LIFE’S MATHEMATICS FOR LIVING SPACES

Nikos Salingaros, Twelve Lectures On Architecture. Algorithmic Sustainable Design.
Solingen: Umbau Verlag, 2011
Review by Stefano Serafini

Can architecture and urbanism be formulated as applications of computations? Yes, according to the well-known urban thinker and mathematician Nikos Salingaros. And they actually should! Salingaros offers design practitioners, with a very sketchy and intriguing way, a method of applying cutting-edge mathematical techniques to architectural and urban design.
Despite of the novelty of this approach (just few of these topics are actually taught in architecture schools), his position belongs to a very ancient tradition. One can just think to the masons of Middle-age cathedrals, and their mathematical insights bringing to light amazing structures. They considered and managed each step in the design process, as a computation.
And this brought to that gorgeous effect of continuity among scales in their buildings, quite always resulting in harmonious cascades of fractals.
Salingaros explains how we can use geometrical constructs such as Cellular Automata, recursive growth, the Fibonacci sequence, fractals, universal scaling, etc., in design work today, and why this can produce very effective and pleasant buildings. His effort aims not just at reviewing a mathematics set for architects, but at presenting one useful design tool, a full computational methodology, and a fundamental reason for new structural rules.
The most interesting part of this work is that these rules produce new forms belonging to the great set of natural shapes, instinctive architecture, and classic masterpieces of all times. This offers great insights about architecture itself, and about the relationship among nature and culture. Salingaros’ explications of why such algorithms are successful, sound convincing, and introduce the reader to biophilia, environmental psychology, and a deep critics to traditional aesthetics.

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