Tree of knowledge, Chrétien Frederic Guillaume Roth, Fold-out frontispiece of the first volume of the indices to the 'Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers', (Encyclopedia or Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Professions), edited by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Jean d'Alembert (1717-1783).
The diagram sets out a genealogical relationship between various arts and sciences, with the left, middle, and right branches influenced by the threefold classification in the philosopher Francis Bacon's 1605 book "Advancement of Learning".
❉ The Culture of Diagram
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John Bender, Michael Marrinan,
Stanford Uni. Press, 2010, 296 pg,
" It has been some thirty years since W.J.T. Mitchell, defending the importance of spatial form in literature, called for a new “diagrammatology,” by which he meant a “systematic study of the way that relationships among elements are represented and interpreted by graphic construction.” It has been more than twenty since the cognitive scientists J. Larkin and H.A. Simon sought to demonstrate “why a diagram is (sometimes) worth ten thousand words.” It has been five years since the British philosopher John Mullarky, drawing on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou, François Laruelle and Michel Henry, proposed a “metaphilosophical diagrammatology” to defend his theory of radical immanence. And it has only been four since the Danish philosopher Frederik Stjernfelt plumbed the legacy of C.S. Peirce and Edmund Husserl for a realist semiotics, which he also called “diagrammatology.” pg 15
Bender and Marrinan's book outlines the ways in which diagrams have come to play such a central and formative role in European visual thinking and knowledge production. John Bender is Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies at Stanford University and Michael Marrinan is Professor of Art History, also at Stanford. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of their combined professional interests and specialisations, then this collaborative book has emerged from a complex intersection near the centre of their overlapping sets.
The Culture of Diagram is wide in historical scope and forward thinking in an important and influential way, so much so, that the title is commonly used to refer to the recent resurgence of interest in diagrams, diagram making and diagrammatic thought in the humanities.
From Roland Barthes 'The plates of the encyclopedia' to the cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso, and from the poetry to Mallarme to the work of the Quantum physicist Neils Bohr - The Culture of Diagram constructs a pan-historical web of texts, pictures, formulas and figures, whilst foregrounding the diagram as tools for blurring boundaries and highlighting the production of knowledge as process.
'For Braque and Picasso, the shift to diagram entailed thinking past the surfaces that separate things in the world, piercing their outer skins, and searching for ways to trigger memories of comprehension that might be tactile, auditory, or olfactory rather than visual' p.205
'Users of diagrams, unlike viewers, are functional components inseparable from the system in which they are imbricated... Users of diagrams practice correlation to make working objects. Modernist self-reflection is not the goal.' p.72
Illustrations / Acknowledgements
Notes / Bibliography / Index
❉ Deleuze and the Diagram
Aesthetic Threads in Visual Organization
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Jakub Zdeblik, Bloomsbury, 2012,
256 pg, ISBN:9781472526199
'An assemblage, like archipelagos and spinal columns or quadrupeds and cephalopods, relies on the diagrammatic process of abstraction, here described as folding and unfolding, for the connection, based on function, of heterogenous parts.
Most strikingly, the image of a mammal contorting into the shape of a cephalopod drives the point home. We can imagine the bones cracking, the limbs twisting and the body contracting. The squid is the animal that emblematizes the diagrammatic process. But it is a squid that carries a mammal inside of it on a virtual level. ' p.176
The interactive diagram of the tree of knowledge at the start of this blog embodies the metaphysics of the English Philosopher-Scientist Francis Bacon. It's structure is arboreal or 'treelike' in how it conceives and depicts the structure of knowledge as a hierarchy of order and linearity. The continental philosophy of Gilles Deleuze can also be described as diagrammatic, but in the sense that it resembles the structure of a rhizome, a web-like underground plant stem whose growth appears to be aimless and disordered.
The focus of Zdebik's book is on Deleuze's visual aesthetic theory and the visual devices in Deleuze's writing. Deleuze conceptualized his theory as a form of painting, and as such, promoted the need to shift from figuration into abstraction. Like Deleuze, Zdebik's prose is rich with complex analogies and metaphors - hence the image of 'a squid that carries a contorted mammal inside of it on a virtual level' quoted above.
This is a demanding text whose chapters require several careful readings and access to primary source texts (ie. Deleuze's original writing), as well as an acquaintance with the school of continental philosophy (often referred to as the deconstructionists or poststructuralists).
From an artist's perspective this is a rich, complex text full of important insights that suggest a new relationship between philosophy, art and diagrams, and for this reason is well worth the effort. Deleuze was proposing a way to think about philosophy through art using the diagrammatic art work of Paul Klee and Francis Bacon (the artist) as exemplars. Zdebik highlights the abstract depths to which Deleuze took the concept of diagram in his attempt to sketch out a rhizomatic relationship between philosophy and art.
Preface \ Introduction: What is a Diagram?
1. Constraint and System as Vegetation: Diagram and Visual Organization
2. Black Line White Surface
3. Gilles Deleuze's Diagram (Complicated by a Comparison to Immanuel Kant's Schema)
4. The Extraordinary Contraction
5. Skin, Aesthetics, Incarnation: Deleuze's Diagram of Francis Bacon-An Epilogue
Notes \ Bibliography \ Index
❉ The Domain of Images
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James Elkins, Cornell Uni. press, 2001, 304 pg, ISBN: 0801487242
'In the domain of visual artefacts, fine art is a tiny minority... Taken as a whole, images are far more various. This book is about that richer field; art appears in it as a special case, a kind of image among many others.' IX (preface)
'Of all the subjects of this "survey of exemplary images', schemata are most in need of further historical analysis and work. Not only are they they the fastest growing kind of image, but they are arguably the most varied.' p.234
James Elkins is a trailblazing scholar of visual imagery with an output as varied as it is prodigious. Chapter 13 of his book The domain of images is devoted to diagrams, which Elkins opts to refer to as 'Schemata' in reference to the philosopher Immanuel Kant's use of the term to describe the visual and imaginative aspects of diagrammatic structures.
A close reading of the text is a disjointed and fragmented experience due to the way Elkins has chosen to structure the layout of the book. His exacting use of footnotes and intricate system of references requires time, effort and note making on behalf of the reader. It feels as if Elkins is playing with the limitations of the physical book as an analogue version of a hypertext, a format which would have allowed him to include an even more diverse proliferation of images and ideas.
Elkins writing is always dense, lucid and engaging, and his use of technical terms is precise and never feels unnecessary. The glossary at the end of the book is a very welcome addition for a subject already oversaturated with specialist jargon and multiple definitions, and it's a shame more authors don't do this.
Preface / Acknowledgements / List of plates
1. Art history and Images That Are Not Art
2. Art History and the History of Crystallography
3. Interpreting Nonart Images
4. What is a Picture ?
5. Pictures as Ruined Notations
6. Problems of Classification
14. Conclusion: Ghost and Natural Imagfes
Glossary / Frequently Cited Sources / Picture credits / Index
Phenomenology, Ontology, and Semiotics
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Frederik Stjernfelt, Springer, 2007,
508 pg, ISBN: 9789400705319)
'Maybe my conclusion is evident: all pictures, also in the ordinary art history sense of the word, are also diagrams - primarily maps in the general meaning of the term suggested... (they) constitute a special subset of the diagram category... we, by contemplating them, make use of... the spontaneous diagrammatical abilities characterizing natural perception.' p.279
The Danish philosopher Frederik Stjernfelt's Diagrammatology is an ambitious, heavyweight, academic tome that positions the diagram as central to epistemology - the philosophical study of knowledge and knowledge production. Because of the ubiquitous nature of diagrams, the various roles that they play in knowledge production has been investigated from a variety of standpoints in a variety of fields. Stjernfelt's book proposes a unifying framework that underlies the complexities of the topic - the development of a semiotics based on iconical realism.
In the first part of the book Stjernfelt reexamines the mature work of the American philosopher-scientist (and founder of semiotics) Charles Sanders Peirce, in particular Peirce's doctrine of 'diagrammatical reasoning', which mainly includes diagrammatic construction, observation and manipulation. Stjernfelt proposes an interpretation of Peircean semiotics and Husserlian phenomenology that builds on similarities between the two, then in the second part of the book presents three possible domains of application: biosemiotics (DNA as code), picture theory (an art historical picture plane analysis) and literary theory.
Diagrammatology has received praise for its sheer ambition and for the fluency and meticulous clarity in which it is written, but the price paid for having introduced so many complex topics is that many of the ideas can't be explored to enough depth. Any one of the subjects chosen by Sternfelt could have given rise to a similarly sized book in its own right, such as the diagrammatic analysis of the art historical works in Chapter 13. However Diagrammatology opens up many exciting new avenues for further research, and is likely to be remembered as the book whose title has become synonymous with an entire field of diagram research.
Preface / Introduction
1. Let's stick together: Peirce's Conception of Continuity
2. The Physiology of Arguement - Perices extreme realism:
The Continuity in Peirce's Theory of Signs
3. How to Learn More:
An Apology for a Strong Concept of Iconicity.
4. Moving Pictures of Thought:
Diagrams as Centrepiece of a Peircean Epistemology
5. Everything is Transformed: Transformation in Semiotics
6. Categories, Diagrams, Schemata: The Cognitive Grasping of Ideal Objects in Husserl and Peirce
Parts and Whole in Phenomenology and Semiotics
8. Diagrammatical Reasoning and the Synthetic A Priori
9. Biosemiotics as Material and Formal Ontology
10. A Natural Symphony ?
Von Uexkull's Bedeutungslehre and it's Actuality
11. Man the Abstract Animal:
Diagrams, Abstraction, and the Semiotic Missing Link.
12. The signifying Body:
A Semiotic concept of Embodiment
13. Christ Levitating and the Vanishing Square:
Diagrams in Picture Analysis
14. Into the Picture:
Husserl's Picture Theories - and Two Types of Pictures
15. Small Outline of a Theory fo the Sketch
16. Who is Michael Wo-Ling Ptah-Hotep Jerolomon ?
Literary Interpretation as Thought Experiment
17. Five Types of Schematic Iconicity in the Literary Text:
-An Extension of the Ingardenian Viewpoint.
18. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Espionage in Reality and Fiction: Regional Ontology and Iconicity
Perspective / Appendix / Notes / Bibliography / Indexes
❉ Drawing a Hypothesis
Figures of Thought
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Nikolaus Gansterer, Springer Verlag gmbh, 2011, 351 pg, ISBN: 3709108020
'There are currently at least two opposing ways of understanding the term ‘diagram’. Some see diagrams above all as an aid to systematisation – “problem solvers, because they ‘automatically support a large number of perceptual inferences, which are extremely easy for humans’”, while others see them as “pro - liferators of a process of unfolding” or “maps of movement”. ' Susanna Leeb, pg. 31
Over a period of about five years the Austrian artist Nikolaus Gansterer corresponded with a number of other artists, theoreticians and scientists and then worked to compile, edit and illustrate 'Drawing a Hypothesis - figures of thought'. The texts range from insightful essays on the nature of diagrams and diagram making to creative writing and fictional narratives, sometimes in reaction to several of the 160 schematic drawings provided by Gansterer. It's a beautiful designed and thoughtfully put together book and, incredibly, it's available in its entirety as a pdf on Gansterer's own homepage here: FIGURES OF THOUGHT pdf.
It's definitely worth finding a printed copy however, to fully appreciate the effort that artist Simona Koch has put in to the design of the book, which was quite rightly included as one of the ten most beautiful books of Austria 2011, and awarded bronze medal at the annual book design competition 'Best Books from all over the World in 2012'.
An insightful review of the book can be found here written by Gert Hasenhütl:
Drawing a Hypothesis?
Index of Figures.
Drawing a Hypothesis (Preface), Nikolaus Gansterer.
A Line with Variable Direction, which Traces No Contour, and Delimits No Form, Susanne Leeb.
I Must Be Seeing Things, Clemens Krümmel.
Subjective Objectivities, Jörg Piringer.
Grapheus Was Here, Anthony Auerbach.
Asynchronous Connections, Kirsten Matheus.
Distancing the If and Then, Emma Cocker.
Drawing Interest / Recording Vitality, Karin Harrasser.
Nonself Compatibility in Plants, Monika Bakke.
Hypotheses non Fingo or When Symbols Fail,
Wiry Fantasy, Ferdinand Schmatz.
Reading Figures, Helmut Leder.
Collection of Figures of Thoughts, Gerhard Dirmoser.
Radical Cartographies, Philippe Rekacewicz.
3 Elements, Axel Stockburger.
Dances of Space, Marc Boeckler.
Collection of Emotions and Orientation,
On the Importance of Scientific Research in Relation to Humanities, Walter Seidl.
Interpersonal Governance Structures, Katja Mayer.
The Afterthought of Drawing: 6 Hypotheses, Jane Tormey.
The Hand, The Creatures, The Singing Garden & The Night Sky, Moira Roth.
The Unthought Known, Felix de Mendelssohn.
Processing the Routes of Thoughts, Kerstin Bartels.
An Attempted Survey, Section.a.
The Line of Thought, Hanneke Grootenboer.
Strong Evidence for Telon-priming Cell Layers in the Mammalian Olfactory Bulb, M. L. Nardo, A. Adam, P. Brandlmayr, B. F. Fisher.
Expected Anomalies Caused by Increased Radiation, Christina Stadlbauer.
On Pluto 86 Winter Lasts 92 Years, Ralo Mayer.
Appendix: Personalia / Subindex / Index of Names / Colophon / Notices
❉ Writing on Drawing
Essays on Drawing Practice and Research.
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Steve Garner (Ed), Intellect (UK) / Chicago University Press (USA), 2008, 224 pg, ISBN: 1841502006
'Even though I had stopped consciously making objects to show and drawing had become my main activity, I still thought of myself as a sculptor... I initially used the same methods that an architect would use to construct a building in perspective, but left all the construction work there on the paper... Even though I am using geometry in the drawings, the process is still, in fact, very intuitive. I do not start with an idea of what the end drawing will look like... I make some marks and lines that are purely diagrammatic and some which describe forms.'
Richard Talbot, p.55
Writing on Drawing is a collection of diverse essays that consider the multifaceted nature of drawing to highlight its importance as a cognitive process. In his introduction to the book Steve Garner, editor of these invited essays, describes the domain of drawing practice and research as characterised by diversity. Garner suggests that if drawing is to emerge as a distinct domain in its own right then practitioners from fields as diverse as computer science, history, psychology, education and fine art need a way to chart and better understand how drawing connects their disparate fields, all the better to facilitate interdisciplinary communication.
In her essay 'Nailing the liminal', acclaimed drawing scholar Deanna Petherbridge considers the various problems faced by drawing researchers in their search for clearer definitions, and Petherbridge is well very equipped to talk about these issues as an artist and curator whose has specialised in drawing for over 45 years, not to mention as authoress of 'The Primacy of Drawing, Histories and Theories of Practice', published by Yale Uni. press in 2010.
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More can be found about the work and research of Richard Talbot here: Richard Talbot.org
Acknowledgements / Preface
Foreword - Re: Positioning Drawing, Anita Taylor
Introduction, Steve Garner
1. Towards a Critical Discourse in Drawing Research
2. Nailing the Liminal: The Difficulties of Defining Drawing
3. Drawing Connections, Richard Talbot
4. Looking at Drawing: Theoretical Distinctions and their Usefulness, Ernst van Alphen
5. Pride, Prejudice and the Pencil, James Faure Walker
6. Reappraising Young Children's Mark-making and Drawing, Angela Anning
7. New Beginnings and Monstrous Births: Notes Towards an Appreciation of Ideational Drawing, Terry Rosenberg
8. Embedded Drawing, Angela Eames
9. Recording: And Questions of Accuracy, Stephen Farthing
10. Drawing: Towards an Intelligence of Seeing,
11. Digital Drawing, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Journalism, Anna Ursyn
Notes on Contributors / Index
❉ 100 Diagrams that Changed the World:
from the earliest cave paintings to the innovation of the ipod
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Scott Christianson, Penguin, 2012, 224 pg, ISBN: 9780452289774
'It all begins with a diagram. Everything from family trees to seating arrangements at a wedding to bank heists start with a roughly sketched plan. In architecture it is the grand design or floor plan; in mathematics, it is the graphic representation of an algebraic or geometric relationship; in physics, diagrams may serve as the tool to aid the scientist in making enormously complex calculations. Diagrams are all around us and we use them constantly.' p.11
Aimed at a general audience, this selection of 100 historic diagrams is broad in scope and remarkably open in terms of its definition of diagram. This leads to a very interesting collection, and examples include: diagrammatic illustrations of Dante's inferno, elegant patent diagrams for the first automobile, a diagram of Thomas Edison's light bulb, Nazi propaganda maps, sewing patterns and IKEA flat-pack furniture instructions. Descriptions and explanations are kept to a minimum but provide good starting points.
The books title however is a little misleading, as many of the diagrams are merely interesting diagrammatic records of technological progress, rather than instruments of change and progress as diagrams in their own right. Florence Nightingale's ingenious rose charts for example, or the early exploded diagrams of artist engineer Mario Taccola were both arguably more influential as innovative diagrams than say the schematics for Edison's lightbulb or Apple's ipod.
Christianson's book does however capture the excitement of creative innovation that's associated with diagrams, and their potential to allow for the cross fertilisation of ideas between specialisms, surely something which is more relevant now than at any other time in history.
'The great diagrams depicted in the book form the basis for many fields — art, astronomy, cartography, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, history, communications, particle physics, and space travel among others. More often than not, however, their creators — mostly known, but many lost to time — were polymaths who are creating new technologies or breakthroughs by drawing from a potent combination of disciplines. By applying trigonometric methods to the heavens, or by harnessing the movement of the sun and the planets to keep time, they were forging powerful new tools; their diagrams were imbued with synergy.'
❉ The Philosophical Status of Diagrams
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Mark Greaves, CSLI publications, 2002, 221 pg, ISBN: 1575862948
'This book explores the reasons why structured graphics have been largely ignored in contemporary formal theories of axiomatic systems. In particular, it elucidates the systematic forces in the intellectual history of mathematics which have driven the adoption of sentential representational styles over diagrammatic ones. In this book, the effects of historical forces on the evolution of diagrammatically-based systems of inference in logic and geometry are traced from antiquity to the early twentieth-century work of David Hilbert.'
This somewhat specialist academic publication falls into two distinct parts, as shown in the contents list below. Part I provides a concise overview of the historical rise and fall of the diagram in Geometry following the advent of ideal lines and points and the invention of non-Euclidean geometries. Part II describes how this distrust of deduction techniques based on spatial intuition in geometry (ie. geometric diagrams) was in fact mirrored by a parallel distrust of diagrams in logical calculi.
This is a clear and meticulously written introduction accessible to non-specialists in Geometry and Mathematical Logic. Whilst Greave's conclusions at the end of his book hesitate to make predictions about the future role of the diagram in either Geometry or Logic, they does leave one wondering whether we may yet see a reemergence of diagramming in these fields in a similar way the diagrammatic renaissance in Quantum Physics (- See this earlier blog post on Diagrams in Physics: Meta-engines of creativity - Diagrams in physics).
The CSLI (Centre for the Study of Language and Information) is based at Stanford University and Mark Greaves is the Director of the Joint Logistics Technology Office at DARPA.
Part I: Geometry
2 Diagrams for Geometry
3 Euclidean Geometry
4 Desacates and the Rise of Analytic Geometry
5 Geometric Diagrams in the Nineteenth Century
5.1 Diagrams in the Geometry of Poncelet
5.2 Non-Euclidean Geometries and the Rejection
5.3 Pasch, Hilbert, and the RIse of Pure Geometry
Part II: Logic
7 Diagrams for Logic
8 The Logical Framework for the Syllogism
9 Diagrams for Syllogistic Logic
9.2 The Linguistic Formulation of the Syllogism
9.3 Early Diagrams for Syllogistic Logic
9.4 Euler Diagrams and the Rise of Extensional Logic
10 Diagrams for Symbolic Logic
10.2 Boole's Symbolic Logic
10.3 Boolean Logic and Venn Diagrams
10.4 Peirce's Extensional Graphs
10.5 Logic at the End of the Nineteenth Century
References / Index
❉ The Diagrams of Architecture: AD Reader
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Mark Garcia (Ed.), Wiley, 2010, 320 pg, ISBN: 0470519452
' The role that the diagram is now playing in our attempts to theorize material reality in the late 20th century is not so different from the way the concept of the "schema" was used by Kant to theorize Newtonian reality in the late 18th century... Another great thinker of the same era who ought not be left out of consideration is Goethe, who, it can be argued, rejected the (aprodictic) Kantian-Newtonian model in favor for a genetic interpretation of form... Indeed Goethe is the father of the modern concept of diagram insofar as he insisted on formation as the locus of explanation, not simple appearance. '
Sanford Kwinter, pg. 123
The diagram plays a number of crucial roles in Architecture, most obviously as a fixed set of instructional plans that dictate how buildings are to be built, ie. blueprints. However diagrams also facilitate the more dynamic, fluid and creative process of building design generation, and even the modelling processes involved in predicting and analysing how individuals or crowds move through and interact within rooms, building and city streets.
Because diagrams play such fundamentally important roles in architecture, a dense theoretical framework has arisen around their function, especially during the 1980's, and editor Mark Garcia has commissioned, collected and introduced 26 essays from leading international academics, architects, theorists and professional experts. These ideas are illustrated with a full-colour critical collection of over 250 of the most significant and original diagrams from around the world, many of which are previously unpublished.
As the quote from the ever insightful Sanford Kwinter illustrates above, discussion of the diagram in these essays ranges far beyond the confines of architecture to include its conception in philosophy, design and art.
Introduction: Histories and Theories of the Diagrams of Architecture (Mark Garcia).
Part I: Histories and Theories of the Diagrams of Architecture.
Diagrams of Diagrams: Architectural Abstraction and Modern Representation (Anthony Vidler).
Scientific Management and the Birth of the Functional Diagram (Hyungmin Pai).
Urban Diagrams and Urban Modelling (David Grahame Shane).
Dummy Text, or the Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture (Robert E. Somol).
Diagram: an Original Scene of Writing (Peter Eisenman).
Poetics of the Ideogram (Leon van Schaik).
Diagrams in Multisensory and Phenomenological Architecture (Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka).
The Hammer and the Song (Sanford Kwinter).
Part II: Multidisciplinary Dimensions of the Diagrams of Architecture.
Diagramming the Interior (Mark Taylor).
Diagrams in Landscape Architecture (Jacky Bowring and Simon Swaffield).
Inhabiting the Forest of Symbols: From Diagramming the City to the City as Diagram (Brian McGrath).
Diagrams and their Future in Urban Design (Peter A. Hall).
Diagrams in Structural Engineering: Applied Diagram – Engineering Precision (Hanif Kara).
Spatial Notation and the Magical Operations of Collage in the Post-Digital Age (Neil Spiller).
Part III: Architects of the Diagrams of Architecture.
The Diagrams of Bernard Tschumi (Bernard Tschumi, Bernard Tschumi Architects, interviewed by Mark Garcia).
The Diagram and the Becoming Unmotivated of the Sign (Peter Eisenman, Eisenman Architects).
Expressive Abstractions: The Diagrams of Will Alsop (Will Alsop interviewed by Mark Garcia).
Diagrams (Ben van Benkel and Caroline Bos, UNStudio).
Diagramming the Contemporary: OMA’s Little Helper in the Quest for the New (Wouter Deen and Udo Garrtizmann, OMA).
Between Ideas and Matters: Icons, Indexes, Diagrams, Drawings and Graphs (Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Foreign Office Architects).
Metacity/Datatown (Winy Maas, MVRDV).
Atlas of Novel Tectonics (Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, Reiser + Umemoto).
Parametric Diagrams (Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects).
NOX Diagrams (Lars Spuybroek, NOX).
Part IV: Epilogues.
Architectural Evolution: The Pulsations of Time (Charles Jencks).
Epilogue (A Beginning of Other Diagrams of Architecture and the Futures of the Diagrams of Architecture) (Mark Garcia).
Select Bibliography / Index
❉ Paul Klee, Notebooks Volume 1
The thinking eye
❉ Paul Klee, Notebooks Volume 2
The nature of nature
❉ D'arcy Wentworth Thompson
On growth and form
On Growth and form, D'arcy Wentworth Thompson 1945 edition
(first published in 1917)
❉ Patrick Geddes,
Cities in Evolution
and to the Study of Civics ,
first published in 1915