Experimentation on Human Park

R&Sie(n)/François Roche R&Sie(n) is an architectural practice founded in 1989 by François Roche and Stéphanie Lavaux. R&Sie(n) unfold their protocols through the restaging of different kinds of contemporary relationships: aesthetic, machinist, computational, organics, biological, and even artificial. They consider architectural identity as emanating from principles of uncertainty defined through provisional processes and forms in which animism, vitalism, and mechanism become vectors of dynamic mutations. François Roche is currently a research professor at Columbia University (since 2005). In 2010, he was a visiting critic at Cornell University and co-taught a studio titled Mutations, with Caroline O’Donnell.
Looking beyond a strictly scientific and architectural horizon, and reading beyond the usual philosophical benchmarks, it is tempting, and indeed enlightening, to envisage a modus operandi from a metaphorical and strategic angle when exploring the “chemistry of bodies,” often envisaged as an element liable to disturb and alter linear, authoritarian logics, to reach what we might call swarm intelligence aggregations.[2] Similarly tempted, we look at the relationship of the body to space, and even more so, of bodies in their social relation: not just their interrelation, within a given cell, but also their intrarelation as part of an osmosis with others. This results in an architecture that plays with conformism and conventions: all bywords of the “undisciplined” conception of production, in its articulation of the collective and the political.

The research An Architecture des “Humeurs” constitutes the second leg (after I’ve Heard About, in 2005) of an architectural voyage (in the spirit of Thomas More’s Utopia) federating the skills of scientists from a host of disciplines (mathematics, physics, neurobiology, computations, scripts,[3] nanotechnologies,[4] robotic, etc.). This exploration is an attempt to articulate the real and/or fictional link between geographical situations and the narrative structures capable of transforming them. Specifically, the focus here is on using nanotechnology to collect physiological data from all participants to prepare and model, by means of these “moods”—a (post)modern translation of Hippocrates’s humors—the foundations of an architec-ture in permanent mutation, modeled (and modulated) by our unconscious. It is an investigation into an architecture of uncertainty and non-determination.

While this is not a sequel to the “I’ve Heard About” show held by the MAM (Paris Municipal Modern Art Museum) in 2005, that first research did explore the relationship between physiology, computation, and indeterminism, in the sense of its genesis. “I’ve Heard About” sought to understand and write (in the sense of writing code) biological geometries that mimic natural ones. The predominant figure was that of coral and its growth. This second piece goes beyond that representation, since we have already studied the factors that condition the emergence of such a geometry. These factors are the principles of exchange—dynamic principles based on a system’s immanent forces, to capture the chemistry of the body as an element that can disturb and alter linear logics. Thus, the logics of authorities replace a top-down approach with a bottom-up one.

The Architecture of Humors—a double-entendre, meaning both mood and fluid—is an interrogation of the confused region of the psyche that lies between pleasure/desire and need/want, by detecting physiological signals based on neuro-biological secretions and thus realize a “chemistry of humors,” treating future property buyers as inputs, who generate a range of diverse, inhabitable morphologies and the relationships between them. The groundwork comes from a rereading of the “Malentendus” inherent in the expression of human desire. Those who traverse public space through the ability to express a choice by means of language, on the surface of things, and those who are underlying and perhaps more disturbing, but just as valid. By means of the latter, we can appraise the body as a desiring machine with its own chemistry: dopamine, hydrocortisone, melatonin, adrenaline, and other molecules secreted by the body itself that are imperceptibly anterior to the consciousness these substances generate. Thus, the making of architecture is inflected by another reality, another complexity, breaking and entering into language’s mechanism of dissimulation in order to physically construct its Malentendus: including the data that the acephalous body collects—that can tell us about its adaptation, its sympathy and empathy—in the face of specific situations and environments.

The Humors collection is organized on the basis of interviews that make visible the conflict, and even schizophrenic qualities of desire, between those secreted (biochemical and neurobiological) and those expressed through the interface of language (free will). Mathematical tools taken from set theory (belonging, inclusion, intersection, difference, etc.) are used so that these “misunderstandings” produce a morphological potential (attraction, exclusion, touching, repulsion, indifference, etc.) as a negotiation of “distances” between humans who constitute these collective aggregates.

These relational modes are simultaneously elaborated within the residential cell, and on its periphery, in relation to the neighboring colonies. The multiplicity of possible physio-morphological layouts based on mathematical formulations offer a variety of habitable patterns in terms of the transfer of the self to the Other and to others as well.

A construction protocol is necessitated that can deal with complex, nonstandard geometries through a process of secretion, extrusion, and agglutination. This frees the construction procedure from the usual frameworks that are incompatible with a geometry constituted by a series of anomalies and singularities.[5]

The data obtained from the physiological interview with Nanoparticles concerns the following issues: familial socialization (distance and relationship between residential areas within a single unit), neighborhood socialization (distance and relationship between residential units), modes of relations to externalities (biotope, light, air, environment, and also seeing, being seen and hiding, modes of relating to access (receiving and/or escaping, even self-exclusion), and the nature of the interstices (from closely spaced to panoptic)).

We use formulae taken from set theory to define these relationships. This branch of mathematics was founded by the German mathematician Georg Cantor in the late 19th century. Its aim is to define the concepts of sets and belonging. This theory can be used to describe the structure of each situation as a kind of collective defining the relationships between the parts and the whole, while taking into consideration that the latter is not reducible to the sum of its parts (or even to the ensemble of relationships between the parts). It allows for the definition of all the properties of a given situation in relational modes, both the relationships between the elements themselves (residential areas) and those between the elements and the ensemble or ensembles they fit into.

The operators of belonging, union, inclusion, intersection, and disjunction describe morphologies characterized by their dimensions and position and above all, by the negotiations of distance they carry out with the other parts. This produces relational protocols: protocols of attraction, repulsion, contiguity, dependence, sharing, indifference, exclusion, etcetera. Thus, before the morphology of a habitat is reduced to a functional typology, it is first structured as an area of exchange.

Mathematical formulae[6] aid the development of these combinations and thus become the matrix for the relational structure on which an inhabitable space is based.

In contrast to the standardized-model formatting of habitats, this tool offers the potential to negotiate with the ambiguities of one’s own humors and desires. It enables the mixing of contradictory compulsions (appearances) and even some “malentendus,” which could be translated both as misunderstandings and mishearings: “I’d like that but at the same time/maybe/not/and the opposite.” These malentendus are directly influenced by the pathologies generated by collective living oscillating between -phobia and -philia.

The secondary goal of the research, in terms of mathematical development, is about structural optimization: about defining the structural sustainability of the system as a postproduction.

Not so far from the mimesis (not mimicry) of nature, which is made up of indetermination protocols, algorithms can simulate the growth of a tree in terms of understanding the vitalism of its geometry. Its intrinsic life forces articulate its geometry-photosynthesis-equilibrium-entropy, calculating through iterations. Simultaneously, its incremental generational branches grow and its tendency for recursive re-adaptation (volume and orientation of the trunk) strives for permanent global re-equilibrium, though the generative branching and forking entropy and the re-calculation of the previous morphologies to be loaded by the evolution

The possibility of structure as a postproduction element, emerging a posteriori to become inhabitable morphologies, calls into question the traditional client-relationship and offers an alternative way of generating form. Emancipated from the conceptual logic where the structure is the starting point, the spatial contract takes the place of the social contract. Since it is conceived a posteriori, the structure is reactive, adaptive to multiplicity, as the permanent discovery of new agencies, of entities, and of singularities.

François Jouve developed in the format of this research a mathematical process for “empirically” seeking optimization,[7] by creating forms out of constraints and not vice-versa. The structural optimization algorithm differs from directly calculated structural methods such as calculating the load-bearing structure of a building after it has been designed. In contrast, the algorithm allows the architectural form to emerge from the trajectories of the transmission of forces simultaneously with the calculation that generates them. The algorithm is based on (among other things) two mathematical strategies, one taken from the derivative initiated by the research of Jacques Hadamard (to modify a shape by successive infinitesimal step, to improve the criteria we want to optimize, as a permanent variation of frontier) and the other from the protocol of the representation of complex shapes by Cartesian meshing through level set (to understand locally what could be the line of the highest or lowest resulting point, if we project the local incremental iterative calculus onto a 2D diagram, to extract the X, Y position in the space as data to reinject in the next step of the calculation).

This secondary goal of these matematical processes is achieved by an incremental and recursive optimization (ex-local, local, and hyper-local) that simultaneously calculates and design’s support structures for the physio-morphologies. Following the non-deterministic aggregation of the unpredictable overstacking of desires, the structural branching and coagulating are generated by successive iterations of calculations that physically link the interstices between morphologies so that they can support each other locally and globally. The calculations satisfy precise inputs, including the constraints and characteristics of the materials used, initial conditions, dead load, transfer of forces, intensity, and vectorization of these forces, and so forth.[8]

The mathematical process of empirical optimization makes it possible for the architectural design to react and adapt to previously established constraints, instead of the opposite.

Through the use of these computational, mathematical, and mechanization procedures, the urban structure engenders successive, improbable, and uncertain aggregations that constantly rearticulate the relationship between the individual and the collective, between top-down and bottom-up, and that reactivate the potential for self-organization, and for the creativity of the Multitude, in the pursuit of the Metabolism developed by Constant and Debord.[9] Through the technologies and procedures that exist at present, we can “unachieve” what we could call computed-slums: we can re-question and refresh the democratic delegation of power and its collateral effect: the obligation of resistance to the way in which architects are abused or self-abused to pretend to have any expertise on master city planning.

This research is being carried out with François Jouve, the mathematician in charge of working out dynamic structural strategies; with the architect and robotics designer Stephan Henrich, with Winston Hampel and Natanael Elfassy on the computational development, including some specific works of Marc Fornes; and Gaetan Robillard and Fréderic Mauclere on the physiological data collection station, following a nanotechnologies scenario by R&Sie(n)–Berdaguer & Pejus.

Text by R&Sie(n)/François Roche with assistance from David Sanson and Caroline Naphegyi. All images by R&Sie(n)/François Roche.


1. In reference to “Rules for Human ZOO,” Peter Sloterdijk (Regeln für den Menschenpark, 1997.

2. Antonio Negri in Multitudes reactivated this notion, in its political and social organizational sense, but he never tried to define the tooling, the protocols which could be applied to this physiological and ideological approach in a human social contract and organization. We know that the human pheromones (vectors of sharing knowledge) are missing or are so weak that we cannot distribute an instantaneous and collective informational network so easily. On the other hand, we could suspect the language and the notion of “libre arbitre” (free will) to be too easily influenced and manipulated as a unique channel of information (Spinoza has shown us how this notion could ironically become a self-imposed form of slavery). To start a protocol of swarm intelligences, we have to first develop the factors and vectors of exchanges from something which could be shared by analyzing the multiple disorders of human secretions, in a balance between the body and the language, as the expression of our personal contradictions between the way to negotiate speech in public space and the intimacy of our neuro-biological emission … Some things between consciousness and pre-consciousness … negotiating the schizophrenia between ‘libre arbitre’ and the bio-chemical secretion of “le corps acéphale” (body acephala), “du corps chimique, neurobiologique” (by the rereading of the concentration of Cortisol, Dopamine, Adrenaline, and Melatonin). This mishearing and/or misunderstanding of these schizoid and nonhierarchical inputs is able to inject unpredictability, un-achievement, and indeterminacy between a degree of shamanism and mathematic protocols. At the opposite of a system of survey, of a panoptical anticipation and “masterplan-ication,” the computation could absorb and articulate stochastic processes, artifacts rereading, works in progresses, with parameterizing the potential of losing control, of unknown with a latitude of self-organization transmitted by and through the multitude, in the sense of Toni Negri (see below fragment of Empire, which Negri coauthored with Michael Hardt, published in 2004):

The Communards defending their revolutionary Paris against the government forces attacking from Versailles roam about the city like ants in Rimbaud’s poetry and their barricades bustle with activity like anthill. Why would Rimbaud describe the Communards whom he loves and admires as swarming ants? When we look more closely we can see that all of Rimbaud’s poetry is full of insects, particularly the sounds of insects, buzzing, swarming, and teeming. “Insect-verse” is how one reader describes Rimbaud’s poetry, “music of the swarm.” The reawakening and reinvention of the senses in the youthful body—the centerpiece of Rimbaud’s poetic world—takes place in the buzzing and swarming of the flesh. This is a new kind of intelligence, a collective intelligence, a swarm intelligence, that Rimbaud and the Communards anticipated.

3. How to caress this permanent equilibrium-disequilibrium, far away from positivism articulated by a too much mysticism in science, in the pursuit of Auguste Conte, when geometry in architecture is mainly used as a propaganda of control, carrying again and again a magister of control, in a system of surveillance described by Michel Foucault. Paradoxically, because of the way in which architects confuse mathematics and trigonometry, it is not innocent and not anecdotic that Alan Turing and Lewis Carroll were both mathematicians: the first committed suicide in the same way that Snow White did, with the well-known missing part of Steve Job’s Apple; the second described how the schizo-paranoia of Alice was able to alter her own reality to the tangible construction of a parallel universe. Mathematics is a science, certainly, with protocols of knowledge, but it is developed with and within a speculative approach which feeds on and pushes its boundaries until pataphysic scenarios and alchemist protocols used to decode and recode the unknown, with logic and illogic, induction and deduction, a field which produced both Descartes and Leibnitz, as a permanent dispute between French Cartesianism, which confused the origin of a phenomenon with its scientific explanation, in a proto-positivistic illusion to decode and unfold the nature of everything, and Leibnitz, with his differential equations asymptotically flirting with the unknown, without pretending to touch or reformulate its unreachable (un)reality.

4. Nanoreceptors, n. (physics, from Nanos, 1 nm = 1.0 × 10 – 9 meters) nanoparticles (NP) used to capture and detect the presence of a chemical substance in a particular atmosphere. Nanoreceptors can be inhaled, making it possible to “sniff” the chemical state of the human body. Functioning: Like pollens, they are concentrated in the bronchia and attach themselves to the blood vessels. This location makes it possible for them to detect traces of stress hormones (hydrocortisone) carried by the hemoglobin. As soon as they come into contact with this substance, the phospholipidic membrane of the NP dissolves and releases several molecules, including formaldehyde (H2CO) in a gaseous state. The molecules rejected by the respiratory tract are detected using cavity ring-down spectroscopy (crds). This is a method of optical analysis using laser beams programmed to a particular frequency, making it possible to measure the density of air-borne molecules. The wavelength used for the detection of formaldehyde is around 350 nanometer. Consequently, the nanoreceptors are becoming the pheromonal re-reading of the chemical body, as one of the vectors of the negotiation between neighbourhoods. This chemical data collected in real time, could work as a substitute for the missing human pheromone….

5. A secretion and weaving machine that can generate a vertical structure by means of extrusion and sintering (full-size 3d printing) using a hybrid raw material (a bio-plastic-cement) that chemically agglomerates to physically constitute the computational trajectories is in development. This structural calligraphy works like a machinist stereotomy comprised of successive geometrics according to a strategy based on a repetitive protocol. This machine is both additive and formative. It is called Viab02.

6. Calculus parameters (inputs received via a text file of the morphology (from Rhino to Linux)):

– Position and diameter of the inhabitable spaces (the optimization calculation should go around them but touch them so as to produce structural bonding). They are made up of clusters with a minimum inhabitable volume three meters in diameter.
– Position of the vertical distributions (to be stuck into and absorbed by the structural calculation).
– Position of the areas of contact between local and overall calculations, that is, between the inhabitable morphologies and the overall structure (dead zones).

7. Shape optimization (C++ on Linux, developed by François Jouve).

8. Forces and constraints taken as system inputs:

1. The parameters for the positioning of forces are defined by their contact coordinates (given in x, y, and z) on the surface of each “base cube” volume (overall and local forces).
2. The parameters for the intensity of forces are defined by the length of the vector.
3. The parameters for the orientation of forces are defined by the original position of the vector (given in x, y, and z).
4. Parameterization of avoidance and convergence zones around the habitable clusters.
5. Parameterization of the contact areas between the local and overall calculations so as to produce structural continuity.
6. Parameterization of the g-force directly induced by the addition of volumes and the accretion of mass through successive stacking.
7. Horizontal forces (including wind).
8. Vertical forces (inhabitant load, etc.). Search and approximation of the volume resulting from the structural material surrounding the trajectories (percentage full/empty) based on the density and mechanical characteristics of the construction material. Strategies for binding heterogeneous morphologies and occupation chronologies (bottom-up). Position and definition of each cell based on the interweaving of four “family” morphologies.

9. “Mood zones” or “Emotional Realities” by Guy Debord, for the New Babylonians residents.

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