Complexity & Simplicity

Recent development in digital technologies and digital design tools enable us to address complex situations in architectural environments, ranging in scale from structures and buildings to urban contexts. We often expect technology to better help us manage the complexity of life, to simplify our daily lives and tasks. However, these developments also raise the question of whether design technologies encourage complexity at the expense of simplicity in both the design process and lived environments. Does computation cause complexity? Or does it enable simplicity? 

We invite the eCAADe community to address the multifaceted notions of Complexity & Simplicity, which are encountered in architectural design processes. Approaches discussing the theme from the perspective of computer aided design education; design processes and methods; design tool developments; and novel design applications, as well as real world experiments and case studies are welcomed. 

What is the role of complexity or simplicity as part of the design process? Does the use of complex design methods offer simplicity to the design process itself? Is it possible to design complexity with simple methods? Does the use of computation in design necessitate complexity or offer means to control it?

Digital design tools assist in managing complex design processes. Real world environments, which architectural design addresses, are inherently complex in nature. New sensor technologies and computation offer means to sense and analyse in real-time a variety of different environmental factors. This enables real-time adaptation of the design process and design outcome in virtual design tool contexts, as well as the adaptation of physical structures and conditions in real architectural environments. Paradoxically, in these complex adaptive systems, complexity is created through simple interaction patterns. What new digital design possibilities could be created by employing of complex adaptive systems?

New digital technologies and design methods offer exciting opportunities for architectural design. This plethora of new possibilities also creates challenges in education as they are not replacements but rather extensions to the old and tested methods. How should the design education be developed in the future? In addition, some critical appraisal of future architectural and urban environments is necessary: Can experiential complexity of environments, created by multisensory environments and complex forms, be seen as enrichment or can it have negative side effects on the level of experience? Moreover, are environments embedded with complex technological processes more technologically vulnerable? What is the relation of sustainability – both ecological and social – to the complexity (or simplicity) of processes and forms of future architecture?


Last updated: 8.4.2016