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Aug 14, 2014

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lecture

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Instructor: Manuel DeLanda.

Course Description:

This lecture series introduces students to the basic philosophical concepts needed

to understand contemporary science. Most of the examples and case studies discussed

in class come from two elds that are intimately connected with architecture: structural

engineering and materials science and engineering. But in addition, the class deals

with the philosophical underpinnings of two other elds, one which has been the

backbone of science since its inception, mathematics, and the other which has

revolutionized mathematical models by setting them into motion: computer simulation.

Pedagogic Objectives:

The course aims at helping students integrate the insights from science and

mathematics into contemporary architectural thinking:

1) Approaching philosophically the concept of a load-bearing structure to allow

students to go beyond routine equations and think about concepts like stress and strain,

the distribution and transmission of forces, and the articulation of matter and energy in

architectonic structures.

2) Laying out the conceptual basis of the relatively young eld of material science

and engineering, as well as discussing the novel materials that are being designed

today, such as shape-memory alloys or nanotubes, materials that have already become

part of the palette of the contemporary architectural artist.

3) Revealing the deep structure of mathematics, the aspect of it that is lost in the

mechanical learning and solving of equations, such as the underlying connections

between topology, projective geometry, and euclidean geometry, to give the architect a

solid foundation for a philosophy of space. Mathematics today also forms the basis of

design technology, from NURBS surfaces, dynamic particles, and meta-balls. Learning

the history behind these virtual materials can help architects get a better grasp of the

nature of their tools.

Completion Requirements:

Students are required to write a 5-10 page essay on one of the themes discussed

during the semester

Class 1. Introduction: Three Reasoning Styles from Science.

This lecture gives an introduction to the theory of the genesis of material form in

nature. There are three explanatory strategies from science that are necessary to

understand morphogenesis: intensive thinking, topological thinking, and population

thinking. The rst comes from thermodynamics and is based on the distinction between

extensive (or spatial) properties and intensive properties (stress, temperature,

pressure). The second comes from geometry, and is founded on the distinction between

metric spaces, in which length, area, and volume are key concepts, and non-metric

spaces, in which those concepts become irrelevant. The third comes from evolutionary

biology, and deals with the role of populations and variation in the generation of organic

form.

Required readings for the discussion:

On Intensive Thinking:

Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan. Into the Cold.

Chapter Five: Nature Abhors a Gradient.

On Topological Thinking.

Manuel DeLanda. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy.

Chapter One: The Mathematics of the Virtual.

On Population Thinking:

Richard Dawkins. The Blind Watchmaker.

Chapter Four: Making Tracks Through Animal Space.

Class 2. Social History of Science.

The development of science does not occur in a social vacuum, so before

proceeding to apply the three reasoning styles to specic case studies, the cultural

context of scientic practice must be discussed. Social factors like legitimacy and

prestige have affected the focus and allocation of resources among different elds.

Materials science, for example, was starved of nancial and human resources until the

end of WW2, so it developed at a much slower rate than more prestigious elds like

astronomy. In addition, the interaction with non-scientic discourses (like religion) has

affected the conceptualization of basic principles. Thus, the concept of an eternal and

immutable law of nature is like a theological fossil from another era. But the referent of

the concept, the immanent patterns of being and becoming that shape the world, are

real, so this class introduces the proper conceptualization of these patterns, using as

examples the patterns of deformation that different materials exhibit when bearing loads

in compression and tension.

Required readings for the discussion:

The Materials Revolution. Edited by Tom Forrester.

Chapter Four: Cyril Stanley Smith. Materials in History and Society.

James Edward Gordon. The Science of Structures and Materials.

Chapter One: The Language of Strength.

Class 3. Emergent Properties and the History of Materials.

From ancient times, artisans have known that novel material properties can be

obtained by carefully mixing different types of matter: different metals in the right

proportions to create alloys like bronze, or heterogenous mixtures of glue and grit to

create objects like straw bricks. The novel properties exhibited by these mixtures have

received different names. Buckminster Fuller called them synergistic (using alloys as his

main example) but a more common name is that of emergent properties. The concept of

emergence is crucial in the philosophy of science because it blocks any attempt at

reductionism, as when physicists say that all we are is a cloud of subatomic particles. In

reality, molecules cannot be reduced to atoms, biological cells to molecules, organisms

to cells, or social structures to individuals. Each one of these entities has properties that

emerge from the interactions of components and that cannot be reduced to those

components. In this class the concept of emergence is applied to the four classes of

materials that have shaped human history: crystalline metals, glassy ceramics,

composites like concrete or ber glass, and polymers like rubber or plastics.

Required readings for the discussion:

Manuel DeLanda. Emergence, Causality, and Realism.

In Architectural Theory Review. Vol. 17, Number 1, April 2012.

Ivan Damato. Stuff: The Materials the World Is Made Of.

Introduction: Crystals, Glasses, Composites, and Polymers in History.

Class 4. The Importance of Scale.

Many load-bearing structures, from tall buildings to long suspension bridges, must

be tested in wind tunnels as scaled-down prototypes prior to actual construction. The

discipline of Dimensional Analysis studies how this scaling must be performed for the

experiment to yield correct results. In particular, the entire situation structure-plus-air

must be scaled down, so that the prototypes are both geometrically and dynamically

similar. The same is true for the design of submarines, ships, planes and other

structures that move through a liquid or gas medium. And similarly for living creatures.

Dimensional Analysis can also be useful when developing computer simulations of load-

bearing structures, such as in the use of Genetic Algorithms to evolve complex designs.

In the tradition of Frei Otto, virtual evolution can be used as a form-nding technique,

but the forms that are discovered must be tested for their tness in terms of their

structural integrity, aesthetic appeal, and functionality. Coupling genetic algorithms with

nite-element analysis, neural nets, and multi-agent systems can provide the necessary

measures of tness along these three dimensions.

Required readings for the discussion:

Thomas McMahon and John Bonner. On Size and Life.

Chapter Three: The Physics of Dimensions.

Creative Evolutionary Systems. Edited by Peter Bentley.

Chapter Twelve. Peter Von Buelow: Using Evolutionary Algorithms To Aid

Designers of Architectural Structures.

Class 5. Surfaces and Fractures.

Many materials derive their properties from their surface-to-bulk ratio. This is the

case, for example, of sponges. But all materials, solid and liquid, have surfaces that

behave differently than their bulk, possessing a specic surface tension and surface

energy. Fractures in architectonic structures are an example of these special surfaces:

they grow by adding fresh surface using the energy of deformation possessed by all

load-bearing structures. The discovery that there is a critical crack length beyond which

fractures grow explosively, and that this critical length is independent of scale, explains

why there are limits to the scale of structures of different types. This class explores the

eld of fracture dynamics and the role of crack stopping mechanisms in the design of

tougher materials.

Required readings for the discussion:

James Edward Gordon. The Science of Structures and Materials.

Chapter 4: Tensile Strength and Tensile Failure.

Class 6. Philosophy of Mathematics 1: Dynamical Systems.

The previous lectures illustrated the use of intensive and population thinking to

solve problems posed by load-bearing structures. This class introduces some of the

basic concepts used in the third reasoning style needed in the study of morphogenesis:

topological thinking. It discusses the notions of phase space, the space of possible

states for a dynamical system, and the point, cyclic, and chaotic singularities that

structure phase space. These abstract spaces are used in physics, chemistry, and

biology to model the possibility spaces associated with tendencies and capacities.

Unlike properties, which are always actual, tendencies and capacities can be real but

not actual if they are not currently manifested or exercised. In this potential or virtual

state they are nevertheless not vague or ill-dened because a space of possibilities can

have a denite mathematical structure.

Required readings for the discussion:

Ralph Abraham. Dynamics: The Geometry of Behavior.

Part One. Chapter One: Basic Concepts of Dynamics.

Class 7. Biomimetics 1: Bone and Muscle as Building Materials.

While some materials of organic origin, such as wood, have long been used to

create load-bearing structures, there are many other lessons to be learned from the

complex use of materials in biological structures. Vertebrates, for example, make a

brilliant use of bone to bear loads in compression and muscle for loads in tension. What

lessons can be derived from the study of organic strategies for the creation of

structures? This is the central question in the new eld of biomimetics. After examining

bone and muscle, and the interface materials tendon and cartilage, the design principles

are applied to one case study, smart concrete, in which the traditional material is

combined with piezo-electric crystals and shape-memory alloys in an attempt to

reproduce some biological capacities, such as self-healing.

Required readings for the discussion:

James Edward Gordon. The Science of Structures and Materials.

Chapter Six: Animal Soft Tissues.

Ivan Damato. Stuff: The Materials the World Is Made Of.

Chapter Five: Biomimetic Materials.

Class 8. Biomimetics 2: Nanotechnology.

The potential for designing new materials from the bottom-up by the detailed

manipulation of atoms and molecules, is one of the promises of the new eld of

nanotechnology. Today this eld is split into two areas: the design and production of

nano-materials like buckyballs and carbon nanotubes, and the more speculative pursuit

of programmable matter, that is, materials made entirely out of molecular-size

computers. The justication that such a program can be carried out involved pointing

out that within each of our cells such programmable molecular machines already exist

(ribosomes), a fact that makes this branch of nanotechnology a form of biomimetics.

Required readings for the discussion:

Eric Drexler. Engines of Creation. The Coming Era of Nanotechnology.

Chapter One: Engines of Construction.

Class 9. Philosophy of Mathematics 2: The Geometry of Space.

The second class dealing with formal issues will introduce students to the way in

which the different geometries that have been created by mathematicians are related to

one another by their symmetry characteristics. Topology becomes Differential geometry

by losing some symmetry, which in turn becomes Projective geometry by a further loss

of symmetry, all the way down to Euclidean geometry. Symmetry-breaking cascades like

this are essential not only for a proper understanding of the philosophy of space, but

also in contemporary cosmology and chemistry. In these elds, symmetry concepts are

the means to apply topological thinking to understand the structure of the possibility

spaces associated with the four forms of energy (and the evolution of the cosmos) and

with the distribution of electrons around the atomic nucleus, as part of the explanation of

the rhythms of the Periodic Table of the elements.

Required readings for the discussion:

Ian Stewart and Martin Golubitsky. Fearful Symmetry.

Chapter Two: What is Symmetry?.

Chapter Six: The Universe and Everything.

Class 10. Virtual Reality.

A variety of simulated materials have been made available to designers by digital

computers. There are several ways to model with solids, from humble polygons to

complex NURBS. Meta-balls, in turn, are ideal for the design of liquid surfaces. Particles

and their virtual physics, are needed to create gases, plasmas, and to model the

behavior of pulverized solids. These modeling resources, as well as rendering

techniques like ray-tracing, are linked to the history of science in a way that can be

easily understood using the concepts introduced in the previous class. These virtual

materials will be discussed to nish the semester on a practical note: how best to take

advantage of CAD for architectural design.

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