Design as 2nd Nature
Design as 2nd Nature
Patrik Schumacher, London 2018
Published in: Zaha Hadid Architects – Diseno como segunda naturaleza
Exhibition catalogue: MUAC – El Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City
Architecture, since its self-conscious inception as innovative design discipline in distinction to tradition-bound building in the Renaissance, has always aspired to be nature-like, i.e. the idea of architecture as 2nd nature is as old as the discipline itself.
Since the late 20th century chaos theory and attendant computational simulation tools made much more complex and dynamic natural formations tractable. These tools were feeding into architecture either directly or via the discipline of computer graphics. It is this new understanding of natural formations as self-organizing dynamic systems that inspires our current understanding of architecture as 2nd nature.
The architecture-nature analogy operates on many levels. The research programme of biomimetics is one of the levels that has been very productive for the development of parametricism in recent years. Frei Otto pioneered a similar research paradigm – the research paradigm of natural constructions – based on inorganic processes of morphogenesis. We at Zaha Hadid Architects have absorbed the lessons of Frei Otto and continue to work hard to apply his insights and models wherever opportunities to do so arise.
Proponents of bio-mimetic research in architecture have often emphasized the distinction between bio-mimetics and bio-morphism, rejecting the latter as superficial and meaningless in contrast to the performative achievements of bio-mimetics. This judgement makes sense from an engineering perspective that demands physical performance in relation to a given technical demand. However, within architecture this dismissive judgement is fallacious. It misses the essential point that architecture is concerned with social performance and that social performance of the built environment strongly relies on its visual performance in terms of maintaining legibility in the face of urban complexity, and I shall argue that bio morphism can potentially perform better on this count than e.g. minimalism, post modernism, or deconstructivism
A New Global Style for Architecture and Urban Design’, although this paper does not explicitly refer to bio-morphism. Concerning the work of Zaha Hadid Architects it should be noted that for most of the studio’s life the landscape analogy was much more prevalent than the analogy between architecture and living organisms. We might therefore speak of geo-morphism rather than bio-morphism in relation to the work of Zaha Hadid and Zaha Hadid Architects.
These general characteristics are shared by all natural and biological models that fuel the bio-morphic and geo-morphic design imagination. Indeed, bio-morphism does not at all rely on working from specific inspirational models but can work with the general characteristics directly. Either way, what is most important is that these general characteristics offer momentous advantages in the context of architectural design problem solving, in comparison with classical or modern architectural rule systems and formal repertoires.
We indeed witness an intense new investment in architecture’s stylistic resources. We are witnessing the formation of a new style: Tectonism. Tectonism implies the stylistic heightening of engineering- and fabrication-based formfinding and optimization processes. However, this style does not spell a departure from parametricism. Rather, tectonism is the currently most prevalent and promising subsidiary style (sub-style) within the overarching paradigm and epochal style of parametricism.
Tectonism delivers both new technical rationalities as well as new articulatory riches that emerge from the new probing attempts to invent and utilize new forms of robotic manufacturing, including various forms of robotic 3D printing. It is important to note that tectonism – like the earlier stages within parametricism’s development – is already operating across the various design disciplines, although architecture remains its heartland.
The relationship between the technical and the articulatory dimension of the build environment leads to the concepts of tectonics, or more precisely tectonic articulation14, here understood as the architectural selection and utilization of technically motivated, engineered forms and details for the sake of a legible articulation that aims at an information-rich, communicative spatial morphology, for the sake of visual or tactile communication.
We are witnessing a sustained drive towards urban concentration in global hub cities like London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sao Paulo etc. Within contemporary network society one’s productivity depends on being plugged into urban professional and cultural networks that exist only in the big cities. What each of us is doing needs to be continuously recalibrated with what everybody else is doing. That’s what all further productivity gains depend on.