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Second-order Cybernetics, Architectural Drawing and Monadic Thinking
Second-order Cybernetics, Architectural Drawing and Monadic Thinking. Kybernetes 38(9/10), 2007. ISSN: 0368-492X pp. 1486-96 This 5000-word article examines how second-order cybernetics and Leibniz’s philosophical theory inform principles of spatial ‘irreducibility’ or ‘undecidability’ in conceptual architectural design processes. The article undertakes a comparative scholarly analysis of von Foerster’s writings, collaborative architectural design processes, and primary philosophical texts. It synthesizes these observations into an interdisciplinary concept of irreducible spatial relationships in architectural design and architectural theory. First, the article shows how second-order cybernetics and architectural design produce intrinsic forms of ‘irreducible’ spatial representation and spatial interaction in their methods. By analysing a collaboration between two architectural designers and an architectural theorist it argues that the reflexive process of developing visual and verbal architectural languages by the ‘self-aware’ designer and theorist generates irreducible modes of architectural drawings and concepts. Secondly, it shows how Leibniz’s theory of the Monad is a particularly relevant philosophical prototype of these intrinsically reflexive spatial processes. In addition, Leibniz’s theory highlights that these geometric relations are embodied in the subject’s powers of perception, enabling a further irreducible spatial connection between architectural design and second-order cybernetics to be established. Consequently, the article proposes an interdisciplinary concept of spatial irreducibility in architectural design, challenging disembodied and deterministic theories of spatial representation and architectural design process. Developed through an analysis of second-order cybernetics (von Foerster 2001, Umpleby 2005, Zienke 2005), conceptual architectural design (Smout Allen 2007) and metaphysical philosophy (Kant 1790, Leibniz 1714) the article demonstrates the value of irreducible modes of physical and psychic process in contemporary architectural design and theory, and contributes to post-structuralist and cybernetic theories of architectural undecidability by architects and theorists including; Rendell, Borden, Gage, Glanville and Spiller.
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  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
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