This project was all about the process of reaction diffusion. My key question moving through this project was:

How can the process of reaction diffusion inform architectural design?

In order to explain this there are several fundamental elements that need to be explained, for starters, here is what reaction diffusion looks like:

So what is reaction diffusion? In a nutshell, reaction diffusion is a physical process which exhibits wave-front like motion based off an initial seed of points inside a closed system. However it exhibits a very interesting property (which was discovered by the Russian Scientists Beloussov and Zhabotinsky in the 1950’s) in that when wave-fronts meet, they do not add together to form a superposition, but rather nullify eachother, creating a void space.

Secondly, Stephen Wolfram defined a system called classes of complexity which explains the level of organisation that a closed system will reach on its own accord. There are four classes in this definition:

  • Class 1 – patterns evolve into a stable equilibrium
  • Class 2 – Most of the patterns evolve into a stable or oscillating state – most of the randomness is filtered out, but some remains
  • Class 3 – patterns begin to evolve in a seemingly random manner, localised noise filters out much of the initial randomness
  • Class 4 – patterns reach extreme complexity, but remain in a state of perpetual evolution. The patterns which emerge are never fully resolved.

Reaction diffusion exists in a class 4 capacity according to Wolfram’s system, and it was this notion that provoked my interest in the idea of dynamic stability. Particles in reaction diffusion systems move in and out of patterns, to quote Brian Goodwin, “If [the system] moves inot the chaotic regime, it will come out again in its own accord, and if it strays too far into the ordered regime it will tend to melt back into dynamic fluidity where there is a rich but labile order, one that is inherently unstable and open to change.”

Thirdly, the results of a reaction diffusion process exist in a boundary known as the uskate world. The above graph is an illustration of what the outcome will look like based on two values, F – the Flow rate of particles (the vertical parameter), and k – the kill rate of particles (the horizontal parameter). This ultimately means that reaction diffusion processes are deterministic, the process is not arbitrary and the results will conform to an expected outcome.

So the first thing I started working with was reaction diffusion in a 2D system (see above, or earlier post). Immediately this created a strong sense of an architectural language, almost forming a plan with discernible void spaces and passages, but I really wanted to push it further.

The above images show how I was able to get reaction diffusion working in a 3D system, so now I could simulate 3D wave-fronts. This process however did not lend it self extremely well to architecture as it tended to create very tight and closed off results.

However I did find a region of the uskate world (F = 0.0140, k = 0.0450) in which the result really began to open up and became more suitable for architectural purposes (above). And I also did some 3D prints of these as I thought having these in the tangible form could inspire something more (below).

At this moment, the process changed dramatically. Up until now, I had been working with the hope that the architecture would emerge from the process I was carrying out, but ultimately, I would have to move in manually and examine the the spaces on my own.

So next, I tried to extract individual moments inside the 3D reaction diffusion blocks that I thought had more architectural potential, and then out of that, cataloged the better results (above). However, I felt this moved too far from what reaction diffusion actually represented, as I would have to composite these elements which I found into a greater structure, and it would no longer be representative of that process.

So I moved back to the 2D forms. and found an interesting occurrence in that the individual 2D layers of reaction diiffusion could be stacked up to create a 3D extruded form like the ones shown above. Below are two animations which describe this process in 2D and the latter the translation into a 3D form.

This lent itself to architecture better than a lot of the other things I’d tried, forming a natural canopy like structure that could be experienced as a courtyard upon entry into the building. Furthermore, an interesting result was the surface articulation that resulted from this method. After doing an investigation into the different kinds of surface articulation provided by this method, I settled on the one pictured below. For me, it represented the process best, giving the impression of growth and an almost coral-like appearance.

I really wanted this to manifest itself inside the building too, and I did this in two ways. The first was how the space was created inside.

In the plans I tried to form a closed perimeter which did not intersect with any of the reaction diffusion matter. I then used this perimeter line to excavate everything inside it, leaving behind a cleaner resulting space. Interestingly, this method does not create a closed shell, but it creates one completely continuous form.

The other thing I did was to extrude some of the reaction diffusion matter through the lower floor, creating raised elements all over the plan which people would need to negotiate as they navigated the building.

And lastly, I left some reaction diffusion matter fully extruded through to the top floor in order to create some spatial division, and also to designate where my spa pools and changing rooms would be placed.

So what did the critics think?

Overall, the project was good, but the final output was somewhat lacking. Naturally, with a paper called processing, my focus for a lot of this semester was on how far the process could be pushed. This for me meant that I did not put enough emphasis on the architectural side of things and it was indeed quite rushed. This is where a lot of the criticism lay. I had done a lot of iteration with the raw form, but not nearly enough for different architectural arrangements.

However that said, the critics felt that despite having done a lot of form finding over the semester, there was still a lot more that could be done with a process of this kind. This of course they recognised as a time constraint of the 12 week semester, but it would be interesting to see where this could end up if I were to continue it.

One idea that I’m interested in that was suggested by one of the critics was to observe what would happen if ‘obstalces’ were to be included in the simulation in processing. These obstacles could be the spatial definition, and then the reaction diffusion matter could be grown/simulated around these objects. This would almost certainly be better than going into the model later on and attempting to post-rationalise the spaces that I would want to create.