This tag is associated with 33 posts

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

What’s the point of symbols?

Symbols are getting a bad name. More precisely, symbols of bad things are gaining more airtime than symbols of good things — lately. Take for example walls. Last month Andrew Solomon wrote in the Guardian “Walls are concrete symbols of exclusion, and exclusion is seldom a diplomatic move.” There’s the prospect of a wall at Calais to curb … 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

Forests that think

The “science of signs,” semiotics, provides valuable insights into the relationship between the highly artificial world of networked computers and the world of nature. First, we have to abandon the idea that at the core of artificial, animal and plant communication systems we have data. According to a common computational typology there’s data (just 1s and 0s, or … Continue reading

There’s an app for that

Long before smartphones existed I undertook a course that taught me to identify plant specimens. This was part of my landscape architecture degree. The course was to help designers select plants for parks, gardens, street planting, national parks, reclamation sites, etc. I learned the botanical names by rote of a couple of hundred species, mostly those available in and around Melbourne. I … Continue reading

Reading the book of nature

“Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” How do you read nature? Nature is a system of signs after all. The theory of signs (semiotics) is interesting not least as it repositions the discussion of nature away from the reductive notion of data towards the totality of experience (see post One … Continue reading

One with nature

“Architecture answers to the human need to become one with nature,” headlines a blog post reporting a speculative project featuring houses covered in foliage. To be “one with nature” still has currency in this high tech age. The phrase has several uses, e.g. to indicate: an attitude and set of practices in which people recognise their co-dependence … Continue reading

Nature in retrospect

I’ve just caught up with Thunderbirds Are Go, the recent remake of the futuristic 1960s Thunderbirds marionette series. This new series meshes CGI models of puppet-like humans with physical models of rockets, cars, roads islands and cities. So it’s very high tech (from Weta) made to look like tech from 50 years ago. The CGI … Continue reading

Smarter surfaces

Living human and animal skin is palpably different from a touch screen video display. Digital technologies lie at the far end of a spectrum that begins with completely unadorned, raw, nature as you find it (e.g. unadorned human skin, or a leaf), and stretches to the maximally manufactured, contrived, and artificial (e.g. a touch screen, or a microchip). What could be more synthetic and unnatural … Continue reading