Computational modeling in architecture based on a sheaf-theoretic, quantum-semiotic measurement framework

Excerpt from the abstract to a joint research grant proposal for a cooperation with CPNS Center for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences at California State University, Sacramento (freshly submitted, and still in the processes of consideration):

Today, the architectural model and the built building tend to be both equally much regarded as ‘models’: the omnipresence of images seems to make it superfluous that the ‘manners of appearing’ demands the physical reality as a kind of proof. Thereby, the model is not enriched, it loses its very character: namely a particular kind of ‚speculative potency’.

(Werner Oechslin, »Das Architekturmodell – Idea Materialis«, in: Die Medien und die Architektur. Hg. von Wolfgang Sonne, Berlin, München, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2011, S. 131-155 (my own translation from German, VB))

Models are in demand where abstract ideas play a part and need to be rationalized and communicated. The legacy of architectural models is in closer familiarity with method – with mathesis – than with a modern understanding of theory as a framework for explanation (Werner Oechslin). Its entire reason of existence is to lend itself for active communication in media res, not merely as a reflective explanation post rem or as a normative prescription ante rem. It is precisely this character of modesty, openness to speculation coupled with a firm sobriety towards all too fantastical flights of fancy that seems to have come out of fashion and – as some argue (e.g. Mario Carpo) – out of service within the contemporary paradigm of digital modeling and its fascination for a computer graphically induced Virtual Reality: the omnipresence of images seems to make the notion of the model, with its in media res character, superfluous. This project shares the view of Werner Oechslin who insists that this is not a gain, but an impoverishment for architecture. It pursues the following idea of how this legacy may be continued: it will explore the peculiarly »manifest« and »physical« character of a computational model in terms of recent innovations in quantum information theory and its underlying topological structure, and the manifestation of this structure in solid state physics. We intend to translate mathematically sophisticated but state of the art procedures from quantum physics into the corpus of architectural categories. Our proposition is to introduce »quantum-geometrical spectrums« and »topological phases« into the discourse. This entails that we introduce notions of code, signals, and their constitutive cryptological/analytical character into architectural theory. Like this, we intend to work towards a quantum semiotic understanding of measurement for 21st century architectural theory. The formalism for this quantum semiotic measurement framework will be grounded in a topological interpretation of quantum theory which applies sheaf theoretic topology. The architectonic perspective upon this quantum semiotic measurement framework will be grounded in a materialist informatics perspective on code, and a media theoretic interpretation of the role of encryption/decipherment in information technology. Both the formalism and the architectonic perspective will be translated to and grounded in the field of computational modeling in architecture.

The value of this basic research to the larger academic public is that it promises to contribute to the development of an understanding of theory that does not fall back into structuralist frameworks (even if by deferral or negation of them, such as poststructuralism). Our proposition is that the predominancy of linearity (even if complexly intertwined) can be replaced with a predominancy of spectrums. This allows us to think networks not as derivatives of linearity, but the other way around: linear connections can be considered as contingent renderings out of concrete, yet quantum-geometrically indefinite, potentia. In architecture, this means that the more or less latent totalitarian genericness of the rapidly spreading practice of »parametricism« can be checked, cultivated and controlled, while appropriating and affirming the digital means on which it works.

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