Enjoying Randomness

This came about after visiting Loch Maddy in North Uist and trying to think of ways to emulate the  strange way that the land and sea merge into each other there and realising that the technique had wider uses as well.

Random Graduated Mixing of Two Elements

The random mixing of two elements can be simply implemented using the random number function in any spreadsheet type program. The essential feature is to compare the output of the random number function RAND() to different trigger values.

RAND() returns a random number between 0.0 and 1.0. Therefore testing if RAND() is less than 0.5 has a 50% chance of being TRUE and a 50% chance of being FALSE. Similarly testing if RAND() is less than 0.25 has a 25% chance of being TRUE and a 75% chance of being FALSE.

The first diagram is taken directly from an Excel spreadsheet. An even set of values is set up for each column, ranging from VALUE = 0.0 for solid land at the left-hand end, to VALUE = 1.0 for solid sea at the right-hand end.

Every cell in each column is then given the formula =IF(RAND() < VALUE, LAND, SEA) where VALUE is taken from the top of each column and LAND and SEA are 1 and 0 respectively. Conditional Formatting is then used to set both background and text to the same appropriate colour dependent up the cell value of LAND or SEA.

Following such a procedure, with an even distribution of column values, the number of green and blue cells should be approximately the same and increasingly so if the total number of cells is increased. A different distribution of column VALUES could obviously give different diffusion rates.

Land and sea inter-mingled as at Lochmaddy, North Uist.

Random Selection in Smooth Fixed Proportion

High Bay Warehouse Dogern: Sauerbruch Hutton 2002

Below is a simplified procedure for generating even mixtures that can again be carried out using any spreadsheet type program. The method works by associating a separate random number function with each colour in a palette of colours, and then sorting the colours in the palette according to the random numbers output by the associated random number functions. The colours in the palette are thus randomly mixed over and over again.

The illustration below uses 8 colours rather than the 20 in the High Bay Warehouse but the idea can be extended to any number of colours and or mixtures of colours, in effect to any colour palette.

Using this procedure all colours are used before any are re-used. This results in a fixed proportion of colours and a known number of panels (provided the total area to be covered is a multiple of the number of colours). Tinting or a bias towards a particular shade can be achieved by altering the proportion of colours in the palette list, if necessary artificially increasing its length.

Twelve Tone Music

This is similar to twelve-tone music where every note is used before any is reused.

    Schoenberg Wind Quintet

numbered notes

As in the procedure above, where every colour is used before any colour is reused, here very note is used before any is reused.

Random Selection to Achieve Particular Appearance

Trnovski Residential Complex Ljubljana 2002 Sadar Vuga Arhitekti

This seems to want a higher concentration of dark tiles adjacent to the black window surrounds and a lighter concentration of mainly white and yellow tiles further away from the windows. Simplifying somewhat to wanting 100% black around the window opening and 100% white around the outside perimeter and graduated mixtures of black, white and yellow tiles elsewhere

Random Selection Lists

Random Selections

About Graham Shawcross

Architect PhD student at Edinburgh University Interested in order, rhythm and pattern in Architectural Design
This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Architecture, Randomness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Enjoying Randomness

  1. Interesting designs. Here’s an attempt to introduce cultural salience to the randomness idea, and hence some relationship with architecture: McLachlan, Fiona, and Richard Coyne. 2001. The accidental move: accident and authority in design discourse. Design Studies, (22) 1, 87-99.
    I’ve been reading “The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions” and couldn’t help think of openness to randomness as an outcome of a happy disposition. Fredrickson, Barbara L. 2004. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, (359) 1449, 1367-1377.


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