Architecture Beyond CAD

SUMMARY: It is about root and branch of building and urban design. The importance of the field is plain, not however its inadequacy, nor the fact that the theoretical arsenal of modern theories of complexity is barred to the industry. Building information has become exceedingly demanding. Under the strain, the architect and the urbanist mendaciously leave their business to builders and speculators. The problem is technical, while it is not done to propose technical solutions to social and civic issues. So this very strategy sets our initiative apart from others that address the same need.

The fundamental idea is that anything very complex comes to be, or is engineered, in the way this happens in the physical world, where each new development is a causal derivation from some previous state. Causal derivations from simple initial states to complex final states are the logically possible way to secure consistent and manageable complex wholes.

Conventional methods persist in aggregative approach (combine and constrain) that depends on coordination of parts. This approach requires an illusory prescient designer, informed about the final product and able to, bit by bit, issue directions for a bottom-up composition. Contrary to this view we think design must happen in a top-down causal process that is inevitably, for that very reason, autonomous. Still, the designer is free to cause any event as long as it is derived from a previous event. This opens the way for an evolutionary—non deterministic—design paradigm.

The novelty is best summed up by quoting Penrose: "Traditionally, one sees what happens as primary and the relationships between what happens as secondary. Thus the events are real and relations between events are properties of events". This would be the conventional "event driven"" CAD approach. Penrose reversed this way of looking at things: "You can take the causal processes as fundamental and define events in terms of coincidences between them." The benefit of such reversal is hugely increased complexity that can be tackled. Causality conveys information preserved from object to object. The universal laws of pattern formation and creative dynamics of complex systems become available to the study and implementation of built environment.

PROBLEM SPACE: Key social, economic, environmental and cultural issues depend on competent urban design, but civilized urban development is beyond the reach of the developed world. Its surrogates flourish where money is diverted to building from other needs. Where norms of European enlightenment apply, its cost is prohibitive.

The field that should be at the cutting edge of technology is stunted by dated techniques, unable to handle complexity. The responsibility for urban design is assumed to be the means by which the multitudes that make architectural offices more like medieval manufactories than modern information governed processes.

With the prevalent state of the mind, to draw attention to technique and discipline and claim therein lies the solution to the above key issues is a bold initiative. We meet the Challenge entry criteria by maintaining that the stated problems have a technical solution with wide reaching consequences—a 'trimtab' par excellence.

SOLUTION: Our method is past experimental stage—we have filed the patent application—but still some time from commercial use. It has all the potential to become a factor in architectural and urban design pushing both out of the doldrums. It may well be that it will not be received without reservation by the mainstream architectural establishment, for it imposes an unconventional degree of formal discipline to a field in which at present there is little. It may become the link to the techniques of complexity (chaos) at the present barred to architecture and urban design.

Experimentation has shown that the logic of the method in no way restrains creativity. Not only it allows encapsulation of any architectural form imaginable in the traditional manner but makes possible a much wider range of now inconceivable architectural concepts. The benefits of logic and discipline, accuracy of design, its completeness and consistency—will set much higher standards for building information management, direct line to CNC fabrication.

The method enables us to define architectural form as fully-fledged topological entity (in rigorous mathematical terms), subsequently reified in recursive steps to arbitrarily small detail. Topological matrix is set by the use of algorithms coupled with mathematical functions with succinct data structures based on a finite universe and cell-probe models. Thus the initial architectural form is fragmented in a process perhaps best explained when likened to cell differentiation as known in biology. The openness of the system at the bottom end enables direct transmission of arbitrarily articulate design information (of precision and consistency unattainable in event driven mode) to either project management, to fabrication of components and to assembly on site.

We are working on a number of prototypes to bring out the potential of the system. Prize monies will go towards the development of two designs. One for a tall building, elaborated down to the executive level of design, to thus demonstrate the technical import of the system. The other for a large scale urban development (preferably on the case of an existent city) to show how the system is applicable to social, economic, environmental and cultural issues.