Øyvind Holmstad

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James Kalb interviews Nikos Salingaros on architecture’s influence on society and consumerism

Et av vår tids viktigste intervjuer om samtidsarkitekturens innflytelse på samfunn og livskvalitet.

Publisert: 27. nov 2011 / 6952 visninger.


Home sweet home?

Les hele intervjuet hos Energy Bulletin her.

"Nikos Salingaros, the mathematician and architectural theorist, recently published a new book, Twelve Lectures on Architecture: Algorithmic Sustainable Design (ISI Distributed Titles, 2010). It’s a somewhat expanded set of notes for a series of lectures he gave a couple of years ago on architecture and urbanism. As such, it gives a clear if rather spare presentation of ideas he’s presented before.

As his readers know, his work continues Christopher Alexander’s work on the nature of architectural order, with more development of specifically scientific aspects. A basic point both make is that natural, biological, and urban systems have a great deal in common. In particular, they all function in complex, varying, and adaptive ways on many different levels. For that reason, they can’t be designed in any very comprehensive way but must largely be allowed to evolve through variation and selection. (The “algorithmic” and “sustainable” in the book’s title refer to the reiterated procedures needed to find adaptive designs.)

Such systems have certain common characteristics. One is a generally modular and hierarchical organization. That organization is always fractal, meaning that it has a similar degree of organized complexity at all scales. If you look at the system overall, it will have a few big pieces, more medium-sized pieces, and a great many smaller pieces. That appearance will repeat itself if you look at pieces of the system, and the same for pieces of the pieces, all the way down to the smallest dimensions. Thus, biological communities are composed of species, organisms, bodily organs, tissues, and cells; cities of urban quarters, neighborhoods, streets, plazas, and buildings.

The basis of such hierarchically ordered systems is the binding of complementary units, a tendency that is strongest at the most elementary level: the particles that form an atom; the organelles that constitute a living cell; the walls, roof, and foundations that make a building. Those elementary unities then link up to form ever more extensive systems that work in a way that preserves their nature as systems and also furthers the functioning of their components. A system that did otherwise would disappear, and something that works better would take its place.

The account is persuasive, but it’s very much at odds with post-1920s architecture and urban planning, which tend to eliminate detail and emphasize the dominance of simple concepts and images, and which are experienced as inhuman and alienating rather than living. So why do people stay with the current approach when it’s so much at odds with natural tendencies and no one likes the results? The answer, Salingaros tells us, is that we’ve boxed ourselves into a prison of images.

It seems that the door is nonetheless open if we want to leave, and with that in mind we talked with him recently to find out more about the problems and what to do about them."

Les intervjuet hos Energy Bulletin her.

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Øyvind Holmstad

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