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Some inspiration from kokkugia

From the project Swarm Urbanism…

“Agency operates through two main processes within this proposal: firstly by using design agents to self-organise urban matter and secondly encoding intelligence into urban elements and topologies.”

“Agents within this system are not generic, instead there is an ecology of agent systems which interact, each set of agents programmed with their own desires and information.”

There are two key points here that they use to relate a swarm model to urban phenomena. First, the interaction between agents and their landscape. The agents have a series of behaviors, but they are also directly affected by information that is stored in the landscape, and the landscape itself is affected by the agents. This is the basic definition of an ecosystem.

Second, there is a hierarchy of agents, each performing their own task. In this model, there is a group of agents who aggregate matter, similar to the behavior of termites in building a colony. A second class of agents operates more like a slime mold, to build infrastructure by connecting certain locations in a minimal system.

I think both of these points are crucial when starting to think about how swarm models can be applied to think of the organization of a city.


“Since the purpose of this activity is to link food sources together and to transport nutrients around the creature, Atsushi Tero at Hokkaido University in Japan and his colleagues wondered if slime-mould transport networks bore any resemblance to human ones. As they report in Science, they built a template with 36 oat flakes (a favoured food source) placed to represent the locations of cities in the region around Tokyo. They put P. polycephalum on Tokyo itself, and watched it go. They found that many of the links the slime mould made bore a striking resemblance to Tokyo’s existing rail network.”

Pretty cool, but I’m kind of dissappointed that it modelled the existing network. One would hope that such biological models might suggest new potentials for infrastructure, rather than recreating existing ones.


Darpa is researching soft robots to be used to gain covert access to denied or hostile space during combat. The video above demonstrates just one example of such a chem-bot, which moves through fluctuating levels of air inside pockets of expandable rubber skin. Through this technology, the robot is able to go from a rigid to a fluid-like state and shift shape considerably to go through openings smaller than itself.

From Darpa:

“The program seeks to develop a ChemBot that can perform several operations in sequence:

  • Travel a distance;
  • Traverse an arbitrary-shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic dimension of the robot itself;
  • Reconstitute its size, shape, and functionality after traversing the opening;
  • Travel a distance; and
  • Perform a function or task using an embedded payload.”

Amazingly, it also looks very similar to Cronenberg’s conception of bio-technology in Existenz.

This is extremely relevant to our previous discussions about a technology that could repair damage after natural disasters and catastrophic events. Other than war scenarios, earthquake rescue operations is one of the more positive applications proposed for this technology.

As we discussed earlier, I think the real breakthrough in technology will not be based on developments of current technology, but on something that mimics biological systems. This could be how we start to imagine our system of “instant architecture”.


“Something shapeless grafted onto existing tissue, something that needs no vanishing point to justify itself but instead welcomes a quivering existence immersed in a real-time vibratory state, here and now. Tangled, intertwined, it seems to be a city, or rather a fragment of a city. Its inhabitants are immunized because they are both vectors and protectors of this complexity. The multiplicity of its interwoven experiences and forms is matched by the apparent simplicity of its mechanisms. The inhabitants draw sustenance from the present, with no time lag. The form of the territorial structure draws its sustenance directly from the present time. It is a zone of emancipation, produced so that we can keep the origins of its founding act eternally alive, so that we can always live with and re-experience that beginning. The public sphere is everywhere, like a pulsating organism driven by postulates that are mutually contradictory and nonetheless true. It belongs to the many, the multitude. The world is terrifying when it’s intelligible, when it clings to some semblance of predictability, when it seeks to preserve a false coherence. In I’ve heard about,” it is what is not there that defines it, that guarantees its readability, its social and territorial fragility and its indetermination.”

The model uses a packing script to compare the effects on agent behavior by noise and a sound signal. On the left, each agent’s diameter is dictated by a random noise function. On the right, each agent’s diameter is linked to a specific frequency range of the sound file. Through this model, patterns in the music can be analyzed through the effects it has on the agents’ behavior.



First attempts at modeling urban growth in Processing. On the left, a set of agents (white circles) are attracted to hot spots (red dots) which are generated randomly in the space. On the right, the density of agents is tracked over time through accretion of building volumes.


great post yuval. here is another, also exceptional:

The beginning is great architecturally, then go to about 4:20 to see the size of the queen and how she operates. Around 6, the narrator discusses the strategies in the architecture and complexity of its spaces.

is there hierarchy in our swarm?


They poured tons of concrete into an ant colony’s hole and then started digging it out to reveal the elaborate underground city. Basically lots of channels of circulation and ventilation and then these ventricles, these round chambers at the ends. (It’s long but try to watch it through) Lots to think about as far as negative space and reconstruction.


From Wikipedia:

Lithification is a process of porosity destruction through compaction and cementation. Lithification includes all the processes which convert unconsolidated sediments into sedimentary rocks. Petrification, though often used as a synonym, is more specifically used to describe the replacement of organic material by silica in the formation of fossils. In geology consolidation is a synonym for lithification.

A library of simple diagrams of geological processes.

The aesthetics of striation as a result of lithification.

The aesthetics of tafoni as a result of erosion.

Modelling of compaction (packing) (also, lithification) through computation.