Using bots we have specially developed for this purpose, our office is creating maps that lay out the relational similarity, clustered affinity, and overall categorical distribution of architectural form – a kind of genealogical tree for buildings. In homage to Colin Rowe’s work in metric associations for typological classification, we affectionately call this tool the RoweBot.
The Rowebot computes a series of 40 metrics on each individual building shape. Some are relatively simple, such as the ratio of perimeter to area, while others are calculus-based differential operators, which determine the variation in area distribution from the centroid of a shape. Yet others are more advanced, using least-squares shape fitting, spectral-graph analysis, or convexity measures to find unique differentiators among shapes.
It constructs what might be termed cartograms: map-like representations which do not chart geographic space but instead the space of similarity, affinity, and perception. By mapping a parametric territory of form, it not only plots the world of existing form but also reveals, through its gaps, a terra incognita of design yet to appear.