Unified Architectural Theory, a course by Nikos A. Salingaros.

 Now presented as the book "Unified Architectural Theory: Form, Language, Complexity", Sustasis Foundation, 2013 (buy the US edition HERE). International edition published by Vajra Publications (buy it HERE). A companion to Christopher Alexander's "The Phenomenon of Life -- The Nature of Order, Book 1". My lecture notes have been entirely revised and updated, and are included in the book together with all of the class readings (but excluding the chapters from our two texts). The book also includes a decription of our two projects and the model for computing architectural Life and Regionalism. Download the FLYER.

ARCHITECTURE & THOUGHT: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY, ARC 3433/6973, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO, FALL SEMESTER 2012

All original material from this course is covered by Creative Commons License Attribution–ShareAlike, CC BY-SA Nikos A. Salingaros, 2012.

 

TEXTS:

Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1 -- The Phenomenon of Life [Hardcover] (Center for Environmental Structure, 2001). ISBN-10: 0972652914.

Nikos A. Salingaros, A Theory of Architecture [Paperback] (Umbau-Verlag, 2007). ISBN-10: 3937954074. Also available in Chinese and in Persian.

By the end of the semester, students will be expected to have read and absorbed all of Alexander's book, and Chapters 1 to 7 & 11 of my book (those are directly relevant to The Nature of Order).

All other readings are either available freely on the Web, or are provided to the students in pdf form. I plan to put up my lecture notes online.

 

SYLLABUS: We covered approximately one section per week.

INTRODUCTION.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 1.

1. The structure of a scientific theory. Requirements for a mode of thought to be a theory for architecture. Discourses and modes of thought that are not theories.

Readings: Alexander, Prologue & Chapter 1. Salingaros, "Architectural Theory" extracts from AAAD (also in Chinese, French, Italian, and Russian). E. O. Wilson, "Integrated Science and the Coming Century of the Environment", Science, Volume 279, No. 5359 (March 27 1998), pages 2048-2049.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 2.

2. Form Languages. Vocabulary of forms and tectonics, and their combinatorial properties. Richness of a form language, and measures of its complexity.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 2. Alexander, sampler from "A Pattern Language". Salingaros, Chapter 11.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 3.

3. Different examples of Form Languages. Classical, historical, regional, etc. Industrial-era form languages. Form languages of famous architects. Three Laws of Structural Order.

Readings: Salingaros, Chapter 1 (also in Spanish). Salingaros, "Kolmogorov-Chaitin Complexity". Salingaros & Masden, "Against Ecophobia".

Begin first project: Each student will choose and document one particular form language, will then design an example using that form language, and will present it in class. Please download the "Form Language Checklist" as a guide. We will draw lots to give the order of choice for each student, so that each student covers a different form language.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 4.

4. Comparison among different form languages. Degree of complexity as a measure of their adaptivity. Regionalism as adaptation to locality. Regional versus global: a practical dimension for classifying form languages. Philosophical justifications for form languages.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 7. Leon Krier, "Building Civil Cities". Salingaros & Masden, "Politics, Philosophy, Critical Theory".

Continue first project: Students will present their form language and their building designed using it, in class. Compute the Kolmogorov-Chaitin complexity of your form language by using the word count of your completed checklist. Also estimate the regional adaptation on a scale of 0 to 10 (higher for better adaptation). The class will then plot these values together in a scatter plot to look for any correlation.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 5.

5. Adaptivity of a form language to human life. Human physiology and psychology. A direct and useful test: Alexander's 'Mirror of the Self'. Evidence-based design.

Readings: Alexander, Chapters 8 & 9. Mehaffy & Salingaros, "Evidence-Based Design".

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 6.

6. Biophilia: our evolved kinship to the structure of biological forms. The nourishment human beings experience from natural forms. Hospital design and healing environments.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 10. Mehaffy & Salingaros, "Biophilia". Salingaros & Masden, extract from pages 61-70 of "Neuroscience, the Natural Environment, and Building Design", which is Chapter 5 of: Biophilic Design: the Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life, edited by Stephen R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen, and Martin Mador (John Wiley, New York, 2008), pages 59-83.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 7.

7. Geometrical basis for natural forms. Alexander's 15 Fundamental Properties, and how they lead to the phenomenon of life.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 5.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 8.

8. Scientific background for the Fifteen Fundamental Properties. Fractals and hierarchical scaling. The logarithmic constant as average scaling ratio.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 6. Salingaros, Chapters 2 & 3.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 9.

9. Organized complexity. A model to estimate life in architecture. Computation of architectural temperature and architectural harmony. Experiments that correlate the theoretical predictions with perceived degree of life in buildings.

Readings: Alexander, Appendix 6. Salingaros, Chapter 5.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 10.

10. Adaptive recursion as a means of achieving geometrical coherence. The field of centers and wholeness. Complex adaptive systems as transformations.

Readings: Alexander, Chapters 3 & 4 and Appendix 3. Mehaffy & Salingaros, "Science for Designers: The Transformation of Wholes".

Begin second project: "Quantitative Measures for Regionalism and Complexity". The class will undertake a classification of different form languages according to their natural/unnatural and regional/global characteristics. Please download the "Project-Classification" description.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 11.

11. Recursion and fractals. Different scales in a design, and how they are connected to each other. How fractals reduce stress.

Readings: Mehaffy & Salingaros, "Scaling and Fractals". Salingaros, Chapters 6 & 7. R. P. Taylor, "Reduction of Physiological Stress Using Fractal Art and Architecture", Leonardo, Volume 39, No. 3 (June 2006), pages 245-251.

Continue second project: Students will evaluate their form language for general use, and present their analysis in class. Compute the architectural temperature T and architectural harmony H , to obtain another ordered pair of values (T, H) for each form language. We will plot these points in one graph for the entire class, and look for correlations.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 12.

12. Theory of Ornament. Ornament and human intelligence. A model of stress in minimalist environments based on the analogy with human pathologies.

Readings: Alexander, Chapter 11. Mehaffy and Salingaros, "Intelligence and the Information Environment". Salingaros, Chapter 4.

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 13.

13. Architecture itself as a biological system. Organizational lessons from biology and robotics we can apply to design.

Readings: Mehaffy & Salingaros, "Complex Adaptive Systems". Salingaros & Masden, "Architecture: Biological Form and Artificial Intelligence".

LECTURE NOTES WEEK 14.

14. Classification of Form Languages: natural languages and unnatural languages. Different conceptions of what architecture is, and what direction it should evolve towards.

Readings: Alexander, Conclusion. The 1982 Alexander-Eisenman Debate. Alexander, "Some Sober Reflections on the Nature of Architecture in Our Time", Katarxis No. 3, September 2004.

END OF COURSE.

 

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