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Semiological Crowds

Patrik Schumacher Studio
Assistant: Pierandrea Angius

All social life is communicative interaction, taking place in designed spaces among designed artefacts. These spaces and artefacts help to set up and define the communicative situations unfolding within and around them. All design is communication design. The societal function of urban and architectural design is the innovative ordering and framing of communicative interaction. The designed settings/spaces are themselves communications that define, premise and prime the communicative interactions that are expected to take place within that frame. Each frame is embedded within a system of frames that can be understood as a system of signification. Architecture’s task has three dimensions: organisation, articulation and signification. The three criteria of a successful design are thus its physical spacing/accessibility, its perceptual palpability, and its cognitive intelligibility. Every designer adapts to and intervenes intuitively within the spontaneous and historically evolving semiological system of the built environment. The aim of the project brief is to move from an intuitive participation within an evolving semiosis to an explicit design agenda that understands the design of an architectural complex as an opportunity to design a new, coherent system of signification without relying on the familiar codes found in the existing built environments.

A new, purpose built environment for a sufficiently complex social institution so as to warrant and enable the design of an artificial architectural language or system of signification. The designed habitat or work environment would be an information rich, dense built environment that orders and codes/reveals the manifold social interactions to be expected within its spaces. Relevant distinctions in the programme domain are to be correlated with distinctions in the spatial/formal domain. The types of information that are to be encoded are the function type, the social type, and the location type. On the side of the signifier we can distinguish the following dimensions/registers of encoding: the positional dimension the spatial shape dimension. These three dimensions are functionally equivalent and can substitute each other.

The designed semiological system should be conceived as a parametric system, i.e. the various distinctions and their correlations are subject to parametric variation. The programme domain, the domain of the signified, is best understood in terms of interaction patterns or communicative activities. These patterns of communicative interaction can be modelled via programmed agents that respond to the coded environmental clues. These agents aggregate and self-organise into crowds. The behaviour of the crowds are specific with respect to their environment and its functional designation. They are semiological, functional crowds. Here crowd modelling goes far beyond the mere simulation of circulatory flows. All intended life processes might be simulated. This implies that – for the first time in the history of architecture – the meaning of the system of signification can enter the digital model (design medium) and thus becomes the object of cumulative design elaboration.