Behavioral Formation: Multi-Agent Algorithmic Design Strategies by Roland Snooks

* Click on the red time stamps to go to each segment

Panel: Professors Jules Moloney, Anthony Burke, Zeynep Mennan.

0:01 Introduction to Examination (chair): Introduction of panel members; Formal examination procedures and disclaimers

2:38 (Intro) Research statement: Design intention can be encoded within algorithms (contributing)

2:53 General statement of methodology (methodology)

3:09 Collaborative attributions and practice descriptions (ethics)

3:36 Overview of written document (structuring)

3:58 Diagram as tool of reflection (methodology)

4:11 Presentation overview (structuring)

4:55 Framing the research: Architectural intention is embedded within emergent processes; Design intention viewed as behavioural formation

5:23 Negotiating between bottom up and top down design decision

5:32 3 modes of intention that shifts from the dominant form of architectural algorithm - encoded in algorithm - outside the algorithm - direct design decisions (contributing / methodology)

5:55 Siting community of peers: Lists group of architects / academics engaged with similar ideas of complex system generative design and algorithmic techniques. Discussion of lineages, influences and related theories (situating / community of practice)

9:30 Encoding behaviour: Behavioural methodologies - designers intent encoded within the individual agents - interaction of agent(s) leads to emergence of self-organised design intention - intention comes out of the process as much as it goes into the process (practice methods / second order theory)

10.30 Project Description - Fibrous Tower: Description of project as a microcosm of PhD - shell of building conflates structure and ornamentation - sits in opposition to the traditional discrete articulation of individual architectural elements - coupling of element and role - researched fabrication logics as a way of trying to build complex geometry with simple methodology (project narrative / first order theory)

13.36 Digital Robotic fabrication of Fibrous Tower models (physical demonstration)

14.43 Discussion about behaviours, agents/agency, and geometry (practice methods / second order theory)

16.31 Strategies precipitating from reflection: Graphical representation of projects from practice - reflect on strategies being used in each project - strategies used in multiple / similar ways - understand older strageties and redeploy them in recent years to create new projects (methodology / second order theory)

17.21 Project description - Fibrous Assemblages: Description of strategy - interest in organic matter - introduces terms material bias, behaviour and tendencies (project narrative / first order theory)

20.47 Practice Approach – Volatility: Description of and specific reasons for creating strategy - delay onset of personal tropes and formal interests - a way of generating something with a certain intensity (practice methods / second order theory / contribution)

23.55 Project Description - Cliff House: Formal qualities of outcome - same operation or geometry repeated at multiple scales (project narrative / first order theory)

24.11 Discussion about authorship and designing behavioral characteristics: Designing through behavioural processes as designing character/characteristics (practice methods / second order theory)

25.17 Situating relationships to problems: Definition of practice as experimental - not problem solving practice but problem creating (practice method / second order theory)

25.30 Description of problem - Global Ignorance (situating / second order theory)

26.28 Development of strategies: 1. agency of structure; 2. manifold swarms; 3. strange feedback (practice methods / second order theory)

26.42 Stategy description 1: Strange feedback (second order theory)

27.01 Project Description - Performing Arts Center, Taiwan: precursor to above strategies. Key realization regarding generative systems and relationship between top down and bottom up methodologies - how negotiating is seen in the formal outcome (project narrative / first order theory)

28.25 Project Description - collaboration with Tom Wiscombe: bringing together different modes of working, key realisation 'messier' computational negotiation between top and bottom up (project narrative / first order theory / situating / differentiation)

32.45 Project Description - National Art Museum of China: description of relationship between articulation and form - single scalar algorithm (project narrative / first order theory)

33.36 Project description - Symbol for Kazakhstan 2017 expo (project narrative / first order theory)

33.54 Strategy description 2 - ‘Agency of Structure’: global analysis feeding down to individual points Manifold Swarms - agent moves from cloud to locally flat surface - emergent spatial condition (second order theory)

34.20 Project description: Airport collaboration (project narrative / practice method / first order theory)

35.36 Strategy description 3:‘Manifold Swarms’ (second order theory)

36.24 Project description: New Taipei Museum – first project with emergent spatial condition (project narrative / first order theory)

36.39 Practice approach: ‘Agent bodies’ and ‘Manifold Swarms’ (practice methods)

37.43 Project Description - Swarm Matter (project narrative / first order theory)

38.35 Desires/Lens of practice: Metrics for success - 'things that are sufficiently strange' (practice methods / second order theory)

39.13 Project Description - Kiev Holocaust Memorial: Agent Bodies strategies - Discussion of deliberately different approach from previous work - Algorithm behaviour related to formal qualities (project narrative / first order theory)

42.08 Project Description - California House: Positioning project within practice strategies - previous work using strategies to - enable creation of vocabulary for buildings - resisted one’s own default modelling outcomes - resisted normative articulation of buildings - projects use of alternate strategies (project narrative / first order theory)

43.06 'Manifold Swarms' and 'Agent Bodies' relationship: notes importance of relationship to practice - emergent formal and tectonic outcomes (practice methods / second order theory)

45.06 Project Description - Flinders Street development: Description of project - example of research into manifold swarm/agent body relationship - formal outcomes of algorithm behaviour - generation of new topology (project narrative / first order theory)

46.09 Practice Methods: Encoding of architectural intent: Categories of modes of evaluation and input rules for encoding multi-agent behaviour - positions practice within the 4 modes (practice methods / second order theory)

49.15 Shifting to Robotics: Impetus for moving into the field of robotics (practice narrative)

49.45 Material Composites: Exploration of material composites - situating practice within community of peers / historical use - interests in expressive capacity of materials (project narrative / first order theory / situating and differentiating)

51.43 Project Description - Composite Swarm: enquiry of the project; to rethink a column - behaviour and emergent topology (project narrative / first order theory)

52.20 Composite Swarm Model: Physical model handed to panel - model as outcome of encoding material quality back into the algorithm - reflection on how practices approaches differs from peers - fabrication process (physical demonstration / project narrative / first order theory)

55.26 Responding to critique: Positioning project - reflection on architectural relevance (project narrative / first order theory)

56.03 Project Description - Composite Swarm next iteration: Architectural concerns from previous iteration addressed. (fabrication process)

57.29 Robot tool shown - reflection on potential of designing tools (physical demonstration / project narrative / first order theory)

59.03 Future of practice: Reflection on various techniques adopted within practice (practice narrative)

59.37 Conclusion: Overview of shifting interests /concerns within the practice over the course of the PhD (practice narrative / contributing)

1.00.35 End of presentation

1.00.49 Panel Discussion

1.07.30 (ZM) Clarify decoupling from geometry and function or architectural element and architectural role

1.11.34 (AB) Explain conceptual departure taken in Holocaust Memorial Project

1.14.35 (RS) Reflection of what the practice is interested in.

1.31.25 (ZM) Is there a privileging of the human agent (methodology)

1.37.25 (AB) Why have you steered away from the term 'performative'? (situating)

1.46.36 (ZM) Where to from multi agent systems? Future strategies to explore other shape economies (contributing)

1.51.00 End

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Emergence and the behavior of complex systems are increasingly defining the contemporary understanding of processes as diverse as natural phenomena, social structures and the existence of consciousness. An interest in this self-organising behavior is explored in my architectural work through the development of a computational, generative design approach. The focus of this thesis is the interaction of emergent processes of formation and architectural design intention: a conceptualisation that has emerged through a process of reflecting on my practice of architecture.

This PhD reflects on the projects, processes, techniques and concepts that have come to shape and define my practice. The body of work examined here has been developed through Kokkugia (an experimental research collaboration with Robert Stuart-Smith) and my architecture practice, Studio Roland Snooks. Through this process of reflection, I have extracted, articulated and developed a series of strategies, ideas and sensibilities that have been redeployed in subsequent projects, and point to future directions in this work.

This body of work is positioned within an emerging group of architects who are engaging with complex systems, generative design strategies and algorithmic techniques. The original contribution this design research makes within this milieu lies in my focus and experimentation with a process of embedding architectural design intention within generative algorithms. Design intention is recast as behaviors – discrete, micro-scale architectural decisions, relationships or procedures – that are encoded within multi-agent algorithms. It is the local interaction of these agents that self-organises architectural design intention at the macro-level. An iterative design process has been established that negotiates between this emergent process, subjective evaluation and direct design decisions. The multi-agent algorithms developed in this design research draw on the logic of swarm intelligence (a branch of complexity theory), which describes the emergent, collective behavior that can be found in phenomena such as schools of fish, flocks of birds, social insects and slime mould.

The implications of working through these highly iterative, non-linear, computational design processes are manifest as a compression of tectonic hierarchies and a blurring of geometric types. This behavioral design process negotiates between various architectural design intentions through the geometry of architecture, creating a synthetic but differentiated assemblage, and uncoupling geometric elements from architectural roles. The architectural projects that we coax out of these processes exhibit emergent qualities – strange, intricate characteristics; complex order; and intensive capacities to affect.

Year: 2014
Supervisors:  Dr Paul Minifie, Dr Pia Ednie-Brown  Examiners: Prof Jules Moloney, Dr Anthony Burke, Prof Zeynep Mennan


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