“Black Sun” Phenomenon

icon posted by Chris Chalmers

from wikipedia:

“Huge flocks of more than a million Starlings are observed just before sunset in spring in southwestern Jutland, Denmark. There they gather in March until northern Scandinavian birds leave for their breeding ranges by mid-April. Their flocking creates complex shapes against the sky, a phenomenon known locally as sorta sol (”Black Sun”). To witness this spectacle, the best place are the seaward marshlands (marsken in Danish) of Tønder and Esbjerg municipalities between Tønder and Ribe.”

This is probably old news to those of you with an interest in self-organizing systems (or birdwatching!) but I only discovered this phenomenon a couple of days ago. I immediately found it to be a compelling diagram for the dynamic self-organized design processes I have been so  enamored with. Flocking has been a model for generative process for years now. In fact, one of my first forays into scripting ( chaos tower, below) was originally inspired by the dynamic form of a flock of pigeons taking off.

The application I see to my current work is this: Model each room (or zone) in a building as a”flock” of particles. Flocks fly around inside a three-dimensional site envelope that is defined by property line and zoning height restrictions. Each particle is simultaneously attracted to the other particles in its flock, as well as its “goal”: the place in the building that fulfills its pre-programmed parameters.At the same time, particles are repelled by the ones from other zones when they get within a certain distance. This keeps the flocks tightly packed.

The beauty of this system is that the “goal”, the place that the particles in a particular flock want to get near, keeps moving based on the actions of the other flocks. Picture the starlings above, but 3 or 4 distinct flocks, all swirling around each other inside a site envelope. Maybe they gradually find stasis, or maybe we just have to stop the process whenever it looks best. Either way, when the motion stops, each flock becomes a different volume in the building.


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