Architecture without a Computer

Forty years ago I was working together with a mathematician to create a computer programme which would design buildings. The idea was that I would tell the programmer how an architect thinks when he is putting together a preliminary design. Of course, the input data had to be very well analyzed otherwise the output, the design would be unsuitable. We did put together three types of inputs.

1) All the data about the site: topography, vegetation, surrounding structures, climate, views, type of soil, all of which we called the “real world”. This way we got an input in order to create a “map of resistance” to show which parts would lead itself better to be built upon. All this was expressed in modules with numerical resistance values.

2) Data provided by the client giving the spaces one needed to carry out the future activities; usually known as the “list of spaces”. This list would include the amount of area needed for each activity, also expressed in similar sized modules and their requirements.

3) To bring this data together an “affinity matrix” was needed, showing the relationship between the activities, depending on the movement of people and materials. This matrix was expressed in nearness values, mobility and their reasons.

These three inputs were (in those days) put onto punch cards, which after going into a computer (again huge) would come out as preliminary designs of the building, expressed in floor plans. All went through a built-in evaluation process, analyzing the efficiency, economy and the flexibility of the design. One could request, for instance, twenty different layouts, but ask only for a printout of the five best ones.

It all worked out very well, although only a few people were involved in the initial applications. But what happened was an extraordinary experience: on looking at the printouts of the plans it seemed that the designer had seen them before, in other words they looked rather familiar. I noticed that, as being a professional, during the preparation,- that is the analysis of the input-, whereby one uses consciously his logic (the ‘left side’ of the brain), one’s intuition and creativity, as part the of the ‘right side’ of the brain, is also involved in creating a design. That is to say when the input data is ready, the design also is ready. Except that, we were never trained to access directly our creativity, it always became a search for a “solution”, as the first designs were called.

However, if one looks into one’s right side of the brain, in other words change the waves from beta into an alpha frequency, one is able to draw plans, one after the other, as if being in a trance. Once these plans are on paper, one goes back into beta waves, to logic; to be able to compare with the input data and see whether the plans have responded well. They do.

In other words, when we prepare the initial analysis (the three types of inputs) and are ready to go into alpha the design flows out on the paper in front of us. Of course we need the programme, but we do not need a computer, our right hemisphere has already done the job !

The question arises, how do we get into alpha and start drawing inspired plans ?

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