Argenia, a Natural Generative Design


Professor Celestino Soddu, Architect

Director of Generative Design Lab, Department Scienze del Territorio

Milan Polytechnic Italy.






Leon Battista Alberti defines the Beauty of Architecture "a concert of all the parts together, performed with proportion and logic in something in which it is possible to find again each event, in a modality that will not allow the inserting, extracting out or changing anything without decreasing its Beauty".

With generative art we can approach, directly, this complex paradigm of proportions and logic, and we can directly design the Beauty, or better our idea of beauty, before the realization of each single possible artificial event. This is the heart of generative approach. The Generative Art work for the beauty, in the sense of the humanistic approach of Renaissance, because the generative code, which is the project of generative design, is the real structure of the idea. It defines how to concert all the parts and the dynamic relationship among these parts in the evolution of complexity. The generative project defines which is the law of proportion and which logic the dynamic evolution will follow. All the events that this code can generate will be, in humanistic sense, beautiful, or, if we prefer, will belong and represent our Idea of world.

And more. The generative art produces events that are unique and complex. The uniqueness and complexity are strongly related one each other. As in Nature, each event is generated through an artificial life, which, as in the natural life, produces uniqueness, identity and complexity during a identifiable time.

This complexity is a natural-like complexity. We can recognise, in the artificial ware we produce through this generative approach, the harmony and the beauty of the natural-like complexity that refers to the Humanistic approach of Renaissance: Man, Geometry, and Nature as references for “the harmony  which is not thought as an individual caprice but as conscious  reasoning.” (L.B.Alberti, De re aedificatoria).

1. First experimentation of generative design, the challenge

When, in 1987, I realized my first generative approach to town environment (note 1), my challenge was to operate with experimental tools inside the field of the temporal evolution of artificial sphere, using the progressive systematic falsification of the scientific developing procedures.  First step. I have to identify the two different fields of designing action: the designing idea and the design evolution.

The  designing idea is the natural/artificial dynamic system that everyone try to forge upon the reality, by drawing a model of a possible desirable event, shaping own thoughts and wishes.  And it is a peculiar act of human beings.

The designing evolution is the sequence of logical procedures to increase performances and complexity, and to open this subjective system to inter-subjectivity and social requests. This evolution may be emulated by machines.

I have investigated about the logic approach and evolution procedures more than about the quality of single events to define the theoretic and experimental approach and try to emulate the evolutionary processes in architectural and urban design. The approach was to operate in order to prefer metadesign to design.

The concept idea was that complexity, both natural and artificial, is controllable only by using an approach that follows, and emulates, the increasing complexity procedures existing in the nature, but also in the artificial worlds, as town environment.  Overall I have identified the complexity as the formalization of an experience, of a reached identity. And, I want to think, also a possible aesthetic quality, the quality that we can find in all matured and history/stratified town, for example.

To define the field of my research I have considered these two points as faces of the same logic of evolution:

1st, the design increasing ideas, that are unpredictable but, in the same time, increase the identity of the designing idea and of the same designer

2nd, the evolution of each environmental system, that is also unpredictable but identifiable by the power of self-organizing structure that fights to increase its peculiarity.

This approach is based on the concept in which the identity is double (or, better, nidificated as a fractal shape) 1st, the identity of the species, the DNA in nature, and the Idea in the artificial ware, and, 2nd, the identity of each event, which is strongly connected with its experience, the design history and the market experiences for artificial objects, the life experience for natural objects, or the historical/cultural experiences for the town environment.

When we emulate this sequence of different experiences, we build an artificial life, a sequence of evolution procedures that give to each object its own identity. But we can also identify the complex frame of stratified orders, the recognisable density of sense (we can also call its sense of beauty) that appears in all the events generated by the same dynamic evolution, by the same dynamic system, because the system (a dynamic chaotic system) evolves each time in a different way, but with the same ”attractor”.

The “attractor”, in the field of design, may be the idea, or the identity of designer, and it may be realized as a generative project, an operative metaproject.

The first operative step was the experimental realization of original software, that I called Design of Morphogenesis. The challenge was to emulate the logical procedures of some specific and subjective approach to the increasing complexity.

How can we call this programme? A genetic set of algorithm or an AI software? The genetic algorithms are used to perform the selection. But the selection, in design approach, is not only the selection between choices with different functional or quantified qualities. This selection is the easiest one, analytical and not concerning "beauty". When the alternatives are between different possibilities with the same functional level of quality, the selection is only the exploding of the designer identity. The AI software can emulate the logic sequence of the evolution, but it cannot emulate the birth of an idea. We can identify the generative software as the emulation of the same logic sequence of "artificial life" (defined a priori as generative project, the Idea) starting from different points (different project sites and requests) and reaching always different events but all belonging and representing the Idea.

Each time we use this tool, it generates a sequence of different virtual scenarios that we can identify as belonging to the same species of objects, of architecture, of environment.

Each different scenario follows the same Idea. Each scenario is one of the possible representations of the same design Idea. And more: our idea is in evolution.

2. The design of artificial species

First operative software: Citta' Aleatorie (Random Towns), 1988

My first generative project was in the field of town design. A tool that performs the possibility to control complexity and increasing identity of each environment, working on the codes of its development and being able to preview a sequence of possible incoming scenarios. (Note 2)

The hypothesis was that the identity and recognizability of each town, of each environment, was strongly connected with its evolutionary laws (its DNA). The random events that occur in its life cannot do anything but increase identity. The clouds are strongly modified by the wind, and they enlarge and change their image. The dunes walk at all times modifying the desert shape. And this endless regeneration performs impressive and unpredictable beauties. But the clouds are always recognizable as clouds, the dunes hold, always more, the shape of dune. The natural DNA is recognizable not withstanding each event is unique and unrepeatable

The generative project is the DNA of artificial object, of architecture, of towns

So I had performed my generative software to use the random events to increase the identity and the complexity of town systems (identity and complexity come together).




“Citta’ Aleatorie”, a sequence of generated 3Dmodels by the first generative project of Medieval Towns in Italy, (1988)

The first study case was the typical medieval town in Italy, identified referring to the paintings of Simone Martine and Giotto. It was possible to rewrite the laws of this particular environment as an operative paradigm where the logical structure that controls the formalisation of events, was stratified and nidified from macro to micro events.

The random face of this system was realized with a different and unpredictable "speed" of a set of different generative devices belonging to the multiple possible faces of the same formalization: geometry, material, technology, etc.

This approach has allowed me to not use a data base of pre-designed shapes, but only a set of generative machines that worked together.

A generative design, from my point of view, cannot use an array of data, but a set of different generative devices, like a set of different dynamic chaotic systems, that works together and uses the unpredictable contamination each other to access to different "point of view", to different formalisation of the same request. The recognizability of the project grows, increases its identity in front of the evermore-large quantity of alternatives

A sequence of medieval towns 3Dmodels generated by the second version of the generative project “Citta’ Aleatorie”. The finality of this project was to design the evolutionary relationship between natural and artificial environment in Medieval Town in Italy. (1989/1992)

The result was very impressive. And I began a sequence of experimentation changing the DNA, the code of recognizability of the town environment looking forward to increase the uniqueness of each scenario but also the identity of the medieval idea.

A sequence of 3Dmodels of towns generated by the project “Montecarlo”, an evolution of the first generative project. (1991)


The approach I have identified was that it is not interesting to change something in the code, but to increase its complexity. Because the increasing of possibilities brings to the recognizability of the choice.

With a surprise: it was very easy to succeed in generating something that looked like a town, with the principal functional problems solved. It was more difficult to perform the sequence of steps to bring these incoming virtual towns to represent a particular idea, the genius loci of a town, through its multiples and different scenarios.

The idea. Using the town environment as a study example, the problem was: am I searching my idea of medieval town, or the idea of medieval town “tout court”?

I am an architect, and I work using my subjectivity to reach the possibility to give to each unpredictable user the pertinent answer to his subjective requests. The interface between my subjectivity and the unpredictable subjectivity of a user is the complexity, as an adaptive structure in which everyone can find his particular answer. The structure of this complexity, and the set of basic functions resolved, identifies the hand of every designer and the identity and uniqueness of each architect.

With a doubt. Will it be possible for any architect to use a generative tool to design his own architecture? And not only the architecture of the designer of the tool? Once I have performed a generative tool, can an architect design his own architecture using this tool? I don’t think so. The generative approach is inside the design approach; it is the structure of the idea.

But there is an other possibility. An architecture, realized with a generative tool with a complex and adaptive interface, can explain two identities: the identity of species, belonging to the architect that has designed the generative tool, and the identity of each event, belonging to the architect that has used the tool. The problem is that a generative tool is not an instrument as a pencil, or a Cad. It represents an idea in a strong way.

3. Next step was the generative tool "Basilica"

In 1992 I designed the first version of a generative tool able to generate architectural 3D models, and to control dimensions, materials, technology and structure of function. (Note 3)

Six scenarios belonging to the same evolutionary paradigm. These scenarios was generated by my software “Basilica”

Basilica is a software that emulates the design procedures, starting a moment after the idea till to the endless sequence of possible scenarios

Basilica operates into the field of design processes, it is realized with a set of logical procedures that is, in practice, the logical procedures of discovery. These procedures are not analytical. They are like the epistemological structure of scientific discovery. These procedures represent the structure of a subjective, performed as generative code.

This software can generate, using a controllable logical sequence of morphogenesis, a set of different formalised scenarios in response to the progressive multiplicity of questions. These scenarios are, in practice, 3Dmodels of architecture, usable in all CAD and Rendering tools.

Every generated scenario is (or better needs to be) a different and clearly characterised one. The reason is that each design procedure is a developing path. In order to emulate it, we need to use a non-linear, unpredictable, and increasingly complex sequence. The challange is to reply not only to the pre-coded questions, but to the incoming and unpredictable questions generated by the same evolution.

Basilica is a generative metaproject of my idea of architecture that I can use, and I have used, in my researches but also in professional activities. It is, I think, my extralarge office, where a thousand of brilliant architects, all with their mind on my mind, work to produce an endless sequence of 3D models of possible architectures, all belonging from my idea, and each of them performing an unpredictable representation of my being architect.

Basilica has an operative interface to choose, in real time, the starting paradigm of the architecture, identified in the dynamic metastructure of spaces and interfaces and in their relationship belonging to a multiplicity of fields. In other terms, it is possible to insert in the programme the basic requests of the incoming project and emulate the evolutionary sequences of each possible formalization and increasing complexity.

With this tool, I have realized, for example, the project of "Borghetto Flaminio" (Note 4), one of the least void urban spaces in the centre of Rome, and the extenuation of Prado Museum at Madrid (note 5).

 evolution 1, fig 1

 evolution 2, fig 1

 evolution 1, fig 2

 evolution 2, fig 2

 evolution 1, fig 3

 evolution 2, fig 3

 evolution 1, fig 4

 evolution 2, fig 4

 evolution 1, fig 5

 evolution 2, fig 5

 evolution 1, fig 6

 evolution 2, fig 6

Project of “Borghetto Flaminio”, 1994. The images refer to two of the scenarios generated, in sequence, using the generative tool “Basilica“. The scenarios are represented using the same sequence of points of view, and show three parallel histories of the same virtual time of development. The second scenario is the last one, and we have used it to present the project.

Project for the enlargement of Prado Museum, Madrid (1994).

The project of the Prado Museum is entirely realized using an original generative software by Celestino Soddu (a particular release of Basilica). The project answer to all the functional requests of the customer. We have used, as final project, the 3D model generated by the last evolution of the generative design process.

A multimedia urban stand in Milan, designed by Celestino Soddu using “Basilica”

The Multimedia Square in Milan. New urban spaces designed by Celestino Soddu with his generative software “Basilica”


4. Argenia, and the generative industrial design

Once I have identified that the challenge was not to construct the evolutionary emulation of an existing system, as a town or industrial product, but to design my own evolutionary way to develop environmental and architectural projects, an unexpected perspective was lightened.

The possibility to design the idea, and perform the idea as operative metaproject which is able to generate an endless sequence of possible scenarios (3D models of a generation of artificial objects, all different but all with the same functional and aesthetic qualities), opens a new era to incoming industrial production: the natural production of industrial objects.

In the two centuries of the Industrial Era, by now finished, the objects have been produced as multiple unidentified. The chain of assemblage produces objects all equal. And this equality has been celebrated overestimating the processes of optimisation and building aesthetics of the repetition. If we use a generative approach, and we exclude the relative preconceptions about the cost, about the optimisation of the functions and about the recognizability of the designing idea (note 6), the Generative Design is set as conceptual and operative innovation in order to the realization of the products of the Third Millennium. Unique and unrepeatable products, like the objects of the man have always been, but realized in the factories. These objects are made in measure of man because they fit to a strong subjective approach. These products are good for the environment, not only because they may be recyclable, but also because they have a slow obsolescence.

I have called this design activity with the neologism Argenic Design.

My first generative industrial design, a generative Argenic design of chairs (1991).

I have realized this design as first experimental project of industrial design in order to carry out a series of objects always different to manufacture in a factory with digital control machines. The difference among each scenario/project of chair is such to stratify the identity into more levels. A strong identity of the metaproject, of the idea, and a strong identity of each chair in its uniqueness (note 7).


5. Argenia, the generative art

I realised the first sequence of paintings using one of my software, “Tracce” (1996) that allows to generate from 2D images a sequence of 3D models that can perform the multiplicity of possible subjective interpretations of the increasing complexity concerning the transformation from 2D to 3D. This is not a full generative project, but these performances will be used as one of the generative devices in subsequent projects. The first experimentation was realized from Kandinsky.

An interpretation from Kandinsky. One of the possible 3D model realized using “Tracce” (1986/1991).


The generative project "woman portrait from Picasso"

This experimental generative design born from the consideration that each generative project is an Idea, or a subjective adduction, one of the possible point of views, interpretation of the reality.

So I tried to design the generative code of my interpretation of the woman represented in the paintings of Picasso. I have chosen the paintings of Picasso because the complexity, the recognizability (and the impressive and erotic charm!) of these woman are strongly connected with the evolutionary sequence from African representation to our references and culture.

I was conscious that my challenge was to perform a generative code able to generate 3D models of women that must communicate not only the recognizability of Picasso hand, but also the recognizability of my subjective interpretation and idea.

I was sure that this challenge was realisable because the identity of an event is a stratification of multiple identities, and the women of Picasso are an example of this evolutionary stratification. My generative project of "Women from Picasso" had to be only a further stratification of sense as everything inside the art/cultural approach must be. By the way, Picasso himself had also painted some possible evolutions of “Las meninas” of Velasquez.

A first sequence of paintings was realized using the last release of one of my software, “Tracce”. When I tried to approach the Women of Picasso, I found that the field of possible interpretation between 2D and 3D was very interesting. It was possible to realise an impressive sequence of digital paintings.

Argenic “paintings” from Picasso. I presented this project in an exhibition in Milan in 1997.

The second experiment was directly a generative tool to emulate the evolutionary sequence from African images to Picasso and more...  This software can generate an endless sequence of 3D models of “Picasso woman”.


Screen Dumps from the generative tool “Woman Portrait from Picasso”, 1997


Note 1

"Citta' Aleatorie" (Random Towns) is the book I have published in 1989 with Masson Editor. It explains my first operative research in the field of town and architectural generative design.

In the book before, "L 'immagine non euclidea" (Not Euclidean Image), 1987 Gangemi Editor, concerning my experimental software in the field of representation, I presented my first experimental realization in generative art for a natural environment emulation.

Note 2

To manage the complexity, I referred to the concept that the complexity is not generated ex novo but only by using a process to stratify sense into a flowing simulation of a temporal irreversible path. We can activate and control this stratification if we design a system with a self-organizing paradigm that can keep sense, (practice) during the simulated time flowing.  To build this paradigm I referred to the chaotic dynamic systems that are suitable to be controlled by algorithms, but that can produce ever-different events. I have used a fractal but non-deterministic logical frame. In other terms, every decision cycle has inside, nidified, a lot of other cycles, and so on. The structure of these cycles is, as in fractal objects, ever the same. The difference and the unpredictability springs from the resonance with the other cycles, from the time of activation and from the ever-different flow of information. Each cycle represents a whole structure in simulating the decision choices. It operates the transformation of the answers into possible shapes. This device is designed by:

1. The use of a paradigm to control the auto-organization procedures. This tool represents and controls the gained complexity but, in the meantime, represent the adaptivity to the incoming developments. It is the device that allows us to reply to an answer putting one of the possible formal matrixes into the paradigm.

2. The identification and sharing of the random margins between answers and shaping replies. The system uses and represents these margins as "operable fields" for the designing choices to improve the project evolution.

3. The set of possible formal matrixes that are abstract shapes but usable in giving body to a set of possible performances. These formal matrixes are not a database. They are extemporary generated by the bound-up cycles, by a set of simultaneous devices operating into a series of different fields, like geometry, dimension, materials, technology, complexity, and so on.

Every formal matrix is, therefore, the extemporary production of the contamination and resonance into a set of different subsystems performed as a following paradigm/random margin/formal matrix, in a subsequent omothetic complexity that looks like a fractal shape.

At the end of every cycle (and of the related and multiple progressive nidifications) the result is:

1st. An increasing complexity, and the related passage into a more evolved representation of answers, and together the proliferation of the same answer.

2nd. The production of needs, for the reason that every event we design was born also using subjective and random postures. It was not necessary before but it began necessary after the choice: it is a part of the project history. This happens also if we, later, remove it because we consider this event as an obsolete one. The event is into the project history, and we can appreciate its contribution as time patina. A time patina that measures the gained complexity, the growth of the specific identity of the project, shaped by the past research occasions used as training events.

Note 3

The logical structure of "BASILICA"

The algorithms of this software are not organised with a shaped database, and do not refer to a deductive request/reply structure. This is because in the design processes, every formalised reply exceeds the field of pertinence of the request. We use the random margins between requests and formalised replies to answer to our conceptual needs, to perform our idea of the architecture. The role of these algorithms is to simulate the human procedure of design evolution, of discovering the possible fields and, in the same moment, replying in advance to the unknown and unpredictable answers with a set of possible virtual scenarios.

In other words this tool simulates logical design procedures shaped as a formalising engine that changes every answer into possible choices using a formal matrix. During every cycle, the developing project system gets to an increasingly complex level. As it normally happens during any design process, the software changes what before was random into what after is necessary, because it has just happened.

The logical and operative structure of this emulation system is based on the use of a main cycle, with auto-organization capability, and a set of ever growing secondary cycles. All are bound together.

Each cycle represents a whole structure in emulating the decision choices. It operates the transformation of the answers into possible shapes. This device is designed by:

1. The use of a paradigm to control the auto-organization procedures. This tool represents and controls in progress the gained complexity and, in the meantime, is adaptive to incoming developments. This device allows the system to reply to each question using one of the possible formal matrixes to increase the complexity of an event.

2. The identification and sharing of the random margins between questions and shaping replies. The system uses and represents these margins as "operable fields" for the design choices. This improves the project evolution.

3. The set of possible formal matrixes, which are abstract shapes but usable in giving body to a set of possible increasing complexity performances. These formal matrixes are not a database. They are generated by the interconnected cycles, by a set of simultaneous devices operating in a series of different fields, like geometry, dimension, materials, technology, complexity, and so on.

Therefore every formal matrix is the extemporary transformation of the contamination and resonance into a set of different subsystems performed as a subsequent paradigm/random margin/formal matrix. All are in a subsequent omothetic complexity that looks like a fractal shape.

At the end of every cycle (and of the related and multiple progressive nidifications) the result is:

1. An increasing complexity, and the related passage into a more evolved representation of answers, together with the proliferation of further answer.

2. The production of needs, for the reason that every event was formalised also in front of our subjective (and random) approach. It was not necessary before but it became necessary after the choice: it is a part of the project history.

When we design a new architecture using the interface of Basilica, we can build a new paradigm, perform the structure of the relationship between possible events, change the geometry and stratify multiple possible geometries within the paradigm, define the quantity of possible exceptional events and the relationship between these events and the normal structure of the architecture. And, finally, we can choose the time, speed and structure of evolution that we wish to emulate.

With Basilica it is possible to design an artificial DNA able to generate a set of always different, unpredictable and individually characterised artificial events. Every scenario, that is a 3D computerised virtual model of architecture, is recognisable as an individual of the same species. So we can identify one product realized with Basilica as an Idea of architecture. With a little amount of memory, we have the universe of possible solutions that this Idea can generate when faced with the same design problem.

Note 4

Case Study: Rome, Borghetto Flaminio, 1994.

The identity and uniqueness of Rome is due to its specific way of living history, time, and contingent events. An operational hypothesis to design a subsequent growth of this city must be based on the identification of a developmental code that reflects the developmental tendencies, the modus operandi of this city, the DNA of Rome.

The project is a generative code that represents Rome and his developmental way. In operational terms, this project is a metaproject/software realized to be a tool to hypothesise and generate a set of possible incoming scenarios. These scenarios must have, in their difference and unpredictability, the character and the identity of the Roman urban environment.

This design approach doesn't operate on the city as a static system, but directly on the urban dynamic system that, in the meantime, is evolving, describing the manifoldness of its possible evolutions in real time.

The designing idea identifies a possible developmental code able to emulate the modes that characterise the evolution of Rome. This code is based on considerations extracted from an imaginary of Rome, from Stendhal to Piranesi, from Michelangelo to Borromini, but also and, above all, from the subjective fascination that the vital structure of this city operates on us.

This developmental code that we have represented and transformed into an operational tool, a software/metaproject, woos the challenge of representing the idea and the identity of Rome not reprocessing the same events that look like the existent ones, but enhancing the uniqueness and identity of this city like it has always revealed: giving birth to unique and unrepeatable sites that widen in time and that stratify the texture of the Roman paths of discovery. The unsuspected presence of unpredictable architectural events explicates the immanence of the possible. And these presence, in their differences, sometimes casual, enhance and fix the identity and uniqueness of this city.

This uniqueness and unrepeatability emerges at every level, and appears, like a fractal sequence, in the spaces, in the varied plazas of which Rome is composed. The same plazas are, in the proposed developmental code, the bearing structure of the simulated evolution of the city. The objective of this virtual evolution is to save and increase an environmental identity that, till the last architectural event, till the unpredictable detail, each time that we pass, would be able to unexpectedly discover or rediscover following one of our contingent moods, one of our subjective new codes of reading.

By designing a code, a DNA that represents the immanence of the possible of this city, we can operate on the structure of the exemplary complexity of Rome, and give birth to urban environments that allow to find again the unpredictable infinity of possible subjective paths of discovery.

It is not possible in fact to think that we can describe the urban complexity with a unique gesture, with a design that bears from the idea of building a situation of equilibrium. We cannot propose, especially in Rome, a static situation, an architectural event based only on the contingency of a functional application related to a specific temporal moment. This approach means the annihilation of the idea of Rome, of its complexity, of its adaptivity to the possible and of its ability of be, however, a germane and essential response to the manifoldness of the possible subjective applications.

Our challenge is build the complexity, like the design of a Roman site requires, by triggering the developmental "modus" of Rome, operating with the simulation of subsequent stratification of complexity, also if we adopt a virtual time simulated with an operational paradigm able to stratify different moments, and which find again in the "felicitous randomness", as Simmel wrote about Rome, the occasion to increase the identity of the place, its uniqueness.

The design of a evolutionary code, of a generative code, it is an architectural and urban complete and recognisable design. It is a design that is different from a traditional design, which doesn't seek a unique and final solution. It generates a universe of possible scenarios representing and identifying, in their plurality and difference, the same "genius loci", the same structure of environmental complexity.

Each scenario is unique in its difference, in its being an individual belonging to a species. It has gone through a contingent and bumpy temporal path, increasing its complexity and uniqueness.

Even if, to realize our project, we opt for one of these scenarios, having checked its quality directly on the genetic code that has given birth to it guarantees us of adaptivity to the possible, of its strong belonging to Rome identity and uniqueness. And we can presuppose that these characteristics will grow with time, and they won't be only an ephemeral season of flowering.

Procedures used in the construction of the developmental code of Rome.

We have considered that the character and the acknowledgement keys of an urban environment belongs more to the developmental procedures consolidated in local cultural tradition than to the individual architectural events. We have identified some characteristics, some developmental procedures that, according to our subjective criteria, characterise this urban environment.

1. The "piazze". The evolution of the urban system is based on the empty sites, the squares. The building system evolves all around these sites that flags the identity of each place. This developmental paradigm, that we have transferred in our proposal, is characterised by the ability to increase the recognizability of each individual "piazza", increasing its peculiarity and, at the same time, its recognizability as Rome, just as it is legible in the historical evolution of Rome.

2. Uniqueness of architectural events and urban recognizability. The developmental structure of Rome is so recognisable that it allows, without fear of contamination, the structure of differences and the presence of exceptional events. Better, Rome owes its recognizability to the presence of a stratification of complexity and not, as in other cases, to the presence of particular formal and/or technological matrixes exemplary of a specific cultural and historical moment. Rome is the city that, more than any other, has enhanced its own identity and recognizability by passing through extremely different historical moments, living and transforming extremely aloof and contradictory cultural contributions, preserving, and at the same time evolving, a Roman way to go on and to look at the future. Each site, each ward, each plaza has increased, over time, its own recognizability and uniqueness. At the same time it has contributed to increasing the uniqueness and recognizability of Rome, in its global image. If this evolution stops, if we think only for a moment that we can stop time by building equilibrium, we deny this identity, we would remove the recognizability and uniqueness of Rome. The organisational paradigm that we have built into our design, and that allows us to check the developmental modes toward complexity, bears from the idea of using the contingent and the casual for "training" each urban event, increasing its complexity like a germane response to the need of uniqueness of each place, of each event, of each detail, but also as an unpredictable response to the need of be, however, Rome.

3. The basilica. The developmental structure of Rome is constituted not only by the urban void, by the plazas, but also by the basilicas, the big covered plazas, of the "thermae" considered like fractal symmetry of the overall urban structure based on the plazas. Like a city's calidarium, Piazza Navona is the shelter from the north wind. The playful component is essential in this sequence and, also, in the recognizability of the form of the plazas and of the fountains. The organisational paradigm that we have built to operate the subsequent evolutions in the historic centre from Rome reflects this type of performance, this way of describing the complexity of the spaces. The bearing elements are the empty spaces that, in the specifics of the contextual site of the project, enhance their own identity in the progression difference of their rapport with the green lawn, using the green as a playful response to the field of human needs concerning naturality.

4. Design of the natural sites. A consolidated tradition is, in Rome, the use of natural elements in the developing city system. The natural environment, as is common in Italy, but in a more accented and unique way, it is a characteristic of the environment conformed to measure of man, to measure his necessity but also his pleasure. The natural events reflect and answer to the human need of naturality. It has been carefully designed to answer to this human need. The natural event is, in other words, an artificial ware of the best quality. Often it is, like in the parks, realized with trees and meadows, but also it is often a right response to our need of natural complexity. In the Roman fountains, particularly in the Trevi Fountain, we could read this aspect of the "genius loci" of Rome, this awake and intentional way to report to the form of nature. This approach to natural events belongs to the logical modes adopted in the construction of the urban complexity. An approach that tries to get a recognisable response to the demands, also the playful demands, of Roman people. But not only of the Roman people, also of whoever because the responses of Rome must be, in the first place, strongly adaptive to difference, because Rome does a boast of preserving differences and uniqueness.

5. The relation between artificial and natural environment. A way of growing that belongs to the identity of Rome is identifiable in the sequence of progression approach to each natural site. If we want to characterise a serviceable developmental code of the centre of Rome, we can look to the sites where this rapport between the natural and artificial environment has already been expressed, always in different ways but respect to comparable situation: the stairway of Trinita' dei Monti and at the Pincio. These natural/artificial sequences marked from the construction of architectural events, have amplified and redefined, over time, the morphological structure of the seven hills that has been one of the "starting data" at the base of Rome's evolution.

The morphogenetical code we have designed, as we can see in the sequence of the possible incoming scenarios generated by our tool, is in tune with the Roman idea of the presence of multiple paths of discovery among the artificial and natural.

Note 5

Prado Museum, the evolution of the micro urban system, 1995.

This design proposal is about the general organisation of the micro urban system that has the centre in the Prado Museum. It is in harmony with the historical characterisation of this particular urban environment. And this design proposal wishes to increase this particular identity. Because we can preserve the urban identity only preserving its evolution and not freezing the environment.

Our subjective approach to the environment all around the J. de Villanueva building is finalised to enlight the reciprocity between the historical and incoming architectures, using the texture of complex geometry that harmonises the different architectures redefining their roles and hierarchies. We design integration where the historical differences, the typological and morphological differences mirror and amplify themselves. A sequence of different spaces belonging to the same environment to the same urban identity that the visitor can discover walking through the heart, the pulsing engine of this environment.

We want not to realize a museum as neutral scene. The museum is a laboratory to develop the cultural research, and the architecture, the 3rd and 4th dimension is a field to use for increasing the identity and uniqueness of this particular environment. But the space must be designed to be adaptive, and not neutral, to the incoming requests.

Architectural Concept. The relationship between the historical architectures and the new ones is realized if all these architectures belong to the same level of complexity. And the complexity of the architectural image is one of the characteristics of the Spanish Architecture and environment. The environment can gain this complexity living its history, stratifying experiences and formalising the answers, but also, during the design procedures, living an artificial life and stratifying complexity.

We have realized our design proposal designing the generative code that represents our idea about Spain, Madrid, and the Museo del Prado. Using this code, that is based on the software "Basilica" of C. Soddu, but is an original evolution realized for this project, we have generated a sequence of possible scenarios of the environment that has the J. de Villanueva building as centre. Using the Artificial Life, these scenarios have lived their "historical" evolution, increasing their complexity. Our final proposal is one of these scenarios, the one that has acquired the more interesting complexity and reconnaissability.

The generative paradigm designed to perform the generative project has, inside, all the functional organisation requested by the customer. In front of these requests, we have designed the evolutionary paradigm organising it in three functional blocks. The first, that we call the "Bridge" is the building in the back of the J. de Villanueva building, the second, that we call the "Bubble", is the main entrance with a cupola that organise the two main different levels of this town environment, the third, that we call the "Pinta", is the building near the Iglesia  San Jeronimo el Real.

The "Bridge" is a building performed by three floors: the underground floor that includes and amplifies the existing engine room, structuring the technical support for the whole museum system. The ground floor (at the same level of the ground floor of Villanueva building) ii 7.70 meters high and is organised with a central hall and two lateral spaces. The function of these spaces is the temporary exhibitions, and it is possible to use the fluorescent artificial light or the natural lights. The upper floor, with the same high of 7.70 meters, is dedicated to the sculpture collection. It is possible to use the natural light and the fluorescent one, and the space is organised in one large central hall, covered with a cupola and in two other different spaces in which it is possible to organise a cafeteria and a restaurant.

The "Bubble" is the entrance structure to the museum system, with the ticket office and the information hall. This entrance is reserved to the visitors group (the single visitors can enter directly in the Villanueva building) and is organised in two different spaces: the entrance and the information hall. These spaces are in the same level of the ground floor of the Villanueva building, at the back after the bus parking. The information hall is under the square in front of the Iglesia, under the parvis of the church, and it is organised with computerised information tools regarding the Prado Museum and Madrid. The entrance is in front of the "Pinta", but at the level of the Bus Park. It is covered with a cupola that is the environment sign in the upper path in front of the Iglesia. From this entrance it is possible to go to the new building and, through that, to the J. de Villanueva building. In the other side it is possible to go to the "Pinta", the new building near the church and, with an underground passage, to the Cason del Buen Retiro and to the Army Museum.

The "Pinta" is the building near the Iglesia S. Jeronimo el Real. It is structured in three floors and one underground access from the "Bubble". The ground floor (at a level of four meters more than the ground floor of Villanueva building) is eleven meters high, and the other two are six meters high. It is possible, using this high, to organise the functional use in double levels, in front of the contingents needs. In the ground floor there is the entrance of the offices and departments of the Prado system, and it is located the Library. In the upper floor there are the Departments, the Offices, the Conference Hall and the offices of the parish, that are reachable directly from the church and are not interfering with the museum areas.

At the first floor there is the claustro, that is the centre of this building.

Our proposal born from an idea of Museum articulated, interlaced with the past, the present and the future, with the challenge to get the time with a project based on a synchronous complexity. The focus is to gain the museum quality with an European characterisation, amplifying the cultural heritage of the differences, of the uniqueness of every particular history.

To gain that is to gain a very high quality level, a sophisticated level that, respecting the tradition, get the new-events dynamic, use these events as possible echo of a particular environmental beauty. These new events may be, with their fullness of significance, the unpredictable points of application to preserve the identity and uniqueness of this environment. This is a possible reply to the contemporary city problems, and to one of the most important one: the homologation of the urban image.

The identity, the preservation in progress of this identity is strictly interlaced with the urban quality.

Note 6

Some presuppositions today have lost their force of axiom, and could be disproved easily for the reason that they are not more respondent to the potentiality and expectations of the man:

1. The objects realized in series all equal cost minus of objects all different and unique.

2. The optimisation of the functions brings necessarily to the identification of a "unique" designing result.

3. The quality of a designer, the quality of a particular design idea is the final result, the crystallised scenario of the last action. This is the only possible result respect to the designing idea; it is the unique possible realization.

1. The first point is not yet real. The productive clockworks to digital control realize, with the same operational cost, unique things or repeated things.

We have the example all the days under the eyes. A printer costs the same if press ten all different pages or ten times the same page. The differential of cost belongs to the commands, to the reprogramming actions in the robot, in definitive to the design.

If the design is a generative metaproject, it will be able in emulating the process to generate the designing results. And to generate these results as they are in reality, as always-different scenarios. An operative metaproject can realize these scenarios formalising them like reprogramming actions, in real time, of the digital control machines, of the robots. In this case, the additional cost, if it exists, it belongs only to the design operations.

2. The legend of the optimization of a product has finished. We cannot identify a design result like the only one "necessary", once that we have discovered, or re-discovered the role and the irreplaceable importance of the subject designer.

The design is not an inferential process. Identification among optimization of the functions and designing single result it is not thinkable. Margins of variability of the formal matrixes, of the technological matrixes and of materials will always exist inside of a full satisfaction about the functions. The production of multiple unidentified it is, on the contrary, an impoverishment, without benefits, of one of the final qualities of the object. The possibility of linking the objects to the different human individuals and to their diversified requests comes less. In synthesis, a fundamental function that qualifies the object comes less: the capability to increase the identity and the uniqueness of each human individual.

3. The quality of a project is not deductible by the final single result. In order to show and value the quality of a project, it is not more acceptable the action to rebuild the project, a posteriori, in terms of inductive/inferential sequence. It is not more acceptable to depart from the result in order to "demonstrate" that the same result is the only possible result if a determined quality was wanted, if a definite idea was wooed. If we want to clarify the relation among design, ideation and creativeness we must identify, inside the designing processes, what it is possible to emulate using the computers and what it is, instead, exclusive dominion of the human thought, and it is not and it could not be emulable. The idea, as subjective construction of a hierarchy of possible relations and interferences inside an incoming object, is not emulable using a computer, for the reason that an idea is not the fruit of inductive or inferential processes, but of processes of adduction, that is of interpretative processes that strongly belongs to the subjective approach. Once conceived, the idea could be explicated and communicated in two ways: with a series of projects or with a subjective metaproject. But a series of projects is not exhaustive of the idea, it carries out only some of its possible scenarios. And the process of building a scenario (today sometimes identified with the design, and this one also identified with the idea) it is a process which could be emulated by a computer for the reason that it uses processes of inferential synthesis, as the consolidate procedures of the Artificial Intelligence.

If instead of explicate the idea through some results, that however are only some of the possible scenarios, we carry out a subjective metaproject of operative kind, we have carried out a total communication of the same idea.

A subjective operative metaproject is a computer program of Artificial Intelligence that explicate the idea, because it is able to emulate at the computer the processes of building of scenarios, and manage these scenarios in the manufacturing sequence.

I called his design with the neologism “Argenic Design”.


Note 7

The achieved goals of the generative industrial design of Chairs are:

1. The idea is recognizable notwithstanding the difference about the individuals/chairs we have realized.

2. The Argenic design has not been realized through a random compilation of database: we have not used, in the code, a sequence of pre-defined shapes but a series of procedures of generation.

3. The logic approach that overview to the codes of generation and to those of control is an emulation of our designing subjective procedures that we, as designers, normally use. We have represented and used this logic procedures in fractal way, from the global shape to the detail, in way to produce chairs that are identifiable by the idea, by the designing logic approach that we have adopted, but with the impossibility to foresee the final shape.

4. The used system emulates our procedures of design of chairs. These procedures come activate using the codes that emulate the evolution of a design like dynamic chaotic system, therefore like a system strongly sensible to the starting data.

5. Each chair is unrepeatable, like all the scenarios produced by dynamic chaotic systems. If a model is repeated identical, the same system would enter a cycle of iterations, it would enter fibrillation, and it would come minus to the objective of an Argenic Design.



Celestino Soddu, “L’artificiale progettato” (designing the artificial ware), Casa del Libro Editor, 1979.

Celestino Soddu, “L’immagine non euclidea” (not-euclidean image), Gengemi Editor 1986.

Celestino Soddu, “Citta’ Aleatorie: (Random Cities), Masson Editor 1989.

Celestino Soddu, Enrica Colabella, “Il progetto ambientale di morfogenesi” (Environmental Generative Design), Esculapio Editor 1992.