The Daily Star on line



We built this city . with quantum mechanics
Author says urban centers are more than just stone

Kristel Halter
Special to The Daily Star

The coupling of architecture and quantum theory may approach the brink of absurd, yet it thrives well within the limits of possibility. In his newly published book, Quantum City, Ayssar Arida, an accomplished architect, explains how the language of quantum theory provides architecture with a refreshing mode of expression.
Arida developed his unique views on architecture after moving from Beirut, where he spent the majority of life, to Oxford.
"I was forced to find a language that would describe both a chaotic, exciting city such as Beirut and an ordered, yet boring city such as Oxford," Arida said. Quantum language, he continued, allows for the coexistence of complementary opposites, or a creative balance between order and chaos. In other words, the linguistic vehicles of quantum theory allow the architect to speak of more than the stone that makes the city, but the emotion that has made and continues to make the city what it is.
According to Arida: "The city is both the people and the buildings they inhabit." He defines these two complementary dualities as urbs and civitas, or stone and emotion. The dynamism of these two creates a true reflection of the culture and people to whom the city belongs.
Yet Arida claims many modern architects perceive only the city's stone, a fault he attributes to linguistic constraints.
He insists that the inability to describe nonphysical notions within architecture, such as emotion, and the tendency to analyze solely from an objective point of view, exclusive of the subjective, has given rise to boring architecture.
"The city for me is a living, self-regulating organism that can never, and should never, be coerced into one form and not the other," he said. In other words, a city's architectural evolution must not unfold within a simple, straight route designed by the architect ignorant of the city's pulse. Rather, a city's architectural evolution must unfold in accordance with the pulse of the people, evolving in light of cultural changes, transformations in intellectual outlooks and shifts in emotion.
"Think of the end user of a city as the real urban designer," Arida said, "not you."
In quantum theory, he explained, "it is not possible to determine accurately where things are and where they are going at the same time." That is to say, everything is in a state of constant change. This is the philosophy that governs Arida's architecture. "Design with different possible scenarios in mind, not one single solution," he said, "as it is most probably not what the end user will want."
Arida's quantum city simplifies the complex relationship between quantum theory and architecture from a historical, theoretical, and practical point of view. In regards to theory, Arida uses quantum principles such as complementarity. For example, the relationship between the seemingly opposite natures of the particle and the wave helps to elucidate the architectural relationship between the stone and emotion.
"Everything in nature can be both a particle and a wave, and reducing its description to either/or only gives part of the solution," he said. While a particle is limited in space and time, a wave can fill all space and time. So too, stone is limited in space and time, but emotion and the culture that creates it fills all space and time. "A city cannot be either/or. It is both."
Arida also looks at the development of the city through a historical lens. From ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece through the scientific revolution and into modernity, Arida describes how the city was not simply a matter of structural convenience, but an expression of the governing emotion. From cities of God, governed by religious fervor, to cities of man, where humanism reigned architectural design, Arida neatly explains the cultural trends that produced the cities of our past using quantum language, and applies this model to the present.
On a practical level, he insists that we do not need to understand how quantum theory works. All we need to know is its conceptual framework.
"Once the new language is second nature to architects and designers," he said, "we can claim to have a more organic world view, closer to the world view of civilizations that have produced fantastic places like Rome."
Arida intends to transform the reader's understanding of architectural design through the introduction of new terms and concepts, thus allowing the city to be seen as more than stone ­ as stone and emotion, or an ever-changing city. He speaks in layman's terms, producing a comfortable read (or as easy as the fundamentals of quantum theory can be) that reaches people of all disciples ­ as quantum language is, according to Arida, not limited in space, time or audience.

Ayssar Arida lives in London where he heads a multi-disciplinary design and services agency, Urbatecture

Your feedback is important to us!
We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.
Please type in your comment below and press 'submit'

You must fill in your name and email address just in case we need to get in touch with you.
The editor may decide to publish your comment as a letter to the editor;
Your personal information will be kept confidential and will never be disclosed to anyone






Please contact me as soon as possible regarding this matter.

DS 23/08/02


Front page | Search | Feedback | Guestbook | Contact | About us |
On line discussion | Lebanon abroad | Weather | Post classified | Read classified | Subscription
Advertising : Printed edition | Advertising : On line edition | Sponsors
Cartoon | Cambio | Beirut market | Galleries | Out and about | TV guide | Event calendar

Copyright 2001 The Daily Star. All rights reserved.