Writing this book over the past ten years has been my most challenging accomplishment. Transforming my research skills from archives and writing history to contemporary criticism entailed more than I ever imagined. While this study has benefited from archival research along with the usual necessary reading, much of the research for this project has been “live” and experiential—by attending classes, doing architectural and scientific projects, presenting talks, and receiving feedback. This intellectual journey would not have been possible without the help of many generous scholars, friends, and humanities organizations that contributed financial support that permitted time away from my work responsibilities at the Department of Design at the University of California at Davis. I therefore want to acknowledge and thank those who helped me the most, as well as everyone who has participated in some way. Although many names follow here in approximately chronological order, many remain unlisted although I am still very grateful to all who encouraged and helped me.
This research began in earnest with funding by the Mellon Foundation to participate in the Penn Humanities Forum (now the Wolf Humanities Center) during the 2008–9 academic year. I am grateful to Wendy Steiner for her leadership of the forum and for the interactions I had with all the fellows in residence, especially Beth Linker and John Tresch. At Penn, I studied the collaboration of Jenny Sabin and Peter Lloyd Jones known as LabStudio, participating in their studio Nonlinear Biological Systems and Design and working with them over the year. My heartfelt thanks to both of them, as well as to Erica Savig, Andrew Lucia, Annette Fierro, and Charles Davis II for their generosity and insights. During my year at Penn, I lectured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and at Columbia University’s GSAPP Inside-Out series on the invitation of Irene Cheng. The comments I received from these talks sharpened my thinking and opened new avenues for research. I am grateful for the opportunity to present this work in progress at the Darwin Celebrations—The Art of Evolution: Charles Darwin and Visual Cultures—at the Courtauld Institute of Art in the summer of 2009. Thanks to Fae Brauer for this invitation and J. D. Talasek at the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences for his subsequent comments and support.
In the summer of 2009, I spent time in Montreal at the Canadian Centre for Architecture as part of its Visiting Scholars Fellowship program funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Here I delved into the archives of Greg Lynn and Cedric Price and read from their library collections. My thanks especially go to Phyllis Lambert, Mirko Zardini, Alexis Sornin, Howard Shubert, Volker Welter, Marta Caldeira, and Guido Zuliani. After beginning a new job at UC Davis in 2009, during the 2010–11 academic year I was funded by a Charles Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to continue researching complexity theory and generative architecture. I spent this year in further reading, attending the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture conference in New York, and researching for a month in the Archives of the Architectural Association in London. I am very grateful to Pauline Yu and the ACLS for their support, and for the assistance of archivist Edward Bottoms at the Architectural Association.
During the summer of 2011, I began the most amazing part of this journey upon receipt of an Andrew Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship. With sixteen months of release from teaching and service to pursue full-time study, I was incredibly fortunate to become a student again in order to receive interdisciplinary training in areas I had not pursued in college: architecture, physics, evolutionary biology, epigenetics, and the history of science. I am so grateful that the Mellon Foundation has this program to encourage and deepen interdisciplinary scholarship, and I appreciate the support of my university through the efforts of Carolyn Thomas at the Davis Humanities Institute and Dean Jessie Ann Owens. My thanks to those who taught me on this journey begins with Benjamin Golder at the University of California at Berkeley summer school, for his friendly chastisement when I was struggling to learn Grasshopper without having learned Rhino. I tried to quit and just audit his class, but Ben would not let me. He told me to “get over it” and start working with others, not by myself. This is something humanities scholars are not trained or encouraged to do. Thanks to him, I jumped that hurdle and took this lesson forward to today, and I hope that I never stop collaborating. I then enrolled in the Emergent Technologies and Design graduate program in Fall 2011 at the Architectural Association, thanks to the generosity of Michael Weinstock and the other tutors—George Jeronimidis, Evan Greenberg, and Mehran Garleghi. While I am grateful for the challenges I faced and friendships begun with all of the 2011 EmTech class, I will name those I worked with most closely: Mara Moral Correa, Vincenzo Reale, Marina Konstantatou, Giancarlo Torpiano, Chun-Feng Liu, Bartek Arendt, Goli Jalali, Yuan Huang, Guy Austern, Mushit Fidelman, Soungmin Yu, Federico Martelli, Mary Polites, and Sebastiaan Leenknegt. My time at EmTech with my peers rekindled my passion for seeking new knowledge, traveling, and meeting friends from around the world.
I returned from London to pursue six months of intensive graduate study at UC Davis in the sciences. The only course offered on self-organization at that time was Jim Crutchfield’s Physics 256A and B, Natural Computation and Self-Organization. As Jim is one of the earliest contributors to the Santa Fe Institute, I knew I had to work with him, but in truth I was scared. I had not taken physics since high school and never had studied calculus. Every lecture seemed as if it were being delivered in a foreign language of mathematical symbols. Without the help of the best tutor ever—engineering and physics graduate student Paul Riechers, who is deeply interested in complexity and now has finished his Ph.D.—I could not have completed this endeavor. Instead, by collaborating with Paul on building a van der Pol circuit and studying the nonlinear dynamics of tendril free-coiling (discussed at the end of chapter 2), I gained immensely from my time studying with Jim and the other physicists in his group. During this same period, I also co-led an interdisciplinary faculty and graduate student reading group focused on self-organization and evolutionary biology. My thanks to participants Rick Grosberg (evolution and ecology), Jim Griesemer (philosophy), Brian Johnson (entomology), Jim Crutchfield and Paul Riechers (physics), Xan Chacko and May Ee Wong (cultural studies), and all the others. Since then, I have collaborated as well with biomedical engineer Marc Facciotti, who runs the UC Davis TEAM Molecular Prototyping and BioInnovation Laboratory, headed by Andrew Yao. My thanks extend to both of them and to lighting designer Jonny Hoolko for undertaking his research on bioluminescence with me. Finally, I am grateful to both Evelyn Fox Keller at MIT and Eva Jablonka at the University of Tel Aviv for conducting independent studies with me on the history and theory of self-organization and epigenetics and evolutionary theory, respectively. It is a huge honor to have been able to learn from such amazing female scholars, who are generous and hospitable as well.
After completing study under the New Directions Fellowship, in 2014 at UC Davis I led a cultural studies graduate seminar on Self-Organization in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. I learned so much from this seminar and particularly want to thank those who shared their insights from their own work in this area, including Meredith Tromble, Robin Hill, Janko Gravner, Jim Griesemer, Sam Nichols, May Ee Wong, Evan Buswell, Colin Johnson, Juan Cajigas Rotundo, Sagit Betser, Erik Porse, and Ksenia Federova. I have also benefited from independent studies with Xan Chacko, Amanda Modell, and Stephanie Maroney, and from all of the life cycle assessments completed by student teams in my Energy, Materials, and Design across Time course, especially the work of Madison Crain, Felix Le, and Riyaz Merchant (discussed near the end of chapter 2). Other colleagues I have learned from include those at the Politics of Parametricism symposium—especially Manuel Shvartzberg, Matthew Poole, Reinhold Martin, Teddy Cruz, and Laura Kurgan; those on the Complexism: Art + Architecture + Biology + Computation, A New Axis in Critical Theory? panels at ISEA in Vancouver 2014, especially Philip Galanter, Meredith Tromble, and Charissa Terranova; and those at the NeoLife SLSA conference in Perth, Australia, including Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Jennifer Johung, Elizabeth Stephens, Luis Campos, and many others. My ongoing collaboration with Sacha Laurin, Tania Pozzo, and Irene Flesch has enriched my understanding of biodesign methods and challenges; Sacha’s intelligence, energy, and enthusiasm is a constant source of inspiration. The editorial assistance of Kristin Koster in the last few years of this project kept me moving forward, and I am grateful to her and, subsequently, to Pieter Martin at the University of Minnesota Press, for believing in this project.
Finally, close colleagues and friends who have encouraged me in many ways over these ten years deserve mention and thanks. Simon Sadler, James Housefield, and Susan Avila in my home department have spurred me onward, commenting on sections of writing and keeping me focused on finishing. Carolyn Thomas’s wise advice and friendship always sets me straight and holds me up when I need it. Likewise, Caren Kaplan’s and Spring Warren’s struggles to complete their books alongside my own—in London, in coffee shops, at the cottage, over dinners—have helped me feel less alone in the writing portion of this endeavor. My thanks also go to Ken Giles and Sherry Cummings for their support and friendship; Tracy Manuel for talking design with me and being a stellar housemate; and Melissa Chandon for keeping me fit, laughing, and inspiring me to keep up with the example set by her prolific professional output. As always, my father, John Cogdell, edited this manuscript and talked with me about various parts. I continually am thankful for his teaching me how to write and setting an example of lifelong learning applied in the most practical ways. My mother, Ann Cogdell, always listened and loved and blessed my life with her steadiness and support. Lastly, I thank Kieran Kelley for giving me huskies Star and Honey. Along with Goose the cat, their playfulness, affection, and love of life has enriched my own every day, lifting me out of a solely human existence into broader worlds.