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  • Writer's pictureAbhishek Bij

Omnipresent Models: of thought, of metaphors, of building assistance and more

Spatial construction governs the field of architecture; invention of atmospheres and their translation into a medium that stimulates the senses of the users, drives the profession. Inherent in this motivation is the need for a communication tool that at one end provides a passage for explorations and also delivers the desired ambience without limiting the expanse of imagination. Models in architectural design play an imperative role, by virtue of their existence in various forms and sizes. "Objects such as houses or art works are one variety, but we also find models of engagement, models of perception and reflection. Then there are analogue and digital models, models of thought and other experiments that add up to a model of a situation." Models are understood and utilized in varied ways: as interpretations, representations, systems determined by the intuition of the designer, imitations, maybe even reality as some like Olafur Eliasson claim. Operating within any of the brackets mentioned above, they guide experiments, generate arguments, and formulate questions. "Models provide both the rigorous, objective and identifiably relevant proofs of concept that working with matter requires and the facility with cultural, political, and historical discourses that make architecture relevant in the first place."?

In my opinion, models essentially operate at two levels. First, a metaphor, which acts as an association and interpretation, fluidly linking the design ideas and augmenting an estimated approach. "Metaphor is an image that gives concrete coherence to even highly abstract thought." Second, models perform as assistants in translating the structured thoughts and are scrutinized.

systems into tangible constructs (implying physical outputs, but I am hesitant in stating the same as I might be disregarding another obvious possibility). However, both metaphors and assistants are sequential stages of designing. Algorithms and protocols that are borrowed from metaphorical origins, curated for desired direction and then replicated, objectified and hence simplified for production, marry the two phases.

Role played - Metaphors: Architectural portfolios are personal cabinets of wonder, filled with taxonomy of shells, crystal lattices, helices, and vortexes. Studies of dragonfly wings and sedimentation patterns creep into diagrid proposals for terminal skin and roof structures. L­ systems are bootlegged into designs of social housing; the sloughed skin of diamond-bucks and tortoises become planting patterns. "Nature's grand chambers have become architects gritty chop-shops." The creation of novel models, which in the current era may be sophisticated computational models to overcome the simple descriptive models, is difficult and seldom successful and this feeds the temptation of falling back to other disciplines for inspiration. The architectural market is bullish for scientific metaphors, though this is not a new phenomenon. From Vitruvius ' acanthus leaves and smeared animal intestines to Laugier's primitive mythological A­ frames and tree branch revelations, from Alto's Finnish fixation with telephone networks to Wright's vigilant stake in organicism, from Joseph Paxton's Regia Lilli e lattices to Frei Otto's stunning collection of diatoms, radiolarians, bamboo and soap films, and Utzon's Sydney orange peels and flock of seagull wings to Aranda/Lasch's flocking recipes, designers relish the sale of scientific metaphors. The field is wise to its fetish for science. The abstract Length of description: Some patterns of connection of eight points. Complementary pairs AIF, BIE, CID can be argued to be equally simple or equally complex; Credit: Murray Gell-Mann - Information and Crude Complexity: The Quark and the Jaguar, London [1994) conciseness or the aspects that define the relevance within a context." Similarly, the assessment of aesthetics might be based on past stylistic parameters or historic semantics rather than aspects that embrace "the inner structure of the epoch out of which they arise. "The diagram also illustrates the decisions at hand, possible choices for the desired aesthetic. The reason one would choose A over its complement For something in between like D, is dependent on the intuition and the goal of the designer. The rules, the recipes, the algorithms are nothing to architecture but interesting patterns, that is, until the designer transforms these generative systems into architecture.

Role Played - Building Assistants: As mentioned before, drawing clues from the natural occurrences is the first stage towards creating intensive architecture. Another stage where the utility of models cannot be undermined is the metamorphosis from abstract yet controllable rules into perceivable built environments. The crisis of the model in the era where computational design in the first place led designers to accentuate (the word chosen acknowledges that the referencing has always existed) their dependency on allied or non-allied fields for pursuits. Upon discussing this case in detail, a case is presented where the ball rolls back to the realm of computation to pull the metaphors through and make them cross the Atlantic. systems enable the designers to secrete intentionality, control and systematic techniques to apprehend, interpret, reproduce and translate the metaphors into models and the models fluidly into architecture. The extracted rule-sets apart from emphasizing on appearance providing processes of the natural systems, allow for organic and instrumental interpretations of the metaphors, turning the rules into tools of design. It is, however, essential to mention that the purpose of using a metaphor is not to build the actual metaphor. These systems generate questions and are not another breed of formalisms. "Models are not about making the invisible visible but making the visible seen. The interpreter/modeler extracts rules from assessing the processes causing the formal characteristics of the metaphor. These arbitrary rule sets are parameters through which the modeler can guide the design approach, through intuition of the original system and harnessing the forces behind this system. As mentioned, these rules are process oriented and not appearance oriented. The rules are the designers' ballast for shedding the original metaphor and with skill inventing something new and novel. Purging the system is the key stage within the design cycle. Design should have goal directedness without knowing what the final direction will formally take. It is very apt to reassess the monkey and the typewriter analogy here. If the monkey blatantly pounding on the keypad was unaware of its intentions, without rules, the final outcome is not a representation or model of Shakespearean proportions (far from it in fact), but only with an outer appearance but no inner logic or intelligence. "Decision, as the word suggests, is a cutting off. In the moment of a decision, as in the moment of complexity, some possibilities are realized and others are cut off. As possibilities are actualized, new patterns, which both impose new constraints and open new possibilities, emerge.'" Good decisions in rule making allow fundamental internal relationships to form between the parts of the model, rather than forcing the designer to depend on external composition relationships between parts. The model, hence, will not be as robust or complex as the original process but they will have this internal genetic similarity of process. However, the fear in making a decision that is good or complex for that matter is the basis of judgment. There are different complexities and are judged equally variedly. Within this judgment, there could be levels of detail, i.e., the coarse grain, the length of description.

Originally Published in Architecture + Design 2009

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