Artificial Beauty - Natural Intelligence

The TED 2012 presentation by Machael Hansmeyer on the potential of digital and programmed design (CAD) leaves us - even now - in  a state of astonishment, which doesn't know  whether to turn into wonder, skepticism or hope. After a few years we can see that 3D printing has become a reality that makes the reproduction of complex shapes easy and immediate, and even artificial intelligence, back in vogue thanks to reinvented learning algorithms, renews its confidence in its ability to guarantee level of performance that before was  just considered  possible for human intelligence . But can we consider human intelligence itself without limits? Human Intelligence is not yet able to fully understand the secrets of nature and to replicate the randomness of its evolution, harmony and the measure of things. Although the noblest intentions  back up  design and planning,  the design of complex and hyper-performing environments still happen to offer the user/occupant negative and stressful experiences . Natural environments always win over artificial ones: why?

Inspired by cell division, Michael Hansmeyer writes algorithms that design outrageously fascinating shapes and forms with millions of facets. No person could draft them by hand, but they're buildable -- and they could revolutionize the way we think of architectural form.

If we stop at the frame of the minute 3.50 of the video we get a typical example of monstrosity generated by an algorithm "gone out of control". Hansmeyer speaks of a visual effect that expresses what the noise  represents for hearing. In simple words it is a wrong process that in nature would  end with abortion.

Our biology, our being part of an ecosystem, establishes the rules of our relationship with the environment in which we live. These are rules that are biological but also aesthetic, ethical and social. If our feeling is positive or negative, it is established by a law of nature that responds to the same law that has shaped us human beings. Biophilia is a philosophy that supports this law of nature, which, although elusive at times, is the basis of the biophilic hypothesis of biophilic design, the latter one a design protocol  that analyzes and verifies the natural aspects of the anthropized environment with the goal of improving the quality our life and preserving our planet.

Nicola Salingaros, mathematician, is an avid supporter of biophilic design and has much to say about what is established as the right measure and harmony of the aesthetic effect of things. Salingaros uses the fractal and its degree of complexity as a reference, suggesting the values within which you would feel safe from perceptive stimulations, so as to make them neither monotonous (not stimulating), neither annoying (stressful). A fractal encodes geometric structures on different levels and there are no preferences on scales.

All organic tissues have basic geometric structures that are similar to each other,  linking humans, animals, plants and landscapes together. In this  similitude  a sort of "Subliminal Communication" is established among all the natural elements, an attraction towards signs full of meaning that result in a sense of pleasantness and widespread wellbeing. If this concept is intuitive with the visual experience, we must make an  effort  to apply the same to all the other senses, since the principle does not change. We can therefore think of  categories of sounds, textures, smells that are linked to pleasant experiences and meet our positive predisposition.

 3D printed COLumns GENERATEd w/ algorithms

3D printed COLumns GENERATEd w/ algorithms

Now getting back to the issue about the algorithmic generation of the column shown in the video, a question arises: How to control and manage the artificial creative process to obtain a final result that can be defined not only universally acceptable, but also fair, appropriate, cheap ? And, above all, we question if our sense of beauty and harmony can evolve over time, according to an epigenetic evolution - certainly already underway -  which can adapt us to a new order of things,  educate ourselves to spatial experiences not necessarily due to natural archetypes, but controlled by an intelligence no longer human.

These considerations create an impasse, but a reflection on how technological tools have evolved over the last millennia could help to get out of it. The design and the construction technique have always represented creative forms that delegated the execution to instruments external to our body, and more and more distant from it, from pencil to CAD, from hammer to printer. Yet our brain has gradually adapted to new creations and new technologies,  with small traumas being  very well and very fast recovered.

 HAL- From 2001 A Space Odissey  

HAL- From 2001 A Space Odissey  

Different forms of art, above all cinema, have often dealt  with the theme of human losing control over  the machine. The cult movie "2001 A Space Odyssey" is an apocalyptic fable about the destiny of humanity, whose identity is different from the rest of nature. The story is about a mission on Jupiter in which a computer (HAL) turns, from reliable friend and support to a terrible enemy of the last surviving man. The movie tries to face very ancient problems concerning the identity of human nature, its destiny, and the role of knowledge and technique. But the story has an "happy end" , and not because the human mind is able to quell the rebellion and the resourcefulness of the artificial one, but because upstream of this apparent man-machine conflict we find out being the will of human being herself (the authors of the mission), who had set the wrong priorities,  in conflict with her own survival.

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Architetto abilitato dal 1992, LEED Green Associate, con un’esperienza decennale all’estero presso studi di progettazione internazionali (Burt Hill, EMBT/ RMJM, Forum Studio/Clayco). Rientra in Italia nel 2008 per avviare ABidea, dedicato alla progettazione e al retrofit. Nel frattempo presta consulenza presso Proger Spa, NeocogitaSrl, collabora con il GBCItalia. Consulente architetto per spazi rigeneranti e formatore di CFP per architetti, è coinvolta anche in attività di ricerca interdisciplinare centrata sulle relazioni tra il comportamento umano e lo spazio costruito. (EBD - Environmental Psychology)

The office is changing ... again.

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Since the mid-twentieth century the workplace has changed dramatically and not only because the purpose of the work changed, but because the means to do work changed, together with  acknowledgments on how architecture can  influence a pleasant and more productive environment .

Once upon a time there were clusters of small private office rooms, for few employees, and then large number of employees within corporations dictated the idea of open space with cubicles. This layout could still provide some privacy, which completely disappeared with the advent of large open spaces. At that time some research studies proved that we need to connect with others and that we create an internal model of the experience of those we come into contact with. Isolation couldn't  help people to accomplish what groups of talented people might by pooling their knowledge, talents, insights and energy.  .

 A scene from  "ALL president's men" 

A scene from  "ALL president's men" 

But going over limits has been proved being deleterious. There are times, in spite of the brain being a social organ, when collaboration is distinctly brain-unfriendly. The reasons are different. Think about negative emotion and how easily they can spread. Consider how much weaker personalities can feel overwhelmed  by dominant ones. And what about the pre-existing issue on privacy ?

So, now, offices are changing again, and not only to solve the privacy issue, but to be aligned with the recent outcomes in behavioral and social psychology and cognitive science. If we consider creativity, and how much important this requisite is in finding out-of-the box solutions, we need to fit an office with isolated slots, in order to ensure creative - and often introverted - people  be free from interruption or dissipation of energy on social matters which are unrelated to work. People engaged in creative works need freedom in managing their work schedule and, therefore, their work environment.

 Tomoko, from:   http://www.mottowasabi.com/

If previous workplace design relied on cutting-edge technology to tie it all together, now contemporary technologies work on opposite direction. New solutions allow a precise control of sound and light propagation  even in space with no physical boundaries.

Fast and efficient wireless connection  are making remote work easier and not just possible, so that people can attend meetings while at home or even during commuting.  Once you experience flexibility at work you can't go back to a rigid frame anymore and this tendency is building up a different concept of work environment. Flexibility requires offices to offer multiple choices and provide private and individual solutions alternate with communal spaces, as there are times when people can and should collaborate productively and times when people should be wise enough to leave each other alone. Acknowledging that different personalities have different roles to play and allowing each one to get the appropriate environment, to utilize its talents, is critical for true innovation.

There is another important contribution by technology: improved wireless communication makes remote work possible so that people can attend meetings while being at home or even while commuting. So why not  conceiving offices with smaller area than needed?  There are companies that are shrinking spaces by reducing the footage per person and also reducing  the number of desks, despite the actual number of employees. High rent is another important issue and some companies in New York are looking for creative ways to cut the costs, by promoting new concepts of co-working and   even  recurring to bartering. All strategies to help small  and large firms to handle unstable economic situation, like starting a new business (the former) or  facing tough economic times (the latter).

Besides a new philosophy of space planning is spreading. The recent product design  let the end-user personalize objects and furniture, and choose geometry, finish, assembly to get personalized layouts. Some open-end  solutions let the user  perceiving his own affordance and  decide his own way to use an object. Everybody can  contribute to shape the environment  and  build up the identity of the brand he/she works for. Flexibility is he most important issue and not only to embrace a fluent, dynamic and partecipatory space concept,  but also to foster a reduced discrimination of classes, by considering  interchangeable working slots, where your desk will be somebody's desk in the future and vice versa.   Employees involved in creating their work environment and dealing with less hierarchical issues are  more likely to be happy, as they can identify themselves with the culture of the organization, and not just follow unwritten codes or rules. 

 Image from linkedin 

Image from linkedin 

Good mood is a requirement for being more productive, and, although this is a quality very difficult to measure,  it does effect efficiency and efficacy of production (intellectual and not).  Architecture and interior design contribute a lot to get these results, but they have to accomplish a very delicate job, that is to say consistency with the real policy of the firm.  No spacial concept can get  positive accomplishment in well-being and productivity if there are bosses, and not leaders, at the top of the system.

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Architetto abilitato dal 1992, LEED Green Associate, con un’esperienza decennale all’estero presso studi di progettazione internazionali (Burt Hill, EMBT/ RMJM, Forum Studio/Clayco). Rientra in Italia nel 2008 per avviare ABidea, dedicato alla progettazione e al retrofit. Nel frattempo presta consulenza presso Proger Spa, NeocogitaSrl, collabora con il GBCItalia. Consulente architetto per spazi rigeneranti e formatore di CFP per architetti, è coinvolta anche in attività di ricerca interdisciplinare centrata sulle relazioni tra il comportamento umano e lo spazio costruito. (EBD - Environmental Psychology)

1000 WORDS ABOUT ... ... the new appointment of the month

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Examples of buildings and spaces, that best meet the performative and / or emotional needs of the people who live there, will be examined.

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Architetto abilitato dal 1992, LEED Green Associate, con un’esperienza decennale all’estero presso studi di progettazione internazionali (Burt Hill, EMBT/ RMJM, Forum Studio/Clayco). Rientra in Italia nel 2008 per avviare ABidea, dedicato alla progettazione e al retrofit. Nel frattempo presta consulenza presso Proger Spa, NeocogitaSrl, collabora con il GBCItalia. Consulente architetto per spazi rigeneranti e formatore di CFP per architetti, è coinvolta anche in attività di ricerca interdisciplinare centrata sulle relazioni tra il comportamento umano e lo spazio costruito. (EBD - Environmental Psychology)