■Top-down vs. Bottom-up |
The readers may notice that the process we have adopted for this project is very much similar to a bottom-up natural providence by which, for example, an anthill is built up.
Do the builders of such a gigantic anthill pictured above envisage the ultimate image of what they will construct like human constructors? Obviously, the answer is negative. The truth is that the anthill is the accumulation of countless chance movements of working ants, as they depend on quite a limited information in their immediate neighborhood. The ants, in their decisions on where they should drop the small piece of soil they have carried, are bound, not by a prepared “grand design” but by such a minute clues as their co-workers’ directions, speeds and hormonal secretions.
In this emergent – or more precisely becoming – process, local relationships and conditions always precede the global output: the latter suddenly comes into existence at a point where accumulative actions of the local agents (e.g., ants in the above example) reach a certain threshold plateau.
It is a complete opposite of the raditional production process in which the global blueprint always precede the partial details. In contrast to such a top-down, traditional ‘artificial planning’, we may compare the process based on accumulation of loosely harmonized partialities to natural providence or metaplanning process. The latter, as it puts partial/local over whole/global, is a genuine example of a bottom-up process.
The traditional top-down process, as explained above, always presuppose a picture, or a blueprint, of a whole. We call it traditional, as it is the way of thought to which the professional architectural community has been accustomed to and rely on in our daily practice throughout the history.
The spatial layout of “EAST & WEST” is a clear opposite of such planning process, wherein an architect exercises his/her personal creativity – for we did not anticipate in any sense the result of the particles’ seat-changing game, like the working ants do not anticipate how their anthill will eventually look like as they restlessly carries its ingredients. The architectural originality of this project resides in this bottom-up process, in which the entire picture is given as the result at the end instead of the starting blueprint that the output should follow.
■From Modern Architecture to the Architecture of Our Own Age
The Western Architecture history, throughout the Classic to Modern age, that we study and base our professional practice on is almost entirely relies on the top-down process (of course except vernacular architecture researched by Bernard Rudofsky and others). Despite the wide variety in the resulted outlook of individual works, it always has some sort of anticipation of the final product, or blueprints.
This heritage of the dominance of top-down design is the source of the faith, shared by both professionals and society in general, in architect’s personal mastery, sophisticated intentions and original styles. In other words, architect’s authorship has been tacitly guaranteed by the undoubted superiority of top-down planning. This is also why the famous “architecture as machine” metaphor still works well in our age.
However, in order to take a giant step into the next stage of architectural history, the top-down planning appears not as a infinite source of inspiration but rather as a invisible constraints for us. What we see, although still vaguely, as the guiding lights for the next stage awaiting us are concepts such as ‘nature’, ‘providence’,
‘becoming’, ‘bottom-up’, ‘nonlinear’, ‘aspect’, ‘relativity’, ‘biological organism’, ‘unconscious’ and ‘anti-logic’.
The discussion above may reminds the readers of the theories and practices of Japanese Metabolists in 60s-70s. However, from the refreshed view on “top-down/bottom-up” distinction in our age, they do not appear to succeed – perhaps partly because of the technological limitations of their age – to go beyond the constraints of top-down planning legacy, although some of their ‘plans’ actually went so far as to indicate what the output of ‘anti-planning’ would look like.
If we try to take a bold step to create Contemporary Architecture of our own age in the true sense of words, we should never forget about the other side of a coin of a poietic process, i.e., the bottom-up way of thought. It is something, we repeat, that can be indicated by the concept of autopoietic becoming in contrast with artificial poiesis or allopoiesis. At the same time, it is somehow connectable to the zen theory of non-self (Mu-Ga) and non-ego (Mu-Shi).
Finally, we would like to insist in order to avoid misleading that our assertion of bottom-up process does not mean its sole superiority over top-down measures. What we meant to emphasize is that we need a sophisticated discretion to handle both perspectives to shake up our practice for the architecture to come. We always need both sides of coins, black and white, clean and dirty, light and darkness.
[Translated by Shingo Tsuji (CHIASMA FACTORY) ]
– Designed by NORISADA MAEDA ATELIER + Osamu Murayama
(Architects in Charge: Naoya Kurose and Masaki Ishibashi)
– Structural Engineering by UMEZAWA STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS
– Constructed by MARUYAMA KENSETSU COORPORATION
– Programming Support: Proxy NY (GSAPP, Columbia University)
【EAST & WEST】 http://bit.ly/XUlr1e
the second piece of the Algorithmic Architecture Triptych
I remember you（2009）
Architects in Charge:Ryuji Shiraishi
“Algorithmic Architecture and Architects’ Authority”
“Algorithm to Turn Memory into Light”
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