Cross Catalytic Architectures

A conversation with Cecil Balmond and others about the relationship between architecture, science and pedagogy


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Curatorial practice
  • Design
  • Pedagogy

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Non-Linear Systems Organization group, PennDesign


Aaron Levy, Eric Ellingsen


School of Architecture and the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Penn-CMREF Center for Pulmonary Hypertension Research

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

  • Cecil balmond

Slought is pleased to announce a special event on architecture and science with Cecil Balmond and Peter Lloyd Jones on Tuesday, December 5, 2006 from 6:00-7:30pm. This discussion will be moderated by Peter Davies, David Ruy, and Jenny Sabin.

The architects and scientists featured in this event conduct research and design projects that join architecture, science, and pedagogy. Their work develops according to "cross-catalytic" relationships in which their practices affect and are affected by each other. In this sense, the interdisciplinary nature of the work is becoming more than just a metaphor. Catalysts accelerate the rate of change in a system; they intensify a process. Nobel-prize winning Chemist Ilya Prigogine has described catalysis as agents that modify the reaction rate without themselves being affected. Cross-catalysis slightly alters the role that agents play in the catalytic process, such that all parties are involved in a dynamic interrelationship. Feedback loops emerge as disciplines develop new methods of research and practice.

This event has itself been organized to reflect new models for the organization and dissemination of information that are emerging today, and will feature a series of short presentations followed by a public conversation. The event will build upon recent work by the Non-Linear Systems Organization group at the University of Pennsylvania (under the direction of Cecil Balmond) and the Penn/CMREF Center for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (under the direction of Peter Lloyd Jones).

A predominant idea in popular culture, and even within science itself, is that the DNA blueprint or genome can autonomously generate a complete, self-organizing being, with a distinctive form and function: here is the code; here is life, complete with all of its complexities. Models borrowed from architects--such as tensegrity structures--have led to radical new insights into how vivisystems, like the genome, are assembled and function, as well as to a new understanding of the extracellular matrix or cytoskeleton in the cellular structure. Similarly, models borrowed from biology, particularly regarding self-organization and the emergence of complex, non-linear global systems from simple local rules of organization have led to radical new forms and structural organizations in architectural design. Examples such as these demonstrate how attentive architectural and scientific practices can be to each other--particularly within architecture and biology which are constantly challenged to reinvent themselves in a manner similar to the historic avant-gardes or in the face of new technologies.

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Cecil Balmond is an internationally renowned structural designer, author and Deputy Chairman of the international, multi-disciplinary engineering firm Arup, as well as the Paul Philippe Cret Practice Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. One of his most recent projects is the 2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, designed with Rem Koolhaas. He is the author of Informal (Prestel, 2002), Number 9 (Prestel, 1998) and co-authored Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2002 with Toyo Ito (Telescoweb.com, Japan), and Unfolding with Daniel Liebeskind (NAI, 1997). Through his provocative designs in collaboration with leading architects and artists and eloquent writings, Balmond has put forward a dynamic and organizational approach to structure that is informed by the sciences of complexity, non-linear organization and emergence.

David Ruy is a lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Director of Research of the Non-Linear Systems Organization (NLSO) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. He has previously taught at Princeton University School of Architecture and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Ruy is the co-director of Ruy Klein Architecture in New York City.

Jenny E. Sabin is a lecturer in the Department of Architecture and a member of the directing team for the Non-Linear Systems Organization (NLSO) at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current research and projects establish relationships between architecture, computation and weaving. Her interest in the materialization and structure of live data sets such as color, light and sound have lead her to investigate the binary mathematical sequence, the Fourier Series. These investigations question and engage the nature of woven frequency space within the greater scope of generative design and fabrication.

Peter Lloyd Jones is an Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at The Institute for Medicine & Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Penn-CMREF Center for Pulmonary Hypertension Research. He has lectured widely on the impact of cellular ecology and microenvironments on tissue form and function, and has published in numerous textbooks and journals including Lancet, Nature Biotechnology, Langmuir and The Journal of Cell Biology. He uses an inter-disciplinary laboratory approach-ranging from 3-D in silico modeling to transgenesis-to decipher the epigenetic, non-linear role that the tissue microenvironment plays in the control of gene expression and cell behavior in development and disease. In 2003, he was awarded The American Physiological Societies Giles Filley Memorial Award for excellence in Respiratory Medicine.

Peter F. Davies is the Robinette Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Professor of Bioengineering, and Director of the Institute for Medicine and Engineering (IME) at the University of Pennsylvania. Noted for driving vascular pathology in innovative and important directions, his work has consistently taken an integrative and highly interdisiplinary approach to endothelial mechanotransduction in cardiovascular physiology and pathology. As a graduate student at Cambridge (1972-75) he was the originator of endothelial functional change in early atherogenesis, and in the US developed new directions for vascular cell communication, quantitative structure-function studies in living cells, and subcellular spatial mechanisms of endothelial mechanotransduction including a widely accepted model of decentralized signaling. Current research in his lab is directed at studies of multiscale spatial genomics that defines endothelial phenotypes as a function of regions of susceptibility to, or protection from, atherosclerosis (arteries) and calcification (heart valves). He is the author of >130 peer reviewed papers in cardiovascular, biomedical engineering, and basic science journals.

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Begins Feb 26, 2014

A conversation with Cecil Balmond about non-linear approaches to architecture and engineering

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