The cat’s out of the bag, and no, it’s not Schrödinger’s cat.

My team has elected the next project leader for the next project, an autonomous greenhouse, which is basically a building-sized robot that feeds itself and grows/harvests food for humans.

Interestingly enough, but not surprisingly so, they chose a project management algorithm to lead the project, giving over all decision making and late night number crunching to a software team member who/which won’t need weekly meetings or summary reports to get its point across when fingers are pointed toward the causes of failures in achieving project goals.

The algorithm already mines Bitcoins to generate revenue for the project so cost has all but been eliminated from concerns on this project.

Practically eliminating humans from the design and construction phase reduces labour costs; so, too, during operation and maintenance.

The algorithm has a flexible set of milestones to complete the design and construction, this being a new project for all involved.

I trust my team.

However, I’m building my own scale version of this to compare one human’s design to that of an algorithm.

In my case, cost is of paramount importance, labour cost is primarily my free time and schedule is within a few weeks/months depending on weather conditions and my free time.

Wish me luck!

“Outsider” art

In the continuing saga of the Summer of 2014 “Back to Nature” Staycation, I think I have decided upon the artform I want to portray on the front deck…

…sorta like primitive outsider art, using the media of weathered wood marquetry, such as the wood inlay artwork below, by Jonathan Calugi:

jonathan calugi - italian artist - wood inlay

…almost like this:


…incorporating these images (from here, here, and here):


Dusk Scene, Smoky Mountains



…to create an abstract image in painted wood that will resemble this:


rather than these (from here and here):



Ultimately fading like an old barn or brick building advert:

signs on building

IMG_3070pse copy

“Post” modern latticework

The old lattice sections have been removed and ready for dismantling, salvaging the nonrotten pieces.



But first, the deck must be reinforced with new braces attached between deck and posts/beams as partially implemented below:


Before removing the lattice sections, I cut out honeysuckle and wisteria vines that had interlaced between and warped individual lattice boards, discovering some unusual lifeform (placed on top of flat carpenter’s pencil for size comparison):


It’s hot outside…time for a lunch break.

Front deck refresh

Now that the backyard privacy fence is complete, time to refresh the look of the front deck, starting with the broken latticework underneath, which used to look like this:

Original pattern

Here are some of the patterns I’m considering, reusing the old lattice work strips where possible:

Star pattern

Galaxy pattern

Geometric patterns 2

Geometric patterns

Modern art pattern


Or if I’m really ambitious, I’ll turn it into a wood-and-metal mixed media display, something like this:

Mixed media pattern


Merlin and Erin would have selected one design for me, I’m sure…



…after they watched the butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, birds, chipmunks and squirrels, of course.





What the cabin in the woods looked like under construction in April 1987, still with the same latticework today in 2014 — time to bring the deck into the 21st century!:


Withdrawal symptoms

Lee looked at the Moon.


Its face lit from ear to ear.

He sipped unsweetened tea through a straw.

He had acclimated to the planet’s atmosphere.

Listening to conversations at nearby tables in the Mediterranean cafe, he asked himself what drove the animals to sit upright in chairs, stabbing food with forks and lifting it to their mouths, a seemingly inefficient method of fuel consumption.

Which Lee was he?

He knew he was not the first, the original version of himself lost to the ravages of natural body aging processes, close approximations stored in ISSA Net database structures for replication and ability to stay in play during the ongoing chess match of life in the inner solar system.

He observed the dense mats of water vapour greying the sky, low clouds passing right to left or southwest to northeast in his view.

The weather forecast predicted heavy bands of rain, the unstable air mass collision between two temperature zones.

Lee took stock of his external covering.

Were the layers of clothing sufficient to keep him cool during the warm weather today and the cool rainy weather later in the evening?

How much protection did he need?

Would he avail himself of the dominant species’ infrastructure or forego ready-made transportation networks and walk to his next destination?

The “muscles” of his legs had accumulated toxic chemicals that prevented him from long distance running across the local terrain.

He missed the gravity of Mars but not the uniforms that allowed him to breathe and survive the temperature swings and solar radiation on the surface of Mars.

Developed to handle many a Martian sol, he still had body connections to Earth’s environment due to his link to the original Lee.

He rubbed his thighs.

A perceptible ache throbbed below the skin.

His body had been running for days.

He needed a break but had to stay on schedule.

Lee wondered if he could find what he was looking for.

The schedule left no room for doubt.

He had to acquire his target, no question about competing against the weather or aberrations in his body’s behaviour.

Lee hadn’t slept well for three straight nights.

He was suffering a type of withdrawal, a homesickness he had not been trained to anticipate and compensate for.

He sorely missed the touch and voice of Bai, he had an almost daily addiction to Guin, and the familiar smells of Martian food were not refreshing his memories in normal patterns as he was used to.

Lee was no trained special agent or spy. He was not a highly-skilled militaritian sent to keep the ISSA Net finely-tuned.

Lee was on Earth to accomplish a mission for the future, his role purely temporal, sent by his original self in the past to return to the home planet and retrieve a milestone buried behind the cornerstone of a prehistoric building almost guaranteed to exist regardless of the wax and wane of civilisation.

The original Lee had not accounted for checkpoints and tracking systems that analysed the movement of the bipedal animals and predicted their behaviour.

Lee did not want his movements to predict his destination in case someone or some algorithm in the ISSA Net perceived Lee’s plans as a threat that needed to be stopped.

To reduce endangering the schedule milestone retrieval, he had randomised his direction, assuming the role of a vagabond, a wanderer, passing near his destination several times without stopping, spending days in one spot doing nothing but sitting and observing, then running for weeks from place to place, expending energy he wanted to conserve, wearing out his body parts without access to replacements until he returned to Mars.

He decided it was time to approach the destination.

He shook his head from side to side to pop a vertebra back in place.

He wanted to send a thought to Guin, feel Bai’s hand running down his spine, but he could not risk the lives of the future Lees because of his personal needs.

Lee breathed.

He smelled the air.

Olive oil. garlic. Perfume. Sodium chloride. Styrofoam. Grilled chicken breast.

He had stored enough fuel in his body to last a few days, compensating for his worn legs, to give him a chance for long distance running again, if not a few sprints, too.

Lee stood up.

Time to go.

Get the milestone on time and he could return to Mars.

If not…?

Lee pushed doubt out of his thoughts.

He always achieved his goals.

Lee never planned to fail.

Looking back at the recent past…

Structure in Nature: Reflections on my Book Twenty-Eight Years Later

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2006-04-26 16:05.

by Peter Jon Pearce, Architect and author of Structure in Nature is a Strategy for Design

My book, Structure in Nature is a Strategy for Design, was published by The MIT Press in 1978. This book was based upon work that I undertook in 1965, supported by a fellowship from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies. The title of my original proposal to the Foundation was, Structurally Autonomous Geometrically Adaptable Cellular Systems.

It was an effort to forge a theoretical basis for the design of high-performance building system using Nature as a model. My interest at that time, as it still is today, was the design of adaptive energy efficient buildings.

In those early years the most dominant influences on my work, from the field of design, were Charles Eames, Konrad Wachsmann, and Buckminster Fuller. With respect to Fuller’s influence I was particularly interested in his building experiments and their relationship to his “Energetic Synergetic Geometry.” As I became more familiar with this work in the early 1960’s, I could not help but wonder what the next step might be beyond the Geodesic Dome and other of Fuller’s building design efforts. Of course, this was relative to my search for a more expansive and rational view of architectural and building possibilities. This search was directed towards a concept of high-performance design that I had been harboring for years.

I undertook to develop an understanding of spatial geometry and its structural implications beyond what Fuller had presented in his “Energetic Synergetic Geometry”. As I became more informed in the area of spatial geometry, Fuller’s approach seemed to be more of a philosophical treatment than an exhaustive examination of spatial geometries. That is not to diminish the significance of Fuller’s work in this area, I just thought of it as a starting point – an important precedent – but not an end game.

In the process of this pursuit I was able to develop the theoretical underpinnings for my later work in structural design, manufacturing, and construction. This work, along with other building systems developments resulted in over 80 architectural projects completed over a 15-year period from 1980 to 1995. Perhaps the most well known of these projects is the Biosphere 2 project in Arizona.

The research that I had undertaken with the Graham fellowship also gave rise to some original geometric and morphological developments. These developments, which are reported in my book, include the invention of the saddle polyhedra based upon minimal surfaces (later investigated by others) and some discoveries concerning optimized cell shapes in naturally occurring structures found in the morphology of plant and animal cells. On this latter subject, scientists have independently discovered similar phenomena in the late 1990’s that I had reported in my book from work I had done nearly 30 years earlier.

An interesting aspect of the subject of morphology, which I would define as the systematic study of form, is that it is a subject that is not linked to particular time frames. The geometric content of morphology is so fundamental that it is not subject to “new” scientific discoveries such that the obsolescence of principles is an issue. As an example, the topic of cell shapes in plants and animals, which is still an active area of investigation, references work back to the 19th century. The work of Lord Kelvin (AKA Sir William Thompson) is still a prime reference on the subject of optimum cell shapes. Of course, the study of polyhedra goes back to Plato, and even earlier.

The unexpected result of the publication of my book is that I have received much more acknowledgement and citations from the scientific community than from the design/architecture community. Indeed, other than a few book reviews in design magazines there has been virtually no discernable interest from the design/architecture community. This is particularly perplexing, even troubling, to the extent the fundamental content of the book was driven by design intentions, not scientific discoveries and insights.

This suggests that from the point of view of book sales, or perhaps even the validation of my work in morphology, that it might have been better if the book had been directed towards a broad scientific audience (and marketed by The MIT Press accordingly). After all, the book is essentially about morphology as a cross-disciplinary endeavor. Back in the 1960’s, I did participate in a few scientific conferences concerned with morphology and crystallography. Although I might have pursued the purely scientific aspects of this work, I saw this as an important opportunity for the advancement of building construction directed towards high-performance results.

I worked for many years, working with architects, building many architectural enclosures with advanced technology through the aegis of my company, Pearce Structures, Inc. Although there were “moments of glory” along the way, and certainly an amazingly useful “learning curve”, in the end I was not able to get beyond the fundamental conservatism that dominates protocol, methodologies, and the limited design visions that constrain the design of buildings in our culture. There was a disheartening lack of interest in high-performance design – with what is now loosely referred to as sustainability. And this is still true, with some notable exceptions (mostly European). Certainly many of the most iconic architects of our day continue to exhibit little interest in design for sustainability.

My design strategy has been driven by a restless quest to discover and understand first principles. In any given problem-solving effort, what are the underlying and immutable principles, independent of cultural bias, that truly govern optimum design possibilities. My book, Structure in Nature is a Strategy for Design, is about this effort to discover and understand first principles. It is a strategy that continues to guide my design efforts today.