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  • Christopher Miller
    Some interesting reflections on Mathieu Helie s Emergent Urbanism blog about complex geometry and fractals versus Cartesian geometry currently in vogue in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2009
      Some interesting reflections on Mathieu Helie's "Emergent Urbanism"
      blog about complex geometry and fractals versus Cartesian geometry
      currently in vogue in architecture.

      The genesis of complex geometry

      I don’t believe that there is a dichotomy between a supposedly modern
      and traditional architecture. Instead there exist different geometric
      processes, and while traditionally builders have employed nesting
      processes in their work, for perhaps no other reason than it came
      naturally to them, modern builders have restricted themselves to
      linear geometric processes due to drawing their inspiration from
      cartesian science and engineering.

      In attempting to transform architecture into a vessel for artistic
      expression, modern architects have been trapped by their limited tool
      set, and the product of their work has often been confusing, silly, or
      utterly corrupt. There are only so many tricks that one can perform
      with linear geometry, although computers have extended the reach of
      those tricks. But the confusion of modern architects becomes even more
      obvious when they ascribe artistic merits to traditional builders who
      never aspired to be artists at all. One such instance is the
      introdution of a recent biography of the 18th century french military
      engineer Vauban by official starchitect Jean Nouvel, who described
      Vauban’s fortresses as an early form of land-art and morphing. Jean
      Nouvel asks, could a man be an artist without being aware of it?
      Vauban was not an artist at all. Military necessity led him to employ
      geometric processes that significantly increased the complexity of
      fortifications, and it is merely incidental that today we find his
      projects to have artistic merits.

      The process through which Vauban’s work became worthy of architectural
      praise provides the key to the distinction between linear and nesting
      geometry. Vauban was not himself the inventor of the star fort. Those
      had been around for more than a century when he began his career for
      the army of king Louis XIV. The basic star fort was a simple concept:
      the old masonry walls of the medieval age had shown themselves to be
      obsolete with the advent of cannons, and they had been replaced with
      thick banks of earth dug out of trenches whose major flaw was to
      provide space out of reach of defensive fire at its angles. The angles
      were thus extended into diamond-shaped turrets in the first pass at a
      feedback correction, introducing nesting geometry and initiating the
      first step of the genesis of a fractal.

      (Continues, with illustrations at the above URL)


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada
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