrays of organic batteries housed within a lattice system that might reinforce new growth. By sending signals in the form of weak light pulses and whisker motions upward, the lower structure signals a need for nourishment. The upper layer responds with breathing motions organized as billowing waves that send humidified air and stray organic downward, to circulate through the geotextile. The system suspended overhead includes a flexible kinetic meshwork that is powered by ‘air muscle’ mechanisms chained together and controlled by microprocessors. This meshwork is densely populated by bamboo whiskers fitted with mylar pores that filter and stir humidified air. These filters work much like the baleen of a whale, sweeping gently through the air and collecting increments of organic matter. The collected material is loosened by periodic shivering waves and releases it for gravityfed deposition into the lower matrix. The lower layer structure works as an ‘earth surface machine’ that burrows slowly into the ground and sends out extremely light space-filling lattice material as a growthsupporting matrix. The system employs a dense series of very thin whiskers and vibrating burrowing leg mechanisms, and supports low-power miniature lights, pulsing and shifting in slight increments. Within this distributed matrix, microbial growth is fostered by enriched seed-patches housed within nest-like forms sheltered beneath main lattice units. Within the geotextile, repeating clusters of bladders stand within the field of bent bamboo tripods. The cell wiring is arranged in series, feeding into miniature electronic circuits that gather the weak currents and emit pulses of power when sufficient strength accumulates. Three main component types including main filter-packs, supporting whisker-anchor units, and bladder cells are arranged in a tripod field with clusters of specialized units making a repeating hexagonal array. Weak electrical charges are generated by copper and aluminum electrodes immersed in vinegar within latex bladders within these units. The continuous support-skeleton is composed of minimal-mass bamboo compression struts arranged as a primitive space-truss, tied in digitally fabricated triangular joints and stabilized by a web of thread and cable tension members. The life of this hybrid organic system erodes during the exhibition.

Nic Clear Currently Nic is Director Diploma/ MArch in Architecture and MArch (Architectural Design) AVATAR History and Theory Coordinator at the Bartlett and ran his own company Clear Space for many years before setting up the now defunct General Lighting and Power which generated a wide range of creative media including pop promos, architecture, advertising campaigns and art installations. Nic has abandoned the ‘corporate architectural complex’ and now divides his time between teaching, writing fiction, performing, drawing and making his films.

Synthetic Space Nic has been using film, animation and motion graphics for over ten years as a way of developing and exploring new architectural modes of representation and practice. Encouraging a variety of techniques from stop frame animation to sophisticated c.g.i. The works produced by his students demonstrates a unique sensibility to content and form and suggests a whole new series of possibilities for architectural production that may be described as the architecture of Synthetic Space. This is a hybrid space that is a site of explorations and propositions in its own right, uniting formal architectonic concerns with spatial and temporal practices that exist between the actual & virtual, as well as the analogue & digital. Synthetic Space is speculative and unconstrained by cost, patronage or function. It is architecture of the possible. Synthetic Space inhabits the realm of architecture of interconnected networks to liminally and directly inform traditional methods of practice and with the convergence of the Nano-Bio-Info-Congo (NBIC) technologies. Synthetic Space becomes a strategy for transgression and the production of dynamic architectures.

Lee Cronin Lee Cronin graduated with a first class honours degree in Chemistry in 1994 and his DPhil. In 1997, both from the University of York. After postdoctoral research at Edinburgh University and as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow in Germany, he returned to the UK as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in 2000. In 2002 he moved to take up a Lectureship in Glasgow and was promoted to Reader in 2005, Professor in 2006, and was appointed to the Gardiner Chair of Chemistry in April 2009 and at 36 years old he is the youngest chair holder at the University of Glasgow. He holds both an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship and a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy of Science and Letters. He runs a group of around 30 people, has around £6 M in research income, and his research interests range from the mainstream e.g. inorganic molecules, energy applications, nanoelectronics to trying to engineering ‘inorganic-life’, understanding self assembly at the nanoscale, as well as investigating the design / emergence of complex self organising chemical systems. His ultimate research aim is nothing less than the development of inorganic biology and evolution perhaps even leading to intelligent systems. To date he has published over 160 papers and given over 100 lectures around the world, and one of his papers describing the non equilibrium self assembly of a gigantic nanostructure was highlighted on the front cover of Science in January 2010.

Inorganic Evolution and Life Recent breakthroughs in chemistry have allowed a fundamental change in the way chemists both perceive and investigate the chemical world. This is due to the process of molecular recognition (the way molecules recognise each other), which is fundamental to the biological world and has also been found to be vital in the chemical world. ‘Self-assembly’, where well defined building blocks can be assembled to complex and often highly symmetrical architectures without ‘external’ intervention, has been possible through the manipulation of recognition and kinetic elements of molecular recognition systems. Although the concepts underpinning the traditional art of making molecules are extremely powerful, the ability to produce highly functional molecular systems using a ‘designed’ approach is still far from reach. We are interested in using the principles of molecular recognition and self assembly under non-equilibrium conditions such that entropy (disorder) is being ‘pumped’ through the system - i.e. the system is dissipative. The idea is to allow the ‘emergence’ of new molecular organizations that may not be stable under equilibrium conditions and to utilize such systems to create highly complex functional architectures (c.f. the architectures present in a living cell). In this respect there appears to be a fundamental

gap in our understanding of emergent systems on the chemical level since although we all know what a cell looks like, understanding the cooperative dynamics that allows whole cell processes to function is still a mystery. Also, the process of self assembly and organization of the components required for the emergence of life as we know it today is also far from being understood. In our current work we hypothesise that modelling (in chemical space and in silico) cooperative self assembly of dissipative systems is the fundamental key to development of non equilibrium structures that have well defined functions and information processing potential, and we are also employing approaches for the experimental simulation of the assembly of artificial chemical cells (CHELLS) as well as a theoretical framework based upon a ‘Turing’ test for artificial life (Cronin et al, 2006). Finally, in very recent work, we have shown the development of inorganic molecular systems (Miras et al., 2010), appears to be able to form minimal self replicators, as well as a library of information carrying structures, metabolic pathways, and even inorganic membranes and cells. It is even possible to devise a situation whereby, using such components, inorganic evolution, could allow the emergence of new living systems in thousands of hours rather than billions of years, and work is currently underway in our laboratory working towards this fantastic discovery. Reference: Cronin, L., Krasnogor, N., Davis, B.G (2006), The imitation game—a computational chemical approach to recognizing life’, Nature Biotech., 24, 1203-1205. Miras, H. N., Cooper, G. J. T., Long, D.L., Bögge, H., Müller, A., Streb, C., Cronin, L (2010) ‘Unveiling the Transient Template in the Self Assembly of a Molecular Oxide NanoWheel’, Science, 327, 72-74.

Ben de Lacy Costello Dr Ben de Lacy Costello completed a PhD in synthesising new composite materials for gas sensors. He first worked in the area of “unconventional computing” about a decade ago as a researcher on a project to produce excitable chemical controllers for robots. Since then he has split his research between making medical devices to diagnose disease based on patterns of volatiles and “unconventional computing” utilising chemical reactions. He is one of the authors of the book Reaction-Diffusion Computers (Elsevier 2005) and the author of over 50 papers many in the area of unconventional computing. These are in two main areas - the use of the light sensitive BZ reaction to implement collision based gates and also the study of simple inorganic reactions (similar to Liesegang systems), which produce tessellations of the plane and extended pattern formation (precipitate waves, spirals etc.) at different concentration ranges.

_Chemical tessellation formed when drops of three metal salts are reacted on a potassium ferricyanide gel (reaction complete)

Chemical Computing We use the light sensitive Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) as a model system for exploring ideas of collision based computing. Rather than project differential light fields we simply project a uniform field onto the reaction which maintains the reaction in a sub-excitable state. In this state excitation waves maintain a fragment like architecture and can undergo a number of collisions with other fragments which can be interpreted as computation (collision based gates). We have also used the BZ reaction in this format alongside evolutionary computing architectures in order to implement logic gates etc. At certain concentration ranges a number of simple reactions between metal salts and gels impreganted with potassium ferrocyanide/ ferricyanide can produce tessellations of the plane - “generalised Voronoi diagrams”. These reactions become unstable when reagent concentrations are altered – eventually they produce extended pattern formation in the form of 2D precipitate waves. Eventually they become unstable as the solution penetrates the gel layer leading to 3-D trigger waves. In some reactions where metal salts are impreganted in the gel and sodium hydroxide is used as the outer electrolyte then these 3-D trigger waves form double spiral waves. In the aluminium chloride/sodium hydroxide reaction these spiral precipitate waves can be seen to grow and interact in real time. In these systems if the concentration of reagents is adjusted below a certain threshold then circular trigger waves and double spiral waves can be initiated at controlled locations by adding a heterogenity to the gel surface. The thrust of our research is controlling chemical parameters in order to implement computation – this amounts to controlling pattern formation in these systems. A major aim is therefore, a fundamental study of the mechanisms of these little understood/ studied inorganic systems beyond traditional computational ideas.

Evan Douglis Evan Douglis is the principal of Evan Douglis Studio; an internationally renowned architecture and interdisciplinary design firm committed to the practice of digital alchemy. The firm’s unique cutting edge research into computer-aided digital design and fabrication technology as applied to a range of diverse gallery installations, commercial projects, and prefabricated modular building components has elicited international acclaim. Douglis was recently appointed the new Dean of the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to this appointment he was the Undergraduate Chair at the School of Architecture at Pratt Institute between 2003-9, an Associate Assistant Professor and the Director of the Architecture Galleries at Columbia University, and a Visiting Instructor at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union. He has taught at various programs including; The International University at Cataluyna, Barcelona, Spain, Hubei Fine Arts Institute in Wuhan, China, SCI-Arc Southern California Institute of Architecture, and The Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. In 2008 he was awarded a Distinguished Professorship from The City College of New York. Recognized for his innovative approach to design Douglis’ awards include: a NYFA fellowship, a Design Vanguard profile by Architectural Record, an I.D. Magazine Honorable Mention, a FEIDAD Design

Merit Award, a finalist nomination for the North American James Beard Foundation Restaurant Design Awards, a selected fellow in the EKWC European Ceramic Work Centre’s Brick Project Residency Program and an ACADIA Award for Emerging Digital Practice. His work has been exhibited at the SAM Swiss Architecture Museum, ARCHILAB in OrlÊans, France, the MOCA Museum at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Artist Space in New York and the Rotterdam and London Biennales. His Helioscope project is in the permanent architecture collection at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France. His work has been included in the publications: Sign as Surface, INDEX Architecture, The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century, the ARCHILAB Exhibition Catalog: Naked City, and the Phaidon publication titled 10 x10_2, Distinguishing Digital Architecture, the SAM catalog Re-Sampling Ornament, the AD issues; Protoarchitecture: Analogue and Digital Hybrids and Programming Cultures: Design, Science and Software, FURNISH: Furniture and Interior Design for the 21st Century, Architecture Now 5 by Taschen Publishers and Digital Architecture Now: a Global Survey of Emerging Talent. His recent book Autogenic Structures published by Taylor & Francis was released in 2008. Douglis received his BArch from The Cooper Union and his MArch from the GSD at Harvard University.


Evan Douglis Studio Evan Douglis has elicited international acclaim at the cutting edge of a diverse range of projects that explore the architectural applications of self-generative systems, membrane technology, contemporary fabricational techniques and multi-media installations. The emphasis of this multitask research and design lab is aimed at synthesizing a broad-based ecology of theoretical and pragmatic concerns, en route to discovering new paradigms of haptic interaction in the beginning of the new millennium. His preoccupations with these systems include their aesthetic concerns and foibles as well as their method of working which is collaborative, thinly corporately structured and technologically experimental. The Evan Douglis Studio’s aesthetic is one of sleek yet organic forms that have the well tended shine of fetish outfits. This wet look surface often undulates with sensuous ripples that are individually unique and skillfully composed with smooth, striking, fecund surfaces.

Martin Hanczyc Associate Professor, Institute of Physics and Chemistry and the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT), University of Southern Denmark. Martin Hanczyc is Associate Professor at the Institute of Physics and Chemistry and the center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT) in Denmark. He is also a Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is developing novel synthetic chemical systems based on the properties of living systems. These synthetic systems are often termed ‘protocells’ as they are model systems of primitive living cells and chemical examples of ‘artificial’ life. Particularly of interest is the development of dynamic and responsive materials of simplistic composition. He has previously also held the position of Laboratory Director at The European Center for Living Technology in Venice, Italy and Chief Chemist at ProtoLife Srl in Venice, Italy. He received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Pennsylvania State University, a doctorate in Genetics from Yale University and was a postdoctorate fellow under Jack Szostak at Harvard University. Martin is interested in the development of protocell models into new technologies and their applications in art and design.

Protocells and architecture We have been developing and investigating simple chemical models of natural living cells (protocells). The protocells are constructed using a so-called bottom up approach: a small set of molecules self-organize into protocellular structures. Some such structures may possess properties that are characteristic of living systems. Using this approach we have been able to construct a very simple protocell (consisting of only 5 different chemicals) that exhibits self-propulsion (Hanczyc et a, 2007). The protocell’s movement can be self-directed, but also it is also able to respond to external chemical signals, which results in chemotaxis (i.e. directional movement towards a chemical signal in the environment). We are currently analyzing how such a life-like selfpropulsion system emerges in simple chemical systems. Protocells can be programmed to a certain extent. With regard specifically to motion we have been able to create protocells that follow gradients of acidity (pH), molecular concentrations (food), as well as protocells that move into or away from light. By demonstrating a programmable response to such fundamental chemical signals, a diverse chemical language may be developed that can be used to direct not only single protocell behavior but

group behavior as well. The ability of the protocell to make decisions whilst navigating through a complex environment is speculative. The behavior of the agent would depend upon both the internal state of the agent and the environmental state. Over time the protocells may change the internal state, position through movement, and the environmental state through their metabolic action. This can lead to the development of a chemistry-based, multi-agent reconfigurable platform, to be explored as unconventional computation. Furthermore, these ‘smart’ protocell agents can be used as experimental model systems for the investigation of abstracted living processes that can be programmed to produce architectural design outcomes. Protocell architecture aims to bring about a new way of thinking about the built environment by developing new materials and methodologies, in design and planning, based on the fundamental properties of matter (Hanczyc and Ikegami, 2009). This is not architecture based on biological formalism but architectural research from the bottom up and a direct novel application of technologies discovered through fundamental scientific research. In collaboration with Christian Kerrigan, an explorative narrative is evolving comprised of a taxonomy that details the diversity of protocells situated in their environments. In collaboration with Rachel Armstrong, we are developing new substrates and materials tending towards sustainability, carbon capture and life-like building envelopes. In collaboration with Neil Spiller, we advance a systems science approach to architectural design that challenges the distinction between artificial and natural living systems and by implication, the boundary between the built environment and the landscape.

References Hanczyc MM, Toyota T, Ikegami T, Packard N, Sugawara T. 2007. Fatty Acid Chemistry at the Oil-Water Interface: Self-Propelled Oil Droplets. J Am Chem Soc. 129(30):9386-91. Hanczyc M and Ikegami T. 2009. Protocells as smart agents for architectural design. Technoetic Arts Journal,Vol. 7.2

Lisa Iwamoto Lisa Iwamoto is partner of IwamotoScott Architecture, a San Francisco based practice formed in partnership with Craig Scott in 2000. She received her Master of Architecture degree with Distinction from Harvard University where she was recipient of the Faculty Design Award, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Colorado. Iwamoto is Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at The University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on digital fabrication and material technologies for architecture. Her book, Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques was published last year by Princeton Architectural Press as part of their series Architecture Briefs. IwamotoScott’s work has been published widely nationally and internationally. Recent projects include: Edgar Street Towers, a speculative building proposal as part of a revisioning study for Lower Manhattan commissioned by the Downtown Alliance of New York; Voussoir Cloud, SCIArc Gallery, Los Angeles; ORDOS100; Hydronet, the winning scheme for City of the Future: San Francisco 2108; REEF, PS1 Young Architects Program 2007; and Jellyfish House, a theoretical house design incorporating ambient technologies for the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition OPEN HOUSE.

IwamotoScott Architecture Committed to pursuing architecture as a form of applied design research, IwamotoScott engages in projects at multiple scales and in a variety of contexts consisting of full-scale fabrications, museum installations and exhibitions, theoretical proposals, competitions and commissioned design projects. The conceptual themes of our work focuses on intensifying the experiential and performance based qualities of architecture by rethinking the very terms of its production – program, form, space, geometry, structure, material and fabrication technique – relative to site and environmental contexts. Our design stems from observing and heightening specific characteristics of these terms to instigate architectural innovation. We are interested in the idea of “adaptation”, a process whereby initial forms or conditions are adapted to particulars of environment so as to produce a transformative result. As such, our work explores how to strategically produce architectural adaptation by synthesizing conditions of the everyday, where subtle adaptations of ordinary things are often demanded by external necessity, alongside exploration into the fluid potentials of digital and material technologies. Recent experiments include investigations into structure and geometry as constraints for exploiting material performance.

Paul Preissner Paul Preissner established his practice in 2005 to pursue an unapologetic interest in the capacity of architecture to develop new formal relationships with its audience. Prior to founding PAUL PREISSNER ARCHITECTS LTD, Preissner was a senior designer at Eisenman Architects in New York, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and served as a Project Architect for Wood-Zapata in Chicago on the renovation of Soldier Field. He received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign (1996) and Masters in Architecture from Columbia University (2000). Paul Preissner is a registered architect in New York and Illinois and has taught at SCI-Arc, the University of Nebraska, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He lives and works in Chicago, where he currently is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture.

Man’s Best Friend Architecture (both past and current) can neatly be organized into a number of ways to understand how things look like; whether by hiding something (propaganda), pretending to be something serious (pragmatics), meaning something (symbolism), decorating something (dress), or doing something (eco-whatnot). The attention and interests of Paul Preissner Architects pushes architecture to find new ways to develop relationships with an audience by believing architecture to be participatory within culture as a figure in itself; capable of projecting and developing distinct personalities through curation of its qualities and formal characteristics. Looking at the fantastic proliferation of domestic dog breeds that occurred within the last 100 years (compared to the rather sluggish expansion of breed types in the preceding 15,000 years), Paul Preissner proposes that the simultaneous collapse of functional usage for the dog (from variety of employments) into “pet” is not coincidence, but an incredible realization in the power of personal relationship with our environments to motivate and accelerate new necessities in form, shape, pattern, and habits. The projects that the office has pursued in the past couple of years has followed this belief in architecture’s ability to create new audiences beyond its traditional constituents and direct users. Through top-down curation and sequencing of events, architecture can ultimately engage beyond the technocratic institution of building politics and being to practice as social participant in the community; as a new pet.

Simon Park Dr Simon Park is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey where he teaches Bacteriology and Molecular Biology. As an internationally recognized molecular bacteriologist and he has published over 60 papers in international refereed journals, books and other periodicals. His wider activities, and practice, are driven by the common misconception that microbiological life is primitive and always detrimental, and that through collaborations with artists the real nature of the microbiological world can be revealed. In this context, he has been widely involved in many collaborative projects with artists. Funded collaborations include “Sixty Days of Goodbye Poems of Ophelia” with artist Jo Wonder (Funded by The Wellcome Trust and “Exploring the Invisible” with artist Anne Brodie (Funded by the Wellcome Trust).

Material Computation and Architectural Possibilities in Simple Organisms


Microbes have many intrinsic properties, such as problem solving abilities, cell to cell communication, the ability to form complex patterns in response to their environment, and a wide palette of physiological activities, that make them a valuable resource for unconventional computing and architecture. My work in art and science explores a number of threads in relationship to this. In bacteria, many activities, such as bioluminescence and pigment production, are controlled by cell to cell communication, which endows them with a form of social intelligence, and I am interested Traces of paths left by glow-in-the-dark in exploring whether this has computational utility. Slime moulds are able to solve computational problems and, are embedded with slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) simple intelligence, and I have also exploited this in a number of works that bridge art and science. Finally, I am interested in exploiting the properties of bacteria that might have architectural applications, such as their innate pattern forming ability, their use in the construction of biomaterials and the provision of low energy lighting.

Neil Spiller Neil Spiller is Professor of Architecture and Digital Theory and a practising architect. He is the Graduate Director of Design, Director of the Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research Group (AVATAR) and Vice Dean at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College, London. He is author of the book ‘Digital Dreams- Architecture and the New Alchemic Technologies’(1998). He is co-editor of AD ‘Architects in Cyberspace’ (1995), guest-editor of AD ‘Integrating Architecture’ (1996), AD’ Architects in Cyberspace II’ (1998) and AD ‘Young Blood’ (2001) and formally editor of ‘Building Design Interactive’ magazine. He is co-editor with Peter Cook of ’The Power of Contemporary Architecture (1999) and the ‘Paradox of Contemporary Architecture’ (2001). His monograph ‘Maverick Deviations’ was published by Wiley in 2000 and his book ‘Lost Architecture’ about architectural projects of the last two decades of the twentieth Century was published by Wiley in 2001. He was also one of the ten international critics featured in the Phaidon book 10x10. He is also the Editor of ‘Cyberreader’ for Phaidon published in March 2002. Also he has guest-edited a further edition of AD entitled ‘Reflexive Architecture’ published in May 2002. His book ‘Visionary Architecture- Blueprints of the Modern Imagination’ was published by Thames and Hudson in November 2006 and his ‘Digital Architecture NOW’ a compendium of contemporary digital architectural practice was published by Thames and Hudson in November 2008. His “Spiller’s Bits” articles appear in every AD Magazine.

He was the 2002 John and Magda McHale Research Fellow at the State University of New York at Buffalo. For the last ten years has been working on a major theoretical project entitled “Communicating Vessels” which now consists of hundreds of drawings and many, many thousands of words. The “Communicating Vessels” project seeks to create new relationships between architecture, landscape, space, time, duration and geography. These landscape pieces and their relationship to one another are highly ‘Pataphysical, their logistics of form are conditioned by notions of variance, alliance and deviance. Such ideas produce a very rich formal and Surreal architectural language bursting with potential. He lectures around the world and his work has been exhibited and published worldwide.

Communicating Vessels: The ‘Pataphysical Exceptions of Reflexive Architecture Since the mid Nineties the impact of virtual technology has rapidly changed the architectural profession. This change has altered even the most mundane normative practice. Also it has drastically altered the nature of the architectural avant-garde. Its direction has progressed from the affected nihilism of the ‘deconstructive’ era of the eighties to paradigms of responsiveness. The basic premises of this work is that objects and events can be made to respond to the specifics of sites, the evolutionary emergent imperative, users and viewers, manufacturing processes and virtual tectonics. This notion gives rise to six fundamental paradigms that responsive architecture with any virtual component must deal with: 1_ Architects must design in the second aesthetic of the algorithm. This is an aesthetics of programmed possible outcomes or forms and is concerned with the provisions of inputs that are manipulated to produce varying outputs. 2_ That architects must choreograph space by manipulating the progression and regression of objects along the Virtuality Continuum. This continuum ranges from the hard real of “out here” to full body inversion in cyberspace “in there” and the gamut of mixed and augmented realities in between 3_ Natural and machine ecologies form palimsests of possibilities. The new architecture must respond to the spectacular genius loci of specific sites. Each place is a deep tapestry of space-time vectors 4_ Space and time are not inviolate, they are reversible, collageable and loaded with memory. 5_ Biotechnology, nanotechnology and cyberspace has caused the old adages of architecture to collapse, ‘Form no longer follows function’ 6_ Architectural education can never be the same again. When we educate prospective young architects, we must make them aware of the myriad spaces within and between which architecture can dwell. Spaces

whose dimensions unfurl at the click of a digital switch. How do we train the next generation to imagine, use and create sublimity in these obscure jump cut invigorated spaces? And how will we talk about the aesthetics of this new architecture? It my contention that the impact of virtuality and advanced remote sensing devices should lead architects to reassess Surrealist and ‘Pataphysical concepts of space. There are many similarities between these modes of creativity and the way an architect might perceive, interact and make connections between their architecture and the myriad of machinic and natural ecologies that constitute the sites of our contemporary architecture. I will illustrate these ideas with my design project “Communicating Vessels” which seeks to create new relationships between architecture, landscape, space, time, duration and geography. These landscape pieces and their relationship to one another are highly ‘Pataphysical, their logistics of form are conditioned by notions of variance, alliance and deviance. Such ideas produce a very rich formal and Surreal architectural language bursting with potential.

Thanks_ \\ The Building Centre \\ Beth Broughton _ Acting Marketing Manager Emma Mortimer _ Membership Secretary, One Alfred Place \\ Luke Razzell, Weaver Digital \\ Artistic Direction + Graphic Design by ShĂŻnitĂś

Architecture & Unconventional Computing conference

Architecture and Unconventional Computing  

Architecture and Unconventional Computing Conference on 26 February 2010 at Building Centre, London

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you