Reconsidering Bovill’s method for determining the fractal geometry of architecture

  • YEAR
    Ostwald, Michael J.
    Tucker, Chris
    2007 Conference Papers
    Digital architecture
    virtual environments


Abstract: Throughout the 1970s the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot developed an argument which
proposes that natural systems frequently possess characteristic geometric or visual complexity over
multiple scales of observation. This argument lead to the formulation of fractal geometry and it was central
to the rise of the sciences of non-linearity and complexity. During the 1990s, researchers Michael Batty
and Paul Longley, Bill Hiller and Carl Bovill developed this concept in relation to, respectively, the city,
urban neighborhoods and individual buildings. More recently, architectural scholars and building scientists
have suggested that such models might be used to determine quantitative measures of visual complexity
in architectural form. In parallel, a range of computational tools have also been developed to assist in the
determination of the characteristic visual complexity of architecture. At the heart of such approaches is a
set of rules developed by Bovill for analyzing buildings. However, despite its growing importance, the
assumptions implicit in Bovill’s method have never been adequately questioned. The present paper returns
to the origins of Bovill’s analytical method to reconsider his assumptions, arguments and the evidence he
uses to support his case. A series of alternative variations on Bovill’s method are then proposed and


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