ROWE & THE MATHEMATIC ZONE OF INFLUENCE

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


“I would like to dispense with the simplistic notion of ideal forms without entirely abandoning the formal project that Rowe initiated. Interest in diversity, difference, and discontinuity do not preclude formal and mathematical thought. It was the faulty assumption that mathematics could only be used to describe an ideal villa that led Rowe to jettison formalism in favor of collage aesthetics. What is necessary for a rigorous theorization of diversity and difference within the discipline of architecture is precisely an alternative mathematics of form; a formalism that is not reducible to ideal villas or other fixed types but is in its essence freely differentiated.”
Greg Lynn / Folds, Bodies & Blobs / p.202

Topological and curvilinear forms are dependent on a series of complex and rapid computations of spline curves and surfaces. Splines are capable of being computed, revised and recomputed with parametric mathematics, including differential calculus. The structure of digital topological surfaces, be they polygons, NURBS or sub-divisions, embody a similar mathematic logic that is also concealed by the interface. The purpose of their concealment is two-fold: on the one hand, it is not necessary for the designer to understand the equations that generate topological surfaces, for the equation of even the simplest curve involves complex mathematics; on the other hand, the concealment allows the designer to focus on the actual surface that appears through the graphic interface. The visible skin of this surface, or what might be called the topological limit, appears more or less complex in its form. However, in reality a surface’s actual complexity lies within a zone that is conceptually “lifted off” the topological limit. This zone acts as a field of influence that uses a series of control vertices that behave as forces through which the curve or surface negotiates its form and settles into a homeostatic resting state. Should any force change its magnitude or direction, the surface will be recalculated and find a new resting state.

Once this zone of influence is revealed, it becomes clear that the computational surface obeys a logic that is entirely different from the geological laws of natural terrain. Designers therefore have two options in dealing with such surfaces: the first is to attend only to the topological limit and operate on its configuration through the computers graphic interface. However if one imagines only a surface’s formal inflection in its allegiance with built-and ground-form, one bypasses the logic of the surface’s digital structure. The graphic interface therefore limits the full operational range of digital topologies and the affect its logic might have upon the intersection detail between ground-form and built-form.

The other option is to embrace the zone of influence and utilize the surface’s structural logic, namely that of calculus and spline forces, as an architectural device. This device, meanwhile, is dynamic in that it functions simultaneously as a tool and a material. As a tool, topological mathematics can be codified as a series of logical procedures and numeric ranges that combine into a sequence of scripted design operations. For example, a surface might be assigned a predefined spatial behavior (i.e “if another surface gets too close, move until there is enough room”), and though the tool’s automation the surface will continue to satisfy the condition of its behavioral rules even if the environment changes. The tool therefore embeds mathematical logic into the surface, which would otherwise be done with a looser control if acting on the topological limit alone. As a material, topological mathematics behave as a system of values, including quantity, size, intensity and breed. When processed through a digital algorithm, for example, numbers might indicate the amount of available surfaces, their individual sizes, their density or degree of curvature and whether they belong to one system or another (i.e. figure, ground or both).

In looping the Foldist era from its topological endgames back to its origins as a reaction to collage and formal contradiction, the discursive purpose of exhuming topological mathematics is to regulate the construction of anexact topologies with a system of logic-based intelligence, similar to the Modernists’ linear and proportional regulations albeit for a different purpose. Mathematics should serve as the device for realizing formal complexity rather than analytical reduction. Along these lines, as I explain in my critique of the Foldist endgames, it is the lack of complexity within figure/ground relationships that leads to the incapacity to operate within a wider variety of contexts. Mathematics therefore must be reborn as a system for instilling complexity within figure/ground relationships, especially those within the context of urban density.

KOWLOON ROCK CITY

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Map of Kai Tak, parceled into individual book pages. Vector files of HK are incredibly hard to come by, something to do with it's former status as a UK protectorate. The CAD file I finally got a hold of had buildings, roads, contours and land boundaries all on the same layer. Who does that??

Kai Tak is similar to most urban reclamation projects in that it abuts a situation of intense urban density, and yet the ground there is completely vacant, almost without any trace of its previous program. Kai Tak’s horizontal extension contradicts the vertical urban fabric of Kowloon, occupied by the city’s characteristic “pencil” towers and perimeter block tenement buildings in addition to the extreme topography on which they sit. When analyzed from discursively, these three characteristics of the city – topography, perimeter block and tower – describe a historical narrative of built-form and ground-form that is physically and temporally compressed. Prior to British occupation, Hong Kong was a sparsely populated military outpost for the Canton army, but starting in 1841, after the British first occupied the area, settlements developed rapidly combining a rich mixture of local and colonial influence. This tradition carried well into the twentieth century, even throughout Japanese occupation during the Second World War and after the British reoccupation.

True architectural change happened as a result of the 1949 mainland revolution and the takeover of China by the Communist Party, as a wave of migrants fled the mainland seeking refuge from the ongoing civil war...Soon, the construction and development industries responded with a massive shift in the city’s industry and in the 1970’s started to fill the skyline on both sides of the harbor with apartment towers. Due to zoning restrictions on lot sizes, the towers were designed with very small footprints, and often developers would purchase several adjoining lots in order to build a series of identical towers, sometimes only 1 meter apart from each other, thus earning them their pencil-like appearance.

The towers are scattered in isolation and in clusters throughout Kowloon, mixed with tenements, retail complexes, and the occasional remainders devoted to recreation...The combination of figures – towers, tenements, voids and harbor – create a city collage that recalls the aesthetic of Rowe, more than the specific contradictory aesthetic of Venturi and Las Vegas. The towers, which are often cruciform in plan, serve as a fitting substitute for the figural solids of the Ville Contemporaine, while the tenements retain the figural void-ness of the old city in Rowe and Koetter’s proposition.

Still, the aesthetic of Hong Kong differs from that of Collage City in that the city refuses to be read orthographically. A map of Hong Kong will attest to this, since it is virtually impossible to describe the form of the city – it’s sectional overlaps and formal hybrids – in plan alone; sections often help, however their interpolations with plans make them equally insufficient. Like the concept of the fold, Hong Kong is a complex combination of parts that work as a systematically greater whole, and perhaps the only way to understand the city is through entirely abstract means, such as diagrams and writings, or incredibly literal and formal devices such as animations and three-dimensional models. The conflation of collage forms and topography make Hong Kong unlike almost any western city model – it is not a museum city like Vienna, a continuous city like Paris, a modern city like the siedlungen of Frankfurt, or a postmodern city as it exists in a variety of city plans, from the Las Vegas strip to modern Washington D.C. It can only be mapped by a three-dimensional, immersed experience. In this sense, Hong Kong is a true Foldist city, in that its parts are elusive and multiple, yet its working as a whole is entirely recognizable as a dynamic and operational city-scape.

Reclaimed land folds into this concept of the city since it operates both as an extension of the urban ground and an object of a different structural logic. Land-reclamation in Hong Kong intensifies the detail, especially at Kai Tak, due to the intensity of the differential between the open and horizontal condition of the reclaimed land compared to the dense and vertical condition of the existing city. The ground at Kai Tak is therefore primed as a situation for investigating a more localized version of the intersection between built-form and ground-form and how it modulates according to the various urban conditions within and surrounding the former Kai Tak airport.

IS THAT YOU THOMAS?

Friday, December 14, 2007



I couldn't resist. IM Pei designed the Javits Center. Foster and KPF are designing the expansion, which is stalled for financially-induced political reasons. There are so many good pictures of IM, he might be popping up a lot.

*Oh boy Josh, you've turned me into a posting bandit.

GO WEST YOUNG MAN? / THE INVERTED FRONTIER






Javits Center Expansion, Far West Side Manhattan


After spending far too much time problemitizing site and scouring through a host of (ultimately) unsatisfactory possibilities, I have officially located myself on the Far West Side of Manhattan. The situation provides a fairly classic modern problem - a large building predicated on function, a one face encounter with the 'city,' the remainder of its perimeter submitting to an almost sublime urban detritus. Current post-industrial urban schema see these sites as moments of potential in the city - open sites for folding the city back onto itself - an inverted frontier.

The Jacob Javits Center expansion - an economic necessity cum political nightmare - is my grounds for investigating the inverted frontier. Exhibition - were horizontality is an assest - extended in the vertical city. The plinth's capacity as a dense horizontal platform provides an open source of techniques and organizational precedents for proposing new relationships between service/served, open/contained, bounded/limitless, and public/private.

Wish me luck.

DIRTY

Wednesday, December 12, 2007



My thesis engages 'dirty' - not as an aesthetic quality, but as a motivating design ethic that invites infection: can we internalize urbanism and externalize architecture?

--

Geometry is conventionally internal to architecture. Today, perhaps for the first time, it is no longer a geometry of ideality or form or concept. Instead, it is a geometry of turbulence, relinquishing control to the complex, often ugly forces that drive and accelerate late capitalist urbanism. Responding to these conditions, Koolhaas accepts an attitude of 'dirty realism' - antipathy to mere 'architecture', 'architecture' capacious enough actually to absorb the urban into itself. Why totalize when you can absorb? 'Dirty realism' and its architectural manifestation 'Bigness' are treated by Koolhaas as genre, advanced through categorical logics and properties rather then operative techniques. Can there be 'dirty' techniques?

Downtown Athletic Club - almost dirty / Parc La Villete - dirty / Jussieu - dirty (they were there all along)

I am interrogating the presence (and denial) of 'dirty' and will formulate an ethic and operative logic for the 'dirty' project. Techniques of smooth and articulated (in a monolithic/fineness sense) and smooth and striated (in the milieu/sedentary 1,000 Plateau sense) will be investigated - the smooth/smooth contradiction especially, because it has sex appeal, monolithic mileu. Its like empirical transcendentalism.*

The testing and production of a 'dirty' operative logic and technique are initiated in the design of an International Exhibition Hall (location tba). Spatial instigators include: enormous amounts of service space, enormous amounts of continuous floor space, discontinuous infrastructural interactions, discontinuous access and circulation, discontinuous engagement of urban landscape, etc. Further instigators include the dirty tourism economics of the Exhibition Industry (they operate as a proxy to fill hotel rooms) and dirty financing (tax-payer funded while providing few taxpayer amenities). And lots of other dirty little secrets that I need to prepare graphically. There are plenty of other subtexts, but none of them are interesting, so I will spare you.

--

This began as research regarding the plinth as a device or weapon of modernist urbanism. The terms have been extrapolated to position it more directly into contemporary discourse. But I will argue that the plinth embodies a latent 'dirty'-ness that provides a productive lens for critiquing Bigness. In a generic sense, plinths take one of two types: the podium or the platform (as in the computing sense). The staged and the stage. Both deal with 'dirty'. Podiums prop and stabilize urbanism - genre. Platforms absorb and internalize urbanism - performance.

--

*I can officially say I made a Deleuze joke. Its lame and I'm officially a dork.
**My obligatory first thesis post, as promised to Josh
***I'm not saying that Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla is dirty in any conventional sense. I'm just saying that she is promiscuous in her desire for two hairstyles at once. I invite this attitude. No more flat tops and buzz cuts - they are not dirty. Long greasy hair is dirty, but in the wrong way. I'm saying 'dirty' like 'promiscuous' but dirty is more appropriate... however, I would never condone both 'dirty' and 'promiscuous' together, that's just gross.
****DO NOT GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH 'DIRTY' WITH SAFE SEARCH OFF!

MAKE RENDERS GO NOW

here are a few more sculpting tests. it's getting vaguely more architectural... hah.










CHUIWAN!

Monday, December 10, 2007



It's program time!

Several countries contend that golf originated within their borders. The modern game of golf is often attributed to the linksland region of Scotland, where written records of the game date as far back as March 6, 1457 in St. Andrews, Scotland, when King James II banned the sport as a distraction from military drills. Golf courses, clubs and game rules, as they are recognized today, are all credited to this region of Scotland, from which the game spread to coastal regions of England, Wales and Ireland, and then to inland areas.

Recent research indicates that golf’s ancient origins prior to St. Andrews belong to a different locale. According to Professor Ling Hongling of Langzhou University in China, a document called the Dongxuan Records, written in 1282 in the Song Dynasty, proves the existence of an earlier version of golf called chuiwan. The book explains that the game was played with 10 different jewel-encrusted clubs, including a cuanbang, equivalent to a modern-day driver, and a shaobang, similar to a wooden club. Since the Dongxuan Records pre-date the earliest records of golf in Scotland, Ling claims the game was possibly imported to Europe by Mongol traders during the late Middle Ages.

The program of a golf course will serve as the exploratory device for investigating a new intersection detail between ground-form and built-form. Like the traditional Chinese garden, the golf course requires an intricate combination of ground elements and architecture, including surfaces planted with vegetation or earth, exposed or covered paths, earth walls, and buildings. In many golf courses and Chinese gardens ground-form and built-form exchange spatial devices, such that the ground-form is divided either by fairways, trees or walls to create spatial division, while the built-form is materially opened to the landscape so as to draw it into the building.

The task of this thesis is to find investigative moments within the exchange between the ground-form and built-form polarities of golf course design. There is a gradient between these two components within which I will identify zones of influence and logic. These zones will then be deployed within the context and tested as a method for reactivating the reclaimed land at Kai Tak.

LAZY SUNDAY

Sunday, December 9, 2007



It's that time of the week again. Sunday morning. Not a care in the world. Just me and the internet. Ahhh. Yeah. Absolutely nothing to do... So, let's see here, what can we search for? Here we go. Google... What is this...a rasta guy claiming to be President Taft. Interesting. Well, not really. But moving on... I wonder if I search the term "boobs" if anything bad will pop up. Ummm, no. What about..."bad boobs". Still nothing. Safe search is on. Damn. I forget how to turn that off. Oh! Wait! What about "excellent Sweedish film editing"? Good, Josh. Good. Now, let's see, keep looking... looking... now THERE! Right THERE! THERE'S a jackpot. FAMILJEN! Strobe graphics, Evangelism, family bands, and granny claps. Oh yes.

And while I'm at it, let's check out this French Carribean version of "National Anthem". Directed by someone or some group named Un Circunciso Y Dos No, apparently it was the first Runner-Up in MTV Latin America's "Make Your Radiohead Video" contest. MTV Latin America? Radiohead? French Carribean? I'm confused. Whatever. Back to my lazy Sunday.



PS // if you're interested in seeing in watching some Sweedish geeks, go HERE.

ODDS & ENDS

Saturday, December 1, 2007



Here are a few odds-n-ends I decided to post, while I avoid thesis work...

First up, in response to the latest viral video making waves on the internet scene, it seems that designers are finally staking some ground and adding their own bit of creativity to the mix (eww, maybe "mix" isn't the right word for this post). In addition to the plethora of amusing reaction videos (KERMIT being my favorite), there are now a slew of t-shirts available from CAFEPRESS, DIRTYWORD (Winston's Christmas gift?), and a lovely logo by ANDREWC. Illustrator-Nation at its finest.

Second up is a quick glance at recent activity on the blog. Unfortunately, none of our traffic has resulted from a foul-mouthed google search. However, 63% of our traffic comes from referring sites, including DIGITAG& and EVOLUTIONZONE. Oddly enough, my post about Diplo's I LIKE TURTLES remix has gathered the most hits through web searches on google and yahoo, and the oddest search-engine referral-word to date is "blue boobs." Thanks to Google Analytics for such a thorough report.

Lastly, as for thesis work, I recently finished compiling GreysAnatomy™: A Foldist Dictionary, as well as GreyCodes™, a series of (presently) lame coding techniques for generating abstract pixel/polysurface gradients. Here's a small taste:

int $u;
int $v;
int $x=120;
int $y=90;

for($u=0; $u<$x; $u++){
for($v=0; $v<$y; $v++){
int $r=rand(0,$x);
if ($r<($u+1)){
continue;
}
else {
polyCreateFacet
-ch on
-tx 1
-s 1
-p $u 0 $v
-p $u 0 ($v+1)
-p ($u+1) 0 ($v+1)
-p ($u+1) 0 $v
-n ("curve_"+$u+"_"+$v);
}
}
}

And now, back to work. Inge claims we're meeting with Kipnis next Thursday, meanwhile I'm heading to CMU tomorrow for final reviews; not sure how I got roped into that one.