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The Nature of Computational Things: Models and Simulations in Design and Architecture

Abstract : The terms model, mold and module all stem from the Latin word modus, measure, and more specifically from modulus, small measure. All three send us back to practices of simplified description and, as an indirect consequence, a prescription of forms. The module was used as a unit of measurement for the architect: transferred to each dimension a certain number of times to obtain a planned edifice. In numerous technical and artistic contexts, the mold also serves to determine a form and is used to reproduce it in global uniformity. The mathematical model itself is equally by turns simplifier, simplified, descriptive and prescriptive. More often than not, such and such a physical phenomenon is modeled through mathematical equation. In order to be truly mathematical, this equation must be homogeneous in its writing, simple in meaning. Otherwise no procedure of accelerated calculation will be validly applied. From whence the abusive, generalized idea to follow according to which modules must always be simple, simple to conceive and manipulate, even if their resolution proves laborious at times. Architecture often relies on mathematical models, if only to anticipate the physical behavior of structures. Accordingly, mathematical modeling serves to find an optimal form given certain constraints, constraints themselves translated into a language which must be homogeneous to that of the model in order for resolution to be possible. Traditional modeling tied to design and architecture thus appears linked to a top-down vision of creation, of the modernist, voluntarist and uniformly normative type, because usually (mono)functionalist. One available instrumentof calculation/representation/prescription orders this conception of architecture: indeed the search for an optimal solution through mathematical calculation of a model itself mathematical, thus homogeneous and simple, is only possible when one or two functions or functional constraints are formulated, never more, and this, on a global level, therefore starting from a unique and homogenizing viewpoint. It is essential to grasp that, even applied to material and its properties or towards a particular esthetic or functional dimension, this viewpoint is thus abstractive and generalizing: disregarding singularity of context, insertion and a relationship to the environment or local, social behavior. It leaves aside functional specificity and heterogeneousness – re-contextualized each time – of functions that the object or edifice are required to fulfill and optimize under diverse constraints, in their different parts.
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Franck Varenne. The Nature of Computational Things: Models and Simulations in Design and Architecture. Marie-Ange Brayer, Frédéric Migayrou. Naturalizing Architecture, HYX editions, 2013, 978-2910385828. ⟨hal-01089648⟩

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