The Vitruvius House Series

Abstract: This project will result in a series of five houses which provide a modern interpretation of Marcus Vitruvius’s architectural theories on beauty as realized with symmetry and proportion. In order to realize these house designs, computer scripts will be written to create basic building elements and arrange them in patterns commonly found in nature. When the five houses are complete, the scripts will be posted on the internet so any designer can expand on the experiment.

Stage 1: Scripts from Emulation. This design approach will be model-based; a catalogue of over twenty natural growth patterns will be translated into computer scripts. These patterns include phyllotaxis (the distribution of seeds on a sunflower), concretious growth (governing the lattice-like skeletons of coral), malacological growth (governing the shape of mollusk shells), recursion (mimicking fractal branching in plants), etc. A model of each of these growth and distribution patterns is critical to map how the parts of these natural systems relate to the whole. These patterns are already well documented in scientific literature and the equations will be translated into a common computer language used by architects. The algorithms we be modeled in Grasshopper for Rhino so that it can reach the widest possible architectural audience.

Stage 2: Design the Houses. The five houses, each a single family home sited in the rural Northeast, will be organized by the implied grid set up by its structural pattern - the pattern generated from the Stage 1 scripts. Further, fenestration, cladding and other building elements will be deployed and sized by using a collage of complimentary Stage 1 scripts. This parametric process is proposed to explore Vitruvius's assertion that well-designed architecture displays "the greatest harmony in the symmetrical relations of the different parts to the general magnitude of the whole." (in Book III of The Ten Books on Architecture). This project expands and modernizes Vitruvius's (Greek) notion which relies on the parts-to-whole analogy of the idealized human body; it aims to explore idealized forms from other bodies in nature. In that way, this is an aesthetic exercise, not biomimicry of structural solutions. They aim to illustrate how a wide variety of architectural personalities may result from (re)visiting centuries-old wisdom with new tools.