20 August 2011


Doug Joyce: Parametrics Hand Drawn

Patrik Schumacher, an associate of Zaha Hadid has the first volume of a new two-volume book out on Architectural Theory, The Autopoiesis of Architecture . It was featured in an extensive article in Architectural Review, he discussed it at length at a major lecture at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles; it's getting the rightful attention of the major work that it is.  The work appears to be a thoughtful extension of the work of Hadid's office; it moves forward the notion that buildings as well as society as a whole may be understood and designed through computer synthesis.  He refers to his work as applying an 'autopoieses' to cites, perhaps overly simply described as a system for self-generating cities, made possible by the layering of computer scripts.  For him, this is a breakthrough for dealing with the increasing complexity of making cities, a worthy basis for his new architectural theory.

From his talk at SCI-Arc:

"The need for a unified theory is first of all to eliminate contradictions within one’s own efforts – so one doesn’t stand in one’s own way all the time. If you go around from jury to jury, from project to project, you say one thing here, another thing there, and yet further ideas come to mind elsewhere; by the fourth occasion you might be saying things and doing things that don’t gel, don’t cohere with the first three."

His complexity and contradictions start with his teaching and with the jury's he participates in!  Think of the difficulties of actually designing and getting a building built!

I am in full admiration for what he is attempting to achieve.  A unified approach for identifying things that influence the architecture, with the goal of doing better work, more relevant to our time.  Almost every architect struggles on a daily basis-- no make that an hourly basis, struggles to apply order to a process that continually wants to unravel itself.

Yet as beautiful of an idea this may be, there are always variables to confound such a notion as Mr Schumacher proposes.

At the SCI-Arc lecture, Eric Owen Moss was available for some counterpoint.  I picked this quote:

"I can feel you love making the Parametric argument. But your case may say as much about you as it does about architecture. It’s what you guys require to validate going proceeding ahead. Forgive me for the street-corner psycho-analysis. And again, nowhere a scintilla of a minutiae of an iota of doubt. Why are you doing this? Because it’s so? Or because you need it to be so? No inkling that something’s left out? I always thought that the unique voices in architecture included both an extreme self-confidence, and simultaneously, a deep skepticism of the consequences of that self-confidence."

I'm all for things that will help us to make crafted cities.  Mr Schumacher suggests a number of ways that computer scripts can aid complex design processes, potentially great tools for the craftsperson. But they cannot displace the care and
discernment in implementing these tools, nor can it quell the creative urge for getting under the hood and messing with the wires.

Which takes us back to the love of the person doing the creating, that intangible x-factor that will insist on nipping and tucking with the machine before the button is pushed, or tinkering with the results afterwards.

Dare I say that the craftsperson might even use a pencil and a piece of paper in the process?

Quest for the Beautiful Town
[*] Urbanism

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