Ensō city vision video presentation from Oleg Maslovskiy on Vimeo.
In the 20th century, the modern movement in architecture drew up grand plans to remake cities for the machine age. Le Corbusier, the leader of the movement, conceived his Radiant City plan. He designed every part of it himself so that it would work as he had willed it to. His machine provided the solution to four problems: inhabitation, work, recreation, circulation. Everything else was removed. The idea of a machine city expressed three assumptions that led to the catastrophic results of modernism.
The first assumption is that the city is a machine that solves a problem. It can then be designed as a tool would be. The second assumption is that the will of a designer can be imposed at the scale of a city. The third assumption is that the form of a city, its morphology, can be conceived in advance of its development ("planned"). After a titanic fight over the future of New York City, Jane Jacobs explained this error in the final chapter of Death and Life of Great American Cities. The "kind of problem a city is" shares nothing with the physical and engineering sciences. It is like the biological sciences, a problem of organized complexity. The city does not solve a problem or some problems, it provides the environment to solve the infinite diversity of little problems that human beings have. It is so complex that no single human can ever hope to understand it entirely.
Its morphology must be defined by its growth process as it adapts to changes in human needs and desires. The city cannot have a designer. It cannot be built according to a description fine-tuned to perfection. This has become obvious to practically everyone, although urbanism in the english-speaking world is still tied down by the title "urban planner" in the face of all the evidence that planning makes no difference whatsoever. Still the practice of large scale zoning and site planning continues. The problem was the absence of an alternative theory. Today this theory exists.
Research into DNA and cellular automata has shown how systems of transformations, as opposed to descriptions, create complexity in nature through emergence. Cells which multiply themselves and interact following simple sets of transformation rules produce forms of astonishing complexity. The definition of emergence is thus: it is a form obtained as a result of following certain processes. The opposite of emergence is design: it is a form conceived by a designer which will be used as a blueprint for its realization. In emergence, form is the result. In design, form is the starting point.
Modern Shanghai aglomeration was chosen as a playground or a test renge for implementation of emergent urbanism. The city itself is one of the greatest examples of emergent dynamics and complexity with it’s own unrepeatable spirit. Shanghai is definitely one of the powerful and ambitious cities in the world with it’s fastly growing population, economical and industrial influence. A city with it’s own complexity, contradictions, problems and potentials.
One of the greatest attributes of Shanghai is it’s unique grid. Very complex, multilayered and interesting artifact. Shanghai grid become one of the start points used to generate a new complexity. The grid was digitally and algorithmically interpreted to extract and analyse such parameters as density, location of main transport nodes or city morphology.
During the complex process of parametric analysis and corrections the grid was updated with additional network of highways. Network is concentrated mainly at peripheral city area. Such approach allows to rise density in suburbian zones, decentralize the city and make it more uniform. Peripheral and suburbian areas of Shanghai have many struggles and problems, but in the meantime it offers a great opportunity for city expansion with application of different urban models.
Current proposal is based on a cellular automaton and mainly with implementation of Game of Life rules devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway. Such methodology generally allows to create complex urban structure which is based on emergent nature instead of strict and predictable urban plan definition.
Game of Life cells generation is based on a city grid defined in previous states. Algorithmic interpretation of a traditional city layout helps to create parametric and self-organisable spaces as a part of complex emergent system. In the meantime whole structure is consistent with place and adopts Shanghai urban grid.
Generally current proposal is based on investigation of potential for application of algorithmically created formations within urban context. Newly created city structure is based on levels developed with Game of Life states and interpreted with QuadTree mathematical algorithm. Each level is a generative platform for creation of city districts. Conway’s Game of Life is again implemented to achieve complexity and also to predict each level proprieties.
Whole Shanghai city is divided on 36 sectors with 50x50 cells grid. Size of every cell is proportionally based on a size of city blocks within a central area of the city. Complex district systems are generated with using of Game of Life rules. District’s cells formation is limited by layer area and density. Sectors division allows to interpret each part of Shanghai individually and with different automaton rules.
A basic structure unit of a conventional city was always a single building situated on a certain site. Similarly Ensō city’s districts are combined from thousands of buildings - cells. Very complex and multilayered system of city districts creates conditions where life within each district is generated with another complex rule or process.
Current proposal is trying to achieve complexity using digital interpretation of tension fields within a closed container (district). By placing points of force generation and force attraction a complex vector field is created. Fields of forces have not only physical notion, but also could be interpreted as a life potentials or vectors generating urban fabric within each district.
In order to solve such complex approach of generating an emergent urbanism we need to implement new technological methodology and forms. There is no visible solution allowing to generate, maintain and rebuild such complex structure within a current paradigm, when a building perceived as a static structure. Current concept is working on the idea of a city as a self-organising robotic system. Each district contains thousands of robotic building modules which are able to self-organise, self-assemble or self-reconfigure. Each building robot contains a system of magnetic joining which allows a locomotion movement of a robotic cell along whole structure. The idea is based on a research of self-assembling robots. Implementation of such systems in architecture and urbanism opens a huge potential for development and rebuilding of complex structures and systems.