I have previously reflected on concepts of 'particle architecture,' architectural design which engages the potential future varied performances of microscopic levels of fabrics that build designed spaces and the large ensembles they can create. This time, I present a brief talk with biothing's principal Alisa Andrasek. Currently teaching at the Bartlett School of Architecture, last August Alisa organized the "PROTO/E/CO/LOGICS Symposium: Speculative Materialism in Architecture" in Rovinj, Croatia. The work of biothing is very engaged in concepts of mathematics and physics informing design processes. In our conversation we also discussed, among other things, 'dustism.'
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CLIMATH. Dubrovnik, 2011 Europan Competition Entry, Honorable Mention. The proposal speculates using plaza’s natural exposure to the abundance of sun hours Dubrovnik receives, in order to absorb solar energy through distributed arrays embedded into the pavement. It could provide for self-powering of lighting system and possibly the whole development given the recent advances in solar power collection technologies (carbon nanotubes, colloidal quantum dots (CQD) and other emerging technologies). Credits: BIOTHING, London UK Alisa Andrasek (Croatia) _ principal architect team: Jose Sanchez (Spain), Anastasia Lianou (Greece), Igor Pantic, (Serbia), Ermis Chalvatzis, (Greece), Karoly Markos, (Romania)
CLIMATH. Dubrovnik, 2011 Competition Entry, Honorable Mention. Inspired by the Old City’s network of polished stone pavements, squares, palace courtyards and cloister gardens, the project attempts to replicate qualities and effects of such collective “liv¬ing” space. Proposal introduces high-resolution micro-articulation of urban furniture, synthetic “weather” and dispersed energy production.
CLIMATH. Dubrovnik, 2011 Competition Entry, Honorable Mention. Seating elements imprinted in its surface, swarming patterns of light reflected of the white stone allowing it to glow at different intensities during the night reprogrammable to various scale of use and events as well as formation of atmosphere.
NEGARESTURING PAVILION . London 2011 Negaresturing pavilion is a collaboration with Dshape manufacturer, exploring limits of a tectonic, structural and organizational language of architectural fabrics generated out of the space of possibilities for a particular production process. The project is inspired by Alan Turing’s 1952 ‘The chemical basis of Morphogenesis’, speculative description of the generation of symmetry breaking, deriving a dynamic blueprint of stable patterns out of an initially uniform mixture of chemical compounds, and the maintenance of symmetry-breaking instability as the driving force of the development of an organism, in conditions far from equilibrium. Credits: by Biothing Alisa Andrasek, principal designer Jose Sanchez, computation in collaboration with DShape Italy Initial study with students was conducted during the Workshop at Design Research Lab at Architectural Association / London 2011
NEGARESTURING PAVILION . London 2011 According to Turing, in biological context the maintenance of symmetry-breaking instability economizes the amount of (genetic) information needed to produce the pattern and one can find a vivid example in patterns of animal skins. What is captured is the behavioral flow of matter, rather than the fixed states of the pattern. The design research space constructed within such abstraction frame is thus capable of opening new topologies of tension and spaces of synthesis. This regional openness of a system allows for adaptation and feedback with external agencies, such as constraints of the structure through minimal section of the elements, resolution of the nozzles of the machine and properties of magnesium dye as a bounding agent that dissolves within marble dust with certain coefficient that the synthesis machine has to replicate. Therefore ruptures in the fabric are asymptotic to the continuity of matter and data...
NEGARESTURING PAVILION / London 2011 Synthesis of algorithmic system, constraints of the machine (Dshape’s massive scale deposition robot), material properties of marble dust, fibers and magnesium adhesive, design intent in terms of quality and organizational performance of such architectonic fabric, could be understood in a context of cobordisms (topological, categorical, processual, programmatic equivalences) between the continuous and discontinuous. Apart from the obvious debt to Alan Turing’s work on Morphogenesis, this project owes its complex poro_complexity to Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia.
fissurePort, Port Terminal . Kaohsiung Taiwan, 2010 Cliff formations found along many coastlines are replicated through strong vertical fissures of the building. Mathematics of Fractals are frequently used to calculate coastline behavior, given variable degree of “roughness” and multiple orders of scale in natural coastlines. ||Fissures Port Terminal proposal reflects the idea of such complex articulation within the tectonics of the building. Credits: Alisa Andrasek + Jose Sanchez_ principal designers design team: Knut Brunier – Gabriel Morales – Denis Lacej Competition Entry 2010 – Phase 1 – 40,000 sq meters
fissurePort, Port Terminal . Kaohsiung Taiwan, 2010 Waterside arrival sequence is accentuated by the strong “fissure” facade with deeper folds as receptacles for jetways for arriving and departing passengers. High Resolution Infrastructure: Intricate tectonic elements allow for distributed and redundant signaling through lighting systems that can coordinate faster and more legible distribution of passengers.
fissurePort, Port Terminal . Kaohsiung Taiwan, 2010 Population of lighting particles embedded into the floors and ceilings could be programmed to respond to increased crowd migration through the terminals. They constitute material qualities of environments _ a slowed down lighting storm embodied into the fabric of architecture.
fissurePort, Port Terminal . Kaohsiung Taiwan, 2010 Instead of creating seamless topological continuum typical for the passenger terminal typology, traveler is exposed to a series of cuts, different experiences carried through the strong vertical fissures.
fissurePort, Port Terminal . Kaohsiung Taiwan, 2010 Tidal fluctuations and arrival of larger boats creates water movements and wave crushing against the seaside facade of the building. Passengers are transferred into the building through the first fissure which is a cooling water garden for the terminal. The proportions of extremely long and tall space with “canyon‐like” glazed surfacing produces poly‐dimensional experience _ a crystalline fabric.
MAGNETIC SERIES . ORBITA Beijing Biennial 2006 Furniture distribution and fabrication is derived through the superposition of 3 algorithms: _Voronoi controls distribution of density of elements (“flower” seating elements) in the site. This layer allows for “adaptation” to the site condition in terms of coverage and density as well as approximate scale of elements. Credits: Alisa Andrasek _ principal designer. Design+Computation: Ezio Blasetti. Special thanks to David Rutten
MAGNETIC SERIES . ORBITA Beijing Biennial 2006 _ sine wave function computes the exact distribution of the material and map of laminated connections. Additional function is calculating the Z direction (height) of the material which results in the “organic” distribution of the “flower” seating components (shown in renderings).This layer is automatically unfolded into fabrication drawings for cutting and lamination of poly-carbonate material.
MAGNETIC SERIES . MESONIC LIBRARY, 2007 In MF BIOTHING explored in-between algorithmic states by trans-coding 3 different algorithms. Credits: biothing with Ezio Blasetti FlowerPower custom written plug-in: Kyle Steinfeld with Alisa Andrasek
MAGNETIC SERIES . MESONIC LIBRARY, 2007 Electro-Magnetic Field developed through Biothing’s custom written plug-in for Rhino was initially distributed in order to develop structural trajectories for the roof condition. Resonating pattern was imprinted into the ground creating emitters for the second algorithmic logic _ radial wave interference pattern that formed global geography of the field. Finally, class 4 Cellular Automata was used to re-process wave data by imprinting micro-articulation of the ground. Zooming in and out of this field revels drifts in the character of the pattern. This effect is accelerated in the behavior of the CA pattern which drifts between distinct characters of rigid geometrical states and more organic states.
MAGNETIC SERIES . SEROUSSI PAVILION. Paris, 2007 Architectonic fabric for the Seroussi Pavilion was “grown” out of self‐modifying patterns based on vectorial mathematics of electromagnetic fields (EMF). Through logics of attraction/repulsion trajectories were computed in plan and “lifted” via series of structural micro‐arching sections through different frequencies of wave function. Programming and reprogramming different exhibition sequences is understood as series of probabilistic events. One can rearrange the sequences of art pieces by finding spatial opportunities within this labyrinthine fabric. Credits: Alisa Andrasek _ principal designer. FlowerPower custom written plug-in: Kyle Steinfeld with Alisa Andrasek. Design team: Ezio Blasetti / Che Wei Wang / Fabian Evers / Lakhena Raingsan / Jin Pyo Eun / Mark Bearak. Special thanks to Michael Reed (computational geometry)
MAGNETIC SERIES . SEROUSSI PAVILION Paris, 2007 The plan of the pavilion differs greatly from a classical notion of architectural drawing. It reads as a dynamic blueprint closer to musical notation. This abstraction based proto‐ecology is seeding possible materialization procedures and adaptation to the site conditions. Distribution of view, lighting and shading is programmed through parametric patterns structured through sine‐wave functions driving parametric differentiation of angle, orientation and size of the apertures as well as the relationship of metal and glass components within each cell.
MAGNETIC SERIES . PHOSPHORESCENCE Taiwan, 2010 Sonar phosphorescence: A new version of iconic resonating within the current cultures. Guided by the iconic features of pop culture such as exuberant colors and light, Phosphorescence explores the possibilities of bringing such polychromatic shimmer qualities to the urban fabric. It resonates electrified lightscape found on Taiwanese streets and night markets. Credits: Alisa Andrasek + Jose Sanchez_ principal designers design team: Elizabeth Leidy – Alicia Nahmad – Denis Vlieghe – Rajat Sodhi Competition Entry 2010 – Phase 1 – 80,000 sq meters + 20,000 sq meters open air public space
MAGNETIC SERIES . PHOSPHORESCENCE Taiwan, 2010 Biothing proposed resilient and adaptive fabric designed for inter-systems crossing at multiple scales. Magnets are synthetically weaving the larger programmatic sequences into a cohesive fabric. Corrosive action of Brownian motion tunnels through fibers of electro magnetic trajectories, carving the finer grain urban circuitry.
MAGNETIC SERIES . PHOSPHORESCENCE Taiwan, 2010
MAGNETIC SERIES . PHOSPHORESCENCE Taiwan, 2010 CANYONS are based on the math of Brownian motion, as a seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a fluid (i.e. a liquid such as water or air) – they erode the pristine magnetic shells into different kind of spatial chasms that introduces specialized programs. This resilience allows for great diversity of tectonics locally, adapting to the character and demands of different programs.
MAGNETIC SERIES . PHOSPHORESCENCE Taiwan, 2010 Planting a massive field of underwater lights will encourage the growth of particular species of algae to remediate local marine ecology and adopt it for aqua sports. The lighting scheme implants a new ecological layer into the site. Pop meets sustainability; culture fused into nature. Remediation processes are not hidden, but activated as elements of design. The site glows and shimmers resonating experiences found in pop culture. Aquatics and pop are fused into a hybrid entity.
a_maze is a furniture system (table series) initially being developed as an exhibition design for BIOTHING’s exhibition at FRAC in Orleans. Strips of material are folded following recursive subdivision logics of fractal Koch curve. The curve is programmed to “adapt” to a given environment in such way that it “grows” between differentpoints in space. It is programmed parametrically to recursively subdivide through variable number of generations. As a result, size of folds in material changes in intricacy. Credits: Alisa Andrasek _ principal designer design+computation: Kostas Grigoriadis
GENWARE::algorithmic library is an ongoing research by biothing. The project was one of the awarded Metropolismag's 2005 Next Generation Prize.
At "Leper Creativity: The First international Cyclonopedia Symposium" in 2011 at Parsons TNS for Design, you described the concept of 'dustism.' How do you explore this concept in your work and find a relationship between mathematics and architectural design?
[Alisa proposes two quotes to start her answer.]
"Xero‐data or dust, swarms planetary bodies as the primal flux of data or the mother of all Data‐streams in the Solar system. Each particle of dust carries with it a unique vision of matter, movement, collectivity, interaction, affect, differentiation, composition and infinite darkness -- a crystallized data‐base or a plot ready to combine and react, to be narrated on and through something. There is no line of narration more concrete than a stream of dust particles. Given that each dust particle envelopes and carries different materials and entities from diverse territories, dust particles express particulars of different fields and territories in terms of universals." -- Cyclonopedia
"As an inter-dimensional carrier, dust scavenges xenochemical particles (outsiders) as its cores or constituents, introduces and implants them into compositions, creations and establishments..." -- Cyclonopedia
Biothing's evolution was inverse to the de-evolution of its systems building blocks. Recent arrival of planetary computation, finer grains of computational physics deployed through simulations, multi-agent systems (in massive populations) and large data sourced from myriad of domains are opening novel spaces of synthesis. Computationally, it was necessary to descend to the primordial soup of logics, towards distributed information processing rather than centralized procedural formats, resulting in more resilience.
Instead of designing at the order of scale of rooms and middle scale structure, it is now descending into cellular grain of matter, flow of light, heat, vapor, friction, simulation of massive scale erosion and sedimentation or ice melting. Such architecture is drawing on large data from the finer-grain physics of matter -- matter as information, instantiated by computation. These tendencies are not only expanding on technically enriched material formations, but also activating previously hidden material powers towards designs beyond our anticipations in both formal imagination and performance. This new speculative image of matter reveals things that go beyond established concepts of "nature" -- via matter as information, active agency, as strange and unnatural.
"Negaresturing Pavilion" Project video:
In older writings, you apparently coined the usage of 'creature' in architecture design. How does this term impact methodologies/ambitions of past/current work?
In the space of abstraction (mathematics) as a secret intermediary between matter and formation (in a form of life at its most complex), unfeasible instances outnumber the feasible ones. Mythical creatures, mutants, monsters, aliens, often exhibit "superpowers" and exist as fringe entities -- as the "other," unknown... When I used the term creature, I was intuitively referring to the notion of strange/unnatural velocities of transformations within systems. Structuring behavioral rhythms was a shortcut to legible patterns, expressions, even stable structural behaviors. Quality of durational patterns sourced from the creative pool of computational time were often "weird" and counter intuitive. Things did not move in a natural way -- those fringe creatural behaviors could be called "undead" rather than alive. This was against the dominant hauntology by the specter of life often found in metaphors used by architects -- "life-like" or "nature-like." Creating something that mimics forms of life which already exists demonstrates lack of imagination...
Also it was a struggle to define agency within material praxis -- an attempt to recognize the agency of "it" -- before eventually realizing that agency is very distributed. That was before I read Material Agency edited by Lambros Malafouris and Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani, as well as writings of speculative realists (Object Oriented Philosophy by Harman and Ideas of Contingency and Universality by Meillassoux, amongst others).
"Fissure Port" Project videos:
Most recently you organized the conference "Speculative Materialism in Architecture." Could you describe this concept and ambition?
In parallel to the developments in philosophy (from which the term "Speculative Materialism" was taken), there are recent developments in mathematics of open continuum that are engaging the ideas of complex synthesis.
Columbian mathematician and philosopher Fernando Zalamea's work on transient ecologies in a context of Latin American socio-politics, is looking at triadic logic proposed by logician Charles Pierce. It investigates the study of transference of information around complex porous boundaries of trans-ecological continuum -- shortly, triadic logic is concerned with the expression of universal properties within regional localities.
Different from the binary logic which still dominates majority of computing, it contains the third element -- one that can absorb ambiguity and noise. Therefore it allows for openness, unrestricted synthesis and contamination, overlaps of organic and inorganic, biology and culture, ecology and economy and similar. Unlike the principles of total holism that have characterized early ecological thinking, what this kind of open synthesis offers is resilience and redundancy of transient boundaries, with increased ability for interweaving contingent agencies. The role of those boundaries is not any more to enclose space, but rather to form connective tissue for intensive exchange.
Discoveries in material science can now be incorporated through simulations into massive resolution speculations in architecture/urbanism/design, opening doors for weird synthesis and fissuring established preconceptions of what design could be. Increasing access to universal conditions of materiality is redefining boundaries of practice and opening new venues for architecture. Myriad of human and non-human agencies converge in such new synthetic landscape.
Mathematics of open continuum are corrupting blueprints of architecture, characterized by structures with increased resiliency, plasticity and malleability of complex interrelated systems -- in short increased design-ability within complex ecologies. It allows for speculative proposals of unprecedented nature, complexity and scale.
"the invisibles" project video:
Go to the biothing website here.
Link to GENWARE research here.
Biothing on Amazon.
Alisa Andrasek on Vimeo.
Project credits can be found in image gallery, included in the first slide of each project.
Carla Leitão is an architect, designer and writer currently living, working and teaching Architecture in New York. Practice and academic works interests in ubiquity and intersection of new media and architecture.
Research Assistant: Benjamin Rice