Experiments in Tessellation: London High Rise

Cities that once hosted nations now host a rich array of \’cosmopolitans\’ through processes of globalization. Continually redefined by the people who occupy them and their requirements, cities are no longer singular \’wholes\’, but molecular compositions that are differentiated. Whereas the nation formerly provided cities with a singular ideal identity, the cosmopolitan society that inhabits the contemporary city is made up of diverse and active constellations that unite to co-habit the city in \’connected isolations\’. Whereas the architecture of the city could once represent the singular nation, today it needs to embody this multiplicity. Earlier years of globalization were captured by Deconstruction through collage as a way to express this emerging difference. But we no longer need to \’express\’ or invent difference. Difference is everywhere. This difference, however, is mobile and shifting in time. Instead of declaring all these differences as random and un-combinable, the critical question for architecture is how to identify those differences that are singular, and give rise to new forms and possibilities across the space of the city. To do this, we need to look for connections, define systems of negotiation, and identify larger areas of consistency among these differentiated entities. Addressed to buildings, these issues question the way we relate parts to whole. The \’part-to-whole\’ cultural problem coincides with recent developments in the realm of production that – in place of the standardization of early industry – can cater for unlimited difference and increased complexity. CAD-CAM design devices and numerically controlled manufacturing techniques have already opened up design and production to increased levels of geometrical complexity. Architecture now has the opportunity to merge experimentation in form-making with the realm of production through a convergence of an increasingly differentiated non-technical domain with a non-standard technical domain that can cater for ever growing demands for variation.This convergence requires a \’line of consistency\’ -a transversal connection between technical material (such as codes, standards, developmental rules, environmental regulations) and non-technical/cultural material (such as diversity, branding, iconography, economy and lifestyle) – in order to breed a new type of material complex which is not the result of a simple addition but rather a new, hybrid materiality. The true challenge to architecture, in fact, is no longer the production of variety but the construction of these systems of correspondence across differentiated material. Various attempts have been made throughout history to construct systems of correspondence between parts, including systems of proportion, systems of modulation, and typological systems. Of these, modulated systems (for example, as carried out in Islamic architecture) were the only ones to include an idea of growth. Islamic architecture multiplied geometrical and repetitive forms through \”infinite correspondence\” to cover whole surfaces in which foreground and background motifs were no longer distinguishable, removing any hierarchy between parts and wholes. The modular approach, however, had the limitation that the modules were fixed and could only aggregate into different functional organizations through simple repetition, detached from the specific domains within which they would operate. In contrast to modular systems, tessellation is an example of a part-to-whole system that can become locally specific. Through a geometric system, tessellation regulates the interrelations amongst diverse parts without predetermining the forms that they take. The \”protogeometries\” that control the relationships between parts in a tessellation can consolidate into infinitely varied species when applied to different sites. Tessellation is therefore an ideal tool for producing species that can gro