Spatial Configurations: Complex Systems Experiment of Design Automation

MPhil Thesis

Idarti, Choesnah 2013. Spatial Configurations: Complex Systems Experiment of Design Automation. MPhil Thesis University of East London School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering
AuthorsIdarti, Choesnah
TypeMPhil Thesis

The study of design does not seem to shift from the paradigm that design process is a complex and seems similar to the nature of a black box system. It is a process which can be viewed solely in terms of its input and output, without a detail prescription of the process to produce that output. The complex nature of design process, and architecture design in particular have been explained by experts (Alexander 1964, Anderson 1966 to name a few), but this thesis underlines the work around of the rigid clear box system of computing to get a reliably working non-wired-in process to support the notion of architecture design as a complex system.
The clear box nature of computing process is a fundamental characteristic of computing, so the process to be proposed has to work within this framework. The process would have to be prescribed or otherwise it cannot be executed. Many machines which given the same input and the same process, will all result in the same output. A single machine which given the same input and the same process to execute for many times will all result in the same output each time. However, the development of computing has enabled the processing of multiple inputs. The significant of parallel computing is that it seems to provide a window of epistemic autonomy within a process.
There is a large philosophical and theoretical discussion behind the notion of epistemic autonomy which this thesis tried to introduce a preliminary summary, and sums it into the following description. A system consists of one single bird and a process of how to fly may result in a bird flying. Given many birds and implementing flying process synchronously to all the birds could result in a swarm of birds. There is not much different to see one bird or many birds flying in the sky, except that in many birds that each are using the same flying process would result in an underlying flying configurations. The underlying flying configuration is not part of the system; it is an emergence of the system. So the emergence structure of flying bird was enabled by a window of epistemic autonomy which comes from the use of many flying birds as opposed to a single flying bird.
A window of epistemic autonomy seems to have been created in the programming experiments with the implementation of a basic Agent-Based Model (ABM) as ABM is inherently an autonomous non-wired in process (Cilliers, 1993). The coding is based on a system introduce by Reynolds (1987) which a program was already built and modified many times in projects within CECA – UEL. To put simply, the inputs are multiple copies of one type of entity placed in using randomizing code, and the process synchronously applied to all these copies are to move towards the closest out of other three neighboring entities.
The utilization of ABM into the programming experiment seems parallel with the findings in the literature review where it proposes a summary of a production of space by way of using a binary approach known to be brought up by Lefebvre (1974). Lefebvre seems to suggest that the very basis of spatial production is that space consists of either a moving or a non-moving social entity. Thus the criteria above since then been adapted to accommodate a simple social relations and this is called Social Preference Matrix (SPM). SPM is an original contribution in the form of coding that comes out of this thesis’s programming experiment. To put simply, SPM enables the identification of heading towards the nearest out of three neighboring entities only when it is the specific entity it relates to in the SPM. When this is triggered, both entities i.e. the one moving towards to and the designated entity both will eventually within a specific constant distance with each other, and these will stay in a loop of attract and repel, which is perceived as simulation of these being stop moving.
The development of the programming experiment have found that when all entities are identified as occupying entities, eventually all entities will loop in attract and repel, i.e. all eventually will be non-moving. When introduce with non-occupying entities, i.e. those not identified and included in the SPM, then the possibility to have similar characteristic to what is known in the Configurational Theory as the movement space appears.
The specific of architectural production may be seen as an opposite of the dynamics seen in an underlying configuration of bird swarm. Architectural subjects particularly regarding spatial configurations seems to be required to be static; there is not known liquid or ever-changing spatial configurations. Thus instead merely producing a system of moving around entities in space, this then had to be translated into some static versions of events. In this programming experiment, these were built on the basis of notations provided by the Configurational Theory (Hillier, 1996). Interestingly, he also stated in his previous work (Hillier, 1978) that there is a production of space where a larger space is being divided into smaller space.
There is a body of research into programming headed by Mitchell, (1976), which stretches for about three decades afterwards. However as far as the literature investigation went, none has seemed to explore the notion of epistemic autonomy in the production of spatial configurations. Following this finding, the programming experiment then added in a program called Voronoi Diagram (version coded in the programming experiment is as prescribed by Akl and Lyons, 1993) which enables several significant developments in producing spatial configurations by way of dividing space.
Firstly, the production of space by way of dividing space is based on an emergence of underlying configuration out of possible social relations between entities occupying the space. Secondly, the division is based on maximum arrangement of occupiable space between all occupying and non occupying entities, because Voronoi Diagram divided space equally in between all of the identified entities. Thirdly; a part from an emergence spatial relations by way of utilization of SPM within the ABM, the employment of Voronoi Diagram also enables the emergence of shapes and dimensions out of the divided space.
At the end of this study, the programming experiment has resulted in a programming framework named Spatial Languaging. A part from that there seems to be a promising field of research into programming under the notion of epistemic autonomy specifically develops for architectural systems, because there are numerous methods of parallel processing and many different media of implementing ABM. More importantly, the notion of structural emergence seems applicable to many aspects of architecture and all worth exploring.

KeywordsProgramming; Spatial configuration; Parallel computing
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
Print28 Feb 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited15 Aug 2013
Publisher's version
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