From the paradigm of the complexity | axonometrica

From the paradigm of the complexity |

If we assume easily for that the architecture always his boss, his model has looked in the nature to continuing, when not to imitating, and that historically always there has been one symbiosis between the natural thing and the architectural thing, we will agree that a substantial change in the conception of the nature, he will carry necessarily a substantial change in the architecture.

The paradigm of complexity, apart from having a clear social need, has also his origin in a redefinition of a cultural common substratum that happens so much for the definition of the behavior of the natural phenomena, since of finding in the sciences of the complexity that one that they have of commonly for from there a new culture of the Science creates, which necessarily will create a new culture of the Architecture.

The complexity like definition of a behavior.

The body of theories, investigations and processes of description and representation of the reality, arisen in the decade of the 60 and beginning of the 70, demonstrate since one great range of ideas about a model of complexity affect directly on different disciplines. From the physics to the sociology, these theories affect in the mathematics, the chemistry, the psychology, the management, the philosophy, the technologies at the time emergent of the computation, the computer science and the telecommunications, the biology, and so many other branches of to know feeder industries of these immense trunks of the knowledge.

Apart from the fact that the historical moment in which these theories are formulated they are coincidental with the prodigious decade of 1960 and something beyond, there is another common feature to all these theories: the investigation on the complex behavior. Already it is the spontaneous catalysis of two molecules of chemical substances different from the soup prebiótica to describe the origin of the life, or the managing of multiple information that a computerized system is capable of managing to apply it later to urban effective policies, already it is the geometric definition of the strange atractores in systems with a seemingly eventful behavior, or the self-organization as model of behavior of systems removed from the balance, all these investigations point at the same coincidental direction, not linearity of the behaviors of the nature, of the human being – also nature if we understand the idea of Prigogine’s new alliance – and of all the products and by-products derived from the activity it humanizes how can we think that the architecture was not going to be also wrapped in this dynamics of the complexity?

Having to just understood that the idea of complexity was totally installed in the worries, investigations, manners of thinking and reflections of all kinds in the 60s, coarse sewing to see to the article published in 1962 by Herbert A. Simon, economist, political scientist and theoretically of the social sciences, The Architecture of Complexity.1

Apart from etymologically the word places architecture next to the word complexity, – it is evident that in the article, this architecture used in terms of similar, to refer to structure or organization – the writing demonstrates like already at the beginning of the decade of 60 the idea, the concept of complexity was perfectly recognized.

In this case, the idea – force on which Simon affects is, on the one hand the description of the behavior of the complexity. Simon, probably in a desperate search of the simple thing in the complex thing, affirms that the condition of complexity of a system depends critically on the way in which we describe it. To achieve the simplification of a system, we must find the suitable representation. Simon says:

“The notion of replacing a description of the process to obtain a description of the condition of the nature has played a role head office in the development of the modern science. In a great number of cases, the laws of the dynamics, expressed in the shape of systems of differential equations, have provided the track for the simple description of the complex thing. The correlation between the description of the condition and a description of the process is fundamental for the functioning of any adaptative organism, and for his aptitude to act meaningfully with the environment. Our current comprehension of genetic mechanisms suggests that enclosed in the own description of the multicellular organism one finds a description of the process in the shape of a genetically codified program that is definitively a sparing and useful representation”.2 

It is to say the ambition of simplicity does not abolish the adoption of the complex thing. It is more, there can be understood that such a ambition must happen for a description and a representation of these processes – and therefore a deep compression of these – before being able to consider such-and-such system to be a generator of a simple behavior.

In another order of things we might affirm that the complex behavior is so internalized already in cultural terms, which enclosed seemingly simple that one, it needs of a complex supplementary effort. That is to say, far from wanting to represent a complex behavior, one handles the complex thing giving him a format of apparent simplicity. Nothing more difficult that to feign the easy thing.

If we were doing a double jump, in the time and in the matter of knowledge, and we were thinking over an instant on the complejísima simplicity of the architecture of the award winners with the prize Pritzker, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawua we might plan the parallel one between Simon’s idea and certain appearance of simplicity, that is to say, the representation in simple form of the complexity of certain Contemporary architecture.3 Definitively I want to notice only that enclosed in that one that has appearance of simplicity, sublies extreme logic of the complex thing, something that to my to deal Simon is thinking over in his article.

Another idea – force of the article resides in the need expressed by the author to construct a theory of the hierarchy to handle with fluency the conceptual structure of a non-trivial theory of the complex systems.

For Simon the idea of hierarchy has the property of separating into its elements, which it simplifies in great happen his complex behavior. If we can establish a hierarchy we will be able to enter the essence of the complex thing and to understand the seemingly secret laws that govern such a behavior.

Simon’s last reflection seems to me to be pertinent on having demonstrated on the one hand the avalanche of complex systems that arise in this epoch and for other one the defensive position that the author takes in this case:

“While, science and engineering, the system study is an activity increasingly popular. His popularity is more a response to an urgent need of synthesis and analysis of the complexity that any development of a body of knowledge and of a technology to treat the complexity”.4 

Undoubtedly the time has finished for demonstrating that the way of the complexity is irreversible in the science and also, how not, in the architecture. As we have been advancing in the logic of the complex thing, more and more we have entered a way without return.

It is not open to criticism by no means that in certain moments so many complexity manages to saturate our capacity of reflection, or that enclosed does not manage to have any sparkle of nostalgia of an epoch where everything was simpler, everything was explicable in an easy and understandable way. Of an epoch where the statement could be linear. Nevertheless the text reveals conclusivamente that the concept of complexity was devastating literally – popularity, emergency – in the science, in the engineering, and later in, certainly, the architecture, settling this way a cultural category, a way of thinking, that we would say colloquial.

Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, december 2012


1 SIMON, Herbert, A. The Architecture of Complexity en Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 106, nº6, 12 December 1962, pp. 467-482

2 op. cit., SIMON ,1962, p. 481

3 There is interesting the not programmed interview that Anatxu Zabalbeascoa published in the El País diary newspaper in the one that is outlined:

“Though his projects are described often like light and transparent, his economy of means is not a simplification of the architecture. It is very complicated to improve the things. Pero Sejima y Nishizawa they investigate and analyze all the possibilities of the orders in order that the complex thing seems to be simple, light, transparent, all these adjectives associated with his careful works that the juror has qualified ” of a precise beauty.

4 op. cit., SIMON ,1962, p. 482

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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