This project was proposed as a study of biological systems which can be translated into urban planning schemes via biomimicry, in an effort to provoke different lines of thought relative to traditional development schemes. In the images seen here, which represent a series of forms generated from an analysis of a specific emergent biological system, in this case coral, which was translated into a means of developing a physical form or structure. In deciding which biological system to analyze, coral was selected out of the idea that it directly responds to its environment without the use of complex individual components to do so. Rather the individual components of coral react in simple manners creating a complex physical form. Similarly, so too should a building or urban environment of the future respond and react to its environment as it changes. In that light I offer the following essay as an explanation of the various considerations of the project throughout its development process.
REGARDING FORMALISM, EMERGENCE & VERSIONING:
The project centers on the idea of creating abstract physical representations of a biological system constructed from individual components that are used in increasingly complex and generative manner. Coral, the biological system chosen as the project’s basis, contains an inherent hierarchy of systems composed of a multitude of a relatively simple component employed in combination to create increasing and varying complexity. Coralline systems create a wide variety of outcomes based on small changes to the governance of the basic components, polyps, within the larger system. The project applies these underlying ideas to create an abstract representation that responds and behaves in the same fashion relative to analogous variables and conditions.
In “Emergence” Steven Johnson describes systems based on relatively unintelligent, or perhaps more accurately uninformed, components that in combination create systems which in turn respond to each other to create larger more complex systems. These varying levels of complexity embedded in systems of different sizes imply an inherent hierarchical relationship between the components and the systems they compose. Individual components, Johnson says, should be “unintelligent;” meaning governed by simple rules, and generally, in his real world examples, lacking in awareness of the larger systems which they compose. This project exhibits similar characteristics in that it creates complex forms by using very simple base components exploited to create a new morphology, controlled by a simple set of rules. The components are more or less indifferent to those around them; an aspect of the system which seems to fit the idea of unintelligent base components but is, however, slightly lacking in that Johnsons components have at least a small range of awareness of the larger systems immediately around them.
The components instead react to simple variable inputs which determine, on the level of the individual component: position, rotation, and scale, which comprise a specific “augmentation” to be performed on the base component. On the next level of the system the space between components is essentially determined by variable input. These attributes, because of the generative method employed, are determined on multiple levels of the final component. The final form is generated from a specific augmentation (described previously) that turns the simple base component into a series of base components, which is then again subjected to the same augmentation. Each step is evaluated by the designer based on basic pass/fail criteria which seeks to determine the objects workability and ability to translate into physical form.
As Sanford Kwinter discusses in his essay “Who’s Afraid of Formalism,” the idea of formality in the architecture of an object is not necessarily a determination made from its visual and material incarnation but rather what can be drawn from the process of its conception. Due to the complexity of the base augmentation the resultant forms contain little or no visual information pertaining to the method from which they were derived. In this way the final product of the procedure can be described as formal, in that it is generated using a specific method, inputs and criteria.
Each time the augmentation is executed it produces a uniquely different result, since the specific data inputs affect a range of an attribute, rather than a specific outcome, of the final object. The simple pass/fail criteria associated with each step of the object is setup so that the procedure produces a large variety “pass” objects. Given this, not all pass objects will be workable into a final design and for this reason different versions of the product are produced, a simple procedure termed “versioning”. While the process of transition between the generative object and architecture has yet to fully be determined the transition will involve evaluating aspects of the object for areas of density vs. scarcity which will directly affect the physical form of the final structure; primary vs. secondary structure will also be determined by densities in the generative object.
This project was an introduction for me to both the software used to complete it, Maya, as well as the concepts behinds it, mainly generative design and scripting. The final images seen here are rendered in Maya, Rhino, and 3D Studio Max.