Abstract. Carol Hermann examined the influence of computers and information technology on architecture and the search for objective beauty at the Nexus 2004 conference.

Architecture and Programming: Generative Design

Carol Hermann

Assistant Professor of Architecture
School of Architecture & Design
Philadelphia University
Philadelphia, PA 19144 USA

The design that is created or generated is guaranteed, ahead of time, to be coherent, useful, and to have living structure.
Christopher Alexander

Twenty five years ago, biologists did not use computers, not even for word processing. Today, the massive computational power of the computer has made possible the rapid decoding of the Human Genome Project. This has produced an unparalleled paradigm shift. Simple biology has become Genetic Bioethics.

The paradigm shift does not at first appear to be as profound in architecture as has been in biology. There was a feeling that orthogonally built form as we knew it would cease to exist, but we are not living in the antigravity world so boldly envisioned in 1988, when Mark Wigley observed, in Deconstructivist Architecture, "the traditional structure of parallel planes…is twisted. The frame is warped. Even the ground plane is warped. The interrogation of pure form pushes structure to its limits, but not beyond." Non-orthogonal designs proliferate today, but in style, not substance.

But perhaps the paradigm shift lies in a different place, not the formal and spatial one we had hoped for, but in the computational world we have influenced. This paper will focus on five areas: first, the quest for objective beauty in architecture; second, the complexity of architecture; third, the influence of architectural theory on software programmers, specifically Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language; fourth, the role of the computer in form-making and objective beauty; and fifth, the challenge to spread objective beauty.

In the battle to find objective beauty the computer is an unparalleled competitor. It gives us a way to be both reductive and inclusive in our search for underlying truth. Alexander views programming "as the natural genetic infrastructure of a living world which you/we are capable of creating." Architects and programmers should combine their talents and make a living world. There would be a paradigm shift of biological proportions.

Carol Hermann
is a registered architect and an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Philadelphia University. She studied architecture in Massachusetts at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she graduated with a Master of Architecture in 1986. She has been teaching Architecture to undergraduates at Philadelphia University since 1996. Previously, she spent eight years in the practice of architecture at Ewing Cole Cherry Brott in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she learned the ins and outs of AutoCad while working on large corporate projects.

 The correct citation for this paper is:
Carol Hermann, "Architecture and Programming: Generative Design", pp. 105-116 in Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2004. http://www.nexusjournal.com/conferences/N2004-Hermann.html

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