Greg Lynn's Embryological House: case study in the preservation of digital architecture

Introduction     Background     Animate Form     Digital Life     Technical Challenges     Other Challenges     Discoveries     Future Steps

As a designer Greg Lynn is preoccupied with the potential of digital design and manufacturing to generate an architecture expressing the cultural and technological conditions of our time. Lynn has produced theoretical projects, competition entries, collaborations with other designers and artists, and a corpus of built work that pushes the boundaries of architectural form. His work has been described as "BLOb" architecture (from the computing term "Binary Large Object"), a reference to its use of curving, non-Euclidean geometries. It employs a rigorous experimentation with digitally-generated realizations of flows and forces: what Lynn refers to as "animate form." Lynn himself describes his architecture with a language of organic and digital metaphor: flower, strand, shred, skin, lattice, branch, bleb, teeth.

The Embryological House is paradigmatic of this work: a born-digital project developed through the application of principles of animate form. It had several goals:

The House therefore makes contemporary commercial and technical realities part of its conceptual discourse.

To achieve its goals, and unusually for architects at the time, the House was developed through an interplay of geometrical modeling and character animation software on the one hand (specifically Microstation and Maya), and digitally-generated physical models on the other. Though several of the iterations were developed far enough that their potential for manufacturing could be tested, no built version of the House was ever realized. Instead the House remained a conceptual project, as intended from the beginning. It was realized most completely in digital form. It is its conceptualization as a purely digital project which makes the Embryological House such a compelling case study.