Visiting Scholar Seminar: Christina Cogdell

The Gene in Context: Organic Complex Systems as a Model for Generative Architecture
Seminar, Shaughnessy House, 16 July 2009

Visiting Scholar Christina Cogdell presents her research:

In avant-garde “generative architecture,” the boundaries are blurring between the theories, processes, and tools of architecture and the biomedical and evolutionary sciences. In part, this stems from a common reliance upon computation to generate novel solutions for problems involving multi-dimensional data sets, such as those derived from genetic sequencing or the multifaceted conditions affecting building design and construction. In addition to simulating evolutionary processes in a timeframe exponentially faster than actual evolution, scientists use in silico modeling—the computational corollary of in vitro and in vivo experiments—to examine the multiplicity of conditions that underscore development and disease. These tools, therefore, are opening new means of conducting scientific and architectural research that include the ability to virtually study changing forms under different conditions as well as to directly materialize these as 3D models.

LabStudio—whose name captures this confluence of science and architecture—is a research and teaching collaboration formed in 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania by architect Jenny Sabin and biologist Peter Lloyd Jones. It is one of a few—including the Emergent Technologies and Design program at the Architectural Association—that are seriously engaging theories of emergence, self-organization,morphogenesis, and nonlinear complex adaptive systems. Sabin and Jones’s collaboration has focused on three main themes—motility, surface design, and networking—which are relevant both for insights into cellular processes within the human body, and for contemporary digital design seeking to use new technologies to create networked structures with transformative capabilities.

Christina Cogdell received her Ph.D. in Art History in 2001 from the University of Texas. She is the author of Eugenic Design: Streamlining America in the 1930s (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). She co-edited the anthology Popular Eugenics: National Efficiency and American Mass Culture in the 1930s (Ohio University Press, 2006). Her work has also been published in Art, Sex, and Eugenics: Corpus Delecti (eds. Fae Brauer and Anthea Callen; Ashgate, 2008), as well as in Design Issues, American Quarterly, and The Journal for the Society of Architectural Historians. She is currently conducting research on “generative architecture” in relation to recent scientific theories of emergence, self-organization, development, evolution, and complex adaptive systems. After teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Santa Fe College, and California State University at Fullerton, she is currently Associate Professor of Design, Art History and American Studies at the University of California at Davis.

Christina Cogdell was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2009.


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