This tag is associated with 48 posts

Network Nature

The blog medium invites disclosures about work in progress. So here’s the how the table of contents is shaping up for my new book: Coyne , Richard. Network Nature: Digital Technology and the Semiotics of Place. London: Bloomsbury.  The draft is due end of March, including 30 illustrations, and it is on track so far. Table of … Continue reading


Nature, the organic and the biological exhibit growth, decay and disorder, or at least an order that is outside of human mastery. Technology equates to function, control, precision, efficiency and factory production. It’s easy to place modernity at odds with nature, and on the side of technology. But as any student of architecture knows, there was a … Continue reading

The biolingual architect

I retain fond memories of Biology 101 — a lab-based undergraduate science elective in which we lab-coat rookies dissected Formaldehyde-soaked frogs and weighed the collective scalps of lamented snap-frozen drosophila. Not least, we learned the language of nature: zygotes and gametes, monocots and dicots, dominants and recessives, liverworts and mosses. But no bio-vocabularizing prepares you for the zoo of terms … Continue reading

Slime and goo

Nature and health are closely aligned, but not always positively in the case of buildings. Left unchecked, nature delivers invasive plant life with root systems that unseat brickwork, and break through water barriers. Fungus, mould, lichen and other spore-producing organisms (cryptogams) invade architectural cracks, pores and surfaces. Invasive nature invokes a kind of “disgust” according … Continue reading

Lifeless architecture

Architecture has more in common with geology than biology. At least this is one of the conclusions I take from a series of interesting articles from a special issue of Arq (Architecture Research Quarterly) on architecture and biotechnology. More accurately, it’s the skeletons, hardened excreta, dead tissue, and shells that provide the structural support for … Continue reading

What is nature for?

Nature means different things to different people. The meaning depends on the context of discussion and action. According to geographers Phil Macnaghten and John Urry in their book Contested Natures, nature has to be negotiated. So we are entitled to ask what nature is for — as a concept. I’ve identified at least two main discursive uses of the … Continue reading

What does architecture represent?

For the architectural semiotician, buildings and building elements operate as signs, pointing to something other than themselves. So for the semiotician one of the key roles of architecture is to represent. For the semiotically informed, the things of nature are amongst the targets of representation, evident in floral and foliated ornamentation, frescoes of nature scenes, shapes that resemble tree … Continue reading

Whatever happened to architectural semiotics?

Few would deny that architecture communicates, and in that sense is a language, or at least like a language. As pointed out by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco architecture does something else as well: it functions. So a substantial tiled roof not only communicates protection from the elements, but functions to provide such protection. Occasionally the two become … Continue reading

The magic circle

When I was a kid, the Magic Circle was well known as an association of stage magicians. Those within it knew the rules of the illusions and had to keep them secret. The other meaning of magic circle is obvious: a circle that is magic. Perhaps it’s the former that the philosopher Johanne Huizinga had in mind when … Continue reading

The well tempered intellectual

I was pleased to read Alberto Perez-Gomez’s recent book Attunement: Architectural Meaning After the Crisis of Modern Science which endorses the pivotal importance of attunement, emotion, mood and Stimmung in architecture. In fact Alberto’s book came out at the same time as my Mood and Mobility: Navigating the Emotional Spaces of Digital Social Networks, both with MIT … Continue reading