The Relational Body

The symmetries of the pillow can be traced back to periodic cycles with identical beginnings and ends; its upright stance will be traced back to a linear range increase. This common surface is obtained by composing one linear transformation with two periodic ones. Images: pp 44-5, 48 © IJP and John Pickering, photography by Stefano Graziani; pp 46, 47(t), 50(t&b), 51, 52(t), 53 © IJP; pp 47(b), 49, 50(c) © IJP photography by Stefano Graziani; p 52(b) © IJP; photo by mHjT

Foster + Partners, Al Raha Beach, Plot 801, Abu Dhabi, 2007
The seemingly intuitive form of the building is in fact based on a sustainable environmental strategy that relies on a /series of passive controls, permitting for natural ventilation cooling and minimisation of solar gains while allowing views out. None of these surfaces looks like the pillow itself. A form shaped by modulation has no discrete limbs; one cannot chop it off into pieces nor indulge in the permutation and scaling of parts to which parametric ‘invention’ is often reduced. Relationships act as parts only in a loose, strictly functional sense, inasmuch as they can be manipulated independently to alter a whole. 1
1. Text © 2011 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. See George Liaropoulos-Legendre, IJP: The Book of Surfaces, AA Publications (London), 2003, pp 2, 8. Consider, for instance, the parametric seed of the pillow that in time hatched into Henderson Waves. None resembles the form, yet all jointly determine it. The wavy forms of the louvres wrapping around the building are shaped to reduce solar radiation on the facade depending on orientation. And the pillow’s subsequent cell-like division into two, three or more swellings reflects the number of phases fed to a periodic function. The three relations determine the motions that shape it in breadth, width and depth, and clarify – if their interplay can be unravelled – why it looks the way it does. Parametric surfaces are naturally inured to this mode of thought because their constitutive parts are not fragments, in the sense that a cornice would constitute a fragment of an elevation, but relationships. With their dependent functions, variable parametric surfaces are both a means to complexity and the way out of its mystifying embrace. Had they not been identified as antecedents, it could not have been retrospectively read.

Updated: 29.10.2014 — 02:58