Towards Ecologically-Informed Methods: Design’s Confrontation with Complexity[bracket] | Maya Przybylski
As we understand an extreme as a position away from a balanced, predictable and familiar centre, it is reasonable to examine a condition of extreme as it relates to complexity. In particular, if complexity is understood as a characterization of the degree to which something is composed of many parts, the degree to which those parts are interrelated and, further, the sophistication of the processes that define these very relationships, it is possible to imagine moving towards an extreme complexity.
Acknowledging and managing increasingly higher levels of complexity within a design context is nothing new. Associative, or parametric, modeling is a well-established practice that places an interest in building complex, interrelated representations at the forefront. At one end of disciplinary activities, Building Information Modeling (BIM) combines physical and functional considerations of a design process by integrating spatial, material and performance-based representations in a single model. During the more exploratory phases of work, algorithmically generated forms and visualizations, whether through visual or procedural coding, have contributed to the creation of a variety of formal and organizational strategies. These, along with many others, have become reasonably accessible tools and techniques through which designers can confront complexity in their work.
Parallel to these developments focusing on the building scale, an effort within architecture, paired with the associated fields of landscape architecture and urban design, has also been interested in leveraging complexity, albeit at an entirely different scale. Specifically, these practitioners and researchers have become increasingly interested in developing ecologically-informed design strategies. These efforts are a revival and expansion of the inclusive design strategies originally outlined in such seminal texts as Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature ; and as such, these contemporary projects acknowledge the lessons acquired from ecological science, presenting natural systems as dynamic, interconnected, resilient, complex and indeterminate, and attempt to position strategies for design within this flux.
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