architectural big history


Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.

— Nobel Prize Winning Physiologist Albert Szent-GyÖrgyi 1937

This an Architect’s Take on the Universe
After many years of designing buildings and thinking about architecture, I am taking some time off to write and illustrate a science book:
A Big History of Architecture, from the Big Bang Until Now: How Information Sculpts Energy into Form“.
This book is from a lifetime of experience. When I was a very small child my father showed me a picture in an evolution book of a hairy, apish fellow and told me that was my greatx10000 grandfather. I understood totally. Ever since then, although rarely talking about it because most people found it odd,  I have looked at the world through the lens of gradual evolutionary change.

Scoring in the 90th percentile on science aptitude tests in the early 70’s (which I found in my mother’s filing cabinet in 2014, girls weren’t supposed to be scientists in my mother’s view), I have always felt a strong inclination and understanding of the scientific methodology for the organizing of well tested and reviewed information.  A huge interest in the most recent science books about the early universe, early life and early humanity was a fascinating puzzle that many smart people were examining, and I had the great good fortune to live in the free world and have access to their books. In 1985 I followed a love to draw, create and make things and studied architecture. My Architectural Masters Thesis in 1992, Museum School, was about the evolution of the schoolhouse towards optimized teaching environments. During the downtime of 2010-2012 David Christian’s Big History was discovered at the Great Courses— I felt my calling and examined everything I could find on the Big History inclusive framework of organizing information.

Using the Big History framework and being interested in energy-efficient architecture,  I began researching for a book about the History of Energy. Because I had read Seth Lloyds book Programming the Universe, the concept of information as physical quickly became part of it, the yin (information) doesn’t function without the yang (energy). Finally, after working with the American Institute of Architects as Publications Co-Chair on a book about the various architectural areas of Atlanta for the 2015 AIA Convention, all the various pieces fell into place. And here it begins…

—ARCHITECTURE: “Architect” comes from the latin word architectus which comes from the Greek ἀρχιτέκτων (architéktōn). Architéktōn is composed of two parts: ἀρχι (archi: to be the first, that which commands, designs, provides the information) and τέκτων (tecton: mason, builder, energy looking for a path to build form).

THIS IS OBVIOUSLY GOING TO BE A NICHE BOOK, BUT IF YOU GOT THIS FAR PLEASE READ ON: The following concepts are actually very simple but need a pictorial illustration for clarity, which is what I will be doing in 2022-2024:
—EXPANDED DEFINITION OF ARCHITECTURAL FORM: ALL evolved and evolving form is energy sculpted by information into a form. The physical universe, the live universe and the sapient universe all express this principle at different levels of complexity .—
Several more definitions:
1. ENERGY: is electron flow and bonding between atoms.
—Information is Physical
(Chapter 4 of Programming the Universe, Seth Lloyd; 2011, page 65).
Information ALWAYS selects for electron flow.  Since the beginning of the universe, all long-term form is sculpted by available information that promotes electron flow — this allows forms to evolve, change and adjust to the ever-evolving information flow of our good earth and beyond.
3. FORM: is the result of Information sculpting Energy. Living form is an energy flow scaffold structure, building and forming living ecological systems that widely share and circulate the energy flow.
Cultures, tools and the built/architectural environment are also a result of Information sculpting Energy flow. At this level of complexity Sapient produced information is now orchestrating energy flow into Form.

SYNOPSIS: From the beginning of the universe (14 billions years or so ago) energy (100% flexible labor waiting for information) is sculpted by available information, creating all form. Universes are built upon Universes as they stabilize.
UNIVERSE #1: The Physical Universe
ENERGY: After the Big Bang particles are the most basic form of energy waiting to be sculpted.
INFORMATION: The 4 (or 5, they keep discovering more) fundamental information forces sculpting in the physical universe: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force.
FORM: Particles are sculpted by available information into the simple atoms of hydrogen (1 electron) and helium (2 electrons), then crushed by gravity into stars, then exploded by super novas into space, to form the complex atoms with many electrons, of the periotic table.

UNIVERSE #2:  The Live Universe (See TED Ed here)
ENERGY: Life reverses entropy (the loss of energy) locally. Under temperate “goldilocks” conditions like on Earth, atoms share electrons and combine into molecules creating conditions favorible to life. The first life may have occured at chemical gradients (electron exchanges producing free energy) produced by heat vents on the tectonic plates on the ocean floor. Then when an electron was snapped off by a suns photon, this magic spark of sustainable flowing energy began organizing the chain of life.
INFORMATION:  sculpts paths for electrons to follow and is selected for, as energy flow allows things to happen, self-organization.
FORM: All forms of life, powered by electrons and sculpted by the earths environmental information, began to gain energy flow, complexity and function. One species, by surviving and adapting for millions of years in the trees, on the savanna, by the sea,  develop an the ultimate architecture for electron flow.

UNIVERSE #3: The Sapient Universe Electrons fly off the fingertips of the Sapients. Surrounded and sculpted by accumulated working information for electron paths, they take over the world. As in Darwinian Classical Evolution, the working information enabling electron travel survives as cultures and organizes information for further electron flow.

This is why things are slowly improving→ 100K years ago we were hunter-gatherers sitting around open fires, watching our backs for wolf predators. Now, in nations that have efficiently organized their cultures to free their information resources, all we have to do is push a button for heat or cool air and we have evolved the wolves into our most loyal friends! This is why the free world, exposed to all incoming information and naturally honing the very human ability to pick, choose and understand other human energy flows, will always be more energetic  than societies that filter their information flow through a few people at the top. In the free world information travels freely from the bottom to the top, and visa versa, creating very alive and responsive societies and cultures.