EMERGENT MORPHOLOGIES  [2017-8]
 

PHD RESEARCH EXPERIMENTS | IN-VITRO & IN-SILICO FORM-SEARCHING STUDIES

The term emergence, in the sciences, refers to self-organising principles found in complex systems, as John Holland (2000: 12) describes: 

 

We are everywhere confronted with emergence in complex adaptive systems – ant colonies, networks of neurones, the immune system, the Internet, and the global economy, to name a few – where the behaviour of the whole is much more complex than the behaviour of the parts.

 

In its organisational structure, simple rules evolve into complex patterns without a central leader. Studies of emergence overlap between developmental biology, chemistry and mathematics, where such principles can be translated into mathematical models for generating complex forms and structures within computational environments (in-silico). The project here presents a series of experiments conducted as part of my PhD research to explore emergent behaviour through form-finding processes, bifurcating into two design explorations. 

The first involves in-silico experiments, which computes flocking behaviour using agent-based simulation to generate a three dimensional printed form. Agents are autonomous entities operating according to a set of rules within a digital environment over time. Agent-based simulation provides emergent and complex behavioural patterns via the implementation of simple rules. The agent-based design form is digitally fabricated and later retrieved as a point-cloud model using photogrammetry. The point-cloud model becomes a ‘seeding’ scaffold to further simulate different morphological possibilities. 

 

The second involves in-vitro experiments conducted at ASCUS Lab in Edinburgh. It observes kombucha growth, soil microorganisms and slime mould. Different trapping mechanisms were explored on the slime mould as a methodological study of its emergent behaviour, commonly associated with its ability to solve shortest path problems in order to reach its food source. The subsequent experiments are part of a collaboration with architectural designer and researcher Asad Khan for a workshop conducted during the ArcInTex conference in April 2018, hosted by the RAFT research group at Edinburgh College of Art. The collaboration sets out as a speculative probe where each point in a point-cloud, similar to the spores within organisms, becomes a site of fecundity, transforming the fixed numerical coordinates from its dormant state into latencies. These experiments provided a preliminary insight for developing a computational design framework. It emphasises on the emergence of forms as a dynamic system through bottom-up form-finding processes, outside the pre-determined control of the designer.