10 February 2012

Patterns: Embedded

Last night I attended the book launch and symposium for LA based firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ first book, entitled Embedded.

Image from ArchDaily

First, let me comment on the fact that the novelty of leaving my apartment in New Jersey and arriving in Manhattan less than 45 minutes later has yet to wear off.  I hopped on a train, played Word Warp on my ipod (almost beating my high score!), met up with a couple friends who live and work in the city, and together we headed down to Columbia’s Studio X for the event.

The format felt comfortable, intimate.  The panel of speakers sat at a table in front of the relatively small crowd, discussing the work of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ Marcelo Spina as it relates to the larger context of digital design.  I was fascinated by the familiar tone that the panel took with each other, leaving me feeling like I was watching a private conversation between friends.  Undoubtedly, the group knows each other, being part of a generation of architects learning and practicing at the onset of the digital age, but it was interesting to feel a part of their discussion, as if they were not talking to the public, but rather sitting in a restaurant contemplating the current state of their own work and how they each fit into the milieu.

Some key points from the symposium:

- David Ruy mentioned that when they were in school in the mid-90s, architecture had begun to shift from “object” to “field.”  

I found this interesting because in my experience as a somewhat recent graduate, architecture appears to be shifting back from field to object.  I often find myself trying to mitigate the discrepancy between architecture as object and architecture as space.  Interestingly enough, Marcelo Spina vehemently refused to comment on “space,” leaving me to wonder if architecture today is more about the thing itself and less about experience.

- Mark Foster Gage introduced the notion that Spina’s work removes itself from intellect, leaning more towards affect and aesthetics instead.  

I wonder, however, if it can be both: intellect informs the design with the intention of engaging the user’s emotional response to the - dare I say - space.  

- I didn’t realize that the beginning of the digital era in architecture was intended to justify more efficient structures through computer analyses.  

Today, biomimicry has become a keyword in architecture, which refers to emulating natural processes in a human setting.  Architects apply biomimicry to building systems, often incorporating models from nature into sustainability.  I feel that this term can and should just as easily be applied to aesthetics.  As Gage pointed out, architects have an irrational fear of talking about formal aesthetics in their work, but it drives so much of what we do.  We are closer to artists than engineers, so why should we shy away from something that dominates our profession?  Biomimicry as a formal endeavor has been part of the field of architecture for as long as architecture has existed.  The Greeks and Romans built columns based on proportion and natural order, in particular the Golden Ratio.  Why can’t we use naturally forming organizations and emerging patterns as a justification for aesthetics in design?  And why shouldn’t we call attention to these aesthetic decisions?

As with most architecture events, I left feeling inspired and hopeful for the future of the profession.  Below are some images of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ work.

Image from ArchDaily

Image from Alberta Norweg

Images from designboom


  1. Did you get a chance to purchase or see the book also? It sounds like a great lecture, especially having met and dealt with David Ruy and Marcello Spina before. Looking forward to hearing about more lectures since I can't take a 45 minute train ride.

  2. They didn't have the book for sale at the event, but I'm definitely going to look into getting a copy. They had a slide show running in the background with sample images from the book. Looked like great stuff!


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