Paradoxical Appropriations

Wendy Cox

Norwich University


Discoveries being revealed through NKS offer an opportunity for reframing architecture. This paper presents multiple strategies in which architecture's appropriation of concepts being developed in NKS could allow for an erosion of historically binary thinking in the discipline of architecture, resulting in an architecture of fluidity, not fixity. One of the concepts of focus in this paper is the discovery through NKS that relatively simple computational rules allow for complex behavior. And, since this behavior is observable, it is conceived that all there is, is also potentially derived from a relatively simple rule and therefore may be the resultant of an ongoing, running computation. If architecture were to utilize this concept at a deep level—inspiring architectural form based on the structure of all there is—then potentially our built environment could begin to resonate on a deep level with our natural environment. Our homes and offices would resonate with the sense one might feel in walking through a forest, resting in the warmth of the sand and sun while watching rhythmic waves, or experiencing an oncoming summer thunderstorm. A paradox seemingly occurs in proposing such a strategy of appropriating concepts being derived from the study of the computational universe to enable the bringing forth of design that brings humanity into closer connection with nature, providing enhanced human experience of spatial enclosure. Research in NKS, however, reveals that the underlying structure of both processes, of experience and form, are potentially the same, and that they are computational. This strategy allows for a foundation in which architecture can investigate further erosions of historically binary oppositions expressed through built form; for example the concepts of inside/outside, universal/particular, subject/object, rational/sensual, functional/formal, and figure/ground.

This presentation’s focus is on the critical potential of NKS, rather than the instrumental. However, an example of an appropriation of 3D branching experiments translated into architectural form will be presented as provoking the beginning of a platform for further investigation and comment.  

"We want to open ourselves to life and seize it."
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Notebook 1924