Morphogenesis 2

29Mar10

I have continued to pursue an investigation into the creation of a library of abstract formal operations with Grasshopper. Shown below are a few of the operations I’ve created, operating on the same two base primitives.

By themselves, none of these are particularly interesting, useful, or challenging to construct; it is in their repetition or combination that they become useful. My first post on this topic dealt with the recursive application of the same formal move; this one will deal more with the combination of multiple operations in an arbitrary sequence.

All of the following forms were generated from the same sequence of the above operations, with various parameters altered.

In these investigations, I am by no means advocating pure architectural formalism. I don’t want to suggest a methodology around these techniques that involves the simple application of a generated form to a site, to be stuffed with program as necessary. This is intended not as a tool for the generation of building form, but as a “seed for creativity.”

We are in an age that has grown comfortable with multiplicities of approach; it gets harder and harder to categorically declare what Architecture Should Be. There are countless valid approaches to the creative process of design, with all kinds of “seeds” or starting points: the program diagram, the formal site analysis, the intellectual/philosophical/theoretical concept, the sketch, the model, the icon, the brand, the performative intent, the affect, the typology, the style, the 3D modeling technique, and so on. It is reductive to suggest that any design process is based entirely on any one of these factors, but I believe a variety of architectural practices could be categorized by specifying a set of these, in a particular temporal sequence, with particular levels of priority.

I see the above techniques for arbitrary form generation as one such seed for the creative process. Digital methodologies are often criticized for being too deterministic, and I think this is a real risk. Accepting wholesale the output of any generative process — regardless of whether one is the author of the process itself — is a matter of relinquishing authorship. Critics of computation in architecture are right to emphasize the importance of the intuitive mode in the process of creation. Automated form generation can only become a valuable aspect of the design process when paired with and mediated by human intuition. The first step of this is selection: the choice of an intuitively appealing solution from the range of possibilities produced by the generative process. The second is interpretation: the translation from the visual representation of ultimately numerical and meaning-free 3D modeling data to a meaningful conception of the form in the mind of the designer. Certainly, this process generates 3D models, but I am almost more inclined to take its output in the form of 2-dimensional views and discard the rest; greater room is offered for productive (mis)interpretation. The simple act of translating these images into sketches, for instance, can engage the intuitive mode in a way simply accepting the 3D model does not.

If the above seems preemptively defensive, it’s not without reason; I have to a certain degree internalized the skepticism of digital method that I encounter frequently at school, and so feel a need to justify digital work beyond the frame of reference of the software. For me this has to go beyond “it’s just a tool, like a mayline or a sketchbook”; on a certain level of course this is true, but I think computational instruments have much greater potential than this defense allows them. I am completely willing to acknowledge that the hardware and software I use can have agency in my creative process; however, I refuse to utilise such output without translating it through the filters of my own creative agencies.

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One Response to “Morphogenesis 2”


  1. 1 Recent Work – Part 2: Pre-thesis « Heumann Design/Tech

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