Between Metaphor and Substance through Pattern

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


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Design
  • Pedagogy

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions



Winka Dubbeldam

Opens to public





Meyerson Hall
Upper Gallery
210 South 34th Street
Philadelphia PA, 19104

  • Cecil balmond

Join us for Between Metaphor and Substance through Pattern, a public talk by Cecil Balmond, followed by a conversation with Aaron Levy, on Thursday, February 26th, 2014 at PennDesign. Organized by PennDesign and Slought, this event will take Balmond's recent publication Crossover (2013) as a point of departure.

Through his provocative designs in collaboration with leading architects and artists and eloquent writings, including Informal (2002) and Number Nine: The Search for the Sigma Code (1998) Balmond has put forward a dynamic and organizational approach to structure that is informed by the sciences of complexity, non-linear organization and emergence. Recognizing that the universe is a constantly changing array of patterns (both random and regular), he also draws on ancient wisdom and non-western mathematical archetypes.

Taking structure to be as much a verb as a noun—as structuring, organizing and patterning—Balmond redefines the relationship between structural engineering and architecture beyond the ethos of rationalism, efficiency and optimization, which has characterized not only high-tech design but modern architecture in general. His experimental, constructive and algorithmic methods open a rich territory for design at different scales and in different media and regimes of matter, extending the horizons of both reason and beauty. To test their capabilities he is currently designing an urban master plan for a redevelopment site in London, while at the same time experimenting with rhythmic lighting effects and the generation of music.

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Cecil Balmond is the Principal of Balmond Studio and Paul Philippe Cret Practice Professor of Architecture at PennDesign. He is an internationally renowned designer, structural engineer, and author.

Aaron Levy is the Executive Director of Slought, and a Senior Lecturer in the departments of English and History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The fundamental problem is that if engineering is only seen only as a technical, calculating effort, then it has nothing to do with invention, creativity. This is false. Structural engineering, moreover, is so un-intimate that I prefer to use structure. It's more about rhythm, fluctuations, or episodes in space: this is what structures do... Structure, itself, is the driving force that makes the architecture."

-- Cecil Balmond

Related projects
Begins Dec 5, 2006

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

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