Recognizability of designer imprinting in Generative artwork

Prof. Celestino Soddu

Director of Generative Design Lab

Politecnico di Milano, Italy





Design lives within two fundamental stages, the creative and the evolutionary.

The first is that of producing the idea: this approach is built activating a logical jump between the existing and possible worlds that represent our wishes and thoughts. A design idea is the identification of a set of  possibilities that goes beyond specific “solutions” but identifies the sense or the attainable quality. The field involved in this design stage is “how” the world may be transformed, not what the possible scenario may be.

The second is the evolutionary stage, that of the development of the idea. This approach runs inside paths of refinement and increases in complexity of the projects. It involves the management of the project to reach the desired quality.

Generative design is founded on the possibility to clearly separate the creative and the evolutionary stages of the idea. And the first is reserved for man (because creative processes, being activated from subjective interpretations and being abduptive paths and not deductive, inductive or analytical ones, can not be emulated by machines) and the second may be carried out using artificial devices able to emulate logical procedures. The emulation of evolutionary logics is useful for a very simple reason: for getting the best operative design control on complexity. 

Designers know very well that the quality of a project depends, very importantly, on the time spent designing. If the time is limited, the project can not evolve enough to attain the desired quality. If the available time is increased, the project acquires a higher quality due to the possibility of crossing various parallel evolutionary paths, to develop these and to verify their relative potential running through the cycle idea/evolution more times and in progress. (scheme1)  

This is not all. In a time-limited design activity, the architect is pressed into facing the formalization of performance requirements in terms of answering directly specific questions. He is pressed into analytically systematizing the requirements before him to quickly work on the evolution of the project. The design solution can be effective but absolutely not flexible. If the real need of the user is, even slightly, different to the hypothesized requirement, the quality of the project, as its ability to respond to needs, breaks down. Projects approached in this way, which we could call “analytical”, are quickly obsolete, being tied up to the flow of fashion. 

A more “creative” approach, where we don't try to accelerate (therby simplifying) the design development path “deducting” from the requirements the formalization choices but we develop our idea using the requirements and the constraints as opportunities of increasing the complexity of the idea, enriching the design development path to reach a higher quality, needs, without doubt, more time. As well as being, of course, a creative and non-analytical approach. 

This design approach, which is “the” design path, is a voyage of discovery that is comparable to that of scientific research. The fundamental structure is the idea as a “not deducted” hypothesis concerning a quality and recognizability of attainable artwork, according to the architect's “subjective” point of view. The needs and the constraints, identified as fields of possible development of the project, are opportunities for the idea to develop and acquire a specific identity and complexity. Once possible scenarios of a project are formed, the same requirements and constraints will take part, as “verification of congruity”, of the increase in quality. Then the cycle, once more, will be run again to reach more satisfactory results.  It is, without doubt, an approach that requires time.


The Generative Design


Generative design is an effective solution to the need to fit the contemporary times and rhythms of the management of a project to the need, which is felt more and more, and also no longer postponable, of a quality of the product adaptable to change and to the uniqueness of the user that doesn't want to adapt himself anymore to a product which reduces his expectations: the user wants to find a product in tune with his uniqueness and unrepeteability as a human being. 

Therefore we need a complex but synthetically shaped product. A product that is adaptable to changes in requirements but also recognizable by its design idea.

These characteristics are the same as those present in natural objects. Rather than the characteristics, in the two centuries of the industrial era, that are characterised by identical objects, of an obsessvely repeated architecture and of cities without identity, which has marked the difference between natural and artificial, or, at least, between natural and  “optimized” and artificially-flattened  goods. 

We can form the hypothesis that present passion for the natural world is not a reaction to the artificial world 'tout court', but to the artificially simplified and flattened products of the industrial era. The craved natural world can't be anything other than the desire for a high quality “artificial” environment responding to the human need for naturality. We look for a possible answer not only to “essential” needs, the confirmed and simplified needs, but to the most complex needs of everyone, coming from one's identity and uniqueness.


The project


If we had to sketch some notes on the logical structure of design, we could identify some phases of design activity that are not necessarily in sequence but that often have a parallel development. Each of these phases is specific to Generative design. 

Stages in Design: 

1. The construction, by the architect, of his own world of interpreted references. This is the fruit of the passage from the exegesis to the ermeneutica, that is from the comprehension of our existing environment and of human experience in building artificial events to the interpretation of the same environment and of the cultural references belonging to man's design activity. 

This is the notebook of the architect. Where we not (only) find annotated and observed, analyzed and systematized events, but possible interpretation of them. Each sketch traces and discovers the subtended logic that the architect has found in the event and, I would say, some evolutionary logic used as a procedure for transformation and increasing the complexity of an idea. 

In Generative Design this notebook is realized through a series of sketches/algorithms. In other words the sketch, relating to the interpretation of his own references in terms of transformation, of a code of evolution of complexity of an event, can be annotated with an algorithm which, evidently, defines how the transformation of input to output would happen. Every possible result, obviously, “remembers” the initial event but the process of transformation is able to characterize the final event using, as a base, identified objectives (objectives of sense, identified with the concept and abstract field using specific meta-project configurations). 

This memorization of procedures (algorithms) is the historical memory of the architect, but it is at the same time the motor of his design activity. It acts directly on the characteristics and on the recognizability of his projects.  

The Generative project, as in all design activities, use this notebook. In Generative design, however, this notebook is on-line. And it is structured to be usable immediately for the reason that each note is a procedure and not an image that refers to an interpretation which, every time, must be “remembered”.

But, as in all architect's notebooks, it can be used in different ways. In the traditional notebook we can interpret the same images in different ways, following one's mood. In the “Generative notebook” each procedure can generate unpredictable results depending on the “artificial environment” generated up to that point.

But neither the traditional notebook nor the Generative one is not a database of forms nor of spatial organizations such as “typologies”. It is not a database of pre-cooked design solutions referred to for analyzing relationships between needs and design solutions. If it were a database of forms it would be impossible to use it to build complexity, because different forms, by nature, cannot be used all together. Being a repertoire of procedures, the notes are usable in the desired quantity and in series, without fear that some procedure contrasts with another. It is as if we have to operate a series of arithmetic operations of the type: divide by two, multiply by three, make the square root, and so on. They can be done, one after the other, without limit. 

If it were a typological database of organizational patterns, it would deny the possibility to build an adaptable and flexible project, as these type of references are typically of a reductive and “analytical” approach, and therefore of a project “halved” in its potential and destined to be rapidly obsolete. 

This approach brings (in Generative design it operates through repertoires of procedures and not of a database of “solutions”) the possibility to attain, simultaneously, a whole series of objectives even when they are  in contrast with each other or, for example, belong to different fields of reference: the world of the architect and his cultural reference points, the client's world, the world of the product engineering, the world of communications, of marketing, and so on. The final project has the ability to surprise each of the design partners. It will be a pertinent representation of the idea of each one; each partner will recognize the project as belonging to his own idea for the reason that he will identify, following his specific point of view, the project as carrying the characters that, in terms of “procedures of increase of complexity”, he had given. 

In this sense Generative design performs an approach to the project which is able to put together different people and different capabilities that may also be (seemingly) in conflict. For this reason the Generative approach to design is developing  in sectors such as mecathronics, where the complexity of products requires the simultaneous holding, in different and not integrable scientific and technological fields improved design activity. The agreement is to speak a common language: the language of procedures, of “how” to transform and not “what” is the solution. 

2. The identification of attainable objectives. The objectives that are only partly (as they also belong to another point, the 3rd) the objectives defined by the customer. 

These objectives are, instead, the objectives that show how the architect identifies the limit between the real and the possible world. These objectives identify the field of the possible world as the design field, building an interpretated model of reality in terms of evolutionary dynamics. 

Generative design requires the explicitness of the relationship between this objective (represented as a conceptual model) and the set of procedures of which to the preceding point. In such a way it will be possible to organize the use of the procedures in a paradigm of control, pointing out when they are interchangeable if they have the same objective and when, on the other hand, they must  stratify and/or contaminate one another to reach the proposed objectives simultaneously. 

3. The transformation of the objectives required by the client (and of the relative connected constraints) in areas of possible evolution, in new areas of design possibilities, needs to approach these requirements not as constraints but as opportunities in design evolution, as opportunities in increasing the identity and the recognizability of the idea. 

In Generative design the architect must redefine the client's requirements into procedures of increasing complexity (and of increasing performances). It is clear that this “translation” is not only understanding the requirements, but operating a design interpretation of the requirments. It is already a design choice. It is possible however, and I mean it is necessary for good generative design, to realize these translation-interpretations in a pluralistic way. It is possible to build a set of transformation devices that would presumably operate toward performances in line with the requirements of the customer.. 

The following phases of the design will allow the architect to calibrate and to review parameters and connections of these dynamic “hypotheses” when the design evolution highlights  contaminations and produced sinergies. 

4. The representation of the design idea as an evolutionary paradigm whose characteristics are a) adaptivity to possible evolutions, b) synthesis that goes beyond possible formalizations but identifies the sense of design choices, c) the hypothesized codes for the control of recognizability and identity of the designer.  

In this representation of the idea, whose general aspects evolve from project to project, every single design opportunity, with its own specific quality, enters the process as stratification of complexity that hypothesizes and identifies the idea in an organic structure of the whole, of the parts and of the usable evolutionary fields. 

In traditional design this paradigmatic representation of the idea is effected through the schematic sketch that identifies the “laws” of the project. The “codes” of Leonardo are one of the most meaningful expressions of this design stage. 

In Generative design this job corresponds to the construction of a Generative code (I call it Argenìa, and I think that it is already a product) that defines the idea as a recognizable architectural hypothesis and the management of the constraints/needs of a specific project as possible fields of development. Such paradigm will be built through events and relationships, with the indication of “how” these events are being progressively transformed activating specific relationships with others, and with the indication of the laws that operate on the recognizability of such relationships, on the degree and the plausibility of mutual contaminations, on the structure and the quantity of acceptable exceptions and on “how” are managed to fit to condition (or to capsize) the following evolutions.

Being a ponderous body of laws and rules, this generative code is composed of a connective structure that remains, even if in evolution, in the various successive design stages, and in particular laws for specific occasions. In my generative projects this paradigm is assembled ad hoc for each project even if it always uses a whole series of control procedures of complexity and the same system of management of the channels of connection and contamination between the events in their evolutionary process. This code builds recognizability into the final project, despite always being different and unpredictable.  

For instance, the choice to operate through fractal evolutionary logics, that are universally proposed in all different scales, from the project as a whole to the detail, characterizes my projects. As all architecture produced by my Argenìes is also recognizable because the code involves the choice to build the paradigm with two classes of events, the void and the solid so that for every void there is a corresponding series of 26 solids, to arrive at the number 27 as in Renaissance architecture, and that to every solid it has an associated virtual void with 26 interfaces, proposing still nidified 27, and so on. All this, together with the hundred evolutionary procedures that, operating in different fields, from geometry and proportion to technology and materials, have implemented in the last 12 years these Argenìes, identifies my idea of architecture, making this idea recognizable in all design opportunities and results of my designing activity. 

The charm of Generative design is that it is possible to use complex structures of proliferation and omothetia as fractals, not acting on forms, but acting on logic. After all, the experience with fractals has taught us that, in the recognizability of the final image, the form from which we departed from doesn't count, but the idea, the recognizability belongs to the procedures adopted and repeated. 

5. The management of the construction in progress of the project through an evolutionary structure that checks and verifies the simultaneousness of the possible evolution and increases in complexity of the design hypothesis (paradigm). In the large professional practices this stage concerns the project team, the identification of the operational hypotheses to develop, the verification of how the results are meeting the hypothesized quality and the idea. 

In Generative design this stage means the realization of a structure of artificial life able to let the project evolve, testing and increasing its complexity, and surveying the multiplicity of possible results as multiple representations of the same idea. 

So we can consider the double face of Generative design: The existence of a code, of an identifiable and designed DNA in a way which represents the idea, and the existence of a designed artificial life, built as an unpredictable environment, that can also be sometimes “hostile”, but anyway not structured to be an easy route, but which allows the code of the idea to germinate, to self-organize, to grow and to increase its own “personality” really in journeying, making experiences and sometimes fighting adversities in this “artificial environment” that interacts with its evolution. 

Artificial DNA and Artificial Life are the two systems that must be designed for activating a Generative design. They are two separate projects, sometimes contrasting, but they represent the two faces of the same idea of a project. With a deep difference. In the first one randomness doesn't exist, in the second randomness is one of the factors of control and amplification of the idea. In every case randomness must not be used “to produce random shapes” but to upset the code (that represents the idea) letting it react in a way as to increase (and to render explicit in the project) its identity and recognizability, exposing unexpressed potential of the idea (or holes to fill). 

The code will therefore always be the same, at least in a single generation of events. The artificial life that will serve as an environment to its evolution has to be ever-changing, even if it has to be able to maintain a pre-defined degree of “difficulty” in a way that the evolution of the project is completed with a sufficient degree of complexity. 

What is the result? Certainly an ability of the project, so used to a “hard” artificial life, to fulfil the requirements, also the unpredictability of the consumer. A degree of complexity  that can be similar to some natural objects or, I like to think, to the complexity of a historical city that owes its beauty and charm, and therefore its ability to resolve the specific needs of everyone, to the long-lived and difficult history, to a stratification of cultures, periods of expansion and contraction, and from the acquired (in this artificially lived life) ability to develop, or better increase, its own uniqueness and recognizability. 

6. The feedback between the client and the project. The hypothesis to pursue is that every successive requirement by the client does not “change” the project, but  increases its complexity. One of the traditional rules of design, that our teachers have taught us, has been to never use the rubber, to never cancel but to superimpose. If we change one “solution” with another, we lose what the first solution could give us, even only as a memory to bring up an idea that could be interesting in the following steps of the project. Synthesis, as control of the simultaneousness of different fields and of possible hypothesis, is the highest design act, the substitution of one “solution” with another is the lowest, a last resort that should be rarely used.  If the buyer's requirements are “translatable” by the designer in terms of procedures of transformation and not of change of form, the customer will find more and more in the project which mirrors his needs. But the architect will also have, from these successive increases, the opportunity, the chance to give the project a stronger characterization and recognizability of his design idea. The project will acquire a more evolved order and will be able to answer to progressive multiple requirements. This means that the project will be more adaptive and flexible, and will be able to give relevant answers to the further unpredictable needs of the client and, also, to the unpredictable needs of the final consumer.  

In Generative design the traditional relationship with the customer has substantially changed in form but not in substance: The sequence need > transformation procedure > generation of possible scenarios puts the relationship between architect and customer regarding mutual capabilities. The buyer is not asked to point out “how” to realize the project but only “what”, what performances he desires. The architect is asked to “interpret” the customer's needs using a procedure, a “how to transform” the project. And these interpretations of the designer are not communicated, as often happens, through a form-idea, but through evolutionary procedures that are represented, in the pluralism of possible generated scenarios, the idea of the architect. Eliminating the misunderstanding of possible false associations between form and idea but proposing the idea in its potential to go beyond the norm. 

The result is the full possibility to carry out feedback between customer and architect in times that are unthinkable with traditional design management and, moreover, respecting the role of both. 

7. For projects that also evolve physically (following not only models of industrial products, cities, but also architecture, if we consider the evolution of a project in another one as an evolutionary  path of an idea of architecture) the feedback is also between end-user and designer, and respecting both roles. 

The result of this feedback cannot be other than the increase in complexity as synthesis of sense, an increasing adaptivity to the multiplicity of possible meanings and interpretations (and uses) and, in parallel, the elimination of complication meant as the structured overlapping of limited answers to specific needs. 

In Generative design the project-consumer feedback is a fundamental part of the origin of the product, above all if the product is an industrial product. The consumer chooses “his” object identifying it in a succession of virtual objects that a generative project produces in real time. 

The consumer not only chooses his object, but “he gives birth to it” for the reason that his choice will activate the production of that unique and unrepeatable object. 

Here a conflict rises between the two possibilities of Generative art. On one side a Generative project that works prevalently in a field of randomness, and that leaves the consumer the role of “hunter of emerging events”, a role that tries to emulate the designer's role. From the other a generative project that operates confining randomness to being a simple tool, to an unpredictable but necessary environmental contingency able to increase the recognizability of the idea of the designer. This alternative brings Generative objects nearer to being natural objects, where the recognizability of the species is strong, and where the choice of the consumer exists, but importantly, is not a design choice. When I choose one natural thing as oppose to another,  a rose for example, or a cat, I choose a cat for an immediate feeling, and for me this cat immediately will be unique and irreplaceable. But I cannot think that I have designed it. The “project” is the “project of the species”, and not of the individual, and to choose between many possibilities, between many individuals of the same species, is not a designing activity. 

Freedom House. Milan 1999. Generative architectural project generated with the Argenia software by C.Soddu


Argenìa. The Generative projects 


My objective, since my first generative projects, was to design a species of objects, of architecture, of urban environment that could represent my idea of possible artificial worlds. The aim has been, therefore, the construction of the idea as product, as artificial DNA. This generative code is a product because it is usable to produce artificial events, identifiable as Idea because each produced event is referable to the same idea, that transcends it. The objective has been building generative projects able to produce a multiplicity of different artificial events but not random events, unpredictable but ever recognizable events, amazing also for me but immediately identifiable as one of the possible communication of my idea. 

I have given more importance to an approach that excluded casualness as form generator, but used randomness as a starting point for the growth of complexity of forms whose identity must be directly checked and constructed by the design choices. In other words the design of  “identity codes”, of DNA of the artificial events is so strongly structured and identified that we let them evolve inside a “designed artificial life” whose random unpredictability is used  for “training” the project and to let its complexity grow. Therefore these projects were not genetic projects (with genetic algorithms) but generative projects: projects of artificial generative code (artificial DNA)  interfaced with projects of artificial life. 

I have called the idea-product of these codes “Argenìa”, because the search has been on creativeness transcending the single event, on the idea as project of possible artificial species.. 


The first experimentations and realizations of Argenìa 


My first Argenic experiments were produced from three-dimensional representational software that I developed in the mid-80's and some experimentation on algorithms representing chaotic dynamic systems. 

The first Argenic software in the field of three-dimensional representation was founded on the concept that a two-dimensional image could be considered, if opportunely observed, as a generative code of a universe of possible three-dimensional models. The passage from the two-dimensional image, interpretated as referring to a three-dimensional order is, in fact, immediately conceivable as a “perspective reconstruction” if the two-dimensional image is a perspective and the three-dimensional space, that we are looking for, is the 3D model of the space represented in perspective. However this approach becomes more interesting and complex when the initial image is not a real perspective, but we read it as if it were a perspective. And if we, as architects, use it as a catalyst to investigate our own idea of architecture and to create spaces and possible objects that represent our own concept of space. 

The passage from the 2D to 3D image, in fact, is not an automatic evolution, but it presupposes a subjective interpretation that increases the specific quality and identity of the results. The initial image is not immediately readeable as a 2D representation of a 3D object. 

If the initial image is a sketch or, for instance, an abstract picture, the result will be, fundamentally, a 3D space creation based on the architect's interpretation. The created space will be a space representing the architect's idea because the space is not “derived” from the original image which was only used as a catalyst of the creative path. 

I have produced, on these presuppositions, the software “Traces” as a management tool of the subjective interpretation of 2D images for the creation of 3D models. This software was built on the rules of anamorphosis, that is of the plurality of possible interpretative codes of an image. 

Not only this. Since classical perspective drawing, the 'perspectiva artificialis' is, just an artificial representation, or rather an allusive note of the vision but not representative of how the vision happens and how the full immersion in an architectural space happens, I have replaced the “perspectiva artificialis” with a perspective that I have called “total perspective”, performed through specific algorithms projected by me. The total perspective is an anamorphic perspective which uses 360 degrees. The difference between this perspective and every other 360 degree perspective is the anamorphic rectification of curved lines. In other words, the total perspective interface is a cylinder and we are inside the cylinder and we position ourselves in the center of it, the curves, that represent the straight lines in the real world, are perceived as straightened, that is right, because the bending of the cylinder and the bending of the curved lines, representing the straight lines in the perspective drawing when it is stretched out, are annulled by anamorphosis. And when we look around the space represented in the cylinder, the straight lines move, changing direction, but they always stay straight, since anamorphosis operates as a fourth dimension that, in real time, promotes the more opportune visual interpretation. 

Therefore I have activated, in the software “Traces”, the possibility to interpret a 2D image as one of the possible representations of a space read from the inside of the same space. Therefore gaining the possibility to work directly on the possible integral transposition of a 2D image as virtual environment, a full spatial immersion of the designing architect. 

All that remains is a background of complexity, as codes of management of ambiguity, inside the successive realizations of Generative projects.


The structure of Argenìa 


In the following years, beginning from 1987, I produced the first Generative projects in which, once the idea as a code is set out, the evolutionary structure as artificial life, Argenìa (the integrated system which joins the Generative code and artificial life) automatically produced a whole and endless series of different and unpredictable three-dimensional events, all different but all representations of the same idea. 

The structure of these argenic projects is founded on the pre-suppositions first identified: 

1. the code of the idea is built through a parallel series of interpretative codes that operate a transformation of each input to an output event with an increasing complexity that belongs to my idea of architecture. These procedures represent my architect's notebook. 

2. a primary paradigm, or better a set of superimposed and autonomous paradigms, that represent and manage the use of the procedures of transformation and their homothetic symmetry from the whole project to it's detail. 

3. a secondary paradigm, also this is multiple because it refers to the various fields involved in the designing action, that manages the transformation in relationship to specific data of a particular design opportunity. 

4. an artificial life, a management code of evolution of the complexity of the project, that allows the progressive increase in complexity of the idea. Inside this emulation of an open designing path there is the random factor as factor of stimulus and catalysis for bringing out the progressive recognizability of the idea. This artificial life shell, in fact, is the structure that produces not forms but ever new incoming fields of design opportunities.

5. A structure of representation, in progress, of the generated 3D model that allows the immediate reading of the generated scenarios. This real-time representation allows the acceleration of feedback and, then, the construction in progress of the idea as product. 


The recognizability of the idea and the identity of the designer


1. The idea as product exists only if the idea is a recognizable code. 

To pass from a product-object, therefore from an “always equal” and physically identifiable product, to a product-idea as a usable code to produce different physical objects always means to address the design job to the recognizability of this idea. And this recognizability, once it is not linked to a specific physical object, has to postpone the concept, to the metaproject, to the “hand” of a specific designer. 

Generative designing therefore requires a strong concept design and a design able to make the difference in terms of desirability of the product. Certainly, it is always possible to apply to every produced object a mark, a hand-writing that points out the “stylist”. So the architect, the designer would be recognizable. But this recognizability has no value as a quality. A picture of VanGogh is not recognized from the writing Vincent. Even if we have never seen one of his pictures before, we do not recognize it for the signature, or for the colors, or for the type of line, but for the identifiable idea of the world that comes out in all his work. 

Our recognizing codes are built up from infancy. This process is peculiar to art. We learn, from early infancy, to recognize everything in the world, to recognize, for example, a chair from other similar objects. We are able to build our own peculiar structure of the idea of a chair. When we are in front of a chair that we have never seen before, despite having a shape which is new and different from any other known chair, we succeed in recognizing it as a chair. The recognizability is, therefore, our abstract synthesis of already lived for the valuation of the unpredictable incoming events. But recognizability is not an objective category. We cannot learn to recognize objects only through our own experience. This synthesis belongs to the field of subjectivity, it is a distinguishing mark of our uniqueness and identity as human beings. It is the subjective building of categories, of species for the identification of individual products. This synthesis is also the first step in approaching the design process.  (C.Soddu, Edinburgh 1999)


Blues Terminal, Milan 1999. Axonometric an internal views of the architecture completely generated by C. Soddu using his Argenia meta-project software.


2. Recognizability comes from subjectivity. 

The structure of recognizability and of its identification from the user is therefore, fundamentally, a structure of connection between two subjectivities, between two syntheses of the world, between two ways of seeing a possible environment: one subjectivity belongs to the architect, the second to the user.

And here the only possible field of investigation emerges. To manage, in the act of designing, these possible connections between different subjectivities: complexity. We mean complexity as an answer in terms of flexibility, of adaptivity to inter-subjectivity; as a pertinent answer to unpredictable subjective needs but, on the other hand, being able to be recognize it as it really is, which is to exist as a subjective idea of a species.  

We could say that the architect builds his own idea-product on the field of sense, building in complexity and multiplicity of this sense from own references, while the subjectivity of the user is rendered explicit in the identification of a meaning (but also identifying a possible use) between those possible.

Plan and perspective view of  Blues Terminal. Generative Architecture by Celestino Soddu


3. Subjectivity means not simplification (objective) but complexity. 

Wanting to use drawings as a metaphor for the relationship between subjectivity, objectivity and complexity, we could say that with a drawing such as the axonometric, which is objective, we would never succeed in representing the infinite, whereas with the perspective, which is fundamentally subjective, we can represent and “check” the infinite. The complexity of an idea-product can only be created from the subjectivity of the architect. But, the more the subjectivity of the designer is recognizable, the more the idea-product acquires quality and market.

Caravanserraglio 99, two axonometric views of an architectural generated 3D model. Project  by C.Soddu, using his Argenia.


4. Argenìa is a direct approach to complexity, and in this it finds its strength irreplaceable in contemporary times.

Generative design, and particularly Argenia, for the reason that it has a preference for the recognizability of the designing idea and not for the random generation of forms, turns out to be an easy designing approach to complexity. Complexity, in fact, is ever-present in an Argenic project, it is its necessary fuel. As I often say to my students, if an architect complicates his (designing) life, he accelerates the project evolution, because he identifies the fields of possible design choices more quickly, and therefore the necessary fields to activate increases in complexity in which he will be able to let his own ideas emerge. In the structures of Argenia, this means that the more the client requirements are complicated, the more these requirements are also contradictory, the more different kinds of constraints will be set on the project, the more the process of construction of the recognizability of the idea will evolve. 

This is not all. Given that the requirements must be “translated” by the designer into transformation procedures, these requirements are added up one over the other, sequentially, and the management of the complexity becomes easy. One of the greatest potentials that has emerged in the Generative design approach is that it is a suitable approach for projects of great complexity where the designers must control a whole series of unrelated disciplines. 

In contemporary times, where buildings, objects and, naturally, cities are becoming more and more complex, where uniformity and blandness is no longer acceptable and where subjective and cultural identity is more and more required and precious, the Generative approach finds and will continue finding its own irreplaceable space in the activity of design and production. 





Celestino Soddu, “L’artificiale progettato” (designing the artificial ware), Casa del Libro Publisher, Reggio C. 1979.

Celestino Soddu, “L’immagine non euclidea” (not-euclidean image), Gengemi Publisher , Roma 1986.

Celestino Soddu, “Citta’ Aleatorie”(Random Cities), Masson Publisher , Milano 1989.

Celestino Soddu, Enrica Colabella, “Il progetto ambientale di morfogenesi” (Environmental Generative Design), Esculapio Publisher, Bologna 1992.

C.Soddu, “Progetto di specie”, (design of species) in the magazine  “Sinopie” n.4, Milano 1991.

C.Soddu, “Simulation tools for the dynamic evolution of town shape”, in “Global change and local problems, Abstact book”, Oxford Polytechnic 1991.

C.Soddu, “La simulazione della dinamica evolutiva della forma, dagli scenari metropolitani ad design morfogenetico”, (The simulation of the evolutive dynamics shape. From urban scenarios to the morphogenetic industrial design), in the proceedings of the conference “La citta interattiva”, Milano, June 1991

C.Soddu, “Simulation tools for the learning approach to dynamic evolution of town shape, architecture and industrial design”, in “Proceedings. International Conference on computer aided learning and instruction in science and engineering”, published by Press Polytecniques et Universitaries Romandes. Lausanne 1991.

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “Spatial and image dynamical models for controlling and planning the development of differences in an increasingly international and interdipendent world”, in  the proceedings of the conference “Planning in a time of Change”, Stockholm 1992

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “The project of morphogenesis to design the DNA or architecture”, in the proceedings of “CIB'92, World Building Congress”, Montreal 1992.

C.Soddu, “Il progetto ambientale attraverso i codici morfogenetici del naturale artificiale”, (the environmental design using morphogenetic codes of natural/artificial systems), in the book “Poiesis, l'informatica nel progetto euristico”, Citta' Studi Publisher, Milano 1993.

C.Soddu, lecture and art installation at the Gestaltung Museum of Zurich, “Morphogenetishes design: Architekturen” in “New Realities - Neue Wirklichkeiten II ArchitekturAnimationenInstallationen” 27 Jan/4 Apr 1993, Museum fur Gestaltung Zurich..

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “The morphogenetic design as an artificial intelligence system to support the management of design procedures through the total quality of the built-environment”,  in the proceedings of “The management of Information Technology for Construction. First International Conference” Singapore, 17/20 August 1993.

C.Soddu, “The design of morphogenesis to design the genetic code of the artificial environment”, in 33rd European Congress of Regional Science Association, Moscow, August 1993.

C.Soddu, “Human machine interaction in design processes. A new search software to generate the simulation of the increasing complexity of an idea about architecture, environment and industrial design”. in the proceeding of the congress “Computer Science, Communications and Society: A Technical and Cultural Challenge “ Neuchatel, 22/24 September. 1993.

C.Soddu, “Progetto di morfogenesi per un'architettura dei componenti. I pannelli metallici di copertura e di parete”, (The morphogenetic architectural design using components), in the proceedings of the congress AIPPEG at SAIE, 22 October 1993, Bologna, published in the magazine Rassegna AIPPEG n.1, Milano 1994.

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “Experimental CBL original software to teach project approach and designing procedures in architecture and industrial design”,  in the proceedings of the International Conference of Computer Based Learning in Science”, Wien 18/21 September 1993.

C.Soddu, “Il progetto di morfogenesi / Design of morphogenesis”, in the magazine Demetra, n.5 December 1993, Palermo. (in italian and english)

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “La progettazione morfogenetica dell'ambiente urbano”, (Morphogenetic environmental design) in “Ridisegna la Citta'” catalogue of the exhibition Casaidea 1994, Roma 1994.

C.Soddu, “Intelligenza Artificiale e progetto di architettura. Dai vecchi CAD a nuovi strumenti che incrementano la creativita' progettuale come pensiero del possibile”, (AI and architectural design. From old CAD to new tools that increase the creativity as thought of possible events), in the magazine Archimedia n.4 1994

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “The project of morphogenesis. A way to design the evolution code of the environment”, AESOP congress, Istambul 23-26 August 1994.

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “Artificial Intelligence in the teching of architectural design”, in the proceedings of the conference Hypermedia in Sheffield, Sheffield 1995

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “Recreating the city's identity with a morphogenetical urban design”, International Conference on Making the Cities Livable, Freiburg 1995.

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, “Artificial Intelligence and Architectural design”, CAAD Futures '95, Singapore 1995.

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, "Argenic design", paper at the International Conference "Contextual Design - Design in Contexts", The European Academy of Design, Stockholm 13-15.4.1997

C.Soddu, "Argenia, il progetto genetico dell'auto naturale", (Argenìa, the genetic project of natural car),  in the proceedings of the congress  “Mobilita' ed evoluzione dell'ambiente del XXI secolo, Motor Show Bologna 1997. Published in the book "Mobilita' del XXI secolo", Promotor publisher, Bologna 1997

C.Soddu, E.Colabella, "A Natural Approach to Industrial Design: Argenic Design", New Simplicity? international furniture design conference, Helsinki Aug 1997.

C.Soddu, Gege' Telesforo, "100% pure live funk and generative art", TV movie, STREAM.

C.Soddu, "Argenia, una citta' naturale", (Argenìa, a natural city) at the conference Piazze Telematiche, with the link in videoconference with Milano, Roma, S.Marino, Frankfurt.. The proceedings are published in the book "Piazze telematiche", Piazzetelematiche ass. 1997

C.Soddu, Conference at the Demo Center, Modena, on "Argenia, la progettazione generativa per i prodotti naturale dell'uomo" (Argenia, the generative design for the incoming natural ware), 23 Aprile , Modena 1998

C.Soddu, "Argenia, the natural approach to Architecture and Industrial Design" in the proceedings of Mecatronic  workshop at the Universtity of Lancaster, 27/28 May 1998.  (ISBN 1-86220-057-2).

C.Soddu, installation "La citta' naturale" (the natural city) at the exhibition HighLife at Smau 1998, with the show, in real time, of cities and argenic architecture. The exhibition has used the 360 degree anamorphic representation that is a patent by C.Soddu.

C.Soddu, “Recognizability of the idea: the evolutionary process”, proceedings of AISB99, Evolutionary Design by Computers, Edinburgh 1999.

C.Soddu, Argenia, Real time presentation of generative projects at Telecom99, Geneve 1999.

AAVV, Generative Art, Procedings of Generative Art ’98 1st International Conference, Dedalo Publisher, Milano 1999.


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