The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computations, and Cognition

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Mit Press, 1990 - Architecture - 292 pages
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The Logic of Architecture is the first comprehensive, systematic, and moderntreatment of the logical foundations of design thinking. It provides a detailed discussion oflanguages of architectural form, their specification by means of formal grammars, theirinterpretation, and their role in structuring design thinking.Supplemented by more than 200 originalillustrations, The Logic of Architecture reexamines central issues of design theory in the light ofrecent advances in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and the theory of computation. Therichness of this approach permits sympathetic and constructive analysis of positions developed by awide range of theorists and philosophers from Socrates to the present.Mitchell first considers howbuildings may be described in words and shows how such descriptions may be formalized by thenotation of first order predicate calculus. This leads to the idea of a critical language forspeaking about the qualities of buildings. Turning to the question of representation by drawings andscale models, Mitchell then develops the notion of design worlds that provide graphic tokens whichcan be manipulated according to certain grammatical rules. In particular, he shows how domains ofgraphic compositions possible in a design world may be specified by formal shape grammars. Designworlds and critical languages are connected by showing how such languages may be interpreted indesign worlds. Design processes are then viewed as computations in a design world with the objectiveof satisfying predicates of form and function stated in a critical language.William J. Mitchell isG. Ware and Edythe M. Travelstead Professor of Architecture at Harvard University and a founder ofthe Computer Aided Design Group in Los Angeles. Among the books he has authored or coauthored areThe Poetics of Gardens, The Art of Computer Graphics Programming, and Computer Aided ArchitecturalDesign.

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It interprets Architecture from a reductionism point of view, for the building is unequivocally decomposed into parametric components. Such encoding method actually imposes a fixed model, or ontology, on the architecture which can always be read in many different ways. Mitchell succeeded in formulating architectural design as problem-solving, however, it has been criticized to be unfeasible since design problems can not be defined precisely as in scientific fields. It's interesting to see the contrast between Mitchell's approach and contemporary approaches such as evolutionary design, swarm intelligence, and interactive design. Anyway, it is a masterpiece with deep insights. 

About the author (1990)

William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and MediaArts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT's Media Lab. He authored manybooks, including The World's Greatest Architect (2008) and PlacingWords: Symbols, Space, and the City (2005), both published by the MIT Press.

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