Design domains: their relations and transformations as revealed through the practice of Paul Minifie by Paul Minifie

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This thesis is a reflective account of a series of architectural design projects completed by the author. It seeks to outline the constructive concepts and methodological approaches involved in their production.

It begins by positing that architectural design always occurs within a particular design domain – defined by a limited and internally consistent set of elements and operations that can be combined to construct building instances. It is proposed that particular organisational techniques structure a design domain such that the set of architectural instances comprising that domain are quite distinct. For example, geometric ideas such as cellular automata, minimal surfaces or voronoi tessellations possess inherent relationships that can lead to an ordering of building elements quite different from and incommensurable with the kind of arrangements that might derive from working with a more familiar Cartesian gridded space.

A specific building instance belonging to a design domain is realised as a traversal across that domain – the performance of a particular sequence of operations within its given rules and structures. Analogous to composition, a traversal yields a particular assemblage of qualities and attributes in a building and enables a project to posses a valency – that is, the ability to form plausible associations and connections outside itself. This mapping between elements and properties of a building instance and some object or phenomena external to it is discussed in the thesis as an injection. An examination of the projects shows a preference for multiple over singular mappings as this opens the possibility to destabilise the context of the thing to which a connection is made.

Informed by an examination of the workings of computational geometries, the projects comprise a speculation on how those workings might re-propose architectural themes and transform architectural effects. Put loosely, they propose that operations and methods intrinsic to computation can reformulate, in positive and sometimes unexpected ways, deep-seated patterns of architectural thinking.

This kind of investigation, as an architect, into computational methods also reformulates the usual narrow frame of discussion of computation in design. It assumes a vantage point where a computation is no longer directly concerned with instrumental issues of problem solving, optimisation or connectivity. Rather, the methods of achieving these things are selectively picked over and re-purposed to illuminate thematic architectural concerns. The notion of the ‘Techne Trouve’ arises here as an approach employing this re-purposing.

The projects ultimately seek to make sense in the broad context of the discipline of architecture. The examination of concepts from mathematics, computing, economics and biology are pursued as a means to understand architectural motivations and intentions.

Year: 2010
Examiners: Murray Fraser, Zeynep Mennan, Stephen Neille  Supervisors: Professor Leon van Schaik


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