Emulating ecosystem

“We believe that ideas mutate when they meet an environment, real or virtual, and are best refined through iterative feedback loops: parametric analysis, simulation, evolutionary algorithms, prototypes and full scale construction. We understand that anytime we make something, we become consumers, and we suspect that environments that are tightly bound to specific ecologies of mind and matter have a better chance of being both effective and efficient. ‘’  [1]


There is an additional layer of complexity that is seen in architecture and design research processes today. Instead of being a unidirectional process of designing, building and construction, practices all around are in search for holistic systems that have more to do than merely satisfying functionality, space usage and form production. I specifically want to focus on Adaptive ecologies. I think it is great that some architecture today talks about simulating systems, even though I feel there is still a huge gap in understanding, emulating and integrating principles of: natural processes, computation techniques and emergence.

A lot of programmed architecture today (I have used this term because a lot of projects using, genetic algorithms, computational techniques are viewed as virtual systems sitting in a computer and are not given enough credit because they lack real world construction practicality. It is really frustrating. I have got this response from peers and I think such a reception is because of a refusal to comprehend anything complex or maybe diverting from traditional practices) To move on why do I think integration of science, biology; simulating evolutionary processes is interesting? Why do I feel complexity is necessary? It is a simple answer, I feel complexity is nothing but layers and layers of information stacked together, linked together so that change in one affects the other and further triggers various other affects which makes a system rich and almost every time self-sufficient. It happens in nature, happens in cities and animal communities. Does not it seem right probably to at least try to grasp them and imbibe at least the basic organizational structure?

“An individual ant, like an individual neuron, is just about as dumb as can be. Connect enough of them together properly, though, and you get spontaneous intelligence.” [2]

The above is a quote from the book, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. I mention it here because I feel it aptly summarizes the most complex processes that exist in nature today. For Instance, the complex behavior of a city.  Something that we as Urban Designers will probably spend their entire professional lives deciphering. But what we can do is maybe start with smarter tools at hand.

As an example, the following project:

BIO-CLIMATIC PARAMETRIC ANALYSISA Sustainable Approach to Adaptive Reuse in the Eastern European Housing Block; Bratislava Slovakia
Design Research / Project supported by Arnold W. Brunner Grant, AIA NY Chapter / Completed in Spring 2012

This follows an informative approach based on generating data maps using site information integrating public land use, wind speed data, radiation mapping etc. So how is it different or any other project that follows such an approach before delving into design different? It is I feel a smarter, more productive approach to environmental analysis as both a first mode of inquiry and as input for a design method for building adaptive parametric models linked to specific series of data sets, which provide an alternative analytical model for more efficient form finding and per formative testing. [3]

I have always been in awe of architectural processes intersecting with fields of science– fields of computational biology, evolutionary algorithms, math- fractal geometry etc. It is definitely not a new trend. Historical Domes, Minarets of the past follow basic logical math merely different from today’s techniques because they were analog models. Even today I feel most of the techniques to emulate systems in nature are either for form generation or as optimization tools specifically used for different building functions (Structures, facades etc.) But I would like to end with:

Though we’re far from fully understanding how complex behavior manifests from simple units and rules, our awareness that such emergence is possible is guiding research across disciplines.[4]

[1]  EPI-PHYTE LAB – Architectural Design + Research Collaborative


[2]  Steven Johnson ‘’ Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software’’

(Scribner; Reprint edition (September 10, 2002)

[3]  EPI-PHYTE LAB – Architectural Design + Research Collaborative


[4]  Steven Johnson ‘’ Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software’’

(Scribner; Reprint edition (September 10, 2002)


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