Network Structures in Architecture
by Maxime Moreau
In 2006, I participated at the NKS Summer School, which was a defining experience. The topic of my research was THE SPACE BETWEEN THE CELLULAR AUTOMATA: Reworking the Spatial Division in Architecture. During the last year, I continued to explore this idea and used it in various international architectural competitions entries, such as the Plan-Less House (Japan) and The Stockholm Library (Sweden).
This summer, I will participate for a second time to the NKS Summer School at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt. During this year’s program I will advance my research by exploring Network Structures in architecture.
As Steven Wolfram argues, “Space is a giant network of nodes” we see that, as opposed to the metropolises of the twentieth century, contemporary society produces Networks of Cities. These cities work simultaneously on their internal renovation, increasing their efficiency from within, while they organize themselves territorially in the form of a NETWORK OF CITIES.
From this process, an architect can question the structures, modules, rules and plans of modern spaces. Today, architecture could be understood more as a circuit of dynamic movements and events – as a Network – instead of a regular and continuous space. In this context, research on the network systems can serve as abstract diagrams to produce new models of organization – since organization implies both program and its distribution in space – and to explain or clarify forms, structures and programs for architects.
Thus, networks can be used to generate open matrices rather than closed models. In an architectural context, the node, instead of answering to a grid can trace an elastic path and winding circuit or trajectory capable of articulating mobility and program. As Wolfram affirmed, “The properties of the Network Systems depend only on the way in which the node are connected together, and not on a specific layout.” Essentially, the positions of the nodes have no fundamental significance. These dynamic systems represent – through combinations of possibilities – potential relationships among the elements; an open disposition, but also a logics of decision. For a designer or architect the Network systems symbolize a model for a new possible architecture which includes both formal and programmatic configurations.
Manuel Gausa wrote that: “If, in its day, modern space meant the shift from the idea of composition – as regulation – to that of position – as correlation – today, contemporary space means the shift from the idea of position to that of disposition – as an operative decision, but also as the possible indeterminate combination (and distribution) of position and/or layers of information.”
During the first half of the Summer School, I propose to investigate the pattern of connection and the evolution of two dimensional network systems coupled with the evolution of two dimensional cellular automata. The idea would be to place one or several – similar or contrasting – networks in each cell of a cellular automata structure. Thus, the evolution of a network will not only depend on the number of distinct nodes, but also on its position within each cell of a CA structure. This concept would be pushed, in the second half of the program, in the third dimension in order to develop models that are closer to the spatial properties of architecture.
I believe that this idea of position-disposition can produce a new order and a more elastic logic better adapted to the contemporary environment. Moreover, I suspect that the networks combined with the CA can be used to describe new structuring principals for a new kind of architectural space. Networks can form a new territory and provoke a profound change in the way architects imagine buildings and cities. Traditionally, structure was understood as a static arrangement, but today the meaning of structure is mobile and non hierarchical. Like the architect Salvador Perez Arroyo describes: “We have grown up in a world of rigid containers while the natural universe is based upon flexibility and mutation. We are surrounded by mobility and transformation, structure and architecture should follow this reality.”