Book Review: Paradigms in Computing

Paradigms in Computing: Making, Machines, and Models for Design Agency in Architecture edited by Dr. David Jason Gerber and Mariana Ibañez
eVolo Press, 2014
Hardcover, 400 pages

One key to the direction computation in architecture is taking can found in this book in an unlikely place, tucked underneath the long bio of architect and theorist Neil Leach: "He is currently working on a research project sponsored by NASA to develop a robotic fabrication technology to print structures on the Moon and Mars." Considered with a news item like Norman Foster's involvement in a European consortium to "explore the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations," and to a lesser degree Turkish architect Gulay Yedekci's design of "an entire extraterrestrial community which could one day be home to human beings on Mars," there are signs of a trend toward using the new forms of architecture generated and built through the use of computers for environments beyond earth.

An extraterrestrial trend certainly isn't a shared belief by all architects of the computational ilk – or those contributing to this volume published by eVolo, known for the annual Skyscraper Competition, where some entries would be at home on other planets (the 2015 results have just been released) – but this apparent trend points to the importance of margins in the adoption of computer technologies in design and fabrication. When somebody works within the environment of a piece of software or other technology, rather than, say, the realm of the pencil or the hand-built model, the software's rules are exploited toward the discovery of whatever can be accomplished. "Blobitecture" came about in the 1990s as architects played around with Rhino before anybody could figure out how to build the NURBs and other geometries and surfaces. Today blobs can be built at various scales, and 3d printing is pointing the way to realizing just about anything that can be imagined and modeled. And, moving forward, what is the most significant human margin? I'd say the atmosphere (or perhaps death, but that is less architectural). So it's no wonder that some architects are dreaming of ways to burst through the atmosphere to realize new environments for human habitation.

While I doubt that Gerber and Ibañez intended such a reading with their collection of essays (with contributions generated by a call for submissions "for positions from industry and academy thought leaders for their sensibility and production of computationally influenced practice and research"), their assertion in the book's introduction lends some gravitas to what they compiled: "There was a sense of a parallel to the Precambrian explosion." They are referring to the exponential growth of technology and its related design tools in the last few decades, but equating it with the diversification of life over 500 million years ago to more complex creatures is telling. Beyond more complex architectural forms, combined with the technology needed to build them, there is what they describe as "a rapid diversification and an explosion of creative capability." One segment of this diversification includes building on other planets, but this collection shows it consists of many more avenues that share equally high levels of ambition, optimism and belief in pushing on the margins until they bend or break.

Book of the Moment: Herman Hertzberger

If any architect deserves a monumental survey of their work it is the Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger. Heck, the 82-year-old architect deserves the Pritzker Architecture Prize, too. Although nothing can be done about the latter, at least for another year, April sees the release of Robert McCarter's Herman Hertzberger from nai010 publishers, a 524-page monograph with 600 full-color illustrations. For those in The Netherlands, a book launch is taking place in Amsterdam on Saturday, April 11; details are below.

[Cover and spreads courtesy of nai010 publishers]

Description from the publisher:
Herman Hertzberger (b.1932) is one of the most important and critically influential figures in international architecture of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. A constant champion of fundamentally humanist modern architecture, Hertzberger is rightly regarded as the world’s foremost designer of schools, a building type he has almost single-handedly redefined.

Hertzberger believes that architecture is above all else a shared, collective discipline. His world famous lessons in architecture involve ethics and edification, engagement of the built legacy of those who lived before us, and the fundamentally optimistic and constructive intention to make the world a better place for the people who live in it. With a foreword by Kenneth Frampton, this monograph by acclaimed international author Robert McCarter examines Hertzberger’s most important architectural works through analysis of the design process and guiding ideas, particularly as these reflect Hertzberger’s engagement with the Modernist tradition, architectural history, urban space and the way we experience it.

Book Launch:
Saturday, 11 April 2015, 15:00-17:00
De Amsterdamse Montessori School
Willem Witsenstraat 14, Amsterdam
Please register via

– Welcome by Eelco van Welie , director nai010 publishers
– Architect and researcher Hans Teerds interviews author Robert McCarter about his research into the oeuvre of Herman Hertzberger
– Nanne de Ru, director of The Berlage and co-founder of Powerhouse Company, will discuss the influence of Hertzberger on architectural education and the new generation of architects
– Presentation of the first copy to Herman Hertzberger
Book sales and book signing afterwards
Special discount price € 49.50 (regular price € 69.50)
The language of this afternoon is English

4 April Events

Here is a heads up on four architecture-related events taking place in New York City this April. I posted about a couple of the events previously, and am including them here as reminders, while the other two events are featured here for the first time. Details on each are below the list.

April 2: 2015 Mumford Lecture: Rebecca Solnit
April 6: Oculus Book Talk: "Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture"
April 9: Architecture's Appeal Launch and Panel
April 16-17: Facades+ New York Conference

Thursday, April 2: The 2015 Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism will be given by writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit. The 11th annual lecture is presented by the Graduate Program in Urban Design, Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at City College of New York (CCNY), and will be held in the Great Hall of Shepard Hall at CCNY, Convent Hall at 138th Street. It's free, open to the public, and no reservations are necessary.

Monday, April 6: The Oculus Book Talk: Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture takes place from 6pm to 8pm at the Center for Architecture. "What makes the city of the future? How do you heal a divided city? In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the activist architects, maverick politicians and alternative communities already answering these questions. From Brazil to Venezuela, and from Mexico to Argentina, McGuirk discovers the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving." The event is free for AIA members and students with valid student ID; $10 for non-members.

Thursday, April 9: Architecture’s Appeal, "a panel discussion and book-launch celebrating a new volume of essays from a diverse group of well-known scholars that examines the role of history and theory in contemporary architectural praxis," takes place from 6pm to 9pm at Parsons SCE's Glass Corner (25 East 13th Street, Room E206). It was "conceived to honor the teaching and scholarship of Dr. Alberto Pérez-Gómez, the Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor in History and Theory of Architecture at McGill University, whose work over the past thirty years has significantly contributed to the discourse of architectural history and theory, Architecture’s Appeal will include a panel conversation with Dr. Pérez-Gómez and the two co-editors, Dr. Negin Djavaherian and Dr. Marc Neveu. The event includes an installation of illustrations contributed by five Parsons SCE graduate and undergraduate alumni to the lead article of the book, written by SCE Associate Dean Robert Kirkbride, who will host." The event is free; no tickets or reservations are required.

Thursday, April 16 and Friday, April 17: Facades+ is the "leading conference on high performance and high design building skins. A robust dialogue encompassing all aspects of building envelopes, Facades+ bridges industry, academia, the profession, operations, and ownership. The developing technology of high-performance facades has emerged as the key to building systems integration, central to the realization of resilient buildings and a sustainable built environment." Day One is the symposium at the CUNY Graduate Center's Proshansky Auditorium (365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street), and Day Two consists of workshops that are held in the lower level of the CUNY Graduate Center. Visit the Facades+ website for a list of speakers and workshops and for ticket prices.

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

This afternoon I stopped by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea to take a look at Tomás Saraceno's exhibition Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

The lettering on the wall hints that the show is in two parts. On the first are clear cubes suspended in a dark room and illuminated by spotlights. Inside are the work of spiders but more complex that typical webs, owing to the artist turning the cubes like an hourglass to increase the complexity, and beauty, of the silky creations.

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Upstairs are the artist's suspended sculptures of wire, balloons and foil, constructions that approach the complexity of the spiders' creations, though in the structure of interconnected bubbles rather than webs. These pieces are like architectural models that are part of the artist's "continued engagement with the concept of 'cloud city' that explores the possibility of a future airborne existence within and beyond the 'spaceship' Earth." Whatever the case, Saraceno's artistic and arachnological creations are a wonder to behold.

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Hybrid solitary... semi-social quintet... on cosmic webs...

Today's archidose #825: Mies

Today is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 129th birthday, so below are a selection of photos of his buildings from the archidose Flickr pool, presented in chronological order (links are provided to project pages on the Mies van der Rohe Society's website; click/mouseover the photos to see information on the photographers).

Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart, Germany, 1927:

Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain, 1929:
Fundação Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona, Espanha
Mies at it's best
Mies in perspective II, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona Pavilion
Mies in perspective I, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona Pavilion
Fundação Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona, Espanha

Tugendhat House, Brno, Czech Republic, 1930:
Villa Tugendhat - garden view
Villa Tugendhat - living room

Lange House, Krefeld, Germany, 1930:

Lemke House, Berlin, Germany, 1932:

860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, IL, USA, 1951:
860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago - Mies van der Rohe
860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago - Mies van der Rohe
860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago - Mies van der Rohe
860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago - Mies van der Rohe
Mies on lakeshore dr.

Farnsworth House, Plano, IL, USA, 1951:

Farnsworth House - Mies - entry

S.R. Crown Hall, Chicago, IL, USA, 1956:
Crown Hall
Crown Hall - Chicago (Mies van der Rohe)
Crown Hall

Seagram Building, New York, NY, USA, 1958:
Seagram and Citicorp

Seagram Building Lobby

Federal Center, Chicago, IL, USA, 1964:
federal center
federal center
federal center

Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany, 1968:
Neue Nationalgalerie #6
Neue Nationalgalerie #9
Neue Nationalgalerie #7
Neue Nationalgalerie #4
Neue Nationalgalerie #5

Toronto-Dominion Center, Toronto, Canada, 1969:
Mies being Mies
More Mies
Toronto Dominion Centre
TD Centre - Banking Hall

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose