Thursday, 30 April 2009

Cross-Catalytic Architectures with Cecil Balmond

Featuring Cecil Balmond, Peter Jones, Peter Davies, David Ruy, Jenny Sabin

Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at The Slought Foundation

"The architects and scientists featured in this event conduct research and design projects that join architecture, science, and pedagogy. Their work develops according to “cross-catalytic” relationships in which their practices affect and are affected by each other. In this sense, the interdisciplinary nature of the work is becoming more than just a metaphor. Catalysts accelerate the rate of change in a system; they intensify a process. Nobel-prize winning Chemist Ilya Prigogine has described catalysis as agents “that modify the reaction rate without themselves being affected.” Cross-catalysis slightly alters the role that agents play in the catalytic process, such that all parties are involved in a dynamic interrelationship. Feedback loops emerge as disciplines develop new methods of research and practice. This event has itself been organized to reflect new models for the organization and dissemination of information that are emerging today, and will feature a series of short presentations followed by a public conversation. The event will build upon recent work by the Non-Linear Systems Organization group at the University of Pennsylvania (under the direction of Cecil Balmond) and the Penn/CMREF Center for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (under the direction of Peter Lloyd Jones).A predominant idea in popular culture, and even within science itself, is that the DNA blueprint or genome can autonomously generate a complete, self-organizing being, with a distinctive form and function: here is the code; here is life, complete with all of its complexities. Models borrowed from architects--such as tensegrity structures--have led to radical new insights into how vivisystems, like the genome, are assembled and function, as well as to a new understanding of the extracellular matrix or cytoskeleton in the cellular structure. Similarly, models borrowed from biology, particularly regarding self-organization and the emergence of complex, non-linear global systems from simple local rules of organization have led to radical new forms and structural organizations in architectural design. Examples such as these demonstrate how attentive architectural and scientific practices can be to each other--particularly within architecture and biology which are constantly challenged to reinvent themselves in a manner similar to the historic avant-gardes or in the face of new technologies."