Cyberneticisation as a Theory and Practice of Matter


  • Rolf Hughes, Professor KU Leuven
  • Rachel Armstrong, Professor Newcastle University



The ecological implementation of cybernetic ideas in architecture requires a material theory and practice that enables their propositions to be tested. The need for approaches that move from simulation to cybernetic reality is a documented limitation of cybernetics recognised by Stafford Beer with his pond ecology experiments and Gordon Pask through electrochemical devices. While both experimented with adaptive material platforms as embodiments of designed cybernetic systems, their approaches were limited by the available toolsets. This article considers an ecological trajectory of cybernetisation by revisiting notions of biological computation as a generative material practice. In particular, the growing fields of biodesign and living architecture go beyond notions of biological analogues that inform modern architecture by directly incorporating living systems into the very fabric of buildings as designed expressions of ecology.

Author Biographies

Rolf Hughes, Professor, KU Leuven

Rolf Hughes is Professor in the Epistemology of Design-led Research at KU Leuven, Belgium. He is a member of the Experimental Architecture Group, whose work has been exhibited at the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales, Tallinn Architecture Biennale, Trondheim Art Biennale, Matadero, Madrid, Uppsala Konsert & Kongress, Great Exhibition of the North (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), University of the Underground (Amsterdam), and Whitechapel Gallery (London), and published by Bloomsbury, Routledge, Springer, and Punctum Books. A transdisciplinary practitioner, and a writer across creative and critical genres, Rolf was twice elected vice president of the international Society for Artistic Research and has supported several European national research councils in the strategic development, implementation and evaluation of artistic and design-led research and related doctoral programmes.

Rachel Armstrong, Professor, Newcastle University

Rachel Armstrong is Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University. Her career is characterised by design thinking as a fusion element for interdisciplinary expertise. She creates multi-disciplinary research teams to address strategic and even wicked real-world problems through conceptually pioneering design prototypes that advance innovation at the point of implementation. Exploring the transition from an industrial era of architectural design to an ecological one, she considers the implications for designing and engineering in a world thrown off balance.


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