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A cybernetic approach for emergent urban design

Part 2 Project 1999
David Cawston
Riko Sibbe
University of East London, UK
Currently, a fundamental shift in scientific paradigms is radically transforming contemporary western thinking. Although Architects and Urban planners know that the urban settlement is the most complex invention of humankind, we hardly recognise the fact that Urbanism is an emergent property of complex networks of parallel-operating dynamic systems.The contemporary City's internal dynamics and its inherit social and economic rules determine the ongoing transformations, globally. Globalisation of markets and communication which increasingly match urban systems-behaviour lead to the anxiety of losing local identity and urban heterogeneity. Political forces, especially within western communities, try to constrain those tendencies to maintain heterogeneity and identity. This seems important for us as human inhabitants that we appreciate and identify with our living-environments. It still is the most challenging task of Architecture and Urban Design to respond to the local context while referring to global conditions. I believe that this task only could be fulfilled successfully, if we recognise urban settlements as dynamic systems of local condition rules leading to emerging global behaviours. Applying this theory to a design process requires different methodologies which are time-based and highly adaptable. This project developed tools for investigating the city in depth, on levels which actually seem to be responsible for its current states. The experiment of thinking in terms of rule-systems, behaviour patterns and events, instead of objects and form introduces a dynamic design methodology. Computer supported information reasoning and time based interventions within the urban system of Hackney / London derives an artificial urban-system within digital space. Its cybernetic "bottom up" approach tries to link Architecture and Urban Design to the Sciences of Artificial Life. For that reason it can be seen as an architectural contribution to contemporary thinking.

David Cawston
Riko Sibbe

Riko's work successfully combines the theoretical, technical and aesthetic intentions of diploma unit 6 at uel, by showing the potential for the use of the computer as a generator of design proposals, rather than just a means of presentation.

The premise of Riko's work is an understanding of the city as a complex multi-layered system, which he interpreted as interdependent fields of data. To achieve this Riko collected large amounts of contextual information from the East London site which he then synthesised as data within a 3D digital site model.

Artificial life “agents” were programmed to investigate the model, responding to both the local physical realities and the more global, and sometimes subjective, data fields, looking for significant relationships in the data as a basis for proposing interventions in the urban system.

As well as a very thorough initial analysis, Riko produced a massive amount of work in his explorations of these interventions and he presented convincing descriptions of his work process and the architectural outcomes.

We see Riko’s work as an example of a new and interesting way of carrying out the architectural debate, as process-lead, system-aware and ultimately about emergent form. As a response to the concerns of the unit and to the urban problem presented to the students we think it shows great promise.

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